Recruiting’s Dirty Secrets: Recruiters Respond

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There are always two sides to every story. So recruiters were given a chance to clarify and defend their little-known policies and procedures, which are often called dirty little secrets.

Here’s their perspective on our list that exposed the inner workings of third-party and corporate recruiters.

Yes, ‘No Poaching’ Tactics Are Common

It’s true that the contracts between employers and recruiting firms typically contain a “no poaching clause,” explained Kevin Newell, a Boston-based technical recruiter with more than 11 years’ experience. Since third-party recruiters have access to confidential information, it would be a conflict of interest to represent employers and their employees at the same time.

“We’re like stock brokers,” he said during a phone interview. “It would be unethical to make trades based on insider knowledge and information.”

A Recruiter’s Financial Interests May Not Align With Yours

Recruiters who pad their wallets at the expense of clients and job seekers are shortsighted, according to Newell. After all, failing to match a candidate with an appropriate job opportunity typically results in premature exits, lost fees and clients, and a tarnished reputation.

However, he acknowledged that some junior recruiters may occasionally try to force a square peg into a round hole. He recommends partnering with experienced recruiters who are in it for the long haul if you want to avoid unscrupulous newbies.

No, Some Jobs Aren’t Really Open to Outsiders

Since employers typically retain third-party recruiters for hard-to-fill positions, you’re more likely to encounter this secret practice among in-house recruiters. Some companies make it a policy to post every open position, even when an employee has the inside track on the job. While employers claim to hire the most qualified candidate, it’s hard to compete against an insider.

Yes, the ‘Blacklist’ Exists… for Boneheads

Recruiters say they only reject unprofessional candidates who commit boneheaded mistakes such as failing to show up for an interview. Remember that they get paid to find and submit top candidates and they don’t have much choice when hiring managers only want to see two to three resumes. The bottom line: It may be best to move on if you go on a few interviews and don’t land an offer.

Upload Your ResumeEmployers want candidates like you. Upload your resume. Show them you’re awesome.

Recruiters Prioritize Activity Over Placements

Again, you’re more likely to encounter this problem with junior recruiters or agencies that have high turnover. The real pros won’t waste your time or theirs by offering you positions that don’t match your skills or preferences.

Yes, Most Recruiters Want to Screen You Out

Newell reads every resume he receives because he insists that third-party recruiters are always on the lookout for hidden gems and purple squirrels. On the other hand, high profile companies may receive thousands of resumes for every job opening, so their recruiters use screening software and a list of must-have criteria to whittle down the applicant pool. When supply exceeds demand, a recruiter’s job is to screen out, not in.

You’re Not Always Locked Out Once a Recruiter Submits Your Resume

“That’s not entirely true,” said Alison Mackay, a San Francisco-based staffing account manager and technical recruiter for Cypress HCM. “Some companies will let you apply for another position on your own or through another agency particularly if they have a way to track applicants for each requisition.”

Always ask if you’ll be able to apply for other positions at a company before you let a recruiter submit your resume.

You May Never Know Why You Were Rejected

Recruiters say they’re willing to share feedback, but IT managers and HR folks are often reluctant to say why they selected another candidate. The company could be afraid of lawsuits or social media backlash. The reasons why you weren’t selected for a job may always remain one of recruiting’s dirty little secrets.

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17 Responses to “Recruiting’s Dirty Secrets: Recruiters Respond”

  1. GotAll TheDirt

    When it come to recruiters, most, not all, most of them are going straight to hell. Constant lying, stealing, greed, and anything else they can come up with to take advantage of the workers and take all the money for themselves.

    Stories –
    – For the same job, pay from 2 recruiters is $75 an hour, and 1 recruiter wanted to pay $14 an hour
    – One recruiter wanted to pay $85 an hour c2c, but $65 an hour on W2. So I’m will be paying $40,000 a year for what?
    – Woman left her Cobol job to have a baby, got a part time job at a store making $15 until she was ready to come back to work. Landed a Cobol job that wanted to pay her $30k a year because that’s what she was getting at the store. She quickly found another job that paid her $70k, and when the other company contacted her to see if she was interested in the job that paid her $30k, she told them she found something else that would pay $70k. The manager then got back to her after a brief moment to talk, and agreed to pay her $70k. Recruiters do the same thing.

    Endless stories to tell. It’s a shame how they get brainwashed into car salesman tactics and other bits of nonsense so they can make more money at the consultants expense.

  2. Recruiters send you to the fake interviews. Fake in a sense that the client only want to get information out of you , so , they can solve the problems that they are currently facing. If client is satisfied that it has gotten some information out of the candidate, they will give lump sum money to the recruiter for this particular interview. This is what is happening all over the IT industry right now.

    • Rasputin Paskudniak

      This actually happened to me twice.
      In one case I solved the problem that had been plaguing them for months. But I never heard from them again; they avoided my calls and never returned a call or email. Only when I called from a different phone did the manager take my call and gave a weaselly evasion then.

      In another case I outline how I would approach the problem. The guy had the nerve to tell me “We’ve been doing that already” but his subordinate was looking anyplace but in my face when he said that.

      It’s a no-win situation: I should have said: “Hire me and I’ll tell you.” I wouldn’t have gotten the job but he wouldn’t have gotten free consulting. 6 years later and I’m still PISSED as all hell at those parasites!

  3. Programmer

    Recruiters are useless parasites that steal money from people who actually do work. They only exist in such large numbers and have so much power because of a 1987 tax law that makes it nearly impossible for programmers to work as independent contractors without a recruiter as an intermediary. Please call your congressional representatives and push for the repeal of this unjust law.

    Along with taking half of the money that a programmer earns, recruiters also help employers suppress wages in other ways. They will refuse to submit candidates to companies at the rate the candidate gives them if they deem it to be too high. This allows employers to falsely claim that no Americans have the skills they need so that they can get visas for people who will work for less.

    Recruiters are extremely harmful in many ways and it is difficult to think of even one way in which they add value.

  4. I still don’t understand why these recruiters think making $105,000.00 is better than $65 to $75 per hour with overtime. The benefits are not worth more than $8 to $12 an hour. I can do more than the work I’m hired for and I can leave knowing I’ve do e the best I can do. I learn new skills sometimes and that goes into my toolbox.

    As an Electrical Engineer I never see the benefit of siting in the same role and not taking on new work. I get paid more and I’m on a different job every contract. My benefits are fantastic. While I don’t get paid for vacations (which can be worked in to the contract by the way) i get paid by the hour which means I can work over to make up for the loss of hours for going on vacation.

    I Love it. I even get to travel around the country. I was in Massachussets recently. I have never been there in my 51 years. Saw the USS Constitution before it went to dry dock. Walked the Liberty trail and visited the Pilgrims town. Great experience. Brought the family up.

    Know your value and ask for it.

  5. What’s not mentioned here is the issue with H1Bs and recruiting.
    As i understand it if a candidate receives and inquiry about a job and they decline the opportunity a recruiter can then claim they are unable to get a US-based candidate for that job. The recruiter can then use the H1B pool to bring a foreign national to the US for that position.
    I regularly have recruiters contact me for jobs I am in no way qualified for.
    When I discovered their “game” I unilaterally decided to stop replying to their inquires.
    Oddly enough many of these “recruiters” cannot enunciate English clearly enough for me to understand what exactly it is they want….

  6. Michael Stelly

    Unlike the previous comments, I don’t have an axe to grind with recruiters. I don’t like working with recruiters because they do not at any time represent YOU. I learned long ago that if you’re not paying for the service, then you are the product.

    Recruiters are trying to sell you, the product, to the employer, the customer. To believe differently is a recipe for resentment. However, you always have the ability to shop around on your own. Much research shows that the majority of jobs are never posted. So it’s far more advantageous – albeit harder – to build and work your own personal network than to rely on recruiters.

    Looking for work is never fun. And, anyone with a modicum of employment history knows that these “dirty little secrets” are neither little or secret. Remember, you can always say, “No thanks” if you don’t like a recruiters terms.

  7. Full disclosure: I’m a recruiter.

    By reading the other comments above, I’ve never sent anyone to a “fake” interview, I don’t “steal money from people who actually do work” and I if I “took half the money a programmer earns” I’d have retired to the Cayman’s a long time ago.

    I take my job very seriously, and frequently act as a “candidate advocate” for clients who are on the fence about hiring a particular person. I tell my candidates the unvarnished truth about a position, what the client wants, everything, and then let them make an informed decision about wanting to move forward.

    Are there bad recruiters out there? Absolutely. There are people who don’t understand the job, the technology, or the company they’re hiring for. The same can be said for many candidates. If you’re a retired COBOL programmer with an AOL email address, chances are you aren’t the right fit for a fast moving startup that specializes in iOS mobile application development.

    I agree with all of the points raised in the article – but the truly negative situations happen (in my experience) from junior recruiters or people who are desperate to make a placement.

    • phoenix4661

      Absolutely correct! I was looking at all the negative comments and I was thinking to myself that I’ve definitely had some good experiences with recruiters. When you speak to a recruiter and ask them to give you the job description, the way they speak gives you an idea of their familiarity with the position and the employer. Some will simply read out stuff from an email while others are more involved and can tell you exactly what to expect and how it differs from your current work. Ignore the dumb ones and you might actually find some good people to work with. At the end of the day, it’s your decision!

    • Don Park

      You may be a recruiter, but it sounds to me like you are woefully uninformed about the big picture.

      1. While you may claim that you may not be sending candidates to fake interviews, the only way you will actually know this is if you have someone on the inside telling you that it’s fake. In other words – ignorance is not necessarily bliss in this case.

      2. You personally may not be taking a huge chunk of the candidate’s salary, but your agency does – to the tune of 20%-30% of a candidate’s first year’s salary. You might get a couple thousand out of that – but that’s due to your inability / unwillingness to do this on your own. As others rightfully mentioned on here, there are zero barriers to entry to becoming a recruiter – now whether or not you actually can make money from it is definitely a different story.

      3. Definitely glad to hear that you are a candidate advocate – sadly most recruiters don’t really want to do that because they don’t want to risk losing the opportunity to work for that company going forward so I ask you what you actually do to defend your candidate besides “Oh no, my candidate does have this experience.” and leave it at that.

  8. Spam Receiver

    The link bait that this article promised was to reveal the ‘dirty’ secrets…

    First question: “nah, we don’t do that… it would be unethical”

    It wouldn’t be a ‘dirty’ secret if it was ethical…

    The entire post is [expletive] – a way to make recruiters seem like human beings… recruiters are not human beings.. they’re like craigslist real-estate brokers… they prey on those in-need to get paid. Do they help certain people? Sure, just enough to make it easier to justify the job to themselves, but with quotas like making hopeful people dress up and come into an office for a recruitment ‘interview’ and promising them jobs that don’t exist or are already filled, promising them a livelihood so they can support themselves and their families.

    Literally stealing resources from those that are already limited on resources. Scumbags.

  9. The real dirty secret is that recruiters are useless gatekeepers that do more to prevent qualified candidates from landing genuine opportunities with reputable companies than benefit anyone. Some recruiters are so deplorable as to not tell you enough to research a company before having to accept or decline an offer. Third-party recruiters should not be allowed to exist outside academic career centers; places that would lose financial backing if they were to do what some recruiters do. So much so that it could put the entire institution under whether it deserves to remain accredited.

  10. A well known software company in Wisconsin recruited me recently. The recruiter insisted I show up at a local testing facility to take their “programming test.’ It had nothing to do with the job they said they wanted me to fill, but pushed me hard to take it anyway. They were just padding their statistics so they could show the government that they can’t find Americans to fill their positions and therefore need the H1B foreign nationals at a fraction of the cost.

    These are the “aliens” that are actually taking good American jobs, not the ones sneaking across the border to work the fields. Nobody talks it about because the corporations and the government keep it hushed up.

    I have passed very difficult Cisco certification exams. Lots of math and extremely hard to finish under the strict time limits. However, if English isn’t your first language, they give you 50% more time to complete the test. Easy enough to understand… the more H1B foreign nationals pass that corporations can hire on the cheap, the more Cisco products they can buy.

    Somebody should be doing serious investigative journalism on these practices.

  11. I have switched jobs often. It sucks the most for me, because I have been out of work typically 1/3 of the year.. Each time I am hired through a staffing firm, I guess they make 20% commission. If I got that 20% commission as a signing bonus for staying length of contract, imagine how much more energy and motivation there would be. Out of my corporate billing rate, I probably only earn 40% or so of salary, and on top of that lose implicit 20% charge to recruiter (that is factored in to make pay lower than it should be). It is only good to be a money changer like realtor, recruiter, etc. I chose the wrong profession.

  12. Don Park

    Most of this article is pretty close to true (amazIng!) but I do take issue with one of them.

    Blacklists do exist and it’s not because a candidate blows off an interview. They exist once a candidate is submitted and is rejected for whatever reason. At that point, they are considered damaged goods and untouchable by that recruiter or that agency because they don’t want to take the little bit of effort to understand why a candidate didn’t get the job and how s/he can get one in the future.

    I know that I have been blacklisted by a ton of agencies by a bunch of bubbly 20-something former telesales reps who were more than excited to talk to me, but the moment I was rejected by them, I immediately became untouchable.

    In other cases, I have seen recruiters blacklist candidates because they are too lazy to do their own work. I remember once having a great conversation with a recruiter for half an hour only to have her ask me to write a few paragraphs about myself and why I fit the job. I asked her if she was taking notes on our conversation because I gave that information to her. Immediately she turned cold saying “Oh I am sorry, I can’t represent you – I need to be 100% convinced you are a total perfect fit for the job.” and hung up the phone. I called her up to explain to her that *HER* job as a recruiter is to gather this information and to share it with the hiring manager — not me. She wrote back saying that was being rude at which point I called up her boss and told her what her little princess was doing. Needless to say, that recruiter was fired pretty fast, but sadly she did pop up at some other agency playing the same games. She has a pretty unusual name so if I see her representing a position, I immediately pass on her because I know she will immediately blow me off as well.

    Total retards.