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Recruiters and red flags - what to watch for?
March 15, 2013 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I wish I had asked this question several weeks ago. I've been dealing with several recruiters while job hunting and am wondering what red flags I should watch for, what a good recruiter does, and how best to use recruiters in my jobs search. Lots of recruiters want to talk to me, often want to meet in person. So far this isn't adding up to much in the way of real interviews, though I've had a couple of phone interviews with hiring managers and anticipate scheduling two in-person interviews.

Specific concerns:

1. Recruiter A never tells me the name of the company I am being submitted for, claiming it is a matter of discretion. This is starting to become difficult because other recruiters always want to know what positions I am already lined up for before they submit me. HOWEVER, A is calling me consistently about jobs, several times a week, which no other recruiter is doing.

2. Recruiter B mentioned to me that some companies will not accept a submission if you were already submitted to that company (directly or via a recruiter), even if for a different job. This concerns me as it makes me wonder if a recruiter might try to "poison the well," so to speak, by submitting me for a job that is not a good fit, just to get other recruiters out of the running. It also makes me wonder if some companies will overlook my resume if I've already submitted for another position but did not make the cut.

3. Recruiters generally encourage me to call them before I apply to a job to see if they have a relationship with the hiring manager. I understand that of course they want the commission. However, does it help to come from a recruiter vs submitting through the company site or indeed?

Any other knowledge about savvy handling of recruiters is welcome. Thank you!
posted by bunderful to Work & Money (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) I'm assuming you aren't working with a retained recruiter (i.e., that you aren't dealing with executive level postings). If so, stop working with A.
2) Tell a recruiter they are allowed to submit you for the position you discussed and ONLY the position you discussed.
3) You're almost always better to go directly to the company. The company has to pay a not insignificant markup for you through the recruiter. If these are contingency recruiters that have that good a relationship with the hiring manager, they'd a) already know about it, and b) be asking you if you were interested in it. If they haven't brought you the position, it's highly likely they don't have a strong relationship.
posted by bfranklin at 8:08 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds pretty much par for the course for most recruiters. Recruiters' job is to meet a lot of different people and funnel those people's resumes into companies the recruiter thinks is appropriate.

From your side, a job search is a numbers game. Don't rely solely on recruiters to get you to the head of the line. Network with people, find out opportunities via friends, colleagues, etc., and make every effort to bypass recruiters by meeting people directly responsible for hiring at your target company.

While some people are placed via recruiters, you don't want to leave your fate in their hands.
posted by dfriedman at 8:09 AM on March 15, 2013


Recruiter A is up to something shady; I never ever ever allow my resume to be sent out to a company if I don't know which company it is. Sometimes they want to submit you to a company that you know good and well is a bad fit. Maybe even somewhere you worked before, that you have no desire to return to. Not telling you what company it is is VERY bad form; run from this one.

Recruiter B is correct. I actually had this happen to me; I was rejected from consideration for a position because someone like Recruiter A sent my resume to the same company without my permission or knowledge, and then I had Recruiter B send my resume to them for a different position in a different department (as it turned out). Even though it was a rather large company, it still immediately disqualified me from consideration.

For #3, this can be useful IF you have a recruiter you trust. Sometimes having an 'in' is all it takes. But if it's not a recruiter you're familiar with, pass pass pass. You don't know what KIND of relationship they might have, and if their recommendation might be good or bad.

Continue meeting recruiters; look at this as an opportunity to interview them, and see if you like them and feel they'd be good at finding you a position you want. Don't feel the least bit bad about kicking a recruiter to the curb if you don't have a good vibe; it's a numbers game.
posted by tigerjade at 8:11 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having worked briefly as a headhunter, I think that if you are talking to a recruiter, that's a red flag. Their interests are not aligned with yours. Perhaps the place I worked was especially sleazy, I don't know.
posted by adamrice at 8:22 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've learned a bit about recruiters since posting my own question about them here, since I was also pretty clueless about how to work with them.

One thing I've learned is not to work with anyone who won't even disclose the name of the company. They're doing it because they are paranoid you'll go over their head and apply to the company yourself, or won't apply at all if you hear it's a bad place to work. I'd tell them if they don't even trust you not to go over their head then that's not a working relationship you're interested in having.

And do they seriously expect you to not know the name of the company until you've signed something or taken time out of your day to show up for an interview? Like it's a surprise? How are you supposed to do your research or make an informed decision about working there?
posted by windbox at 8:27 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


How did these recruiters find you ? Did you get cold-called ? Did you post your resume on monster/dice/whatever the kids are using these days ?

If they reached out to you, then odds are you're better off with out them.

I think the only (ONLY) time a recruiter is worth talking to is when they are for a specific company. Say you submitted your resume to a specific company's web site (I'll use 3M as an example) as applying for a job. If then, you get an email from a 3M recruiter, then it's worth talking to them.

Other wise, most recruiters aren't really worth your time and offer little to no value over what you can do yourself, and may hurt you in your job chances and/or salary offer if/when they can get you to that point in a job search.
posted by k5.user at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


A colleague of mine made this presentation a few months ago - Open Source Careers - and I think you should watch it, whether you're in software or not.
posted by mhoye at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2013


Unless you are looking for a C-level position or a very highly skilled area (like an actuary), working with a recruiter will probably not result in anything that you couldn't have done better on your own.

Husbunny is an actuary and occasionally he'll get a call for a job. He's given all the info and then he decides if he's interested. Even at that, it's resulted in bupkis.

I once got cold-called by a recruiter and due to timing it worked out. I got hired. I doubt very seriously this would happen in today's job market (It was at the height of the Dot Com boom and I was a data network engineer.)

So unless you have a great rapport with a recruiter and unless they've given you great ins at jobs you wouldn't otherwise be considered for, stick to:

Jobsusa.gov
Linkedin.com
Simplyhired.com

Those are the best in my opinion.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:24 AM on March 15, 2013


1) Recruiter A has no jobs. The reason they don't tell you the name of the company is because they have no jobs to put you forward for.

2) No, generally recruiters don't poison the well as such. However, they do not work for you. If they need to look good to their client, the employer, by submitting a stack of good candidates and some others, they'll include less relevant ones. They may include less relevant ones to show, without saying so, to the employer what "good" looks like. In lots of longlist and shortlist scenarios the recruiter will know in advance that some people are a good fit, some are a bad fit, and some might just make the employer think differently about the kind of person they want. At any rate, up to a point, it doesn't hurt the recruiter to put forward *more* good people and at longlist stage may not hurt them to put forward just more people full stop. They also generally get paid for the introduction even if you don't take *that* particular role.

3) The recruiter doesn't get paid if the company already knows about you. This is a screening question that doesn't really work in your favour if you say they do know you. If the recruiter puts you forward for role x and they end up keeping your resume on file and putting you into role y, the recruiter will still expect to get paid, according to most employer/recruiter terms I've seen.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2013


I would google your recruiters and see what others have said about them. These outfits may not all be sleazy and fraudulent, but some of them are. Haldane is one to steer clear of - they boast that they have unique access to decision-makers at the companies you're applying to, but it's a scam.

Free career counseling services can be found at universities - maybe try some of those too.
posted by cartoonella at 9:33 AM on March 15, 2013


<>1) Recruiter A has no jobs. The reason they don't tell you the name of the company is because they have no jobs to put you forward for.

I'm confused, why would someone go out of their way to call me regularly and ask for permission to submit me for jobs with detailed descriptions in specific locations? That's a lot of work to lie to me and I don't see the benefit to the recruiter.

I do see that a recruiter might lie about this if it were an initial contact, just to get more information from you etc., but not otherwise.


Free career counseling services can be found at universities - maybe try some of those too.
Are these services available to people who are not alums?
posted by bunderful at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2013


If I'm right about A, then because they want to retain a pool of candidates, and want to give the impression that they're busy. But they sound to me like they have no actual jobs.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:45 AM on March 15, 2013


I would find one recruiter who is familiar with the industry and who you trust, ideally someone who is recommended by someone you also trust, and stick with them. Working with multiple recruiters can get you into sticky situations where you're being submitted multiple times by different people, and if one recruiter is working with you their incentives are more closely aligned with yours. Don't commit to being exclusive with them, but when you find someone good, stick with them and don't take the calls from headhunters except to inquire what job they're calling about.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2013


Unless you are looking for a C-level position or a very highly skilled area (like an actuary), working with a recruiter will probably not result in anything that you couldn't have done better on your own.

Not in this economy. Most jobs are via contract. Companies don't hire many Full time employees. It is far cheaper for them to avoid the benefits, payroll taxes, etc.

recruiter A is an ass. He may withold the company name until you and he agree that there is a skillset match, but any further than that he is probably blowing smoke.

Recruiter B is correct. Two submissions and you are tossed. Companies don't want to arbitrate who should get the commissions. That's why recruiter A is an ass.

As far as calling them before applying, Yes, on an open application (ie not for a specific job). This is largely because of the problem of dual submissions. If you are already in the company's HR system and then get submitted by a recruiter you will be tossed.
posted by Gungho at 1:39 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm confused, why would someone go out of their way to call me regularly and ask for permission to submit me for jobs with detailed descriptions in specific locations? That's a lot of work to lie to me and I don't see the benefit to the recruiter.


I don't know if I'm getting to be paranoid, but I'm starting to think that some recruiters might submit several reliable dupe candidates - people who present well enough on paper and at interview to safeguard the recruiter's credibility/relationship with the employer - but only seriously push one.
posted by nelljie at 3:23 PM on March 15, 2013


Ah sorry, yes, missed muffinman's confirmation and elaboration of my working theory.

Re career counselling: some universities provide it to the wider community for a small fee.
posted by nelljie at 3:32 PM on March 15, 2013


some recruiters might submit several reliable dupe candidates - people who present well enough on paper and at interview to safeguard the recruiter's credibility/relationship with the employer - but only seriously push one

They do indeed.

I've been the beneficiary of this process. My recruiter submitted two less-skilled/less-experienced candidates, along with me, for a position. She had the other two interview first, and used the feedback she gleaned from her post-interview debriefs with those two candidates to groom me for my interview.

I've also been the also-ran candidate, only realizing it after the fact (and after my hopes had gotten up).

With that aside: I've gotten good gigs through recruiters; gigs that were not being made available publicly, and gigs that I got in part because the recruiter did a fine job of selling me. In one case, the recruiter was able to get the client to double their original rate of pay. She more than earned her cut on that one. So, recruiters do offer a service than can be of value.
posted by nacho fries at 3:57 PM on March 15, 2013


After seeing some of the answers here I wasn't sure what to think about my job search practices. I talked to a hiring manager and some other folks I know to get a feel for how they use recruiters and deal with the hiring process.

I think a lot of it is dependent on fields and location as well. I've learned that many people in my field used a recruiter to get the job they are currently in.

So to anyone in the future looking at this question for answers, I would say that there's a lot of thoughtful information here but it's a very good idea to talk to people in your city/industry. It's very useful to know about the "also-ran" thing - I'm pretty sure I was recently the secondary candidate submitted just to make the primary candidate look good. I didn't mind, because I was glad to have the interview practice, and I didn't get my hopes up.
posted by bunderful at 6:17 AM on April 3, 2013


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