5 Sure Ways to Annoy a Tech Recruiter

Frustrated Man Bites Computer

Getting the most out of recruiters is about more than crafting a targeted resume or having the perfect pitch. It’s about avoiding the gaffes they see every day, too. So, to help make sure your phone calls get returned and your name stays high on their list, here are five of recruiters’ top pet peeves—some subtle and some obvious—you should take pains to avoid.

1. The Fudged Resume

Don’t send a resume that’s rife with misspellings or you may never get called. Don’t lie either. You’ll get caught.

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Your resume “doesn’t have to be perfect,” stresses Doug Schade, Principal Consultant at WinterWyman Technology Search in Boston. “I’m here to help polish the resume, but there shouldn’t be any spelling errors.” Also, he says, be sure your information is consistent. “We have information on candidates going back years,” he observes. “We can check an online profile and if things don’t line up it can lead to mistrust.”

2. Bad Communication

Good back and forth between you and the recruiter is vital during a search. Recruiters need to know what you want professionally and your level of interest in the positions they present as possibilities. If you don’t waste their time, they won’t waste yours.

“Let’s say we have a great candidate and we’re doing all the work to find a perfect fit,” says Jon Heise, Senior Tech Recruiter at Instant Technology in Chicago. “We send a great email and leave a great voicemail about a position and then they don’t pick up their phone. They’re non-responsive. That drives us crazy.”

Schade concurs and notes a flip side: “The candidate who’s overly aggressive and follows up with calls two times a day.”

3. The Unprepared Candidate

A lot of what recruiters do is mitigate variables. They let you know what the interview may be like and who you may talk to. They may even role play with practice questions. But at some point, you have to hold up your end of the bargain and prepare.

“Occasionally, we get someone who doesn’t research the company, doesn’t look at the website and doesn’t really know what they’re getting into,” says Heise. “I had a great candidate a couple months back. We told him to come in for the interview ‘business professional.’ He showed up in jeans, a leather jacket and a baseball cap. It turned the client off. He had it in the bag until they saw him. He never got the job.”

4. Too Important for the Room

No matter how admirable your skill set or how deep your experience, you still have to go through the interview process. Yet some people don’t think they should have to. Heise, for one, is incredulous at that attitude. “They feel they can get hired off a phone screen and make a very minimal effort, or they think the next position will just fall into their laps,” he marvels.

While he allows that with a particularly stellar candidate there’s an off chance that could happen, Heise feels strongly that those people are shortchanging themselves. “They may not like the position, or the client may not like them,” he says. “If they take a little time up front, we’ll all know if it’s the right match in terms of tech and culture.”

5. The Dreaded CounterOffer

You’ve worked with your recruiter for months and finally said “yes” to a great job, given notice and then… your employer makes a counteroffer. You then scuttle the new deal and stay with the devil you know.

“When someone comes to me, it’s because they’ve already made the decision to look for a new position for a variety of reasons,” Schade says. “The job search is no small undertaking, so it’s more than about money. If it’s just about money, they can often look internally and we can help do that as well, rather than spending the time on a search.”

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18 Responses to “5 Sure Ways to Annoy a Tech Recruiter”

  1. Cicuta

    The article does not tell me anything I don’t already know. I am retired and been retired for about 7 years and the beauty is that I resigned from my last position and now I just have fun as a member of some technical blogs, read the comments and of course I comment as well. To me, the recruiting mechanism now days is really bad and recruiters are not knowledgeable on the subject the job is all about and this is HR’s screw up. I get emails all the time about contracts; as most jobs now days are not permanent jobs – that is history and sorry for the people in need of a job; however, the contract is at the other end of the country, not only that, the job is way off the experience and objective. I also get telephone calls and I just let the phone ring and listen to the message, if I am home, and most of the times the English of the recruiter is so bad that I cannot understand even his/her name … I never reply of course. I can write a book about the recruiting as it is now as compared how it was before the Internet came into play but in a nutshell, I can say that the head hunters of 30 years ago knew their business and got positive result without any headaches on part of the job seeker. The purpose of the head hunter was to get the job seeker face to face with the hiring manager and HR did not even come into play till the formalities of hiring and company orientation.

    To me, those silly questions they ask is just a way to piss any one off and they should concentrate instead on a face to face interview and see how the person applying for the job interfaces with the interviewers as usually there are at least three people asking relevant questions to the job, at least that was the way in the old days and the effective way to interview.

    One of the thing I have always advised, when asked, is that any person in the job market should have a Curriculum Vitae, and most if not all do not even know what it is, just like in Europe and other countries. The Curriculum Vitae must be a presentable document with a Technical Profile, a well presented Résumé, all the degrees and diplomas the person has, all the Technical Seminars, letters of recommendation, and Awards if any. The most complete the document the better off the applicant will be as the hiring manager can see that not only the person is a knowledgeable and skilled professional but also can edit good documentation. Also samples of documentation the applicant has done in the past helps a lot.

    About how the applicant should dress is a no-brainer actually but I must admit that now days most people do not know how to dress and even how to behave and talk when interviewed.

    • Thomas W Davis

      July 17, 2014
      Absolutely refreshing to see someone put it so succinctly!
      I to have been retired for over five years. I am always interested in professional opportunities in my field. However I have been less than favorably impressed by the recruiters who contact me.
      As you say, They demonstrate absolutely NO KNOWLEDGE of the actual REQUIREMENTS or how the candidate can satisfy the needs of the CLIENT!
      You are, on target when you say that assignments are not long term, (FLEETING).
      Most recruiters today never consider that both the CLIENT and the CANDIDATE are human and are worthy of the respect and the real due diligence of truly understanding both ends of the process. Client requirements usually yields several years of experience if not a professional career level of expertise.
      I hate getting a call and the first thing I hear is “HOW MUCH PER HOUR / YEAR DO YOU REQUIRE” with no dialog relating to the functional tasks that the Client is looking to support. And in the final analysis both the CLIENT and the CANDIDATE are both grossly mistreated and far too many suitable CANDIDATES are rejected and the CLIENT never see’s this and does not get the best CANDIDATE for the position.
      Thank You Best Regards

  2. What recruiter polishes your resume? They send the resume as is just with your contract info removed. Many times they are so lazy they send a 5 year old resume instead of the current one they asked you to email. I’ve also been told to lie on my resume.

    “non-responsive”, that one annoys me more then anything. When they want you, they call 500 times a day. When you are looking for some feedback, they never call. They also don’t search for a job for you. They send out spam email with no filters at all. I get emails for jobs not even close to me.

    • Francine Craven

      Ditto this.
      Very often, when contacted by a recruiter, I see a poor fit to the position description, and it should be obvious to the recruiter if he/she has even just skimmed my on-line resume or profile (for example, absence of matching keywords between job description and candidate profile). To these I don’t bother responding because I’d be doing that nonstop. If my profile says I am interested in full-time positions, or local positions, why is the recruiter trying to hire me for a temp position on the other side of the country? No, this is just spam, to be ignored.

  3. Tired of Recruiters' Games

    Actually, recruiters have it backwards. I have over 30 years of IT experience and only take jobs that I want (semi-retired). I need to impress the client firm that I can do the job they want. However, the recruiter for the consulting firm need to prove to me that I should work for them instead of a competitor. I demand contacts be via e-mails so there is a record of who is the client, where are they located (multiple sites) and the details of what the job requires (not just the blurb in the posting). However, recruiters generally want a “touchy-feelly” phone call to get to know you”. They generally are non-technical and have no clue about you because they never even looked at your resume. I’ve had recruiters ask if I have any COBOL experience (duh – try a scan of my resume and it shows up). They don’t want to put anything in writing so they can deny making any statements.

  4. gsc2000

    Why not sure ways to annoy a candidate? Obviously this is not important enough to discuss..
    Badly prepared candidate? What about recruiters who are basically sales people and most just don’t understand what they are selling. They just pickup keywords and blag it.
    Bad communication? Recruiters feedback is never given, emails rarely replied to, candidates are placed on mailing lists for jobs which are extremely low salary or not relevant whatsoever and despite what people say, racism+agesim is rife amongst clients+recruiters.
    Too important for the room? I would say recruiters think they are too important. Candidates come a poor second – everytime.
    Counteroffer? Well this is business. It works both ways until the signature is on the dotted line. If recruiters get upset over that they have a problem, not the candidate.

    What a poorly written article which gives no credit to candidates whatsoever. Obviously agencies are doing it all right all the time . More balance please.

  5. IvyEngineer

    This web article is pointless or backwards in its conclusions. I’m a young engineer with a little over five years of experience. All the tips on how to get a job with a recruiter are basic and obvious. No one with common sense needs to be told this.

    However, the idea that if a deal goes sour because the counteroffer is unacceptable is not a reason for anyone to hold grudges. In my own career there have been times in which I’ve been offered poor compensation packages initially and have refused them. Generally they have always accepted my counter offer or there is a reasonable compromise. But if someone offers you less than what you know that local labor market offers for your skill set and experience then you shouldn’t take the job. This is especially true since most companies these days no longer offer 5% raises. You’re lucky to get more than 1.5%.

    The major reason younger engineers are searching/transitioning at faster rates is to advance their career or get a raise. It used to be that if you are an excellent employee that you will be promoted or be groomed for a major advancement (especially if they have established marketing, business or communication skills). But these days you could be working for five years in a company without a minor transition internally. Loyalty generally is reciprocal. Promotions, raises and relocation are the major reason anyone transitions. It’s naive and self-centered for a recruiter to not keep this in mind when searching for talent. They shouldn’t be wasting your time.

    Same goes for staying in contact when discussing job opportunities. I’ve had head hunters who contact me. They’ll set up a phone interview. I pass it. An onsite interview is to be scheduled and I am referred to the recruiter for scheduling. I never hear from them. There is no common courtesy to tell me another candidate took the job? Nothing. A year later I get a spam email from the same fellow for another position! So careless or audacious. Why would anyone feel the need to waste energy on people like this? I treat all people I interact with on a case by case basis. But if some stranger contacts me on LinkedIn for an “exciting new opportunity,” I’m going to screen them. Most of it is spam.

    • It’s not just nowadays that companies fail to promote. I’ve been in the business for nearly 30 years, and it was like this in the 80s, too. I’ve generally had to move from one company to another, or at least from one division to another, to get anything resembling a promotion. I’ve also been in the situation where my duties expand heavily but my title and salary remain as they were.

      In one case, the job I was accepted for disappeared during the security process, so they gave me a lesser job. It wasn’t long before my duties were the same as I’d originally expected, but my title was still the (much) lower one, which had my bosses constantly telling me I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about. It would take someone of higher rank to verify that I was correct…..again.

  6. I have to agree with cicuta above. I’m currently looking around for positions, and have been bombarded with recruiters … trying to convince me that all I should care about it salary. They seem surprised when I want to know what the actual job is. In one case where I finally reached the job description and realized that the title of the position was incorrect and not a good fit (it listed ‘designer’ when what they needed was an architect/developer with long term optimization experience), he continued to call and email for 3 days afterward. Then another recruiter from his company started calling all over again.

    They seem to be more focused on quantity over quality. So from what I’m seeing, most of these ‘tech recruiters’ are trying to do the minimum actual effort they can get away with, hoping that a random shot might go through.

    Now that’s not universally true…I’ve talked to a couple of recruiters who aren’t trying to convince me to relocate for a 4 or 6 month contract with no benefits and are truly trying to make a good match, and these points might apply to them, but for anyone exploring the market today, be prepared for plenty of cold calls where all you can understand is that they’re trying to put you in a position for $X and why would you care about what the position actually is?

  7. Can somebody explain why recruiters are obsessed with phone calls? During my last job search, I had recruiters constantly trying to phone me WHILE I WAS WORKING AT MY OLD JOB.

    The reason I don’t pick up the phone is because I don’t want my current employer to know I’m thinking of leaving.

    Why are recruiters so absurdly unwilling to communicate via email?

    • Unca Alby

      I can’t answer your question, but this is the reason I don’t put my phone number on the job boards anymore. Not to mention half the time I can’t understand a word they’re saying anyway, and apparently they can’t understand me either.

      Some boards insist on a phone number, but they don’t verify that the number is correct. (area-code)555-1111 can work, or {my prefix}-0000, etc. (don’t put a wrong number that might be a real person, you don’t want to be cruel — but fax numbers are usually cool)

      I get a lot of email from recruiters who clearly don’t know how to read, as they’re trying to recruit me for a position that has absolutely NOTHING to do with my published skill-set. And it’s so funny how they’ll write that they were “unable to leave a voice-mail”. YES! Exactly!

      Then, if the position looks good, I’ll write back with my phone number and a time to call, and we can take it from there.

  8. The only piece of advice in this article worth considering is the last one: never take a counter-offer from an employer.

    The rest are garbage, and typical of how bad recruiting is these days. I put different information on my resume than I post to online sites because the two things serve different purposes. And now some recruiter is going to play Miss Marple and think he’s caught me in a lie? Newsflash: it’s not illegal, unethical, or even improper to not post everything about your life online.

    Bad communication? Yeah, on the recruiters’ end. How many have excitedly contacted me, and then never return? Or who schedule calls and flake?

    Unprepared candidates? Most of the time, I discover, in the interview, that the job described by the recruiter is nothing like the real job. Recruiters often have no idea about the skills they are seeking. As far as business casual, maybe you should have elaborated, since that means different things in different areas. On the West coast, the candidate would have been over-dressed.

    It’s not a matter of being too important. It’s a matter of time wasting recruiters who call up, and put me through multiple interviews, and then disappear without a word. No wonder we candidates guard our time and seek to minimize the number of interviews.

  9. This article is typical of the attitude employers have toward recruiting – all responsibility is on the applicant, none on the recruiter or employer/client.

    I recently read an online article regarding how employers can’t find STEM talent. When I visited the website of the profiled employer I discovered they HAD NO CAREER SECTION. How is talent supposed to know you’re hiring if you don’t put out the help wanted sign?

    No this kind of article makes it very clear there is no shortage of talent, none at all.

  10. I wish the people leaving voice messages would speak more slowly, not use speaker phone, and make sure there isn’t distracting background noise. I know they are on the phone a lot, but machine-gun delivery via speaker phone = inaudible message. The last four digits of phone numbers are almost always spoken more softly and more rapidly–drives me crazy!

    • Unca Alby

      Let me clarify for you why I never put my phone number for initial contact:

      Of the recruiters in my admittedly limited experience:
      1) 30% spam every applicant regardless of what’s on their CV and will only waste your time
      2) 40% ignore timezones between New York and California and will wake you at 6:30AM
      3) 60% call between 9:00AM and 5:00PM when you’re at work and it would be impolitic to talk
      4) 70% can’t speak understandable English (yet demand “good communication skills”)
      5) 90%, even after you call them back, can not give you the slightest bit more information than what they’ve already sent you in email, so, what’s the point?

      So, no phone number. Send me an email with the details. If the job looks interesting, and looks like something I can do, I’ll get back to you.

  11. Seems to me that people don’t matter anymore to companies. Also the influx of ill-mannered people from India is the source of 90% of the problems on both sides of the fence.

    By the way it is virtually a fact that if you speak a second language, you only do so at the 5th grade level. Just saying what we all know.

    Globalization, collaboration, diversity and inclusion are all ideas aimed at making everyone else bend to accommodate Indian culture. Why is this so? Just because they are good at procreation does not mean they are good at recruiting or any other job for that matter lol.