What I wish recruiters knew

GapingVoid - Too Busy - is this you?Recently I had the opportunity to be interviewed for another podcast, but this one was a twist as it was 100% for recruiters. I had a few questions sent to me before the interview but of course we didn’t get to everything… so I wanted to have some follow-up thoughts here even though the podcast isn’t live yet 🙂 Remember, these answers are for recruiters, and I was representing “the job seeker”… so these aren’t typical answers that I’ve give to Joe Job Seeker.

Why did I start JibberJobber?

You have to realize that when I got laid off I went into high gear on my job search. I worked about ten hours a day, six days a week for at least two months straight. During this time I developed “relationships” with about 30 recruiters, and I quickly learned that most recruiters had no reason to follow up with me. I used my pre-JibberJobber spreadsheet to keep track of who my recruiters where, log any activity with them, and set up action item dates.

This system (which would soon become JibberJobber) was very useful to keep track of where I was at with each recruiter and ensure that (1) I kept in touch with them regularly to see what opportunities might have come up recently, and (2) stayed fresh in their mind so that hopefully they’d think of me first when something came up. There’s now way to keep track of these 30 very active relationships without some kind of system like JibberJobber.

Did I work a lot with recruiters, and how did I find “the process?”

Kind of! I say I had 30 recruiters but the truth is it was a lot of Jason sending out e-mails and leaving voice mails… and not getting much in return. It was common that I wouldn’t get a return e-mail or phone call, to the point that I wondered if they were full-time, or on an extended vacation, or just didn’t work their business that hard. Granted, I didn’t understand the role of the recruiter, and my role. I had been accustomed to the basic courtesy of getting a reply back on my e-mails – even if it was one or two words – so to switch to no replies at all was really weird.

What have I heard from candidates (that’s recruiter-speak for “job seeker”) about working with recruiters?

Most candidates that I talk with are really excited excited to establish a relationship with a recruiter, and I think they usually see this recruiter as their savior that will lead them out of unemployment into a bigger and better job than they left. Later I hear about the regular frustrations of recruiters not getting back to the candidate (there is a difference in sense of urgency for sure) and bad advice (I heard of an executive recruiter that advised a candidate to get a low-paying step-job while she searched for a higher-level position (the candidate was furious)).

My favorite advice (not because I agree with it, I really don’t, but it was funny) was from a senior executive that said “spend two days shooting your resume to as many recruiters as you can and then don’t even look back.” So basically he’s say get your name out, see who bites, and then spend your time in more productive areas of a job search!

What can recruiters do to improve the process?

I can tell that there will be other blog posts spinning off of this one, so I’ll keep these short. I’d really like to get some dialogue here from recruiters and candidates… and we’ll go from there. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Please have some kind of system for follow-up. I know you are busy but so is everyone else. At least let me know that you got my resume (or whatever) and if something comes up you will call me – at the very least. (candidates, realize that some recruiters get over 100 new contacts a day, and following up to 500 every week could be… impossible?)
  • Please tell me what your role is, and what my role is! The best feedback I got was: “Jason, you’ll find a job for yourself quicker than I’ll find a job for you.” This made me rethink our relationship, and start to reevaluate my strategy. If you are not my silver bullet, please don’t lead me to believe that you are.
  • Please inform me that I am not your client. I need to understand this so that I can understand your job, what makes you tick, and perhaps how to work with you in a way that you appreciate me more (like, opening my network to you).
  • Please tell me what I should be doing aside from talking to you. Perhaps an article (or a series of articles) on your website that I can learn about this job search process, and avoid pitfalls. This can include things such as how to use job boards, how to use LinkedIn, how to use JibberJobber, how to format e-mails when approaching a potential hiring manager, recommended books, networking events I should attend, etc. I know this sounds like a lot but I bet you can put together short, valuable primers in less than 30 minutes (for each one).
  • We both know that I’m talking with other recruiters… let me know how you feel about that. If you think I should be then tell me to… don’t try and hoard me as “yours.”
  • Please treat me as a valuable long-term relationship. You never know if I’m going to be in a position to bring you in, or open my network to you later. If you are serious about being a recruiter, why do you want to show me how bad you treat me as a job seeker?

Now, this is not a bash on recruiters post – I can name some recruiters that I had an excellent experience with, or those that I have a ton of respect for. This post is direct response to a recruiter asking me what I think about the process and how to improve it, from my perspective.

Why don’t you tell me what YOU think about the recruiter/candidate experience?

22 thoughts on “What I wish recruiters knew”

  1. Hey Jason, great starting point for good conversation and information exchange. Let me take your points one at a time:

    – yep most recruiters are cursed by candidates/jobseekers about this. The fact is that they do have a follow-up system. You see there are three piles – Can use right away, maybe later, and Can’t Help. The can’t help pile is the circular file, and while it may be unsatisfying, that is where most candidates end up. Reason being, they aren’t a good match for what the recruiter does.

    Recruiter’s Role
    – Most jobseekers think that recruiters get people jobs. That isn’t what they do… they fill open positions for companies that agree to pay them a fee.  Read more about it in my article in the series Recruiting Myths.
    Who is the client? – Good question. The client is the one that pays for services. Many jobseekers are under the mistaken belief that THEY are the client. Unless you are paying, you aren’t. If you ARE paying, there is more than likely something wrong. Jobseekers are really our product. Here is a short passage from the article [above] that talks about that:

    “What does this mean for the job seeker? Well, it means that you are no longer the client… you are now the product. The recruiter isn’t being paid by you, he is being paid by the company. The recruiter doesn’t earn money for finding you a job, he earns money for filling an open position with his client company. To some of you, this is a difference that escapes understanding, to others it may seem subtle. In truth, it is a huge difference… one which drives the performance of a recruiter to do some things which are not in your best interest.”

    What should I be doing? Another good question. First don’t rely on me to find you a job. But do read the info that I send you, and if you happen to be in the restaurant industry, read my restaurant recruiters blog and check out my jobseeker tips. 😉
    Talking with other recruiters, be honest about where you are in the process. Check out my series on Recruiters Bill of Rights (renamed to 10 Ways to Make Recruiters Love You) where I talk about the need for candidates to share information freely with the recruiter about any and all other employment engagements. Great recruiters will be looking out for you and trying to help you make the best decision for the long run… they don’t just want a one time candidate, they want a long term relationship.

  2. It’s great to open this dialogue between recruiters and job seekers and especially to provide insight from the candidates perspective on “candidate experience”. It’s a much debated and discussed topic. One of the interesting points of note for anyone engaging in this conversation is to define the varying shades of recruiter – from corporate, to executive, to contingent. What’s most important about these different types of recruiter is that they may work together in concert to fill positions or separately and they each have their own definition of “client”. Additionally, they may each have separate goals and unfortunately, it seems as if the candidate is always left behind in this experience as they are not the paying client. Having been on both sides of the job search I see why many people view working with “recruiters” as a necessary evil. The key is to work more then one avenue when embarking on a job search and ultimately use your networking skills to your advantage. This is always the quickest way to your next dream job regardless of whether or not you have to work with someone in staffing related disciplines.

  3. Great post. A couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all, as a candidate you need to remember that recruiters get paid by employers for placing candidates in jobs. Therefore, most recruiters are going to take the “no brainer” candidates. They aren’t usually going to get too creative or try to think of reasons that even though your background doesn’t exactly fit the jobs they are trying to fill that you might be a good fit. They are, generally, going to present candidates whose resumes clearly match the job specs.

    There are some great recruiters out there but, particularly at contingency recruiting firms, you will find inexperienced recruiters who may also lack business knowledge. So, “dummy proof” your resume by including information that the recuiter will be looking for to match your background to any job. For example, if you are employed by a Fortune 500 company include that terminology on your resume because sometimes recruiters are told to find candidates with Fortune 500 employment in their backgrounds.

    I started my career as a recruiter and I generally returned all my phone calls and followed up with every candidate because I knew that courtesy builds relationships. And, I was right. I have built 20 years worth of relationships with folks whom I either placed in jobs or didn’t..but either way I treated them with courtesy and respect. I have found that usually if you are kind to someone when they are looking for a job that they will become a loyal and trusted colleague. I often think that most recruiters are very short sighted in that regard. Almost everyone lands a job at some point and you don’t want them to remember you as someone who was unhelpful or unkind when they needed a helping hand.


  4. Jason, as usual, you are right on from a candidate perspective. Working with recruiters can be frustrating and exasperating, even moreso when there is a misconception about how recruiters work and who their client is.

    I think one point that is critical to make is that “when” a recruiter does contact you, it is in your best interests to cultivate that relationship even if a job doesn’t work out in the short-term. As a candidate, you never know when a requisition will land on a recruiter’s desk that is a perfect fit for you … and you certainly want that recruiter to think of you immediately when it does.

    Building an effective recruiter relationship can be a crucial long-term career management strategy.

  5. @ Liz: You said:

    They are, generally, going to present candidates whose resumes clearly match the job specs.

    Very good point. The other half of this is that a recruiter risks being seen as a poor recruiter if their client feels they are constantly having to come up with “creative” ways to put candidates into jobs. Better client relations is usually the answer, but it’s still a factor. 🙂

  6. I agree with the point about setting up a “Follow-up system” and trying to keep a good relationship going with your potiential candidates for positions. The problem with a good number Recruiters and Staffing Agents simply treat their job as a job so they are not willing to provide extra value or do not see the point in doing this. Personally i think it makes sense (this coming from the new guy) to maintain most relationships. Ah… me being idealistic again.

    I think a lot of people forget that Recruiters are working for companies so naturally they need to keep the companies interests in mind. While some recruiters may come off as though they are working with you most are concerned about the company that they represent first and foremost. Correct me if i am wrong here.

  7. Excellent post. Great points. Very thought provoking. I liken being a busy recruiter to being a triage nurse in an emergency room: It’s tough to be the one to decide who gets treated and who dies in the waiting room, but that’s my job. If you can do that in a way that allows the patients to maintain their dignity, then you have done something that gets talked about in the market by both the winners and the losers in every search.


  8. @Luc: You said:

    The problem with a good number Recruiters and Staffing Agents simply treat their job as a job so they are not willing to provide extra value or do not see the point in doing this.

    No, it’s not that you’re being too idealistic, there is a problem there in that we don’t take the time to get back to everybody. The hard thing my candidates don’t realize sometime, is that we receive about 200-300 emails a day from candidates. To reply personally and politely to every single one of them would be more than a full-time job, and there still wouldn’t be any recruiting getting done! 🙂

  9. Excellent Post Jason
    Exciting to see such great feedback.. It really does make us think about that other perspective.. the candidate side. The followup system is really cool..

    Thanks a LOT!

  10. Hi Robert,

    Well i can understand that responding back to 200 to 300 emails a day is not going to happen. I think i am looking at it from the wrong way from the jobseeker… i’ve got a rule when job hunting “If i don’t hear from recruiters and i move on and keep going”. Any tips for someone trying to get into recruiting Robert? How did you get into it?

    Talk to you soon,


  11. Very good points Jason. What I came to understand is that 99.99% of the Recruiters, unless they are retained by the job seeker, are focused on the jobs on their desk at that moment. If your qualifications do not meet their clients’ needs (and remember, they are not working for you they are working for the company that hired them to find a candidate), they cannot do anything for you. I have only found 1 Recruiter who stuck with me and actually is being proactive in terms of helping me with my job search.

    If, by chance, you have an active opportunity that you are working on with a particular recruiter, follow up with them on a regular basis. Find out if there is a timeframe that the client has in mind for filling the position. Make it clear that you would like to know the status of the position either way. This way if the position is filled, you can tick it off your checklist (or Jibberjobber entry ;-))and move on. Typically the recruiter becomes focused on the active candidate rather than those that are not chosen. Think about it, do you think they really want to give out bad news every day?

    Moreover, if you are not the candidate of choice, try to get feedback on why you were not chosen. This will help in subsequent searches.

    Finally, remember that recruiters are only one avenue of your job search. Do not rely solely on them to find your next opportunity.

  12. Here’s another thing candidates should know about…a recruiter’s pet peeves concerning candidate resumes. Sounds like a great article, blog post, free special report/download, or podcast to me!

  13. Excellent post. My problem with recruiters is that they do not actually read the resume before they call you. Some matching program they have finds a key word in your resume and you get a call. These are just position fillers.
    I also have had recruiters call me, ask me to send them my resume, check my references, submit my resume and then never call me back. I understand that I did not get the job, but would have been nice if I got a phone call or an email.
    I must also say that I have worked with recruiters that are genuinely interested in what I do, are courteous, pleasant and keep in touch.

  14. “spend two days shooting your resume to as many recruiters as you can and then don’t even look back.”

    This is right on target. The next advice is if you receive a call to come in for “an interview, to see what you are looking for, and put you into our system” meaning they haven’t bothered to read your resume and have no prospect of placing you, but only provide a database to their clients, or worse, are trying to sell you on their services, tell them you won’t waste their time, if they don’t waste yours.

  15. Today is a day of closure for me with the best and worst recruiter I have ever been associated with. Yes, they are the same person.
    The best recruiter experience – The recruiter called me out of the blue, was respectful of my time and not only set up a time to call back later in the week, but also sent a confirmation e-mail and then (gasp) called me back at the correct time and number.

    Through 2 phone interviews during Thanksgiving week, 4 cancellations by the hiring manager for the in person day of interviews that went on through the entire month of December, and a killer snow storm that made my flight be pushed back two days the recruiter was always the same friendly, professional, punctual, respectful dream contact.

    At every step they reminded me that the process could stop at anytime… that the position would be left open rather than have it be filled with anything less than a perfect match.

    The worst recruiter experience – The first offer was the last offer and meant a 40% cut in pay. But the company is well known, the team members were a dream to interview with, and the group goals aligned with my passion for process improvement. The offer letter included 2 generous bonuses (1 for housing and the other for signing) and full relocation costs… including payment for expenses if I chose to drive my spouse and puppies cross country.

    The 30 day waiting period came and went with no bonus check. I had to do all of the chasing. Suddenly my calls and e-mails went unanswered. The relocation consultant knew nothing; the recruiter was now a ghost. My first day on site I sent an e-mail from my sparkling new alias and what do I learn?

    There was a ‘mistake’ with my offer letter. Unless I sign a new letter of intent, with half the bonus, a lower pay grade, but the same pay $ and sign immediately I would not get any bonus and my first check won’t be cut for 30 days because you started a week too late for the mid month check. All of my possessions were in a truck somewhere in the Rockies… my now unemployed spouse and puppies were in corporate housing… we just signed a 1 year lease intending to use the now vanished $ for the required first / last / deposit.

    I was too scared to tell anyone… I let it go… no lawyer, no flame mail… I come to find out that no one gets into the group at the pay grade that I was originally offered if they are an outside hire, my new manager mentioned several times in the first week how lucky I should feel for coming in at such a high pay rate in my grade. Several other things have happened since to make me go hmmm…. this doesn’t feel like it was a one off… this feels like cost savings.

    Today the recruiter reached out through LinkedIn and asked to connect. What to do… I decided to let them know how conflicted I was… did they do this intentionally to get me to sign? Were they being used just as much as I?

    The reply came back about an hour later. They were shocked, and horrified, and confused, and apologetic. My first impression is that they are telling the truth so I am going to honor their inquiry into the details as they only vaguely remember a problem with my paperwork several years ago… and how can I fault someone who recruits dozens of people at a time for that!

    The moral of the story – the recruiter is always the chicken… you are always the pig… no matter how well meaning… you are still at risk of becoming the bacon.

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