An Applicant’s Bad Date (or Worse) Behavior Torpedoes His Job Offer


When I showed “Carl’s” resume to our leadership council, “Sara” turned the color of fireplace ash, looked ill and got up and left the room.

Sara came by office immediately after the meeting. She still looked pale. I asked, “Are you okay?”

In response, Sara asked, “Has he already been hired?” I explained that we were negotiating his starting salary but had already indicated we wanted him on board.

Sara began to shake and then s aid

After the meeting, Sara asked to meet with me privately. She told me Carl was a sexual predator who had date-raped her and that if we hired him, she’d understand but would need to resign. She asked me to keep what she said confidential.

I was speechless and didn’t respond, and Sara ran out of my office. It was obvious she was in deep distress. I’m also aware that she frequents several dating sites.

I sat there stunned, and not knowing what to do. Just them, Carl called me back, said he’d decided to accept our offer and had resigned from his current position. I told him there’d been a wrinkle and we needed to put the situation on hold. He asked what that meant. I said I’d have to get back to him. I could tell he was furious.

He pushed me for details. I refused to give them to him.

What do I do here? I’d like to talk to my CEO, but I don’t want to out Sara. Is this very personal story, which isn’t proven, a reason to withdraw our offer? Could we face backlash from Carl?


Do you trust Sara? Do you want to keep her as a member of your team?  If so, trust what she’s told you, that she’ll resign if you hire Carl.

At this point, you don’t know what Carl did or didn’t do. You do know, however:

  • What Sara’s alleged;
  • That her story is deeply personal;
  • That she and Carl have unpleasant history;
  • That she’ll resign if you hire Car.

You can treat what you’ve been told as an unsolicited job reference. If you hire Carl after being told that he’s capable of sexually abusive behavior, it potentially leaves your company open to a lawsuit if he engages in problematic behavior in the workplace.

Here’s my suggestion. Let your CEO know that hiring Carl would result in Sara’s resignation but that you haven’t asked Sara for permission to divulge what she’s told you.

Contact your company’s legal counsel and ask how to handle Carl’s request for information.

My guess: Your CEO would prefer to keep a proven team member on board, particularly when you recount Sara’s nonverbal behavior and offer to resign.

If your legal counsel okays it, let Carl know that one of your team has personal experience with him that precludes the job offer. Say that you’re exercising employment at will to withdraw the offer, given that your offer hadn’t been accepted before you learned his hire would create a problem.

 If Carl suffers a loss because he quit his current job based on your negotiation, you may owe him compensation. Employers, however, have employment-at-will protection with job applicants unless they use it to unlawfully discriminate.

Finally, touch base with Sara and let her know what you’ve decided.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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5 thoughts on “An Applicant’s Bad Date (or Worse) Behavior Torpedoes His Job Offer

  1. Paulette Dale, Ph.D, Author, “ did You Say Something, Susan?“ How Any Woman Can Gain Confidence with Assertive Communication - 2nd edition-March 2021 says:

    Yikes. I can’t help but wonder if Carl already knew where Sarah worked. And if this is a type of stalking. Just a rhetorical question and food for thought.

  2. Wow–this is the challenge that shows if HR is leadership and strategic advice to management or if it’s management’s lapdog. Your suggestions look at both “Sara’s” and the guy’s sides of it and appropriate actions on each–brava!

    1. Susan, thank you always for great on-point responses. Paulette, you raise an interesting point. My worry is whether Carl will go after Sarah in retaliation. I cautioned both Sarah and her employer.

  3. Oh this is a hard one. Can they offer legal advise to Sara as far as pursuing charges against Carl? Maybe she could get a restraining order and that could be the basis for rescinding the offer. It seems she might also benefit from some counseling. In hindsight, it’s always a good idea to have potential hires meet the whole team prior to making an offer.

    1. Counseling is a great idea. For Sarah a restraining order might be a great idea. The company has to be cautious, all they have is Sarah’s words, though her nonverbal speaks volumes.

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