It is somewhat like dealing with real estate agents, except that instead of brokering your house, they are brokering your body. And your body is worth more than a house. Real estate agents usually work on a 6% commission. If they sell a house for $300K, they get $18K. Recruiters commissions vary widely, but 30% to 50% of first year's salary isn't unusual. If they place a candidate in a job at $100K/year, they get $30K to $50K. So things can get very intense.
I knew this recruiter: she had gotten me a job a few years previously. I liked her; I respected her; I didn't feel like she had ever jerked me around.
She had a candidate for the job. I told her that I would be happy to consider the candidate, but that my company had a policy of not paying recruiter fees, so I didn't see how she was going to get paid. She was entirely unconcerned about this.
We interviewed the candidate; he was promising; the hiring manager was considering making an offer. The recruiter still didn't have a contract with the company. She called the hiring manager and had a long discussion—not about contracts and fees, but about the company. She learned a whole lot about us. A few days later, she called to say that the candidate had taken a different job.
As soon as she told me this, I understood the game. She took the information she got from the hiring manager and used it to steer the candidate to the other company—doubtless one with which she had a contract. She was willing to submit the candidate to our company without a contract, in the hopes that she would get one, and was confident that she could reel him back in if she didn't.
She's good at what she does: I'm sure the candidate thinks that he made the right decision. In fact, the decision was made for him by the recruiter, based on which company was willing to pay her fee.
The first recruiter called me at my new job about 18 months later. As it happened, I was looking again, so I talked to him. He opened the discussion by reproaching me: "Hey boy! You got a job without talking to me." I had several more phone discussion with him over a few days. I kept trying to tell him about my skills and interests; he wasn't listening. Much of the discussion had the tenor of an argument; finally it dawned on me that his first priority was to get control of the relationship. After that I stopped dealing with him.
On the other hand, I've only got so many hours in the day. If I commit some of those hours to interviewing with one recruiter, then I can't use those hours to interview with other recruiters, or to search for jobs on my own. I can only spend so much time on a job search; I can only go on so many interviews. The more of my time that a recruiter can take up, the more likely it is that the job I take will be one of his.
Usually, I hung up on them, but one day I wasn't too busy, and we were hiring, so I talked to them. They wanted me to take half a day, drive into the city, and interview a bunch of candidates, sight unseen—or more specifically—resume unseen. I wanted to see resumes first. They wouldn't FAX me resumes unless I first agreed to interview the candidates. We argued on the phone for about an hour.
I eventually figured out why they were being so obstinate on this point. It was all about control. More than recruiters, they were high-pressure phone salesmen. Their task was to call hiring managers and browbeat them into agreeing to interview candidates. If I spend a half day interviewing their candidates, then that is a half day that I don't spend interviewing other candidates. The more of my time they can take up, the more likely it is that I will end up hiring one of their candidates.
The problem with letting me see the resumes first is that it puts control back in my hands. I can read the resumes, and then I decide whether or not to interview the candidates. We finally compromised. I agreed to interview two candidates at my office, and they faxed me the resumes, with an understanding that I could cancel the interviews after I saw the resumes.
So they faxed me the resumes, and I didn't see any obvious reasons to cancel the interviews, and the candidates appeared, and I interviewed them, and they were both entirely unsuitable. Not incompetent, just not at all a good match in terms of experience or interests.
By turning my usual decision point for interviewing a candidate from an ACK to a NAK they got me to interview two candidates that I might otherwise have passed over.
And this isn't just my judgment. Both candidates agreed with me that our jobs were not a good fit for them. I advised both candidates against working with that recruiting firm. I never heard from the recruiter again.
Now, there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with this.
But I think that 3 months is a very long time, especially if I am
I would never sign such a contract unless I was very sure that the recruiter actually had a job that I wanted. And if I knew that, well why not just call the company directly...
We once interviewed a candidate, but decided not to make an offer, because she seemed depressed. I called the recruiter and explained our concerns.
Next day, the candidate called me directly and asked why she didn't get an offer. She said that the recruiter had told her that we rejected her because she lacked some specific technical skill.
I sighed, and told her than we rejected her because she seemed depressed. She protested that her friends had told her that she seemed less depressed now then she used to. So we called it right.
The recruiter lied to the candidate because the truth was inconvenient. When a company rejects a candidate, the recruiter wants the candidate to immediately start pursuing the next job opportunity. The way to get the candidate to do this is to tell them that they were rejected for some simple, inoffensive, and—most importantly—incontestable reason. Lack of a specific skill is a favorite choice.
The recruiter doesn't want the candidate to
The recruiter wants the candidate to accept the rejection as a fact and move on.
So they lie. I'm sure they lie in other contexts as well; this is just one that I have direct experience with.
One thing that most of these pitches have in common—one thing that absolutely identifies them as scams—is a claim that you can make money with little or no work.
You can get essentially the same thing from recruiters. A recruiter called me a few years ago. I talked to him for a while. What I wanted to hear about was the jobs he had. What he wanted to talk about was his process. How he was going to interview me, and select jobs for me, and send me on interviews, and I could just sit back and wait for a job I liked, and he was going to take care everything for me.
And I'm sure he would have. The more things I let him do, the more I rely on him, the more control he gets over the whole process. The better his chances that he'll be able to maneuver me into one of his jobs and collect his fee, regardless of whether that is really the best job for me.
And if I let him do that, then shame on me, because it is my job, and my career, and in the end, the only person who can protect my own interests is me.
As a hiring manager, I've had a long-standing prejudice that people who come through recruiters are self-selected for not taking responsibility for their own job search. This isn't entirely fair: after all, sometimes a recruiter has a job that you really do want.
At one company, I looked at hundreds and hundreds of resumes, interviewed scores of candidates, and finally hired about a dozen. Of the ones that we hired, no more than one or two came through recruiters. The rest all responded on their own initiative to ads that we ran or to job postings on our web site.
But many recruiters are just herding bodies around. More specifically, they are brokering commodity skills.
One tip off is when they know the job requirements, but don't know what the job is. They don't know, and they don't care: they are just matching the skills that you have with the skills that the employer needs. C/C++, SQL, Unix, Java, etc, etc.
There used to be a big recruiting firm in the Boston area called Source Engineering that actually used a database for this. I interviewed there many years ago. They inventory your skills, enter them into the database and see what jobs pop out. Once I figured this out, I stopped dealing with them. But I'm still in their database, and I still get computer-generated letters from them occasionally telling me that I am qualified for a current opening.
Another sign that a recruiter is dealing in commodity skills is a request to drop your best material from your resume because their clients aren't interested in it.
I knew a programmer who did graduate work in algorithm development. He talked to a recruiter once who told him that there wasn't much call for those algothingies.
I have a friend in California who has a PhD in linear systems theory. He talked to a recruiter once who told him that he should drop his linear systems work from his resume, because companies weren't interested in it. What he meant, of course, was that his clients weren't interested in it, and what that meant was that my friend shouldn't be working with that recruiter.
Another warning flag is a request to break your skill set down by job. That kind of detail is appropriate if you are working as a consultant, but not for full time work. For a permanent position, the employer should be more concerned with overall abilities and job fit than with your skills inventory.
My manager got a cold call from a one. The recruiter started right in as if he knew him, saying, "All right! We've got a lot of work to do. We're going to find you a job. We'll get started right away and..."
My manager cut him off and said, "You are talking about working closely with me for at least 6 months on something of vital importance to me. Before I decide to do that, I want to know something about you. Give me the names of three people who you have placed that I can call who can tell me what it is like to work with you."
There was a long, stunned silence, and finally, "...oooooooOOOOOOOO IT'S JUST NOT WORTH IT! <SLAM>".
Just be careful not to get seduced by it. Remember, as soon as you accept the job
Also keep in mind that recruiters know this, and won't hesitate to use it as a tool to pacify and control you during the process
First of all, it is improper. The time to check references is immediately before signing an offer letter.
More importantly, references should be checked by the hiring manager. After all, he's the one who is going to have to work with the candidate. If the recruiter's story is true, then his clients are companies who delegate reference checks to some recruiter, who—remember—gets paid when they hire his candidates. Does this sound smart? Do these sound like people that you want to work for?
But the fact is, he isn't going to check your references. He wants your references because your references are people that you have worked for. Your references are managers. Hiring managers. He is going to call them up and try to place his candidates with them.
Remember, every recruiter is always working both sides of the street. He is
I was talking to a recruiter once, and he mentioned some company, and I said that I was already talking to people at that company, and that they had told me that there wasn't a good fit with my skills. He angrily demanded to know who had told me that. I was taken aback, but stood my ground that I was talking to that company directly, and wasn't going to discuss it with him. Later, it occurred to me that his anger was a ruse. He was hoping to buffalo me into giving him a name—any name—that he could call at that company.
Information is valuable, and if the recruiter's information leads to a hire, they get paid for their efforts.
As mentioned above, the fees are pretty steep, currently ranging from perhaps $20K to $60K, depending on the position and salary. At those rates, a recruiter only has to place a handful of candidates each year to make a living. If they can place as many as one per month, they can make a bundle.
I was sitting at work one day when a recruiter cold-called the programmer in the next cubicle. Not only did the recruiter not know the programmer, he didn't even know the programmer's name. The recruiter was apparently dialing numbers at random and asking whoever answered if they wanted a software position at some west-coast firm. Remember, he only has to place one every few months...
I had a recruiter call me once and pitch some company to me. She mentioned that she would try to "get her foot in the door" at the hiring firm. As it happened, I had seen this company's full-page ad in the Sunday paper just a few days earlier, and decided that I wasn't interested in working for them. Furthermore, the ad specified, "Principals Only".
So the fact is, she had nothing. She had no client. She had no candidate. She was calling me on one end, and the company on the other, and hoping to be in the middle if an offer was made.