10 Things Bad Recruiters Say

A great recruiter is an incredible ally in your career journey - here's how to choose wisely

Forbes contributor and CEO of Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, was recently sent the following query regarding recruiter ethics.  Let’s see how Liz responded, as published on Forbes, and how she thinks recruiters often get it wrong.

Dear Liz,

I know you say that we might have to kiss a lot of toads before we find the right recruiter, but I’m getting discouraged.

This morning a recruiter contacted me and asked me to call her at lunchtime — one hour later.

I thought that was rather presumptuous, but I was able to get out of the office and into my car at noon so I called her, even though our department was having a lunch meeting.

The recruiter’s first question was “What are you earning now?”

I said, “I’m focusing on jobs that pay at least $65,000.”

She said “Oh, that’s the new answer candidates love to give me — it doesn’t matter, I’ll get your salary information later.”

Then she said “You’re asking for a high salary for someone your age.”

She didn’t know my age.

She might have guessed my age from my LinkedIn profile, but why is my age her business anyway?

I said, “In my industry that salary range is normal.”

She said, “What do you consider your industry?”

I said “I’m an Associate in a consulting firm. Sixty-five thousand is low. I work for a smaller firm. I’m looking for the right leadership and culture as much as I am looking for the right salary. That’s why I’m willing to take a $65,000 job.”

She said “Send me your CV and I’ll take a look at it. I really don’t know your background.”

That blew my mind. Why did she call me if she hadn’t looked at my LinkedIn profile in any depth?

My LinkedIn profile is identical to my CV.

Why are recruiters so rude to job-seekers?

Thanks Liz,


Dear Corinne,

Imagine a job that anyone can get just by saying “This is my new job.”

That’s how recruiting jobs work.

You could become a recruiter right now by calling yourself a recruiter and reaching out to a bunch of strangers to get their CV’s.

Then you could take those CV’s and pass them around to employers to see if any of the employers want to interview one of your candidates.

Easy peasy!

Of course, being a professional recruiter is much harder. Good recruiters work their tails off. You will be able to spot a great recruiter right away when you talk with them. They know what jobs pay. They take the time to learn about candidates before reaching out to them, and most of all they don’t ask job-seekers “What are you earning now?”

It’s none of their business — and smart recruiters know it!

You will have to kiss some toads on your way to finding the right recruiting partner — but right now you are going on multiple dates with toads and letting them abuse you!

Don’t tell a recruiter who rudely asks you to make yourself available one hour hence “Sure, I can do that.”

That was your first mistake. Why should you move your schedule around to suit her? You are broadcasting neediness, and that is the last thing you want to do on a job-search (or at any other time).

You decide who you want to speak with and when. If you feel desperate, the waves of desperation will rise from you like steam off a radiator and everyone will see and feel it.

You don’t need to jump on the phone with any Tom, Dick or Harriett the Recruiter who reaches out to you.

You can review their LinkedIn profile. You can take your time. You can send back an email message explaining what you are looking for in your job search.

You are in the driver’s seat — but only if you believe it.

You can tell when a recruiter is unaccustomed to working with candidates who have normal self-esteem.

You can tell by the impolite things they say, like these ten statements that mean “You are nothing to me:”

  1. Get me your CV right away. (Until they tell you about a specific job they think you’re a good fit for, don’t send your CV to anybody!)
  2. I have to know what you’re earning now — and so does my client, the employer who’s hiring. (Tell them that it’s not a good match in that case. More and more legislatures are passing laws prohibiting employers from asking for your salary history — do you want to work for a company that still insists your salary history is their business?)
  3. I’m going to need written proof of your last year’s earnings. (I understand that you think you need it, but you’re not getting it.)
  4. You aren’t an especially strong candidate for this role. (Why do you have time to talk with me in that case?)
  5. If I don’t hear anything from my client, I won’t get back to you — in that case you can assume they’re not interested. (Good-bye. A recruiter who won’t follow up after sending a CV to a client is not someone who deserves to represent me.)
  6. There are a lot of qualified people around. You’re not that exceptional. (See ya!)
  7. You have to trust me. (You can earn my trust, if you want to invest the time. No adult would trust someone just because they are told ‘You have to trust me.’)
  8. Sometimes you go to an interview and the client stops communicating with you — that’s how it is. (If you can’t get feedback from your client after my job interview, let’s call it quits right now. I need to work with someone whose client relationships are stronger than that.)
  9. If I don’t get back to you, keep following up with me. (If you can’t manage your job, why would I entrust my career to you?)
  10. Look, I’m doing a lot for you! (Another way to describe our relationship is that placing someone like me into a new job is the only way you make money. Rather than telling me how important you are to me, why not ask me what I need in order to make the relationship work? Better yet, let’s part ways — all the best to you!)

A great recruiter is an incredible ally in your career journey.

However, dealing with the wrong recruiter can sap your mojo and drain your self-confidence.

Don’t stay in a relationship with the wrong recruiter! If one recruiter reached out to you, others will, too. You are way too mighty to let a fearful person dim your flame.



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