I’ve been a headhunter for 16+ years. I’ve heard every kind of horror story about shady recruiters you can imagine. The average complaints about recruiters are common – they don’t call you back, they just fished for job leads, etc. The really shady recruiters are worse – they’ll alter your resume without your permission, they’ll send your resume to employers without your approval, and I even had one candidate tell me that their recruiter ended up having an affair with the candidate’s significant other! Talk about shady recruiters! While a good recruiter can be absolutely invaluable to your career, shady recruiters can be extremely costly. Here is some advice on how to sort out the good from the shady recruiters:
1) How the recruiter finds you – this can speak volumes as to their ability. Referrals are obviously best. A mutual acquaintance is unlikely to put you in touch with someone who isn’t great at what they do. Many recruiters now a day used LinkedIn to reach out to candidate prospects. That’s a totally acceptable way of doing things, but you want to scrutinize the recruiter’s approach. Shady recruiters will reach out with vague and unspecific emails because they are probably just fishing. A strong recruiter will be much more likely to send a very specific message to you about a very specific search, or area of expertise that they focus on that is well aligned with your experience.
2) How competent is the recruiter – a competent recruiter is one that does a few key things. First, they are going to take time to understand your experience and your career goals. Second, they’ll demonstrate a certain level of marketplace knowledge and expertise. Good recruiter’s will be knowledgeable about their clients and the jobs that they are pitching to you. They’ll also only present jobs where there is a fairly strong alignment between your background and skills. Good recruiters will quickly establish credibility and you’ll get the sense that they know what they are talking about. Shady recruiters will often spend little to no time speaking with you, demand your resume, won’t tell you the names of clients, etc. If a recruiter tells you that the client is “confidential”, that is typically code for “I’m going to send your resume all over creation without your knowledge”.
3) Follow Up Skills – one of the biggest criticisms I hear about the staffing industry overall is that shady recruiters “don’t follow up”. A good recruiter is going to have strong follow up skills. As I tell my candidates, “even if the answer is ‘no’, I will always follow up with you so you know”. Good recruiters realize that their candidates are also future clients, and vice versa, so the good recruiters are going to be good about following up.