Is Your Recruiter Legitimate, Or Just Filling a Quota?

Recruiter spam is so ubiquitous that there’s even an entire Website devoted to collecting data on it. It’s easy to tell when a recruiter is just spamming developers with the wrong jobs. But not all recruiters resort to email-bombing in order to meet a quota; some are genuinely trying to cast a wide net for technical talent. How can you tell which is which?

Evaluate the Email

The first way to differentiate between a targeted email and spam is to assess the email itself.

“There should be something obvious in the email targeted specifically to you, such as a brief mention of something in your own background,” said Nick Phipps, IT recruiter and director of Cloud Computing International.

An email from a recruiter mentioning something specific—such as the type of firm you work for and why a client is interested in your unique background—is much more targeted than a cookie-cutter email from a recruiter stating that a company is looking for developers, and asking for a resume.


It’s easy to write off mass emails sent to listservs or Meetup groups… but sometimes legitimate recruiters looking for talent do indeed send announcements to technical listservs or Meetup groups. (Yes, really!) This is so they can target people who aren’t necessarily looking for work. Responding to an announcement sent to a group should result in an individually targeted email from the recruiter, which you can then evaluate to determine whether it’s worth taking the next step. But if the return email is cookie-cutter, again, it’s not worth your time.

Building a Relationship

So you’ve gotten a well-written, carefully crafted email from a recruiter, and it’s targeted towards you and your skills. Before you send off your resume, it’s a good idea to think about whether you’d want that recruiter to represent you and your career and accomplishments to potential employers, said Jennifer Bensusen, technology lead and senior recruitment partner with Decision Toolbox. Ideally, that means that the recruiter will want to develop a relationship with you, rather than just hitting ‘Forward’ whenever you send them a resume.

This means the recruiter will want to connect via phone for an interview, Bensusen added. Technical interviews typically take at least a half hour, and will allow the recruiter to see whether you’re a good fit for the positions on offer.

Full Disclosure

Beware of recruiters who want to submit your resume without your prior approval. “There’ll be an unscrupulous recruiting company that’ll just [farm] you out to a bunch of people to see what sticks, and they may not even have that permission,” said Bensusen. If a prospective employer gets the sense that your resume has been dumped in their inbox without real thought, it will scuttle any chances of actually landing that job.

As Bensusen points out, recruiters should provide a legitimate description of a potential job (unless the search is confidential, in which case full details could be lacking). For best results, that means working with technical recruiters who understand your skillset and are better poised to determine if a position is a good fit for all parties.

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36 Responses to “Is Your Recruiter Legitimate, Or Just Filling a Quota?”

  1. Fred Dietz

    I wonder if the people generating three-fourths of the inquires I get even read my resume. Do recruiters at corporations get a biscuit every time they turn over a filled application? I blow off about half the jobs to which I would like to apply simply because of the candidate tracking system. Taleo is the worst but there are a number of other losers out there. I have given up spending an hour fixing all the mistakes after importing my resume. Most of these corporate jobs are filled before the req. hits the listing anyway. If the company is really interested in bringing my skills and experience to bear on their problems then they will take the time to interview me based on the resume. Then, after establishing a mutual interest I will be happy to populate their database with my profile. Is this a losing strategy? Possibly, but maybe HR executives at corporations everywhere that complain of not being able to fill reqs. with qualified candidates should look at making it easier and less intrusive to apply for a damn job!

    • Jeremy Kennedy PMP CSM PMI-ACP

      Fred – Well said. Taleo is the WORST product and hasn’t improved in 8 years. I recently interviewed with ADP and when I arrived on site, they gave me a clipboard holding 10 pages of questions and asked me to complete it. I responded that all of this information was pre-filled on their site using the Taleo application. The HR rep said “We don’t look at that. It’s just the first necessary step to gauge interest in the position.” Rubbish!

      Loan Sharks have a better reputation and more credibility than recruiters these days. I had one recruiter in Nashville tell me that I needed to rework a resume that another member of his agency had already reworked. When I radically suggested that he was the recruiter and should alter my resume to fit his client, he said to me, “You’re probably not a good match then”, as he burped then told me to hang on while he yelled something to his ‘mom’. I imagine this joker was about 40 years old, living in his parents’ basement claiming his right to live there since he ‘had a job’. Loser.

      Hang in there my friend.

  2. wageSlave

    Résumé Minning
    [rez-oo-mey mahy-ning, rez-oo-mey mahy-ning]

    1. The use of resume data for a purpose other than it was intended. Resume mining comes in many shapes and sizes. It could be a recruiting firms accumulating data for future cross referencing under the guise of applying for a real job. Or, it could be data mining companies running fake listing to sell the data to marketing firms. It really doesn’t matter what form it takes, resume mining runs ups the cost of job search with no hope of the intended pay off for the job seeker.

  3. Michelle Ray

    I had a “recruiter” contact me, but he didn’t provide a signature at the end of the email. I had no way of knowing who he worked for nor his contact information. Plus, his responses to my questions were very unprofessional. For this reason, I stopped putting my address on my resume. With Google maps, you don’t know who may find you.

    • Unca Alby

      DO NOT give them your four digits. That with your name is sometimes enough to confirm a banking transaction.

      DO NOT give them your SSN at all until a company makes a legitimate offer of employment. There is NO NEED for that identifying information until you and the company mutually agree to a working relationship, and even then they don’t need it until it’s time to handle the situation with taxes, whether they’re withholding on a W-2 or sending you a 1099 or whatever.

      If they insist, tell them you’ll give them the last four digits of your phone number, which they likely already have anyway. If they legitimately have a client that wants to hire you, they’ll take it gladly.

      • Joseph I. Szweda

        I had a situation like that once, except the guy explicitly asked for my SSN. I asked why he needed that. He said to keep track of resumes, the company (being AT&T) had a policy that says that’s how they had to do it. So I said fine-use yours. He said he couldn’t because that would cause a big problem.

        Between that story not making sense, and the foreign dialect, I reached out to someone I know of who is a manager for that place. I asked her about that. She told me that her being an AT&T employee, she assured me that they DID NOT work that way at all.

        The funny thing is I got a few calls from the same batch after that, and they were all somewhere in northern Jersey. Those types of people? Forget it. You know they’re up to no good if they’re doing that and from abroad.

        • UncaAlby

          If they insist on having an SSN, and you can’t talk them out of it, give them 078-05-1120. Over 40,000 people have used that number since it was once used as a sample social security card in wallet inserts.

          Or, use 055-09-0001. It was the first SSN assigned, to a John D. Sweeney, Jr., of New Rochelle, New York.

          Or, use 457-55-5462, Todd Davis, CEO of Lifelock, who, according to Wired Magazine, apparently has had his identity stolen 13 times, thanks probably to his brandishing his real SSN in all of their advertising.

          But, for pity’s sake, never give them YOUR ssn without a legitimate offer of employment.

  4. Marisa S

    What about the recruiter that provides phone numbers for themselves and the company they represent that go straight to voice mail but never mention the company name. You then find out they don’t work for the company they claim to. Is this data mining?

  5. The worst indicator is those who are recruiting, who show absolutely no concept or understanding of the technology, other than hearing them read a checklist to make certain all the key words line up. Can they not read the resume and comprehend the need? Then match it to the requirement?

    Worst ones, of which there was two specific cases, 1- Taking a professional reference and recruiting them, vs calling for a reference, 2- Taking customer/client names from my resume and attempting to see services directly to them without my permission.

    • Joseph I. Szweda

      You hit it on the head. These people have no idea as to what the technologies mean or involve. They know how to create an intelligent sounding answer at best, but past that, the depth required realistically is devoid. There is nothing like a salesman (or woman) that hasn’t a clue as to what it is they’re selling.

      I remember sending a PDF of my resume to someone once. They got it and they called me. They asked if I could send them an MS Word version. I told them I didn’t use that, so that might be a problem. I told them they had the PDF. So why did they ask for MS Word?

      The guy told me that he didn’t know how to copy and paste something from a PDF to MS Word. I simply told him, CTRL+A, CTRL+C, and then CTRL+V. He got that. These are the people who are going to say who is and isn’t qualified to write code.

      Why have I been out of a job forever? Things like that is why. It’s nice to know though that it really isn’t just me from the posts I’ve read from a number of people.

  6. Several months ago I was contacted by a “reputable” recruiting company. The recruiter informed me about a training position that had become available at a telecommunication company. My role would be to train new data technicians. Pursuant to the recruiters request, I forward to him my most recent resume. During the course of the next several days, I was contacted by several other recruiting companies.

    Several days later I was contact by the recruiter, and I was asked to sign an RTR. Additionally, I was contacted by the recruiter’s supervisor who told me that she felt confident that once interviews by the telecommunications company, that I would be hired. She informed me that once I signed the RTR, that she would be happy to represent me. That was nine weeks ago.

    Every time I call the recruiter, I’m told that I could expect to be called any day regarding an interview. It’s become clear that this recruiter and his supervisor have lied to me, and falsely represented what their company would do. I believe that the recruiter simply had to fulfill a quota of obtaining RTRs. The irony is that had I decided to go with an alternate recruiting company, I’d have that interview.

    • Lucy A-P

      Ugh – completely frustrating situation. You bring up a good point, Joe: if you sign an RTR in good faith and the recruiter fails to deliver, at what point can you basically fire the recruiter and move on?

      • Michelle Ray

        This is a great question. The same thing happened to me just a few months ago. Told I was going to be getting a second interview any day now, followed-up a couple times over a period of 3 weeks, then never heard from the recruiter again.

  7. US Recruiter

    I think some of you consultants expect way too much out of your recruiters. At the end of the day, we work for our clients not the consultants. Also, most of the times we don’t have feedback to share with you because our clients don’t provide feedback for every interview they conduct.

    Recruiting is not easy – we work on 20-40+ open positions at any given time, we have clients contacting us, 100’s of consultants calling us non-stop whining about feedback, bosses barking orders down our throats, we review 500+ resumes every day and half of them are sent by consultants who don’t even fit the requirements and we have to deal with annoying 3rd Party Indian “recruiters”.

    I have gotten many consultants hired and they have all loved the services that I provided them. My LinkedIn recommendations speak for themselves. At the end of the day, its impossible to take every phone call, respond to every email, provide feedback when we don’t even have any and answer every single whining email/complaint we receive from consultants. There is only so much time in a day..

    I cant wait to get out of recruiting and when I do the industry will lose a recruiter who actually cared and respected their job..

  8. Joseph I. Szweda

    I am trying to reply to US Recruiter as I wanted to touch upon some things. Before I say anything, if what I am about to say doesn’t apply to you, so be it. I don’t think I know you personally, and if you are a genuine exception, fine.

    First, let me mention about people who do and don’t meet job requirements. I remember some time ago when I got a call about a technical writing job. The woman talked to me, and everything she said was corporate speak-which I don’t understand. That made things a bit awkward between us. I had a number of samples I could have shown her from technical specs I had to do as a developer, a documented API I wrote, and I had some other things complete with micrographs pertaining to gemology. I was published in a GIA newsletter and the Canadian Institute of Gemology. Given that, I think I knew something about writing.

    Any mention of those things for a technical writing position didn’t seem to matter. Later on, she emails me about a position. It was for a phone installer or something along those lines. It’s not the first time that position was offered to me. The translation is that since they think someone like me is from company double D as it’s called, I’m a shoe in for that. I took that as a grave insult simply because someone can’t better describe the position in explicit terms. With anything else, being analytical, I can take things to mean more than one thing at times. That’s just how I am. If you don’t know what company double D is, ask someone who’s been in the military or who knows the term.

    Secondly, I remember not long ago, a recruiter asking me about reverse engineering. I presented them with documentation from a hex editor. I managed to find two rounds of encryption of code being dynamically injected at runtime. That didn’t constitute proof of anything. He then refers to what I have been doing while being out of a job. So since the bold faced type didn’t explicitly say what he wanted, I am automatically not quailed.

    I also won’t forget the time when I had nothing but web development jobs on my resume, and pure Microsoft stuff. The recruiter said that the job was “more of a programming job”. Gee, me having the title as web developer makes me not qualified for a job asking for the same exact thing because why again?

    Now, here is another pet peeve of mine. I’ve been unemployed for a while. Being out of a job is a justification to keep someone like me out of a job. I’ve spent more years fighting recruiters trying to get a job or fighting to find some sort of training to get a job, only to be where I am. So instead of focusing on me getting a job, they want to fixate on me being out of work. Then the same exact people ask me some time later what’s wrong with me.

    Where did all that leave me? I ended up being spotted by someone else who was into things I wasn’t aware of. They wanted me BAD. After all that, what did I get? I got a lot of grief, aggrevation, and hugging the toilet from vomiting. Yes, it’s been that bad.

    I’ve had people by mistake more than once email me resumes. It seems that showing a pattern of evolution or growth to fit some stereotype is what makes it. That’s not my style. I don’t think in those terms. So, when I tried to do that, what do I have left to put? I’ve evolved to think tanks or think tank styled ventures. I evolved to that from writing code.

    As such, what do I get? I get bashed for it by someone that’s clueless that has no idea what a think tank is.

    If recruiters read these resumes, then how come is it the first thing they do after finding my resume, and contacting me, they ask me for a copy of it? If they saw my resume, why do you need it again? What good is it if nobody understands it? If they understand it, they don’t care. So what’s the point?

    I am one of those people who has a requirement-not a desire, but a need to use my brains just like people need air to breathe. All I wanted was a job that allowed me to do just that, and was not only legitimate but stable. After dealing with the clueless for a prolonged amount of time and everything that came abut from simply trying to find a job like that, and where it’s not a terminatable offense to take pride in what it is you do, you know what happened? Me and code are done for. I can’t write code and hold it together anymore. The last time I tried to in depth, I got a bad deleriant feeling and was ready to vomit no sooner I looked at the code.

    Why? Let’s play match the buzz words and match that with a winning smile, an in depth emphasis on soft skills or things completely unrelated to the job, and completely ignore what it is I’m capable of. Does the recruiter get a good feeling after that in spite of the fact that’s the antithesis of who I am? Nope. If they don’t get a good “feel good” feeling because they can’t comprehend what it is I do, the sex circuit shuts off and the amygdala takes over. It’s fight or flight. I loose.

    I’ve got the better part of 20 years of dealing with this. I’ve spent most of that time dealing with the above instead of working. Why? Read above and repeat. Why repeat? That’s how the recruiter cycle works. That’s why people are bitter towards recruiters-period.

  9. John Doe unemployed americann citizen

    Ok. I’ve known for a while now how worthless the entire lot of the species is. How many of you have had that sexy voice saying oh if you give me your resume or that dude who speaks so fast you were lost after he said hello. Now I’ve always wanted to put up a site that pretty much let’s us the REAL ech people get the word out about the crappy people who are doing this. Now I’m willing to provide ,y talents and my idea and my vast amounts of email to stop these buffoons from sealing more from us. Anybody want to do this?

    • Joseph I. Szweda

      Personally? It would be nice if someone could put some sort of site in hopes that the people we as job seekers bitch about could change for the better-and some of these so called managers who aren’t so much better.

      I don’t advocate personal bashing, but if someone gets nasty with you for no reason (as that’s happened to me many a time from years ago onward), or they make you an offer for something that isn’t authorized and you have to withdraw your two weeks notice, or you get sent on a wild goose chase and a 1500 mile round trip on your dime, that’s different.

      All I can say is this. Had recruiters in general had a better understanding of things, how people like me work psychologically, and certain managers got their heads out of their ass, that would have saved me a lot of headaches. However, when for the better part of 20 years, the same batch of people who have the weight in the decision making process that they have hinders you from ever getting dime one-only so that can be held against you, that’s just outright wrong.

      It would be nice if something like that could be prevented for whomever else. If you want to view things from that perspective, I’d think about it.

      PS-@US Recruiter: I hear you on certain managers barking and the like. That’s a whole other thread, but speaking from experience, I can identify with that breed too. Believe me!

      • John Doe unemployed americann citizen

        So could I add you as a participant joe? I’d be willing to put up the site and start off with my personal emails from these so called recruiters as an offering to the new group? Can I count on you to participate?

  10. John Doe unemployed americann citizen

    to all the non recruiters. A friend of mine has a group on LinkedIn called Technical-Folks. If you would just tell him I sent you. Ask to join as He is looking to hear your disgusts and he’ll share it for you.

  11. john Stevens

    I had lots of calls from Recruiters like TekkkkPartners, insight globaal, ropert Halg technoligs, and more. they are a bunch of clowns, completing their quota. The worse thing is that you are trying to find a job to maintain your family, you are looking for better opportunities to work. You are a professional in many cases and these people think that they are smarter than you. In fact they are a piece of work…..
    I misspell the companies names for legal reasons