Why Recruiters Are Bad For Your Career

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At some point or another, every technical person will conduct a job search. And either by design or accident, they will encounter the nemesis of job searching: The Recruiter. These individuals are employed by companies whose sole purpose is to serve as an intermediary between job seekers and potential employers. Their marketing literature will say that they match you to potential jobs, and since they spend their days looking around for potential job openings, they have a better grasp of whats out there than you do. It’s their claim, anyway.

The big problem with recruiters is that they are typically paid based on two criteria: the salary of the jobs they put people in, and how many people they place. This might sound like a win-win, but really, it’s a win for the recruiter and a loss for the job candidate. What common strategies do recruiters use to lure job applicants, and why are they bad for you? Let’s take a look…

Disclaimer: this post reflects my personal experience with recruiters. Your personal experience may vary, and that’s fine. Choosing to use recruiters is a personal decision, and one that should be entered into with full understanding. And there are also many recruiters who practice none of these tactics; those are people you should definitely seek out and get to know.
Disclaimer: many large companies have recruiters either under contract or as employees. These types of recruiters (in-house recruiters) are not the kind of recruiters being discussed here. In-house recruiters are paid to headhunt, and working with them is perfectly fine and normal. The best way to know whether or not a recruiter is an in-house recruiter is to find out if the email address they have actually contains the domain name of the company you’re trying to work for.

The Uninvited Solicitation

Anyone in the technology industry will eventually be solicited by a recruiter who found their contact information somewhere and decided to contact them about an open position, out of the blue. The conversation (either via email or telephone) usually starts off with some praise (like “I reviewed your resume and I think you have some fantastic technical skills that could apply to this position I have open”) and then a pitch for a job that they’re trying to fill. This is often a flattering proposition: someone found YOU, and decided that YOUR skills would match THEIR job. But it’s a scam.

How can you tell it’s a scam? There will often be tell-tale signs, some more subtle than others. Obvious ones include a recruiter who emails you, praising your skills as a match for this job, and then proceeds to describe a job in a completely different field from your background. That recruiter is bullshitting you, and is really not interested in finding “the best fit.” They just want to collect the commission. Other signs include jobs that are somewhat in your field, but not necessarily fitted to your skill set. Most of the time, if a recruiter says “I have a client who…” they’re lying. Most recruiters don’t have exclusive locks on jobs; they get their jobs the same way you do, they just happen to know who the hiring manager is and thus can make more direct contact. Submitting your resume the old fashioned way still gets it seen by the same person.

The Vague, Rewritten Job Posting

As previously mentioned, most recruiters working for staffing companies don’t have exclusive contracts to offer a job, actually screen candidates or are otherwise directly involved in the hiring process. Their role is largely self-defined, where they match candidates to a job posting; their success is dependent upon their network of contacts and their ability to get their candidates directly in front of the hiring manager.

As a result, most recruiters are pretty vague about the company they’re posting for when they write a job posting. They’ll usually write something along the lines of “My client…” or “We have a client who…” They won’t post any identifying information about the company in the ad, and for good reason: if you knew what company was hiring, you could go apply for the job yourself!

Recruiters will often post job descriptions that are vague, and more often than not, rewritten from the original. Recruiters are aiming to get the widest possible number of people interested in the posting, since that increases the applicant pool and increases the chances they’ll win a commission by making a placement. The result is that they will rewrite the job description, often adding keywords that they think might be related, and end up posting a job description that is vague, keyword-filled, and really useless for knowing what job they’re actually trying to find a candidate to fill.

This is bad for you because it means that you cannot target yourself to a particular position as easily. Most hiring managers want to know how you’re going to satisfy their needs, and a shotgun approach to providing such satisfaction will turn them off. If they’re looking for someone with Postgres experience they don’t probably care that you worked with MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server, for example. Speaking of rewriting…

The Rewriting Of The Candidate’s Resume

Recruiters will often ask candidates to send them a resume in Word format. This is often for two reasons: first, because there is no contract in place between the company and the recruiter, the recruiter doesn’t want to have the company be able to hire the applicant directly, thus bypassing the recruiter and his commission. The Word-based resume allows them to remove the contact information of the candidate before sending the information along. But second, and more dubious, many times recruiters rewrite resumes.

That’s right: they’ll rewrite your resume to “match” the job description.

The reasons this is bad for you should be obvious: lying on your resume is typically grounds for automatic rejection or termination, regardless of who was responsible (most employers won’t take “the recruiter rewrote it!” as an excuse). In addition, most recruiters are not technical but are convinced that keywords sell job candidates, so they’ll load up resumes with tons of bullshit terms, trying to match the resume to the job description to improve their chances of success. Finally, it’s possible you may not see the finished product, meaning you could get asked about something on your resume you’ve never even seen or heard of (that one is awkward).

The Pre-Interview Interview At The Recruiter’s Office

Car salesmen like to get people into the showroom. They know that if they can get people into the showroom, to make the investment of time in coming to the showroom, the sale becomes much easier. Recruiters are often car salesmen in better clothing, and practice the same philosophy. In recruiter world, this often takes the form of a pre-interview interview. It serves two purposes, both bad for the candidate.

First and foremost, it causes you to make an investment in the position you’re applying for. You’ve invested the time to dress up, keep an appointment, and answer questions. Recruiters will tell you the purpose of the interview is to make sure you’re sane and qualified, but I’m firmly convinced that it’s really designed to have you make an investment of your time and energy in the recruiter and the role.

The second (and often more dubious) reason is to get you to fill out paperwork for the recruiter. Remembering that the recruiter has no contract with the companies they’re trying to recruit for, many try and end run around this by making you sign paperwork (usually as part of a “job application”) promising not to accept a position with any company they put you in contact with, unless that offer comes through them. The goal here is to get one of the two parties in a situation where the recruiter can almost be guaranteed their commission; this has nothing to do with protecting the interests of the candidate, and everything to do with protecting the interests of the recruiter.

Now that the candidate is under contract, it’s time for the recruiter’s next trick…

The Unprompted Blasting Of Your Resume All Over Town

You applied for a single position. You sent the recruiter a copy of your resume in Word, came down to his office, spent a couple hours being “interviewed” and signed a piece of paper promising to inform the recruiter if you got a job thanks to their efforts. Turns out the role you wanted either got filled or you weren’t a good match for. You move on to your next job prospect. And then the worst thing in the world happens.

The next company refuse to call you in for an interview because they’ve already seen your resume. Seems that your recruiter sent it to them last week, but the company you’ve applied to doesn’t want to pay a 25% commission to hire someone. They know you’re under contract not to take their job if they don’t pay the commission. And so they aren’t able to work with you at this time.

Now that the recruiter has you under contract, he’s free to do whatever he wants with your information. This is a curse upon your house. Every place the recruiter now sends your information is off-limits to you if they decide the other candidate is cheaper. You’ve just lost control of your job search.

Sure, you can ask your recruiter to stop, but the damage has probably already been done. A recruiter’s success at their job depends on their ability to know pretty much everything going on in a given job field, which means there’s a chance everyone hiring for your field within 50 miles has gotten your resume and now can’t hire you.

Think this can’t happen to you? This is exactly what happened to me once upon a time. In fact, I had contacted two recruiters, and they had both submitted me for the same job. I had even interviewed for that job, but when they realized that two recruiters had submitted me, they pulled out of the process, out of fear that one of them would sue if the other got the commission.

The Complete Disregard For Your Preferences

By now we’ve established what recruiters are after in the process. This often leads to recruiters putting you up for a job that you have no interest in winning. The vagueness of the job posting, as well as the vagueness of most recruiters, means that you may not have a good understanding of what job you’re interviewing for.

For example, I had gone through the whole pre-interview interview (while avoiding signing paperwork) with a recruiter. I had spent a whole two hours in their office, expressing my preferences, likes, and dislikes. I had explicitly stated that I didn’t want to interview for Drupal-heavy jobs.

They scheduled a call with a hiring manager, that ended up being rescheduled. I had made a major investment of time and effort in this interview by this point. In the first five minutes, the hiring manager described the position as being “primarily a Drupal developer with a few legacy applications that will eventually be moved to Drupal.” I was furious.

Here I had wasted more than two hours in their office, plus travel time, plus scheduling and rescheduling the interview, plus actually having the interview, only to find out I had no interest in the job. I could have found that out in five minutes if they had simply been up front and saved all of us a lot of time and energy. But recruiters are typically selfish and don’t care about your preferences – they care about their commissions!

And this focus on commissions leads to the last recruiter strategy that hurts developers…

Playing Mr. Positive Until They Don’t Need You Anymore

If you ever had a girlfriend who broke up with you after you wrecked your really nice car, causing you to realize it was the car and not you that she loved, you’ll understand how a recruiter behaves when you tell them you’re not interested in the job they have open.

They’ll drop you like a hot potato.

Oh, it’s not personal. It’s just that you’re not useful to them anymore. They’re after a commission, after all. They’re not social workers, they’re capitalists. Their product is you, and you suddenly have no value to the goal they’re trying to achieve. And so, they’ll stop returning calls. Until they need you again, that is.

Recruiters are not really interested in taking a candidate, finding the best position for them, placing them in that position and making sure they’re happy. If they were, they would work with a candidate to find them a role that fit their experience and preferences, and go the extra mile. To date, I’ve never seen it.

Telling You Things To Boost Your Ego, But Being Full Of Lies

A recruiter will tell you lots of things, aimed at boosting your ego and also convincing you to work with the recruiter. They’ll tell you things like “I want to help you get the highest salary possible” or “I’m working on this for you.” All lies. Recruiters’ commissions are based on salary, so of course they want to get you the highest salary possible – for their own benefit. But remember: the commission a company pays to hire you will inevitably reduce the available cash for a given position, reducing your salary offer. And since a starting salary is often the place companies start from when giving raises, you will permanently reduce your lifetime earnings.

As for a recruiter “working on this for you” that’s bullshit too. The recruiter is working on it for themselves. They’ve been tasked with filling that job. They don’t care if it’s you that fills it or the next guy who applies; they just want to get the job out of their portfolio.

Working with recruiters is also a lot of bad news. Recruiters have three lines that they like to give candidates after interviews. The first is “the company has decided not to hire for this role at this time.” The second is “the company has already filled the position.” And the third is “the company has decided you’re not a good fit for the role.”

The first line is the biggest amount of bullshit of the three. The company never decides not to hire; they decide the commission would be too expensive and so that’s what they tell the recruiter they’ve decided. Either the recruiter is too stupid to know he’s being lied to or doesn’t care; that’s what he tells you.

The second line, about filling the position, may well be true. It may also be a knee-jerk reaction of the company to being contacted by a recruiter. Most companies will bite on a recruiter if the resume they get is top notch, but since recruiters take a shotgun approach to getting folks hired, most of the time this is not the case (you may well be the finest resume he has; but then again, if he’s rewritten it, maybe it sucks now). Either way, working with a recruiter is going to feel a lot like always being late to the party.

Finally, and the most honest of the lines, is the company talking with you and then deciding to go an entirely different direction. This happens often, and at least you find out, but be prepared for this to happen more often with a recruiter. The company knows that they’re going to have to pay you the same as other candidates but they’ll also tack on an extra 25% for the recruiter, so if they’ve got qualified candidates who aren’t tied to a recruiter, you’re going to get this line from them almost instantly.

The Bottom Line

What’s the upshot of all this? I strongly recommend you avoid recruiters at all costs. While many people find jobs every day using a recruiter, the reality of the job market for developers is that good developers don’t need recruiters to find good positions. Recruiters do nothing but make it harder for you to find work, and their commission (which is based on your salary on hire) often drags down your pay package. Finding a job without a recruiter may take a bit longer, or be a bit more stressful, but is more rewarding, provides more flexibility, and ultimately improves the odds of getting hired in a great position without strings attached.

Are there any honest recruiters?

Of course! Sadly they are few and far between. However, it is possible to find a job with the right recruiter. If you opt for using one, make certain that you vet them thoroughly and trust them implicitly. Your career hangs in the balance.

Brandon Savage is the author of Mastering Object Oriented PHP and Practical Design Patterns in PHP

Posted on 2/25/2011 at 8:48 am
Categories: Employment, Technology
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Chris Cornutt (@enygma) wrote at 2/25/2011 9:06 am:

It’s really sad that 99% of the recruiters out there are like this. In my recent (is ~6 months recent?) experience, there’s a few diamonds in the rough out there. There’s ones that genuinely want to see you put in the right spot and will work with you through several different opportunities.

Unfortunately, there’s the “ambulance chasers” of the recruiting world and they make a bad name for the rest. My personal favorites is what I call “The Five Minute Callback” (recruiters out there that do this, you know who you are) and the “Recruiters en Masse” where a single job post is broadcast across multiple recruiters and they *all* call within an hour of each other. Sure, they have no way of knowing they’re doing this but it feels a little “eight different bosses, Bob” Office Space-y.

I agree with Brandon – it’s unfortunate, but there’s just too many of the “get you in, I get out” sort of mentality among recruiters out there. Most of them come off like the sleezy used car salesmen they really are.

Ivo (@Ijansch) wrote at 2/25/2011 9:15 am:

Sounds all too familiar. As someone who has been on the other side, the job offering side, i can relate. Ive seen recruiters falsely claim i had hired them to fill a job opening, luring in a candidate with an opening that the recruiter just found on our website. They would then send me this candidate’s resume (anonymously) and tell me how they are exclusively working with a super developer to land them a job and how foolish would I be to turn it down.

They often just search openings, resumes and try to ‘match’ them, claiming to both parties that they are ‘working for’ the other party.

I’ve also indeed seen resumes that were altered etc.

Sometimes they screw up so bad that its actually damaging: I once got an anonymous resume from a recruiter and in the resume I could see that the guy was actually already working for me but apparently was looking to switch jobs. By sending that resume to me (I assume by accident) they did not only cause me to blacklist the recruiter, they actually harmed the privacy of the developer.

Ever since, I have a no recruiter policy.

John Bafford (@jbafford) wrote at 2/25/2011 9:23 am:

Not to defend recruiters, but it’s actually possible for “the company has decided not to hire for this role at this time” to be correct.

On more than one occasion after going through the interview process, I have declined to hire anyone for the open position. Generally, this happens when I get an especially lousy round of resumes and the one or two good candidates we can’t hire for whatever reason. The position’s still open, but unfilled, until a few months later when I have the time and energy to go through an employee search again.

I’d rather wait and find another good candidate to hire, than hire just anyone just to have a warm body.

Neal Anders wrote at 2/25/2011 9:26 am:

Great Post Brandon! This reminds me of my recent experiences as well – “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, which I blogged about at http://neal-anders.com/blog/archives/391

Brandon Savage (@brandonsavage) wrote at 2/25/2011 9:55 am:

@Ivo: One thing I’ve always heard from people is that you should always be looking and/or attending an interview on a regular (say, every six months) basis. Keeping your resume up to date and keeping your interview skills fresh is important, even if you’re not ready to move on. That being said, it’s pretty classless for a recruiter to send a person’s resume to their employer. No employer should ever be faced with questions about whether their developer is loyal, and no developer should ever be canned for simply doing what they should be doing – ensuring their professional development is up to par.

I have, however, been called before by a recruiter who, after finding my resume on my blog, offered me a job opportunity at my own company. That one was fun.

Keith Casey (@CaseySoftware) wrote at 2/25/2011 10:00 am:

While you are correct that there are lots of scummy recruiters out there, there are a few diamonds that make it worthwhile. For a developer that is good but not connected (or known) in the community, a good recruiter is a huge asset.

Like it or not, you state one of the main reasons they’re handy:

“A recruiter’s success at their job depends on their ability to know pretty much everything going on in a given job field”

A good recruiter will know about companies and positions that aren’t advertised elsewhere. I’ve pulled lots of companies into DCPHP as a result of hearing about their groups through recruiters. Prior to that, they were completely disconnected.

And companies decide not to hire for a position all the time. John notes one scenario, but another is a project they expected to win not coming through. Or a department budget being cut. Or a re-org. Or the decision makers are tied up with other responsibilities. Or miscommunication within their organization. I’ve witnessed all of these and been a victim of a couple.

One of the things that has been lacking in the AustinPHP community so far is the job openings. They’re there, but few know about them. A professional community needs a pipeline for jobs.

So what are the qualities that make a recruiter *worth* working with?

Jen wrote at 2/25/2011 11:22 am:

Excellent article, and completely true as far as I’ve seen in the last 10+ yrs of my experience. And thanks Brandon for showing me the “behind the scenes” reasons for why recruiters sometimes act so strangely, or why companies just flat out refuse to hire you when you’ve got a recruiter in the mix.


Michelangelo van Dam (@DragonBe) wrote at 2/25/2011 2:26 pm:

Brandon, I can totally relate to your story as my profile is used and abused by so many recruiters in my area.

But, don’t forget they contacted you and you can refuse to agree on their terms giving your own terms in exchange. This allows you to stipulate that they can only use your profile for that one customer (and they have to give you the name) and that this contract you sign with them has an expiration date of six months or less.

When you finally get to meet the customer, leave your business card there in case you don’t get the job in the first place. After the expiration date, you call them up saying you no longer are tied to the recruiting agency and are still available for them to work directly.

The recruitment business is dirty and if you’re not careful the can screw you over. But, the same goes for you. If you’re in the position of having a very much “wanted” profile, let them play by your terms.

anthonydpaul (@anthonydpaul) wrote at 2/25/2011 6:15 pm:

Hm…what inspired this post? ;)

Joseph (@josephtinsley) wrote at 2/25/2011 11:22 pm:

Brandon excellent post. I’m searching now and it’s been a total headache. Some of these recruiters are pretty gangster. I recently had one send me a job description and requested that if I was interested in the position to reply back to his email with a copy of my most recent resume, home number, and SSN. Yea, send my SSN via email to a stranger. That’s crazy… I wonder how many people he got with that one?
Thanks again for the post, I enjoyed it.

Ehren Seim (@ehrenseim) wrote at 2/27/2011 11:27 am:

The staffing industry is worthless in general, but it exists because dumb ass clients commoditize the business and establish vendor lists and low rate structures.  It is sad, but it’s like any position….you get what you pay for.  When rates and margins are so low for these staffing companies, they hire entry level recruiters, pay them shit, and make most of their compensation purely commission.  That’s just a recipe for disaster.

I still think there are plenty of good recruiters; ask around and you’ll find them. They can be a great source of knowledge for a job seeker. But obviously, there are far more shady recruiters than good ones. As a long time recruiter, I just hate to see these articles, but I see them often.

Doug wrote at 2/27/2011 11:49 am:

Wow… there always are bottom feeders out there!

Rukawa wrote at 2/27/2011 3:53 pm:

Excellent post, reminding that hell is full of nice intentions…
I do get tired of some of their bullshitting, just because they want to convince me to change jobs. I will keep silent on the most outrageous excuse I heard.
Great reading and thanks.

Peter Hickman wrote at 2/28/2011 6:10 am:

The whole ‘sending your resume to your current employer’ thing can also come down to recruiters having stumbled upon an old version of your resume and then blasted that out. Presently there are several recruiters here in the UK that think that I am a Java developer despite it being more than 3 years since I touched it.

Also I am now a Flash developer, which is news to me :(

Jeff Bennett wrote at 2/28/2011 10:53 am:

Don’t forget the lazy HR department at the corporation. There are many companies that create a list of acceptable vendors (recruiters). Resumes not coming from the ‘approved vendor list’ are not considered or, in some cases, accepted.

I believe HR departments do this to keep the submissions to a minimum, and in the hope that the recruiting firm is doing a pre-screen.

Richard Osbaldeston wrote at 2/28/2011 1:31 pm:

A relatively new habit I’ve noticed is agents trying to get me to add them as contacts via linkedin. ‘XYZ claims they’re somebody you’ve done business with at ABC before’ – no, no I don’t think so, I’ve never heard of them. They’ll claim it’s for my own benefit, that it’ll make contact with me more easy and reliable. Not that I’ve noticed them having any difficulty filling up my inbox every day with the most random, ill fitting job specs or cold calling my mobile while I’m on a client site. Anybody else have that special ‘agent call’ look/nod between developers..

I’m suspicious over linkedin, could it be to get at my contacts rather than help me out? after all I’m already in the system.

If you do a Google search youll find lots of agent software used to scan CVs for keyword/skill matches and bulk-mail the hits. This is why when you call an agent back over a job, they ‘personally’ mailed to you, it means spending the next fifteen minutes trying to pin down which job it’s about. You cant simply say ‘the one you just emailed me about’. They’ll have bulk mailed a few hundred if not fully unsolicited, often inopportune and poorly matched jobs. I often find myself muttering RTFCV!

The other damage they do is hidden in the percentage cut they take, 30% for feeding your CV into a mass mailer and a couple of phone calls isn’t acceptable. Not for smaller companies in particular, who’ll often have a blanket no agents policy.

The saddest thing is as technical folk we could fix what is a broken, painful, inefficient process for both candidates and recruiters and yet we put up with the status quo. Why?

Pup wrote at 2/28/2011 3:46 pm:

Another thing that should be mentioned, is that for contracting positions, I have found that a recruiter is very much needed. As an independent contractor, I have been using recruiters for the last couple of years to get gigs of all kinds. I have found that the recruiters in this space tend to be better than the ones that I have dealt with for finding full time work. I am not sure the reason, but I have worked with quite a few that are really good in the consulting world.

Also I have not found many businesses that will contract with a developer directly. There are a few here and there, but the majority want you want you to be through a contracting firm, and thus through the firm’s recruiter.

Jon wrote at 3/6/2011 2:54 pm:

Some months back, I too wrote about the difficulties recruiters can pose, from a British perspective. Thankfully recruiters here don’t seem to have started the practise of inviting candidates into their offices, which of course is a great deal more time-consuming than endless rounds of office-hours telephone calls before location/employer information is released.

As far as I am aware, recruiters here also don’t generally expect candidates to sign an agreement regarding offers received through the recruiter. Ergo, if a candidate receives information about an availability through a recruiter *and* via direct means, there is no onus on the candidate or the employer to involve the recruitment agency.

My recent experience in switching jobs has highlighted two specific problems with recruitment agencies. Firstly, “CV Hoovering”, which is the practise of obtaining CVs through any means – including re-advertising positions that have already been filled – in order to expand an agency’s seeker database. (Side node: I am not sure whether this phrase translates well on the other side of the pond – American readers might prefer “Resume Vacuuming” instead!).

Second, what I’ve termed the “Rogue Agency Consideration” is a circular dependency in which a genuine candidate suspects an advertisement of existing solely to carry out CV Hoovering. With that in mind, they call the recruiter to ask some preliminary questions about the nature of the role, without submitting a CV first. Meanwhile, the agency suspects the candidate of being another agency in disguise, hoping to steal the position and offer a successful placement to the employer at a lower price. Hence, a barrier has been positioned between the employer and the potential candidate.

Our data protection here is a bit better than the American model, however, which may be why recruiters here don’t tend to ‘blast all over town’ with every CV they receive. My CV going to client without my express permission has only happened once or twice, and these days I’d feel pretty confident about complaining about a recruiter who did this. In fact, reputable agencies state up-front that they ask for permission *every time* they send a CV to an employer.

So, yes, I too am generally not a fan of recruiters – perhaps with one or two exceptions where an individual has really aided my search. That said, part of the dependency of the IT market on recruiters is that most employers – certainly for British IT positions – use recruiters. So, the advice to avoid recruiters if possible is valid, but often job-seekers don’t have a choice. If a move away from agencies is to be made, recruiting managers need to be persuaded to try non-agency methods of advertising first, and to do their own CV filtering.


Dave wrote at 3/9/2011 1:53 pm:

One thing I noticed, is that if you want to change the direction of your career, don’t use recruiters. Same goes for if you are a student who is just graduating. If you don’t fall neatly into what they are looking for, they could care less about you.

Oh, and I’ve had recruiters finally contact me years after I had applied to their firms. I had applied to these places after I graduated college and they are getting back to me now? What gives?

Matthew Setter (@settermjd) wrote at 3/16/2011 8:43 am:

Hey Brandon,

I couldn’t agree more with you if I tried. I’ve experienced all of the points that you mentioned and I feel your frustration. I remember one time, early during my time in the Uk, that one recruiter, of questionable quality, rang me up in a rather abrupt and curt tone, attempting to get me to send over my CV straight-away for a role which he claimed to have that “fit me perfectly”.

When I then asked him what the role was about, he said, “I can’t tell you until I’ve seen your latest CV and you agree to an interview with ‘my client'”. I told him that I, naturally, would need to know what the role was before going any further.

The tone of the conversation at this point, from his perspective, became even more abrupt and rude. He, begrudgingly, started reading to me what he claimed were the specs of the role. Part way through this, I interrupted asking him why he was just reading my CV to me. I was completely stunned someone would be this professionally deficient. I knew my CV nearly word-for-word because I’d spent a lot of time on it and had sent it out a number of times prior to this call.

He said he wasn’t doing this and I corrected him saying that I knew my own CV and I didn’t appreciate what he was doing. At that point he grumbled something about me never getting a role in the Uk and hung-up.

Now I’m not saying that all recruiters are this unprofessional, but in discussions over drinks, in casual conversations with friends and generally at any time, the attitude towards them is rarely positive. I’m sure, however, that there must be some diamonds in the rough. Probability and human-nature mandates this to be so.

However the trouble I have is determining which are the genuinely good ones and which are those that just have a smoother/slicker style. I’ve personally had one or two that I like to believe were genuine and they’ve displayed a level of professionalism I sincerely wish was displayed much more. Unfortunately, they’re the exception and not the rule.

Dathan (@web_mister) wrote at 3/16/2011 7:39 pm:

Recruiters have been a God-send for me. When I was a nobody starting out in the web dev industry with only freelance experience they negotiated $20/hr for a 3 month job. My next job through one was $27/hr. Then recruiters got me into Microsoft who is constantly hiring contractors but will only work through recruiting agencies. My agency hooked me up with more then I could imagine but just getting me into the door at Microsoft has been the greatest value to me. Furthermore, I appreciate not having to do the work, I hate looking for work. I’m 100% content working with recruiters.

Erica wrote at 9/8/2011 4:09 pm:

I am a recruiter and we’re not all bad. Sometimes we do have clients and sometimes our clients don’t give us very detailed job descriptions. My comission is 1%. We want to maintain a good relationship with our clients and never submit people who we know are unqualified. Yes, we reach out to you, you who post your resumes on job boards. Sorry for that, we will no longer use the resources dedicated solely to finding candidates and for canidates to find jobs. How about the people who stalk us? We want to help you find work. If we call and talk about a position that you aren’t qualified for, let us know then maybe explain to us what we’re looking for. Help out your peers that way instead of ranting on the internet.

S Lemons wrote at 9/20/2011 4:00 am:

Honestly, I don’t know how recruiters earn a living. I’ve never had any luck with them. But I have to disagree with the comment about re-writing your resume to match the job description. That’s actually a no-brainer. Most of us don’t do it because it’s just too time consuming and tedious. But there’s no doubt that the larger the organization the more they insist on you being a perfectly square peg to fit their perfectly square hole. If they want A-B-C-D-E-F-G in their job description, you’ll go to the top of the pile if you parrot those skills back exactly as requested — and beware of offering much more than that, you could appear to be overqualified. Most big firms now require you fill out an online application anyway, so don’t bother giving them a resume. You risk having inconsistencies between the two documents, and by requiring an app they’ve already disclosed they’re too lazy to read a resume, so why make more work for yourself.

Rachel wrote at 10/16/2011 11:52 am:

I couldn’t agree more with this article. I particularly agree with the part about what it means when recruiters want you to meet them in person (which always seems to mean *you* coming to see *them* on your own time and at their convenience). For technical positions, what you look like doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do with how well you know your stuff. Such in-person meet-ups are therefore always a complete waste of your time: always. A recruiter behaving in this way invariably means one of two things:

1) That they’re recruiting for an employer who thinks so little of the role they’re recruiting for that they don’t feel it’s even worth investing their own time and effort in. So, they send some lackey who doesn’t even *work* for the company to ‘screen’ you instead.

2) Less often, it means that the recruiter doesn’t have any type of relationship with the client at all, and are merely trying to ‘get you on their books’ so they can blast your CV off without permission to every role they hear about, no matter how profoundly-inappropriate to your actual skills, experience or interests those roles may be.

Stick to only meeting employers who realise that recruitment is a two-way street, and who consequently bother to actually meet you for the first interview, so that they can present their opportunity to you at the same time as you’re presenting your skills and experience to them. Employers who instead send in the clowns first and expect you to run a gauntlet of their unskilled and ill-informed lackeys before they will even deign to meet you simply aren’t worth bothering with.

OD wrote at 10/21/2011 2:46 am:

I must say that I have had a wonderful relationship with recruiters till I ran into the recruiter from hell…

I had a phone screen with Broadridge a financial consulting firm in Jersey City then I had an in person interview the next day. The commute was 1.5 hours both ways for a total of a 3 hours round trip from Harlem. Later on I get offered the gig but decided to only accept it with the following conditions:

• That I be able to telecommute part of the time
• That I be able to leave early if my wife is in court and I have to look after my son
• That I be able to come in after 9am due to the commute and having to look after my son in the morning

The recruitment manager then gets back to me with this:

Hello OD,

I work with Mahwish Ali and the rest of the East West Systems Recruiting

I’m following up my voice message from earlier this afternoon, and with your
interview at Broadridge yesterday afternoon.

The hiring manager at Broadridge, Imran Siddiqui, was favorably impressed
with the way you presented yourself.

What really impresses me, though, is how you married an attorney, and had a
child, within 24 hours of the interview.  That’s fast work: congratulations!

I’m making this assumption, OD, based on your e-mail message to my team
below.  Based on your professional skills and background, there’d be no way
you’d keep the information about your home office, your school-age child,
and your attorney wife a secret until after the in-person interview, right?
That’d make you look bad, and stain your reputation, as word gets out about
this.  I’m sure you’re too smart for that.

If you really wish to work remotely, as part of this opportunity, there’s a
very smart, very clever, and very professional way to have this presented,
to put you in the best possible light.  Feel free to contact me (my
information is at the bottom of this message), and I’ll be happy to share
with you EXACTLY how to do this.


Tony Mascia


So, basically he insults me and my family then threatens to ruin my reputation if I did not accept the gig. I didn’t know I was required to reveal my personal life before an interview or before even being offered anything which I am pretty sure breaks labor laws. The only reason I brought up my personal concerns was because I got offered and I have a right to negotiate on my terms. 

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