Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ten Things Your Recruiter Won't Say

The title of this posting is not mine.  It comes from Smart Money.  They published it on October 25. The premise of the article is that recruiters mislead their candidates in many ways.  I believe that the author, Will Swartz, was confusing low-end employment agencies with legitimate executive search consultants.  I cannot speak for national recruiters.  I cannot speak for recruiters in other businesses.  I cannot even speak for other recruiters in the advertising business.  However, for myself, this article is just plain wrong.

In fairness, there are many different kinds of recruiters.  We are executive recruiters.  We work on assignments on behalf of our clients.  We are not an employment agency.  There is a big, big difference between executive recruiters and employment agencies.  And I hate when clients refer to us as an "agency".
While there is a grain of truth in what he says, I cannot agree with the essence of his article, that recruiters have an interest in not telling candidates the full truth about how they work and what they can and cannot do.

One point in the article is important.  Candidates should know who is representing them.  They should know the background and reputation of the people who are working on their behalf.  There are lots of good, reputable executive recruiters.   I don't know how this article was researched, but they didn't talk to me.
I thought about the best way to refute this article and decided that it was best to list his ten points and then respond to them.  I think it is important for my readers to understand both how I work and how a good recruiter can work on their behalf.

1) "There are better ways to find a job"  - This is a true statement. There are lots of ways to get a job.  I tell my candidates that networking accounts for about 80% of all jobs.  At best, recruiters account for an estimated 10-15% of all jobs (ads and postings account for the bulk of the rest).

2) "We don't work for you" - This is also a true statement.  But in the context of the article it makes it seem that we don't do our best for our candidates.  A good recruiter works for the people who pay them - their clients.  I always tell my candidates that that I have to do a good job for both my candidates and my clients or I would be out of business.  The article makes a point that because companies are already paying a fee to a recruiter, they are reluctant to negotiate for higher salaries.  Not so.  While I do represent my clients, if I think they are low balling the salary they are offering, I always tell them.  There is always a little dance that gets done between recruiter and the company. The truth is that at most companies, particularly firms with over 50 or so employees, the recruitment budget is separate from the salary budget.  One thing rarely has anything to do with the other.

3) "Until a year ago I was a car salesman" -  This is also true.  Candidates should vet their recruiters.  Every candidate should know who they are dealing with and what their background and credentials are.  Even when I first started recruiting in advertising, I had a twenty year history in the business, was well known and knew most of the ad agencies and companies I was working for.

4) "The job we advertised may not exist" - I can't speak for other recruiters, but we rarely advertise.  Occasionally we may post something on the Ladders, but those jobs surely do exist.  Every candidate has a right to know and ask questions about any listing.  Reputable recruiters don't post fake jobs to attract candidates.

5) "We already know quite a bit about you" - I was actually horrified by this statement. I cannot conceive of real executive recruiters doing credit checks and background checks on candidates, particularly ones they have not met.  We do not ask candidates to fill out applications or forms.  I have never done a credit check on a candidate in my life.  We see and meet 20+ candidates a week - the major recruitment firms see hundreds.  We do conduct reference checks when appropriate.  The idea of recruiters checking personal information is abhorrent.  Perhaps this is done by some "agencies", but I doubt it.
6) "Our jobs aren't so hot either" - I am not sure how the economy or volume of jobs should affect the quality of recruiting.  Or why big firms are more effective than smaller ones.  Recruiters - of any size - get jobs of all types.  The economy has not affected the quality of jobs, just the quantity.  Candidates need to be able to assess jobs to determine if they are appropriate for them.  A good recruiter should help candidates assess the opportunity and should never force a square peg in a round hole.

7) "You are at the mercy of computers just like on-line job board users" -  All recruiters who use computers know their shortcomings.  Key word search is and can be a problem.  But not for candidates who are met and interviewed.  Once again, I cannot speak for other recruiters, but we get to know our candidates and enter them into computers ourselves.  Long ago I learned that key word searches are insufficient for the purposes of identifying our candidates.  We treat each person who we meet as an individual.  Many other recruiters do this as well.  Key word search cannot cover all contingencies.

8) "The temp to perm carrot is rotten" - We rarely do temp jobs so I have no idea if this is true or not.  But no recruiter should lie about the possibility of moving from temp to perm.

9) "If you have a job I could get you fired" - A reputable recruiter will never and should never send your resume anywhere without your express permission.  Period.  There is always the possibility in a job search that your current firm can find out you are looking, but a recruiter being the cause of that is so rare as to not even be a consideration.

10) "If I'm in Virginia, I will probably not help you find a job in Nebraska" - True. It is important for a candidate who wants to relocate to determine if a recruiter can help them find a job outside of the recruiter’s home market.  Recruiters tend to work most in their home area.  However, speaking for ourselves, we receive advertising assignments throughout the country.  We have placed people in such faraway places as Birmingham, Alabama,  Evansville, Indiana, Germany, France, London and Singapore.  Many recruiters do not "market candidates" by making unsolicited calls to companies.  Candidates should determine how their recruiter works and whether they can help them in other markets.  Many recruiters, like us, have affiliates in other markets and other countries.


  1. A very level-headed and balanced rebuttal. Thanks for writing this up. As a 17-year Executive Recruiter I completely support everything written here.

    I'm not sure what kind of axe was being ground by the author of the Smart Money "article" (tirade) but he got several facts wrong and even the ones that were correct were slanted in a way that seemed to promote fear.

  2. I would agree with most of your comments of this article, but I think the most important point the article made is that there are a lot of firms that dont correctly hire, train and manage their recruitment team, which can lead to a lot of the mistakes mentioned here. I only recruit for contract/temporary positions, but in our market it is very common for an employee to be hired on a contract to hire basis. Also, our firm specializes in mid to high level positions, so it is not uncommon for us to place someone as high as a Controller/Accounting Manager making $100k+/year. This has forced us to do business on a more professional level because of the level of staff we are working with, we would burn bridges in the only large town in AK.

  3. Great article for young people to read and take to heart. "Gummby" is one of the best in the business and I've trusted in him with my career and hiring needs for almost 30 years. Bill Crandall, CMO at Della Femina.

  4. "Reputable recruiters don't post fake jobs to attract candidates."

    Someone should tell this to the likes of Creative Circle and City Staffing in Chicago.

    Also, I LOVE the implication that anyone NOT seeking an executive position basically deserves to be misled by a recruiter. It is so nice to know that integrity is alive and well in the modern marketplace.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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