Skip to main content

The Cats Who Helped Make a Big Hire

By March 21, 2024March 27th, 2024Media Coverage

By:  Francesca Fontana – Wall Street Journal

If These Résumés Could Talk is a Wall Street Journal feature in which recruiters and headhunters share their wildest and most interesting stories. Previous installments of the series are here.

Q: When did a pet play an unexpected role in the hiring process?

Purr-fect candidate
When I was with my old company, we had a client—the CEO of an investment fund—who was looking to hire an attorney for his company. CEOs tend to be a little quirky in personality and we’re experienced enough to take them as they come.
We found some excellent attorneys interested in the position, and the interviews were held at his penthouse in New York.
After the interviews, we discovered through the candidates that the CEO was a cat lover and he had pet cats. But instead of naming the cats, he called them by numbers. Like 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
He was very proud of his cats! And he would tell the candidates about how he acquired each of them. They played a pretty big part in the interview. One candidate called us after, saying, “I think the interview went well, because Cat Number Four kept climbing onto my lap.”  Once we found out, we also had to add a pretty unusual question to our screening process for the role: “Are you allergic to cats?”
Katherine Loanzon, Kinney Recruiting LLC


Playing fetch
I interviewed a candidate recently for a very senior legal role. It was a screening call, but because we were the only recruiters that our client was working with to fill that position, that initial video screen really served as a fi rst-round interview for the candidate.
She was dressed so professionally, and her apartment was just impeccable. She had impeccable taste and her home office looked like it was designed by Architectural Digest.
And she had a big Dalmatian dog, very eye-catching and very high energy. He wasn’t just in the room during the interview. She was playing fetch with him—throwing him a ball, he’s bringing the ball back, jumping on the couch. He was really a part of this interview.
I’m always astounded when things like that happen—and I mean, this is a very senior position. The candidate really had it together in every other way, but there were no qualms or insecurities about having him part of the interview. I’m a dog person, but that one was distracting. I did walk away going, I can’t believe that happened.
She didn’t end up getting the role—not because of the dog, she just wasn’t the most highly qualified candidate. We absolutely would place her, though if she’d moved forward for this role we would have definitely gone over this before meeting our client. When we prep candidates, generally you don’t have to say things like “please make sure you’re not playing fetch.”
Cara Bain, Major, Lindsey & Africa

Background Noise

Some people are super excited to get the call from a recruiter, and cell phones make it so readily available so they’re like, I’m taking this call no matter what.  Sometimes they’re driving. Or they’re shopping, and you can hear the cash register and the clerk asking them how they want to pay for things. They think they can multitask, which doesn’t tend to go very well.  Once I called a candidate, and I heard a cat meowing. They’d taken the call while they were at the veterinarian, trying to pick up their cat. So, I told them I’d just call them back and they were like, “No, no, it’s fine!” But it was a veterinarian’s office, so you got meows, you got dogs barking—it was pretty chaotic, so we met the next day instead.
—Kevin Redick, m/Oppenheim Associates

Pet project
We were doing this search for this multibillionaire client in Los Angeles who’d made his fortune in tech and then started amassing real-estate investments. He wanted to establish these retreat-and-wellness centers, and he hired us to find him an EVP of real-estate development.
So we placed a candidate in the role, which paid about $600,000 a year. But about two months into the job, on a Friday afternoon, the client reached out to the candidate and was like, “Hey, I lost my dog. I need you to find it.”
The candidate hadn’t yet relocated from out of state to the client’s office in Los Angeles. So the guy was flying into town for work each week and flying back home each weekend. And this multibillionaire thought that since he hired somebody, he essentially owned them and could ask them to do whatever he wanted—like “go find my dog, and you can’t leave and go back to your home until you find my dog.” The candidate was like, What?
But the guy stayed and looked for the dog Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Couldn’t find the dog. So he flew home, and he graciously resigned the next week.
We elected not to participate in the search for a replacement.

Kent Elliott, RETS Associates

These interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.  Write to Francesca Fontana at