Remedies for Your Biggest Recruiter Problems

Ever wonder whether third-party recruiters are valuable allies in the quest for a steady paycheck, or more trouble than they’re worth?

Job seekers often grouse about recruiting firms on Dice Discussions, but many issues can be resolved or eased with a little thought and effort.

Here are some common complaints and remedies for improving your relationship with recruiters:

Complaint: I wish recruiters would take the time to read my resume. I cannot tell you how many times I receive e-mails for jobs that I am just not qualified for.

Resolution: You can discourage unwanted calls and e-mails by removing weak skills and random buzz words on your resume. Instead, add a specific headline that highlights your technical specialty and desired role.  But note, you’ll be forgoing a chance to parlay misguided recruiter calls into opportunities by explaining your strengths and asking about suitable openings.

Complaint: Recruiters assume you’re unemployed and call during the day, or they wait until 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. to call and interrupt my family time.

Resolution: Obviously it’s hard to please everyone. If you’re employed, control when you retrieve your messages and maintain some semblance of privacy. You can achieve this by using a separate e-mail address and phone number on you resume, online profile and portfolios. Answer the phone if you’re unemployed, because it’s better to have opportunity knock at an inconvenient time than not at all.

Complaint: It’s like I have to respond within 30 minutes of getting an e-mail or they’ll ignore me.

Resolution: Companies often give requisitions to several recruiting firms, so time is of the essence and if your recruiter is going to beat out the other firms in filling out the requisitions. If you wait to return their call, your recruiter has probably submitted other candidates by then. Agree on some sort of code for time sensitive issues and build trust by responding immediately.

Complaint: Recruiters say they’ve submitted your resume to their client and are waiting for feedback, but they never follow-up.

Resolution:  When you initially discuss the position, set a follow-up time and confirm via an invitation. Recruiters are more likely to keep set appointments. However, in this case, no news is probably bad news because your recruiter will definitely call if the client requests an interview.

Complaint: Recruiters don’t understand technology.

Resolution: They may not be technical wizards, but they know a thing or two about finding a job. Offer to trade expertise, because when it comes to landing a job in today’s job market, two heads are definitely better than one.

Tell us about your issues with recruiters and, yes, solutions are welcome.

13 Responses to “Remedies for Your Biggest Recruiter Problems”

  1. jcpopescu

    My biggest complaint ?

    There are many .

    I honestly and sincerely feel the whole task of a recruiter or third party agency could be automated.

    They impress me as no more than throughputting resumes and job orders matching one to the other.

    My experience, over many years, is they DO NOT take the time to really and truly read a resume. The VERY TOP of my resume states I’m looking a) to work in San Francisco, b) no extended commutes or relocation, c) no 1099 or “stock options” in lieu of compensation, and d) what I am looking for in the way of a job.

    Care to guess how many times I’ve recieved calls and electronic mail asking if I would relocate half way across the nation or assume a two hundred mile or more commute hit for a “three month contract” position at about twelve to sixteen dollars per hour ?

    Care to guess how many times I’ve been contacted for things I’m not licensed for or interested in ? I saw one inquiry asking if I would assemble and bolt storage racks to the floor. I”M NOT A GENERAL CONTRACTOR ! I DON”T HAVE A BUILDING CONTRACTOR”S LICENSE !

    The times I’ve interviewed with them I’ve felt the whole thing token gesture, insincere, cookie cutter, and completely failing to discover what I’m interested in and where my talents lie. I feel I’m reduced to some kind of commodity traded in some kind of exchange sold to the lowest bidder.

    The frustration, lousy jobs, rudeness, ineptness, and just bad experiences have driven me to the place that 1) a third party recruiter is about as usefull as a pet aardvark and 2) I’d probably die of starvation before even thinking eating such words.

    A remedy for dealing with recruiters ? Simply do not. They’ve proven, over years, they have NOTHING to offer unless one actually wants to labor rudeness, shorted paychecks, and someone who can’t even speak clear English.

  2. @JCPOPESCU said “A remedy for dealing with recruiters ? Simply do not. They’ve proven, over years, they have NOTHING to offer unless one actually wants to labor rudeness, shorted paychecks, and someone who can’t even speak clear English.”

    I understand some (okay, most) of your frustration, but this statement is not productive in any way.

    Often, I feel that recruiters scan for keywords, or more likely, has software that does that for them. When my resume is out there, it gets a lot of play. I’ve even tried putting things in my objective statement so I don’t get asked the same questions over and over like “Are you looking for contract to hire”, “Are you willing to work in {insert state here.}”

    Our market is such right now that recruiters are desperate to find ANYONE that is a match for their job, and often call without thinking. Then they end up wasting my time and theirs by “information gathering” and I end up feeling like my time was wasted and I was used merely as lead generation.

    So that’s how the game does work. DICE is a bit guilty in that area — I leave my phone number off my resume, so that I can only be contacted by email, but yet my home phone receives calls each day from recruiters who seem to think the phone is the only tool to contact me with. The ones that follow-up via e-mail with an appropriate inquiry get responses; those who don’t, do not.

    I do make sure DICE only has my home phone. The last thing I need at work is 50 interrupts on my cell phone for someone looking to full “An URGENT requirement for their direct client in Tinysboro, North Carolina” clear across the country.

    Recruiters also rarely ask if it’s a good time to talk. It’s shifted from a culture of relationship-building to lead generation.

    Same with form letter emails. A recruiter who had placed me at my current job sent an email blast. I did say to him “You *do* know I work for you, right?” His answer left me less than impressed. Another recruiter to tick off the list.

    Yes, I keep track.

    When I do get the emails, I try to get to the heart of the matter… where is the job located (city and approximate area of town), what is the approximate rate of pay, W2 or 1099, is it contract/perm/contract-to-perm and do they have a description. If they are evasive on the pay and ask me the range I’m looking for, I just tell them the truth usually…. “I prefer the employer to throw out a number first, because I find an inflated or low number generally points to unrealistic expectations or a lack of respect for the candidate.” It works more often than not.

    Even after all that weeding, I still, in this particular market, get enough interesting leads to pursue. Do I change my standards a bit based on the situation and job market — you bet! But that’s how I keep it sane.

    • jcpopescu

      Productive or not my assertion of “don’t deal with them” is based on my experiences and that of my colleagues, friends, and former co-workers.

      My standards are what I consider THE BASIC MINIMUM.

      I expect HONESTY, INTEGRITY as well as CLEAR communications. Sadly a good 90% of third party agencies and recruiters flunk one or all on the first try.

      Asking my salary history or what’s my hourly rate: Integrity fail. Claiming it’s a developer’s job where the client wants C/C++ and my later discovering they want a whole list of other irrelevant without compensation ? Honesty fail. Someone babbling in broken english sounding like a horse race announcer or an auctioneer ? Communications fail.

      As of this date and writing: One hundred percent ultimately flunk at least one of three at some later point in time.

      There are NO second tries . Trust is key to ANY kind of relationship: Be it interpersonal, business, friendship, or whatever else. It has been my experience that once trust is broken it is gone and so is any kind of relationship. Only fools allow relationships to continue without trust.

  3. Daylon

    Well, I’m a recruiter, I speak perfect English, and have a technical background. Yes, there are some firms that only do keyword searches and call you based on that, I’m one of those that actually reads your resume if it’s in a format that conveys information quickly.

    This may come as a surprise, but many technical professionals write crap resumes. You may be an accomplished enterprise systems architect, but 99% of recruiters aren’t going to read a 15 page resume detailing your work experience back to the mid 80’s. Similarily, I don’t care if you’ve got “team-oriented” or “quick learner” on your resume. Give me something concrete, use strong action verbs (led, initiated, created) rather than passive ones (contributed, assisted, helped).

    If our jobs could be automated, believe me THEY WOULD BE rather than paying me a 20% fee for finding a perfect candidate who will accept the position at the salary offered. If matching people to jobs were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

    And we ask for your salary because most of our CLIENTS require it to be in the write up before we submit a candidate. If you don’t want to tell me, fine, then I’ll just move on to the next candidate who will. I honestly don’t care WHAT the number is, as long as you give me one.

    Yes, some recruiters can be a pain to work with, but others can be a real help in finding that next position for you at a company you want to work for.

  4. jcpopescu

    @ Daylon,

    What business is it of anyone aside of a creditor or taxation agency what I made at my last job ? That’s a matter between myself and my previous employer.

    Want a baseline ? Then simply find salary dot com or similar website giving salary information for the job title and location . There’s plenty of online resources.

    Furthermore: What I have found is one of the first TWO questions is what is my hourly rate ? I have no way of knowing what the company wants or expects in a given job title and , quite frankly, when that’s the first or second question I arrive at the place what a given recruiter or third party is trying to do is maximize their profits by paying me as little as possible.

    That or they have not done their homework and, once again, are doing keyword searches of job descriptions and resumes that could probably be automated.

    Realize it or don’t you’ve probably already, by your own admission, of not caring what someone did back in the 1980’s, eliminated a LOT of experienced candidates.

  5. jcpopescu

    @ Daylon (again)

    “I’m one of those that actually reads your resume if it’s in a format that conveys information quickly”

    Now this is very interesting because one hundred percent of the third party recruiters I’ve dealt with request the resume be in word document format. Why ? Very simple: Word integrates almost seamlessly with a wide variety of software similar to Resumix and others used for keyword scanning and candidate management as well as CRM suites. Word , itself, allows various summations and data extraction for just about every specific purpose.

    I once had a really nifty resume in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format that opened with the bookmarks to the left. One could expand the bookmarks to get to the exact information they wanted much like a product user’s guide. How many times did I send it to a third party ? Zero. How many times did I offer it ? Every time until it was made fairly certain they did not want it.

    Now here’s something interesting: Adobe also integrates with word. However some versions of Adobe don’t integrate seamlessly with various printer software suites and in some cases will corrupt Adobe Distiller. Also the author of a pdf document can assign printing and alteration priveledges. I allowed no editing and for good reason: I don’t want additions or deletions that could invoke some kind of misrepresentation. I’m not one hundred percent certain the same document priveledges exist for a word document and I’m guessing probably not.

    Let’s own reality: There are some jobs that can’t be described by “strong” action verbs without sounding pretentious or even ridiculous. Some roles such as data entry are best described by those two very words.

    Quite frankly I think the example of the fifteen page resume is indulging hyperbole.

    Truth really be told: I have two primary copies of my resume: One is for a third party and online posting that outlines, specifically, what roles I’m looking to assume, location, compensation terms, and compensation expectations.

    Very seldomly, if ever, does a third party agency respect such and has proven to me they simply do not take the time and neither do they want to actually be bothered with READING.

    Much quicker to just let some software slice, dice, mince, chop, and filter for keywords and everything else be damned.

    For twenty cents on every dollar in salary (the twenty percent figure you cite) I would expect a given recruiter to do a LOT more than just scan keywords and if they have to labor fifteen page resumes then welcome to actually having to WORK .

    • Daylon

      I apologize for not being clear – I’ll happily accept Adobe Acrobat, Word, even Notepad if you can clearly communicate your work experience.

      My point wasn’t referring to file format, but actual formatting and layout of the information itself. Can I clearly see what your skills, experience and education are? For example, I recently received a resume written in 8 point text, prose style, with 1/4 inch margins, filled top to bottom with a single spaced description of job responsibilities. That’s clearly not doing this candidate any favors.

      “What business is it of anyone aside of a creditor or taxation agency what I made at my last job ? That’s a matter between myself and my previous employer.”

      I understand your frustration, but that is simply not the case any more in today’s job market. Potential employers want to know what you made previously, if you don’t want to tell them fine, but that doesn’t mean they have to interview you either. Candidates who are overly hesitant about giving their salary history just come across as hiding something, I’m sorry.

      “Realize it or don’t you’ve probably already, by your own admission, of not caring what someone did back in the 1980′s, eliminated a LOT of experienced candidates.”

      Actually, they’re eliminating themselves. Best practice is to list the last 10 years of work experience in some detail, leaving the rest as line-item dates if it goes back farther (and really, that’s only an option). The point of the resume is to use it as a “teaser” to get that phone or face to face interview, not write your autobiography.

      • jcpopescu

        Two big comments:


        Salary information is readily available for job title, location, and even down to a ZIP code if one cares to find it using such critereon. The DOL and Salary dot com, are two resources that come to mind. How much does it REALLY cost to search ? I would posit next to nothing .

        A thrid party recruiter asking what my salary history, hourly rate, or similar impresses me as trying to maximize their returns by minimizing my salary. Moreover that they didn’t do their homework.

        If a third party recruiter asked what my salary requirements for a particular job I would direct them to salary dot com or the DOL . Moreover I would request a WRITTEN and COMPLETE job description.

        Should they push the issue I would quip with “Would you expect a building contractor to remodel you kitchen based solely on your assertion your kitchen is ten by twelve feet “?


        The guy with the fifteen page resume and the other example with the eight point font and prose format: OK so perhaps not the best choices.

        You want to talk about information clarity and layout ?

        Perhaps I’m engaging in strictly a subjective argument however what more clearer than a *.pdf file opening with the first page and bookmarks to the left taking the reader to whatever heading of information they want ?

        How many recruiters wanted this very file and information clarity when I described and offered it to them ? Zero, sit, zip, nada, zilch, goose egg, sit.

        I don’t even have that file or bother with it anymore because 1) it was never requested and 2) it’s outdated.

        In unison they seemed to cry: “We want word dot doc format”. Could it be there’s substantially more security options preventing editing and selective copying-and-pasting in Adobe than word ?

        Methinks so.

        As for “clearly communicating ” that is just subjective.

      • jcpopescu


        Obviously there is an upper limit to what a company is willing to pay for a given position. Therefore the question becomes who gets the most of that upper limit ?

        Basic math dictates that if a company is giving you ten dollars for a position the way to maximize your returns is to find someone willing to take the least of that ten dollars.

        Ergo the question of “what’s your hourly” rate or salary related questions.

        It’s called price shopping.

        The very bottom line here is there has to be some standard on which a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached. There has to be some standard of worth where we could negotiate from.

        To that end I would have to know what a given company wants in the way of a given job and what they are offering in salary. A range would be acceptable however I’ll assume the lower of the two figures quoted.

        What you’re suggesting is exactly one and the same of calling up building contractor after building contractor asking “what do you charge to remodel a ten by twelve foot kitchen ?” Moreover going as far as asking what they charged other customers.

        When the kitchen does not get remodeled then some have the audacity to protest a lack of “qualified” building contractors. No… there’s simply a lack of CHEAP building contractors .

        Quite frankly I don’t think I’m missing a damn thing. If a company or anyone can’t be forthright, forthcoming, open, and honest and prefers to play games then all they’ve proven is themselves full of nothing of redeeming value.

        And most certainly nobody I would want to even think working for.

    • Daylon


      For permanent placement positions, the higher the salary I get you, the more $$ I make, so it’s in my best interest to get you the highest salary I can. Why would I try to “low ball” you for a position knowing that it just takes money out of my pocket?

      Here’s a couple of examples of why I would ask for a salary:

      I work with one large system integration / consulting company that doesn’t offer salary ranges for their permanent positions, they want to hire based on skills rather than $$$. For a given consulting position they VERIFY your previous w2 at time of offer and typically give offers that are 15-20% higher. Doesn’t that seem fair to you?

      For another company that I work with for contract positions, they have a fixed markup % as negotiated in the contract. I have the same markup whether it’s $40/hr or $80/hr, so again, low balling you isn’t in my best interests and my gross profit % is fixed regardless of the number. Again, that seems like a pretty fair system.

      You obviously are not required to give your previous salary or hourly rate and I support your choice, but just know by not doing so that you are limiting the # of positions that you will be considered for.

      • @DAYLON
        “For a given consulting position they VERIFY your previous w2 at time of offer and typically give offers that are 15-20% higher. Doesn’t that seem fair to you? ”

        No, and this is why I try not to give a number when I can avoid it.

        What’s fair is what I’m currently worth, whether that is 20% above my last job, or 30% BELOW it.

        There’s another advantage to not being the first to give into salary… you get feedback (a data point, if you will) as to where salaries are in that area for those skills/job title, at that point in time.

        @jcpopescu Forgive me for saying so, but you seem awfully bitter. If you hang on to this bitterness, as understandable as it is, when you go interview for jobs, it’s going to show through and you won’t get the job.

  6. jcpopescu

    In reading the article and the exchanges I come to the same place I came to a long time ago regarding the staffing and placement industry and recruiters in general.

    That place is a very true saying of “Lay down with dogs, expect fleas”.

    The foci seems to concentrate in two areas:

    One: The question of a resume.

    My experience has been these are seldomly if ever read and the very exchanges below bear this out.

    My neighbor’s kid can take a word document in six point font and put it in any font and format he cares to with just a few menu selections. MSWord integrates seamlessly with the larger MSOffice suite and probably every last CRM software in existence. An MSWord document is extremely malleable.

    In my past and to the end of clarity I’ve offered a very easy to read and navigate Adobe PDF format resume. The first page opens with my contact information and to the left are bookmarks one can expand to get to whatever they care to. I would think if a third party agency or recruiter actually READ a resume they would welcome some with open arms. Not so. The rebuttal was “we want WORD “.

    The second foci seems a question of salary.

    A given venture in a company or a third party recruiter knows very well they way to get the most is to pay the least. This has most certainly been demonstrated.

    All this obfuscation and issue clouding still fails, woefully, to address the very basic question of what is an acceptable standard of worth between the candidate and employer ?

    As I see it a third party would have the audacity to an exchange as follows:

    Recruiter: Hello… XYZ construction. I have a ten by twelve foot kitchen. What would you
    charge to remodel it ?

    XYZ Construction: We would have to send a representative out to take a look at your kitchen and prepare a proposal .

    Recruiter: What did you charge other customers ?

    XYZ Construction: I can’t tell you that.

    Recruiter: What do you charge per hour for a kitchen remodel ?

    XYZ Construction: I can’t tell you that.

    Recruiter: Can you give me the contact information of prior customers so we can call them ?

    XYZ Construction: No.

    Recruiter: Can your crew come over and take a test remodeling a kitchen to determine if they
    can remodel mine ?

    XYZ Construction: No.

    Recruiter: Is your crew familiar with Makita drills, Milwaukee sawzalls, and DeWalt jig saws ?

    XYZ Construction: They are familiar with how to remodel a kitchen using tools appropriate to the job.

    Recruiter: Well you’re really of no help. Here I offer you a remodeling job and you won’t take it. You won’t tell me a thing about your crew, a thing about your pricing, and your guys won’t come over to take a kitchen remodeling test.

    XYZ Construction: We can send over a representative to look at your kitchen and work with you to determine your specific needs to your kitchen and then we will prepare a quote for you based on that information.

    Recruiter: I just told you I have a ten by twelve foot kitchen ! Now I want YOU to tell ME what you charge to remodel it. I also want to see your company AR/AP leger for the last few years.

    Yes… It’s true. If you want fleas lay down with dogs. If not then don’t.

    • Glen Smith

      I’ve got some very cheap software that’ll take any PDF (sometimes I’ll have to print them out and then re-scan them) and turn it into an edible word file. Granted certain fonts can be an issue and watermarks may make some of the stuff come out wrong but really the only issue convenience. It is simple to make any PDF malleable but less convenient.