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How to Ruin a Recruiter’s Day

Topics: Career Advice

Low unemployment and a booming job market mean that there are lots of options for those looking for work. Recruiters can help you find a good fit … if you know how to work with them.

Recruiters and headhunters can get access to jobs that aren’t listed to the public. What’s the difference between the two? Generally speaking, recruiters focus on filing roles while headhunters look for specific candidates. Recruiters often work directly for an employer or recruiting agency, while headhunters work on a contingency basis (either independently or as part of a headhunting company).

Companies use these professionals’ services to take on the hard work of filling jobs and finding candidates. It costs a lot of time, effort and money to find and hire the right person. If you’re looking for a new job, you want to stay on recruiters’ good side. And that means not doing anything to make their jobs harder.

For example, avoid these behaviors:

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Not Finding Out Who You’re Dealing With

working with headhunters

If you get contacted by a recruiter, be clear on who they’re working for and whether they’re an internal recruiter (who is employed by a company itself) or an external recruiter/headhunter (who works for an agency and has many company clients).

If you’ve been aching to work at Company X, and their recruitment team comes calling, you’ll have a great opportunity to learn about the employer. If you’re getting calls from an external recruiter, you may need to spend some time getting to know each other in order to stand out from their busy workload of potential candidates.

“A great recruiter is an incredible ally in your career journey,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “Good recruiters work their tails off. You will be able to spot a great recruiter right away when you talk with them. They know what jobs pay. They take the time to learn about candidates before reaching out to them, and most of all they don’t ask job-seekers ‘What are you earning now?'”

Good recruiters:

  • Have good listening and communication skills.
  • Are respectful of your time in ways large and small. That means keeping appointments or giving you a heads up when you they need to change times. It also means reading your resume/LinkedIn profile and not asking you questions you’ve already answered there.
  • Care about fit. There’s no point in shoving you into a job you don’t want and wouldn’t be successful doing!

Bad recruiters:

  • Ask you for money in return for placing you for a job. (They should get paid by the company, not you.)
  • Get you in trouble with your current job if you’re looking elsewhere. (They should be respectful of your working hours.)
  • Make salary judgments for you based on your age, or ask your current salary. You should be able to tell them what you’d like to make at your next position. If they push for your salary history, consider whether this is someone you really want to work with.

If you decide to work with an external recruiter, you’re allowed to shop around. Ask them about their working style, clients and what kind of candidates they tend to place. They may specialize in entry-level or mid-career candidates, or they might be more geared towards executive searches.

Lying on Your Resume or Application

two-page resume
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Lies are bad. You have one year of experience, don’t say you have 10. Don’t say you have degrees when you never graduated, or that a YouTube video you watched once counts as “coursework” in a technical field. If you get in the room with a potential employer or even bluff your way to getting hired, you’ll likely fall flat on the job.

Instead, talk to your recruiter about how you could improve your resume in specific (and honest) ways. They’re experts in sizing people up on paper, and they can have great tips on how keywords, industry terms or even just organization is helping or hurting you.

“Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for expertise,” notes Kerri Anne Renzulli at CNBC. “A skills section, usually placed below the summary statement, quickly draws their eye right to that knowledge and shows your value. It should be a short, curated list of attributes that can be easily measured or demonstrated and are truly rare or in-demand within your field.”

Delivering Less Than Your A-Game During the Interview

job interview prep
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Hey, you’ve got an interview! Congrats. Wait, it’s “just” with the recruiter? That’s OK! Even though the meeting might be with the placement agency at first, it’s still no excuse to be unprofessional. Always follow the best tips for a successful interview, and be ready to talk about your strengths, skills and what you hope for in your career.

  • Phone interviews are still interviews. Make sure to have your “elevator pitch” ready, and be able to talk about your best traits.
  • Going live on video? Dress the part! If you’re doing a Skype or other online video chat interview, make sure you’re camera-ready. Dress professionally, have a good quality internet connection, clear sound, and some time to chat. “Can you hear me now?” is not something you want to ask during an interview.
  • If you’re not available, make a plan for when you will be. Sometimes, recruiters are in a hurry. But you have your own schedule, and it’s OK to say that you’re not able to jump on a call or get to an interview ASAP. Don’t jeopardize your current position (like leaving for 14 “dentist appointments” during the same week) just for your job search’s sake.

Don’t blow off a recruiter call when you’re looking for work. They might want to get to know you better by a quick chat. Recruiter says that the “culture fit” phone screen is super valuable to candidate placement.

“For sales or marketing positions, we are also looking to see if the person can hold a normal, cordial conversation,” says Ken Sundheim, a NYC-based executive recruiter, at TopResume. “It may sound simplistic, but more than any skill-set or background, our clients are looking to work with people whom they’ll like. If someone is rude, short, or gruff without good reason, that’s more reason for the ‘no’ pile than anything that a resume could reveal.”

Badmouthing Your Recruiter

job search
lolostock/Getty Images

Recruiters also under a ton of pressure to get the perfect person in the perfect job. If you have some success, you can likely keep that relationship going for years and years. The more a recruiter has wins with a successful, hardworking candidate, the higher their street cred rises as well.

If you don’t get the job, it’s not time to take it out on the recruiter or the agency or even the company. For one thing, recruiters seldom have the final say so in who gets hired. They can just do their best to match the right candidate to the client.

“Sometimes you get the job, sometimes you don’t. However, never lose your composure when things don’t go your way,” says Sundheim. “If played correctly, working with a recruiter will do nothing but benefit your career. Whether or not you end up a taking a job today is not as important as whether or not you’ll be considered in the future.”

And of course, never vent on social media. Employers will Google you first before even considering an interview. If the recruiter happens to see you dragging them, you’ll be labeled as a persona non grata. If the company sees it, they won’t ever want to deal with you again. And if your current job sees it, you’ll be outed as someone looking for a new job (while still juggling their current one).

Ghosting Your New Job

pay unhappy workers to quit

When you’ve landed a position, the worst thing you can do to a recruiter is act like a big ol’ jerk. If you show up on Day 1 and the job has been misrepresented, get on the phone to your recruiter. Walking out of a position is never a good way to pay back a recruiter for all that hard work they did to get you there.

Even if you’re just a little dissatisfied, your recruiter should be the person you talk to in order to improve matters. Think of them as a mediator. If you’re suddenly asked to do a different job, use different equipment, or get paid a lower amount than what was previously agreed upon — that’s bad. But it shouldn’t be “just walk out” bad. Your recruiter, or their agency, should be the first call you make in order to fix things.

Falling Out of Touch

Sometimes job roles change, bosses get shifted around, or you just have different career goals after a few months or years. If you’re ready to make a change in your current job, or if your limited contract is about to run out, reach out to that same recruiter or agency again. Especially if you’ve been a good employee, you’ll be able to use that existing relationship to hopefully find a new gig.

“Once a candidate has been placed in a role, they should keep in contact with their recruiter,” says the Energy Resourcing Group. “You never know when situations may change and you will need their assistance again. Recruiters are always looking for great people and also are happy to have you recommend top-performers to them.”


How have you found work through a recruiter? What were your experiences? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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