Banking

10 ways in which recruiters annoy candidates

A job candidate is the means of earning commission for a recruiter, but all too often is not treated as a supplier or partner, but as a necessary evil.

The relationship between job seekers and the agencies who undertake to find candidates for roles for their clients is frequently a fraught one. The agency is paid by the client, and that's where their focus remains, and so they have the dominant position in the relationship with the job seeker. The candidate is their means of earning commission, but all too often is not treated as a supplier or partner, but as a necessary evil. There are many recruiters who act responsibly and ethically towards their candidates, but regrettably there are more - and it seems to be a growing percentage - who treat candidates poorly. These are some of the ways.

1. Keeping the candidate in the dark

The candidate is only informed if there is positive news - requests for more details of the candidate, requests for interview, and of course any job offers. If the candidate has been turned down, or not short-listed, then he or she will only find out by contacting the agency for information - if of course they can get hold of a responsible adult. If there is no news, then how many agencies will contact you to explain the situation, to advise what actions they are taking and what they consider the implications of no progress to be? The rule seems to be: if you are on the client's radar, the agency is all over you; as soon as the client's interest wanes, you are dropped faster than a toddler's ice cream.

2. Not returning calls

When you try to contact the agent for information, they are often unavailable - not unreasonable, as they spend a lot of time on the phone or with the client. However, if you leave a message requesting an update, why do so few agents return your call?

3. Not notifying unsuccessful candidacy

Mostly, unless you are shortlisted by the agency, an application goes into a black hole. There is often an automated response that "we have received your application", then that's the last you hear. It isn't rocket science or huge effort overheads to enable standard "sorry, not this time" emails to be sent to unsuccessful candidates. That way we don't have to waste time and effort trying to contact the agent to find out if anything is happening.

4. Not providing feedback on unsuccessful interviews

When you attend a client interview, and it hasn't had a successful outcome, then you want to know why - so you can learn from the experience and do better next time. Most agents have no real idea - they don't ask the client (it's not of interest), and some may even try to make up a reason, but you can usually tell if it's their assumption rather than hard feedback. Wouldn't it be nice to know?

5. Posting job specs that are unclear

I just spent a couple of hours on two applications where the job posting sounded like a perfect fit for my background, which is services, products, and software. When I got to speak to the agent it became clear in both cases that hardware development experience was essential. Nowhere did the job description mention this. These applications were thus a complete waste of my time, and made me wonder if there was a way to waste theirs in return.

6. Misrepresenting opportunities

It seems that virtually all candidates - myself included - have experienced agencies who engage in dubious practices, such as advertising jobs that don't exist, and initiating candidate searches for positions which the client has not yet confirmed and does not have signed off. I am now hesitant about applying for jobs advertised online unless I can speak to the agent, as not only do they frequently go nowhere, but all too often it is not even possible to follow up with the agent.

7. Basing contract fee rates on pro-rata permanent salaries

There seems to be an increasing trend for contract opportunities to be offered at "pro rata permanent salaries", which is a nice way for the employer to obtain temporary staff without any overhead costs (National Insurance, tax, holidays, pension and so on), which the contractor must then fund out of their fees, as well as funding the gap between contracts, meeting limited company costs and the necessary accountant's fees, and so on. I was approached recently by an agency for a short term project management role, demanding significant experience, at a day rate well below what I'd expect net of tax as a salary. Clearly the agent was failing to challenge their client as to the wisdom of the fee rate being offered.

8. Acting as curators of CV museums

The large Interim Management agencies claim thousands of interims are "on their books." In fact, they only actually provide opportunities to a core few hundred favored candidates, and the remainder will never hear anything: the vast majority of potential candidates are just there to inflate the size of their CV pool so that clients will be impressed. I keep in touch with a couple of the leading IM agencies, not because I expect any opportunities, but because I'm interested to see if they ever contact me.

9. Sending you details of jobs you aren't qualified for

I register with some agencies for email alerts of new job postings, and I get some calls from agents who find my CV on job boards. It is clear that some agencies are better than others at keyword searches, and even when I get called by recruiters, they sometimes seem not even to have read my CV before contacting me. My best example to date was a request for applications from airline captains with experience of 747-400s and fluent Russian. My background is systems implementation project management, and my only Russian is "da" and "nyet".

10.  Being unsympathetic

I regret that some recruiters I've spoken to over the years have been somewhat abrupt in their manner. I've known some who were distinctly lacking in social skills - a bit strange for a people career - and those who can't wait to get you off the phone and aren't prepared to hide it. Worst of all in some ways are the ones who at the start of the conversation say, "How are you?" and clearly couldn't care less what you answer. I regret to say men are generally worse than women in this regard, but not always. Come on guys, be nice, it costs nothing, takes no time, and people do respond more positively as a result.

These kinds of treatment by agencies are very short sighted on their behalf - whether I undertake a contract as an interim manager or as a permanent member of staff, I frequently need to recruit other staff to resource the program I am working on. Naturally I will favor those agencies I consider have treated me responsibly and fairly. Those who have been cavalier, I avoid giving further business to. Like many interim or permanent managers, I now maintain a list of both individuals and agencies whom I trust or abhor, and act accordingly. Indeed, there are now 'consumer rating' websites to share experiences and score agencies.  Recruiters, beware...

Roger Emmens is an independent IT Projects Manager in the Telecoms and Media industry.

37 comments
TiffanyBiopharm
TiffanyBiopharm

I have worked in a HR consulting companies working on site as a Recruiter on a salary basis, I have worked in an agency that was base plus commission (in the past and currently), I have never worked solely on commission and never will and I have worked corporate as a Healthcare Recruiter working with agencies to bring candidates on board. You can look at my entire background on LinkedIn along with references from candidates, clients, old bosses, colleagues, etc. I don't think this is industry specific whether you are a Recruiter in IT or a Recruiter in Life Science the job has the same base model you are just an expect Recruiter in one industry over another. I picked Life Science because it is the most interesting to me but I have recruited in IT, Healthcare (Nursing, Defense, Customer Service, Retail, etc. The bottom line to this entire article and discussion is that not all Recruiters are the same just like not every IT Project Manager is easy to work with either. I take great pride in my reputations because it is my livelihood. A good Recruiter will not burn bridges to get instant gratification (for a client, financial, for a candidate, etc) because after burning just a few bridges they probably should consider finding another job in another field. I have daily reminders that you treat candidates the way you would want to be treated, you live your life knowing there are 6 degrees of separation every where you go, and a candidates job search is their livelihood as well and I am here to find people their ideal jobs and my clients their ideal candidate so at the end of the day they all have a great experience. I have also found my second agency job as a referral from a candidates of mine, my first corporate on site job from a client that I worked directly with and my current agency position I get to work with an old client of mine who is my boss (from 4-5 years ago) ) as well. I think that speak volumes as to what kind of person I am and the reputation I have held onto for the last 5 years. So, everyone??? find a great recruiter, screen out as many as you want, and once you find that gem stick with them and they will return the loyalty. If you have specific questions for me feel free to email me any time at Tiffanybiopharm@gmail.com, link up with me, or Twitter @Tiffanybiopharm

jfg1963
jfg1963

Hi, I have experienced the 10 ways Roger describes, here in Spain. And of course there are cavalier agencies and few respectful agencies,

RW17
RW17

"Hi R.W.! How are you? I have a contract in SAP HCM - technical consulting that I think you would be perfect for. Call me back asap" This is the type of contact I receive from SAP-oriented headhunters. I will automatically disregard this message, not reply, and mark the head-hunter who sent me the message as essentially useless. Why? - In 15 years of SAP-oriented work, I have never touched HCM, and all of my distributed and (likely) re-sold resumes point this fact out. In fact, my Resume e-mail has an auto-response that says "I have now consulted solely within SAP IS-Banking for 4+ years and I will only consider functional business process consulting roles in this realm at this time (and for the foreseeable future). - I am the farthest thing from a Technical code-monkey! I don't even have a computer programming / engineering education, as listed on my resume as well. I am a social, client-interactive, senior business process consultant who's greatest skills surely are in my interpersonal skills and my actual business process analysis diligence. So, when I receive a call from a headhunter who thinks I am perfect for a position that I have no actual relation to, I know this headhunter has little idea what he / she is doing and is likely on the cold-call counter at his / her firm. At times, I have explained this to the headhunter to help build their knowledge set... and then 3 weeks later I get the following message from the same person: "Hi R.W.! How are you? I have a contract in SAP SCM - enhancement coding that I think you would be perfect for. Call me back asap" ... Just lovely!

fhrivers
fhrivers

I spoke to an enthusiastic recruiter some time ago who claimed to have a client and wanted my resume right away. He claimed to have spoken to the hiring manager and gave me details about the company and position. A few minutes after I hung up with him another recruiter from the same area code contacts me about the same opportunity. He wasn't willing to divulge any info about his client (because he wasn't able to), I had to coax it out of him. It seemed fishy. Weeks after sending my resume to the first guy I still haven't heard a thing. Even after multiple confirmations. Most recruiters are snakes. And don't get me started on the marble-mouthex ones from a certain curry-loving Asian country...

trenton.wilkins
trenton.wilkins

I'm an Infrastructure PM...not a Desktop/Helpdesk Tech. Why do I get 4 or 5 of these jobs a day from recruiters? I know..I have 'built Helpdesk', '42,000 Desktop Deployment' on my resume. Keyword Searches make me Crazy.

obrien2013
obrien2013

A big one at that... Recruiters that focus on money when it is communicated clearly that money is NOT the main decision maker for the candidate. REALLY annoying. I dropped several recruiters based on this annoyance.

uksp
uksp

1. Using 'ghost' job offerings to get updates or other information in, why not just be honest? 2. Calling me about a job (real or not) then moving onto trying to get employer contacts from me for previous or current placings, again why not just ask? (I will say no....) 3. Asking me to 'manipulate' my CV to show things I haven't done, a big no-no and bad for my credibility (how dare you....). 4. Telling me (verbally or by email) to maintain my CV on your system and giving me a logon to do it (like I have time to maintain my details across 00's of sites AND to remember all the logon's!). Most other things I can tolerate with a simple "no" or "not my skill-set but thanks".

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

In general you could write out their IT knowledge on the back on a gnat's kneecap with a 3" brush.

TBone2k
TBone2k

Similar to #5, many recruiter I found would post very vague job specifics and would only respond to sending your resume... perhaps seeding for #8? These postings are usually via the free sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Another annoyance in this category is recruiter who post a job for a major city without giving you any hint where in the city the job is located. Makes it hard to determine if the job is reachable via transit.

TiffanyBiopharm
TiffanyBiopharm

I have spent the last 5 years building the best reputation I can as a life science agency Recruiter with my candidates and my clients. I make it my professional and personal goal not be stereotyped in any of these 10 ways. One day you will find that perfect Recruiter and that list will turn into 10 Ways Why You Can't Live With Out Your Recruiter. It is not a fair assumption that since you had a horrible run in with a hand full of Recruiters that all Recruiters fall under the same category. Just because you emphasized an opinion doesn't make it a fact.

cbader
cbader

I myself have mostly sworn off recruiters for most of the reasons youve mentioned about. On Dice.com I dont even make my resume available to recruiters to view.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Takes more than one exception to disprove a tendency.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Some nasty programmer type wrote a thingy that will trawl through, nick it and then spam you. Your reputation is relevant to you and those who choose to avail themselves of your services. However, your industry's reputation is terrible, with us and clients. That's your problem, not ours, attempts to sweep it under the carpet, are futile, and counter productive and proven failures. Everytime we discuss these issues at least one of you comes on and says I'm not like that. Doesn't matter to us does it, unless we happen to be in your personal candidate pile.

bshunk17
bshunk17

I agree with the 10 ways that recruiters mess things up. I have 2 years experience as a recruiter, and I'm guilty of not following up as promptly as I'd like. All parties need to be treated with respect regardless of the outcome of a job search. I have 15 years experience as an IT PM, doing anything from portal implementations to Active Directory / LDAP integration projects. My experience in working on various teams helps me understand the roles and responsibilities that clients are looking to fill, and quite frankly, I don't know how recruiters do this without knowing what the roles are to start with. Anyway, washed up PM's like me (smile) make good recruiters because we know the roles, we've been contractors, and we understand what clients like. As an owner the company and I am definitely trying to be of service to my clients and the contractors (I even do career counseling pro bono) - however at the end of the day, I have to be generating placements. (I call my job e-harmony for IT folks, and I can say I even did a match up that has resulted in a marriage) Thanks for this great article, I sent it to everyone in our small company, and have it posted at my desk side.

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

This is a huge fact. Recruiters especially international recruiters that don't even know the geography of where you live let alone trying to "match" you in positions they are not beneficial for the company or the professional.

RW17
RW17

"Hi R.W., I have a two month urgent contract in somewhere like Fargo North Dakota, in the middle of winter... will you quit your full-time, permanent consulting position for this role?" Seriously!?!?!? A whole 2 months!!! Headhunters have to be more intelligent than such thoughts that someone would go from full-time, permanent with full benefits for short-term contracts... but, the offers account for about half of my e-mails received into my "resume" e-mail account.

Robiisan
Robiisan

They were just trying to get a collection of CVs with email addresses to sell lists to spammers for a dime a name. Pretty sleazy!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Because that's the name of the road I live on.... The most recent completely stupid one was for maintaining ex-military vehicles in the Sudan. Guess there weren't many takers and they had to widen the search criteria.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Especially when they try to pronounce the acronyms...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Make your case. Why didn't I apply for these roles Windows SLQ server admin Junior Developer 5 years experience with VS 2010. Don't tell me these are one off, everyone of my peers can cite numerous instances of this sort of ignorance.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Please provide signed statements from your clients to that fact. Attach a CV, and please understand that we may contact the sources stated in the CV for confirmation. I'd tell you we'll let you know what we think, but I guess I'm just not cut out for being a recruiter... :p

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

with them either, even, if not especially, the ones who earned their place on it. If you are what you say you are, and forgive me if I don't take that on trust (bitter experience). You are in the full hand of decent ones... What is the perfect recruiter anyway? We don't pay you do we, we are just raw materials...

JamesRL
JamesRL

I have been on both sides of the equasion, using recruiters to try and get jobs, and using recruiters to try and get me candidates. I've seen all these ten ways and more. Have I met recruiters who have been great to work with? Yes, I have, and I still use them today when I'm recruiting. I think the thing that candidates need to realize is that a) the recruiters are paid by the employers and as long as that is the case, they will work in the employers interest and b) recruiters are motivated by the same thing as you and I, an income. Unlike you and I though, many work solely on commission. They are not in customer service, many will ignore candidates who won't make them money.

TBone2k
TBone2k

You could be right Tiffany, but for your industry. In fact I'll bet there are some career out there where the only way in is via a recruiter, simply because you need some one with contacts to help you find particular skills, jobs in demand, etc.

mauricio.solorzano
mauricio.solorzano

Today, being a recruiter must be a great entrepreneurial self employment. As a recruiter you are an intermediary between clients and candidates and all business operations transpire through phone calls. The commissions acquired come from shortchanging the prospects and deceiving clients by inflating and misrepresenting the candidates' skills, achievements, knowhow, and even credentials. There was a time when you would meet and sit with the recruiter that would find the time and have the decency to get to know you. The recruiter would write down all your qualifications for a particular job opening, and then would follow up with you on the phone as to any progress made. Now, it seems that recruiters just want to get on the phone as many qualified or unqualified candidates as time permits and get a very brief summary from the prospect. And as a candidate you never get to meet or even know whether the recruiter is capable or accredited to do the job it purports to understand. Sometimes I talk to recruiters on the phone that offer me a job in Dallas, Texas, when their area code shows that the incoming call is from place as far away as Chadron, Nebraska ! Believe me, this happens more often with these headhunters than you see flies flying around cow manure.

TiffanyBiopharm
TiffanyBiopharm

Tony, I made that email specifically for this discussion. It looks like you have your mind made up about Recruiters, that is too bad. Best Wishes!

Robiisan
Robiisan

It should be the demonstrated ability to pour rainwater out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel. Unfortunately, most recruiters fail this test, miserably.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

:D Hasn't happened to me but, that day when you find you can't do a Windows SQL Server role, because the requirement is for the sequel to windows server, must be out there somewhere...

Slayer_
Slayer_

After 5 years of solid development in a system that has only existed for 1 year, you should be an expert...

robalexclark
robalexclark

in my experience she is right. As a UK developer with 10 years experience and working in the pharma industry she is (possibly) right - the Pharma recruiters are refreshingly different to IT recruiters. I've previously ranted on TR about by experiences with IT recruiters: http://www.techrepublic.com/forum/discussions/102-331921-3306692 In short, they are effing scum. Earlier this year I was looking for a job again and they had not changed from 6 years ago. Also, the list of complaints has grown - this time round one recruiter said he had sent my CV off for a job, didn't hear anything back, and later through levering some contacts (thanks linkedin!) I found that my CV had never been sent in the first place - WTF! However, the Pharma/life sciences recruiters are a noticeably different breed. They call you back when they should, are honest about your chances, and most of all they call you back to give you some feedback when you are rejected. See IT recruiters it's not difficult - why can't you be like that????

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

so she potentially does work solely on commission.

dswope79
dswope79

I got a few calls reently from New Ypork about a job in the Dallas area. This guy was about asqualified to speak to me about technical issues as an McDonalds employee. He didn't even know who I ws or why I was returning his call. He fumbled and just as I was ready to hang up he finds my informaiton. He then fumbles through telling mew about the position, then after several minutes asks me if I have benefits "of course" I respond..line goes quiet.."hello".."yeah, this job doesn't offer any benefits. Yeah, thanks for wasting my time scumbbag. I have to admit I am burned from even trying to find a new opportunity. The latest was they sent me this massive test that I was to fill out and send back. I should have asked "Do I get my VCP certification aftetr this?"..it was utterly ridiculous. I'm convinced these people have no idea how to attract IT professionals

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

of your peers. And some of mine.. :( I haven't made up my mind about you, or him, her. En masse, I view your entire profession as guilty until proven otherwise. There are lost of reasons for that, and while they exist (which is something I can do nothing about), it will remain the case. Goood recruiters are as abundant as honest politicians and trustworthy heroin addicts. That's your problem not mine.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Despite my resume starting in 1981, I still get offers for junior posts / min 2 years experience. May be they didn't want me to feel I was being discriminated against. However given other errors, I think it's more likely that they didn't bother reading the thing...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

But when a salesperson ( : ( ) tells me their product is good, I figure they are selling something, experience suggests that there's a trifling possibilty that it may not be all that they claim.... One thing that is sure if there is drive for professional recruiters, it's because the pharmaceutical clients require it. not us chaps...

JamesRL
JamesRL

My first question was for her, to see how much experience she has had on the other side of the equation. The other part was for the benefit of other readers. I was recruited to be a recruiter at one point, I declined in the end.

Editor's Picks