Should we really “hate” recruiters?

by K B , updated on March 2, 2011

There have been a few things going around the recruiter blogosphere this week focusing on the service recruitment consultants deliver. Greg Savage wrote a great post: “God I Hate Recruiters” based on a discussion he’d had with a friend on the cricket field. Yesterday Recruiter Daily posted an interview with a recruiter Ian Bellingham. He said he was amazed at the poor service he’d received from recruiters when he had been recently looking for a job.

It’s sad that this is news.

It seems that many people consider consultants a necessary evil. Research last year from Destination Talent showed that 64% of executives have found a job at least once in their career using a recruitment service. However, 33% had negative opinions, and only 18.66% considered recruitment firms to be effective.

I can’t really see the service job seekers receive and the perception of the service they receive changing in the very near future – for a few reasons.

The commission based business model that agencies use is entrenched. It’s a known model. There’s big money to be made. It takes a brave business to break that model. Sales success is easy to measure and reward. You’re a consultant. You place a person. You meet your money targets. You get the commission.  However, like Greg says, it’s not a model that leads to recruiters looking after the individual. Read my piece on the silent treatment you may receive as a job seeker as a result.

I know that the better agencies do make attempts to measure the level of service individual consultants deliver. However I would be interested to know how effective that measurement is. Some of the perception around recruitment consultants comes from the service they don’t deliver – for example, the calls that don’t get returned. You can’t measure and reward service in the same way you measure sales. There are far too many people in the mix, and it’s far too intangible.

The “perception” that recruiters deliver poor service will not change in the future. It will always be difficult for people to think they are getting good service. When people look for jobs they are vulnerable. Change is traumatic or difficult for most of us. That’s why we put up with jobs we loathe and stay in careers we detest.

Think about this. As a candidate you are always selling yourself. If a recruiter rejects you when you’re feeling vulnerable and you’ve put your best foot forward, you take it much harder than you may when there is less at stake. You can see it as a reflection of your entire career. If you are feeling that way and waiting for a call from a recruiter that comes late or with vague information, you take it out on the person who may have built up your expectations – the recruitment consultant.

So what’s the way of future?

I think there are game changers at play as people become more socially media savvy. Facebook easily connects old friends. Jobs get passed around quickly and easily. Linkedin also has some interesting features which now allow you to look at an advertised role, then see who is in your network who knows the advertiser. With the technology that allows people to curate candidate information available on the web, and many companies having cash referral schemes, we may see more and more recruitment functions move in house.

That’s just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. We live in interesting employment times.

Stay connected.


Do you make one of these top 5 insanely dumb mistakes on LinkedIn? Click on this link , and we’ll send you our FREE report, PLUS some awesome tips to help you lure recruiters and employers to your LinkedIn profile.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

InterviewIQ March 2, 2011 at 11:56 am

@greg_savage Wrote a reply to your interesting piece… Is it fair to hate recruitment consultants?

greg_savage March 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

@InterviewIQ Thanks Karalyn, I have Retweeted it already 🙂

Naishadh March 2, 2011 at 5:15 am

I agree with most of the comments/observations; in my role of dealing with unemployed people all day long, I constantly get feedback that ‘recruiters never get back to me’, ‘I have left 5 voice mails and still haven’t heard’, ‘ the recruiter couldn’t even point a reason why I wasn’t selected’ and the list goes on. In my experience, while job hunting, I never got any constructive feedback from any recruiter about my CV/interview, although I could be worth 7 to 10K for the agency. When asked how to deal with ‘recruiters’ most of the time my answer is – keep hammering them and eventually you will get noticed. I can equally understand the volume of communications recruiter would get in a day, but in the entire process communication with the job-seeker/s appears to be of least importance.

David Inzlicht March 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for the posting Karalyn,

Recruiters get abused far too often. The problem is that most job seekers don’t understand what recruiters do. They think that the recruiter will help them get a job. Helping a job seeker get a job is a by product of the recruiters trying to help companies fill their positions. As you stated the economics of the situation makes this the way it is.

When recruiters spend the time to explain to job seekers how things work and adjust the job seekers expectations to match with the reality of the situation, everybody walks away happier. This is something that I have been doing for some time and it has produced a much more pleasant experience for the job seeker. In fact when polled 5 weeks after the initial visit this positive experience, for most job seekers, remains intact regardless if we end up finding them a job or not.

David Inzlicht

InterviewIQ March 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm

@greg_savage Thanks Greg

Linda March 5, 2011 at 4:02 am

Hi Karalyn, I hate to say this but I have found, like alot of others, that recruiters (especially the young ones) seem to be on a real “snotty” power trip. I have had to deal with some outright rude and obnoxius young reruiters that it would probably blow your mind away. They tend to look down their noses at unemployed people, and forget that they were unemployed once as well! It has now got to the stage that I approach companies myself because recruiters are just a waste of my time (and petrol). Giving the run-around, they think that just because you’re unemployed that you can waste valuable fuel, and time, coming to an interview that is only to be kept on their files. People can’t afford to be what I call “just in casers”. Unemployed people have to pay motgages and bills too. I have even talked to centrelink, and I think my next step will be to see my local MP about trying to get govt. to do a complete overhaul of these companies, just as they did with the job services agencies a couple of years ago, as I feel that by giving people the run around, their job ads are very misleading, deceiving and false. I mean, doesn’t “Immediate start” mean just that? I have found that “on-going work”, can mean on-going at 2 shifts a month for the next 12 months! I will give them points for being clever but alot of people are starting to wake up to these people and their industry, and I think that one day they will be exposed for what they really are………..making big profits from other people’s misery! This is not to say that I haven’t met some lovely and helpful people in this industry as well, I have, but it’s the “power trip” ones that have given recruiters such very bad name and reputation!

Karalyn March 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

There are some really interesting observations here. Thanks everyone. I am going to present the views of a few more recruiters on this blog as it is easy for people to generalise, myself included. Stay tuned.

James March 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm

When I first joined the sector in 1995, my MD suggested I consider the nature of our work. Most people have the perception that recruiters help people find jobs. His enlightened view was that we are in the business of politely, tactfully managing expectations downward – rejecting people, if you will.

16 years later, I can’t help thinking he had a valid point. However it is the manner in which we manage these expectations that gives us our reputation as bad service providers.

As that same MD also said – ‘Be ruthless with time, but generous with people..”

karalyn March 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm


Thank you for your comments. I think that is a common misconception about recruitment consultants. I really like that saying as well.

One of the things I would like recruiters to do more of, which is in-line with their expertise, is give people advice. So you have them in for an interview, you assess that they are not quite right for your client, then you give them a realistic appraisal of what they can do to develop their skills or find their next step.

Experienced recruiters have so much of this knowledge locked up that both clients and people looking for jobs want.

Failed & Scarred IT Grad / Recruiter who has escaped the UK April 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm

having been on both sides of the table, (i.e the client side being slung millions of CVs that an agency hopes will stick and actually the one doing the slinging)and taking the time out of my life to complete a computer science degree, only to find that i had no access to computing jobs in the UK, due to the recruitment “profession”. Then deciding to jump in to this industry, (to find out how any group of people could live in such a warped existence to behave the way they do) i can honestly say the state recruiters live in is partially due to the recession.

in reality, a number of brilliant people used to constitute the recruitment industry, however during the last few years, it has become a playground for under 25 no achievers, unintelligent , selfish individuals and more concerning downright self concerned liars to make a quick buck.

some of these individuals used to pursue careers in banking high end sales etc where that kind of aggression and willingness to do pretty much anything to succeed was masked and eventually swallowed up by a need for actual knowledge.

however with the onset of the downturn, these individuals turned to recruitment, and in most “specialist” areas such as technology, there is no real requirement to learn anything other than buzzwords meaning that the previous focus required for a sales hungry grad to have to learn about accounting and gain a CPA or ACA qualification is…. gone.

and thus all that remains is the willingness to say anything you must, to whoever you must without understanding anything to make a placement.

the terribly sad thing is, especially for the UK, is that all this will cause is a talent exodus of those internationally mobile, high end IT professionals who are tired of the industry going the way it is.

because so much economic activity in England is focused in London, it becomes a hotbed, as opposed to the spread of this kind of recruitment activity in a large spread area, such as the USA.

the only real way to fix this is to do something about the next up and coming generation of young people, and give the oppotunities to gain access to the industries they really want to work in via direct talent enagagement, with a truly wide talent pool, instead of focussing on just the oxbridge cream.

if this doesnt get done, there will be a nation of salespeople and recruiters in the UK and a VERY small talent pool of IT, Finance and Healthcare professionals indeed.

Resumes To You (@ResumesToYou) April 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Is it fair to hate recruitment consultants?

John May 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I’m very glad to have stumbled upon this blog. I’m in the job seeking situation whereby my days are spent scouring the recruitment sites, speaking to recruiters and some potential employers.

Whenever an attractive job appears, I jump on it, ensuring my covering letter is suitably worded, relevant, and will stand out. The same with my CV, ensuring the skills that I’ve gathered with my years of experience, are well promoted.

Many times I’ve approached recruitment agencies, enquiring about a position, e-mailed them my CV and have heard *nothing* back from them. I’ll phone them up about a position I’d like to be put forward for, only to be bluntly told, my experience isn’t relevant. Or, no matter how much experience you have, you *must* have a good degree. Some of them cannot wait to hang up as though I’ve wasted their time.

Now, being honest, I don’t have a degree but I have a couple of Diplomas and other assorted qualifications that ARE relevant to my chosen sector. Plus, there’s years of valuable experience. I am also self-taught in a number of computer related areas.

I do not for a second, disrespect anyone with a degree. If that level of education is what they have to help them in their career, and they’ve worked really hard to achieve that, fair play to them.

I would have liked to say something about those recruiters who show blatant ignorance, a huge amount of snottiness, disrespect, and a total lack of basic manners. However I shall hold back, because I would rather not shower this blog with a string of insults and colourful language.

They make a killing out of other people’s hard work. One recruiter I have been with recently, even botched up a payment causing my account to go overdrawn. They deny responsibility, and the of a manager contradicted herself so many times about this I gave up being nice to her. They haven’t a clue!

In fact, I’m so tempted to go into a ‘general’ commercial recruitment agency, all suited and booted, business like etc. Then, spending however long, registering, filling in forms (they really shouldn’t need forms, when my CV says it all), reading all their terms and conditions, signing my name and dating however many bits of paper they throw at me. Then, all of a sudden. I tear it up, say ‘sorry, but this really is not for me’ before walking out leaving them in limbo. Wasting two hours of THEIR time will hopefully teach those cretins a lesson!

Kat Sutton October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

As a technical recruiter who is highly specialized in the types of candidates that I place as well as the type of clients that I work with, I take some offense to the negative comments about recruiters. While I can understand and see the unfortunate side of the recruiting business because there are certain firms that give us all a bad name. Namely, those that are un-specialized in what they look for and are in the business of “spamming” resumes to clients or potential clients. Also, not all recruiters make commissions. I, for one make a base salary and receive small raises based upon placements. Also, it is not in my best interest to place a candidate somewhere that is not right for them, or put my client in that situation as well…it’s called common decency and not to mention my business reputation is made with every match that I make.

In every industry, there are bad apples. Unfortunately, people’s frustrations can be amplified in a situation where they are desperate for employment. I know this because I have been there. I have been fresh out of college in a dismal economy and know that feeling all too well. You know what else is frustrating to a job seeker? Hearing nothing back. Whether this is lack of responsiveness from a recruiter or an internal HR department, it’s tough. It happens on all fronts, but ultimately depends on the situation. Not all recruiters or internal HR departments are unresponsive, unfortunately, some are, and that effects us all.
Recruiting would not exist if it were not a valuable industry. Period.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: