When Bad Recruiters Happen to Good Talent

Bad recruiters happen. But YOU don't have to work with them.

Bad recruiters happen. But YOU don’t have to work with them.

Whether you’re employed or not, navigating a job search or exploring career path options can be taxing. Working with a recruiter should be a pleasant and relatively seamless process, but that unfortunately doesn’t always happen – leaving people with a less-than-stellar feeling towards working with a recruiter ever again. While it’s unfair to lump all recruiters and professional staffing consulting firms all into the same pile, it is completely understandable reaction for someone who has been disappointed with the service they received.

We heard of one such experience from *Bryce, a talented Software Architect who had his job put in jeopardy and had the relationship with his employer strained, because of one unprofessional recruiter. After hearing his story, we offered our thoughts and advice to help educate and prepare him (and others) when they are working with recruiters.

*Bryce’s Story:

I worked my butt off to land a solid job right out of school, in the field that I wanted and for a good employer. I had never worked with a recruiter before, probably because I didn’t have enough “experience” in their eyes at the time. Fast forward a bit, and now I’ve been working in my field for 4 years. One year at my first employer right out of school, and 3 at my current employer. I was contacted through LinkedIn by a recruiter we’ll call “Trisha.”

She requested to connect with me, so having been told I should always accept requests to connect with recruiters (because you never know when you might want to work with them), I accepted. Almost immediately after we connected, she sent me a message asking if she could send me some details on a position that she was seeking to fill for one of her clients, “an amazing employer.” 

Now mind you, my current employer has always treated me fair and good, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least hear her out. So I told her that would be fine and to send it to a personal email address that I gave her, the same one also listed on my LinkedIn. I also let her know that if I were interested, I would reach out to her directly through LinkedIn. I thanked her for her time and went on about my day.

The next morning, I saw an email from Trisha in my personal inbox, asking if I had an opportunity to review the opportunity and if I had any questions. I admit, I had not had a chance and was on my way into work. I was sort of bugged that she was already contacting me, as I had just received the information yesterday, but I figured she was just doing her job.

When I got into work, I replied to her from my mobile and let her know that I had not, and that again, if I were interested, I would contact her directly. She replied letting me know that this was a “hot” opportunity and she was looking to submit interested parties right away.

In short, my day and evening got away from me, but the next morning I decided to look over what she had sent. This wasn’t before another email, asking if I had time to speak that day. (I didn’t.) After reading about the role, it did sound intriguing, so, I replied to her with some basic questions. Salary, benefits, who the employer was, that sort of thing. That afternoon, I got a call AT MY WORK from Trisha. She told me she figured it would be easier to speak with me instead of emailing back and forth.

This caught me completely off guard. Hello, she was calling me at MY CURRENT JOB. I don’t have a private office or anyplace where I can just talk about such things freely and I had work to do anyways to boot. I let her know it wasn’t a good time and politely told her that email was going to be the best way for me to communicate and that I had sent her the questions I had.

She told me that time (she laughed) was money for her too, and she needed to know my salary package and interest before she could disclose the client to me. At this point I was really bugged, so I told her I would email her and that I really had to go. That evening, I gave to her my range and let her know that I would be interested in learning more via email.

Once again, she called my work (the next day) and told me she needed an exact figure for salary and history. Which surprised me. I gave a her a range prior. And like before, I told her I only wanted to communicate with her via email. She hung up and I didn’t hear anything more until the next day when she emailed me THROUGH MY WORK EMAIL to let me know times for potential interviews. I was really angry now, and fired back to her that I was no longer interested and let her know that she had no right to email me through my work email without my consent.

 That very same day, I was called into my boss’s office, which never happens. Apparently, Trisha and her colleague took it upon themselves to reach out to him regarding some openings we have (we’re a mid-sized software development firm) and name-dropped me. He asked how I knew them, and I decided to be honest and upfront and let him know that they were trying to recruit me. His face just fell instantly. I let him know that I didn’t want to deal with her or them at all, that she was very aggressive. I tried to make light of the whole thing, but I could see that the damage had already been done.

Since then, things have been awkward to say the least. My boss did agree to see Trisha’s colleague and yes, Trisha too. I would like to think that they aren’t going to have me replaced, but I don’t know. I’m surprised my boss even agreed to the meeting, really. As for Trisha, the day they came in to see my boss, she sought me out to “meet me in person!” She let me know quietly that if my company were to become a client of theirs, that I would have to quit or be fired on “good terms” from my current employer before they could ever work with me. She apologized for the other role “not working out.” She gave me her card, smiled, and walked away. What an [explicit word]! I feel so stupid for ever having trusted one of those people!

Our Thoughts & Advice:

Wow, we really feel for *Bryce. No wonder he is apprehensive to work with recruiters. What he encountered was a classic case of a VERY aggressive recruiter.

Here’s the thing: like most jobs, a majority of recruiters have goals to meet. Some are daily, some are weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc (you get the idea.) Their employer usually sets these goals. Nearly all of the goals are a determining factor for the compensation the recruiter will receive. Meaning, you meet your goals, you make your money and are in-line for the performance and output they are expecting of them. This is highly common in contingency recruiting firms. Their job is essentially a cross pollination between sales and HR.

Bottom line, they don’t place a person on a temporary or permanent basis, they don’t meet their goals. This drives many new and inexperienced recruiters to go through any means necessary to get to “yes.” To be fair, there are even some more well-established recruiters who use such tactics to also achieve their goals. Many recruitment firms pay their employees a base salary and then a commission and/or bonus structure on top of that as an incentive to perform. (This is often the case in contingency firms.) Top performers stick around, low performers are quickly weeded out.

However, not ALL recruiters employ such over-aggressive and unprofessional tactics. What Trisha did was clearly wrong and unethical. But odds are, she didn’t care one bit and her employer likely doesn’t either. This is a sad way that a lot of individuals and firms alike operate. They are in it for the money. You are just a means to that happening. Many firms view it as: ‘there will always be plenty more of you where you came from.’

This is obviously very disappointing to the recruiters and firms that work hard to keep a good reputation and strive to offer a pleasant, if not excellent experience, for their customers. Many people do not know how a recruiter’s job works or even what they do (note: it’s a lot!) Hopefully the information above helped you to understand why Trisha may have had such actions and motivations. It certainly didn’t make her conduct right by any means.

To help empower and educate potential talent, we’ve put together this list for you to use the next time you engage with a recruiter or staffing firm. Bookmark it, print it off and use it often. It may help you navigate working with a recruiter and avoid the potential lousy ones.

It’s hard to say what will happen with *Bryce. We would recommend that at the very least, that he update his resume, his LinkedIn, Git, and StackOverflow/Exchange profiles. While it’s best to work things out with his current employer, he should consider why his boss didn’t ask as to why he was looking in the first place and why he didn’t have a discussion on what was needed to keep *Bryce around.

Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated at their jobs. True, it’s hard not to wonder just how green the grass may be elsewhere, but progressive employers aren’t waiting for the best people to jump ship and acting shocked when they do, they are putting measures in place to retain them.