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How Do You Spot a Bad Recruiter? |

An easy question with a complicated answer.


The question for today is, "How do you spot a bad recruiter?" I think it's a wonderful question, but, I'm not going to give you the answer that you expect.

Here's what my thinking is. Most of you think that a bad recruiter is someone who doesn't get a job for you. You think a bad recruiter is someone who doesn't find you work. As a matter of fact, they may never arrange for an interview for you.

The problem with that is you are confused about what a recruiter is supposed to do. You make the mistake of thinking that recruiters work for you when, in fact, recruiters are paid by employers, not paid to find positions for someone.

I read an answer on Quora. I want to acknowledge it and poke holes in it. It starts off, "From the beginning when you get a first email message from a recruiter, skim to the bottom. Was it written to you. If you could change the name of the top and so the 200s of people… That's the sign of a bad recruiter!"

No. That's an indication that they are casting a wide net. They don't know if you're going to be interested. As a matter of fact, most people will never respond. It's not that they send out bulk email (because in some way, shape or form, you pay contact with them in the past). They have a database that lets them know that one time, when you are in touch with them in the past, you did similar work to what was being sought by the client.

They are presenting an opportunity. You have to accept that opportunity. That's fine.

"They use buzzwords and pick up lines. Bad recruiters have conversations where they use buzzwords and weak pickup lines."

I have no idea what this person means by, "weak pickup lines." They are obviously being sarcastic. However, buzzwords may reflect technology and functionality within a particular profession that a client may require. You have to find out whether the person has those skills pretty quickly in order to see if you are wasting your time and theirs.

"They don't understand its structure of an interview. They ask questions out of left field that seem like they are out of order."

No. Something may have popped into their mind that they forgot to cover. I'm a human being. I do make mistakes. I do forget they ask certain things. If you think, bad recruiter, having filled more than 1200 positions plus consulting assignments, having gone 1500+ YouTube videos on job search, having done three podcasts and a whole host of things because I have something that didn't seem like was in the right sequence for you, how do you feel if someone criticize you for that in your work?

I'm imperfect being. So are you. Give me a break. Don't expect perfection.

"Hard sell." That might be the side of a bad recruiter. I'm going to conceive that point. Some people sell hard. If the reason that they are selling hard is because you changed your story will beg, well, excuse me!

There is an inconsistency that you have not communicated, you've changed your mind, we've gone to bat (as you must realize, contingency recruiters are only paid it if you are hired and remain in the employ of the client for certain period of time).

As a result, your change, on communicated, is a surprise. When we are surprised, often, we are looking at a substantial portion of our income going away. I know that doesn't mean anything to you, but you have to expect that there will be a human reaction to that.

"The questions that they ask are dumb." An employer often requires us to ask and take questions to ensure that a person is qualified.

"We don't follow up do they do all the talking? Are they listening to what you are saying? Do they do the things they say they will when they well?" Do you?

I will simply say, recruiters are imperfect beings. We are sometimes held up by our clients who change their mind and have their circumstances change.

At the end of the day, we don't work for you. We work for an employer who is paying us just like you work for an employer who is paying you. When push has to come to shove, you can do whatever you wish, however, what you interpret as being a bad recruiter often isn't.

I will give you one thing. One of the best indicators of a good recruiter is longevity. They have had success in their field. Worked for their organization (organizations in general) for lengthy periods of time.

I'm not saying this to blow my own horn, but I have survived many recessions and thrived for more than 40 years. That should send a message to you. Will it be perfect for everyone? Absolutely not. A lot of people will judge me as a bad recruiter because I haven't help them.

Okay. Your background doesn't fit what my clients want to hire. Do you think I'm going to get on the phone and call thousand companies for FREE (because you're not paying me anything) to find a job for you? NO!!! I paid by organizations to find talent for them, not to find you a job.

So, remember, who does a recruiter work for? That's the basis of the question. The answer is an employer. They make the judgment by hiring the firm the recruiter works for, doing it time and again, hiring that individual recruiter time and again to fill positions


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1100 episodes,“ Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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