Over the years I have heard dozens, perhaps hundreds of stories, about recruiters being treated poorly.  For many HR People, we are a necessary evil.  HR people believe that most recruiters merely send bodies, add little value and make a lot of money.  All reasons to resent us.

The point is illustrated by a recent event.  All of you have your own similar stories.  A client gave me an assignment for an executive that had been open for a year. The company had been trying to fill it themselves, I guess with the help of employee referrals.  They were nice enough to supply me with a list of the forty or so executives they had met. They dismissed most and had made offers to two or three, but had been turned down. I knew most of the candidates they saw and was shocked because the bulk of them had nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s corporate culture and their résumés did not match the job specs, but somehow they had been seen. I sent two people, they loved one and as they were about to hire him, one of the previously seen candidates whom they had liked, changed his mind and accepted a previously made offer.  It turns out that for the weeks I had been working on the assignment, they had been negotiating with this person.  Meanwhile I spent a lot of time working on the assignment.  I never so much as received a thank you for doing in six weeks what they could not do in a year.

Because we are advertising recruiters, we often get assignments to find people to work on accounts which have not yet been signed.  I accept that as very risky and am willing to do it for my good clients for no fee.  It is the other job assignments that drive me crazy – where we work to find a candidate and then, after weeks of work, often with a candidate they are about to hire, the company tells us the job is being filled internally.  Of course that possibility is rarely shared with us.  There is no consideration for our time and rarely a thank you.

The problem is, and I am defending HR here, that the human resources recruiter may have ten to fifteen people (or more) to hire in a small amount of time.  In order to do so, they call as many outside recruiters as they can – one client told me she used twenty or twenty five recruiters for each assignment.  What happens as a result is that they cannot keep track of the people they have called and they often lose track of the submitted candidates.

Sadly, many recruiters don’t pay a lot of attention to the full job specs and often pay absolutely no attention to the corporate culture (if they know it at all) they are recruiting for, so they just send bodies.  Often, the résumés received by HR are worth very little, are time consuming for HR to manage and interview and result in no movement.  Those of us who actually do a good job for the client are often undervalued, not evaluated properly and get categorized with all the non-performing placement people.  Most companies have no formal structure for evaluating recruiters.

On top of all this, there is a perception that all of us are just rolling in money.  HR, particularly the juniors, sees us earning enormous fees for each placement and assumes that we are all making lots of money.  Would that it were so.  But but thes perceptions create resentment.

Finally, we know that HR recruiters are generally evaluated by how many bodies they can place within their company.  Quality counts for very little.

But I love this business anyway.

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Nice post.  I like to hear from seasoned veterans who add something unique.  It's interesting what people post because it reveals whether they are freshman or professors of our field.  You are obviously playing at the higher levels.  Not that my opinion means anything but that's just an impression I got.

I think any one of us could go on and on about our miserable dealings with HR.  THEY are the ones who are a necessary evil.  HR is overhead.  Recruiters solve problems.  Plain and simple.  Of course my opinion isn't completely objective but hey this is "Recruiting Blog" after all isn't it?

I remember one distinct client.  I've had others similarly bad but this one particular HR Director had it in for me.  I'm usually good about giving people the benefit of the doubt and save this type of cynical thinking towards the end but this lady really proved it over and over and over again with the reqs she gave me and every single time hiring someone who totally did not fit with the picture she painted with what she claimed was needed.  I mean she once told me to find a Property Manager (obviously non IT search I was willing to do) with over 7 years of experience, etc etc. all the list of regular credentials.  In about 40 days, she lets me know that they've already made an offer to someone with fewer than 2 years of experience and NO background.  I mean really?

We are the marines of our field.  The front line, the ones who take the beating.  You can't be squeamish if your'e going to be a headhunter. :)

@Paul, i have even had it happen on a retained search.  It went on for three months on a high level PhD in diagnostics for a management level position.  My candidate was flown in three times and the SVP flew to Seattle to meet with him to see the lab he was working in there.  My client had sent me a resume of a candidate they had interviewed two years previously who had turned them down to use as a guideline as to the background they wanted. 

After three months the SVP of HR said they wanted to hire my candidate to find out what it would take and exactly what he wanted included in the job responsibilities.  My candidate wrote them a job description with all the bells sirens and whistles he would love to do and have.  Indicating that he did not expect to have all of it but this was his "wish list"that they had asked for.

The SVP of R & D (since terminated) decided that she could not see giving him all the responsibilities he was asking for.  The internal recruiter decided that maybe they should call the guy who had turned them down two years before since they were willing to pay more for my candidate and they should hire my candidate  too and let him report to the one who had turned them down.  The SVP thought that would be dandy.  SVP of HR got pissed and said , "you idiot", this new candidate has been recruited for the top spot he is already running a large lab, he is not going to take the number two spot and report to someone who has fewer credentials.  So to make a real goat rodeo short.  My candidate got sick of messing with them when it went into the fourth month and declined to pursue the circus.  They called the candidate who had turned them down who was now two years from retirement, hired him and six months later came back and said he was not a strong manager so would i find them another one.  The SVP of R & D had been termed so it was a whole new ball game.


I turned it down.  Retainer or not there are some situations that are just not worth the time, effort and mess , not to mention the insult to a top professional candidate to go through all that no matter how much money we can take to the bank.


The company has since been sold, the internal recruiter is no longer there, the HR Director who got involved in it is no longer there, the SVP of R & D was termed.  The only one still on site is the one who can't manage people but he has been demoted and doesn't care because he is about to retire.  And we wonder why healthcare is so expensive. 

@Joshua and @ Sandra:  There is just no excuse for rudeness to anyone, us included.  Sandra, my favorite was about ten years ago AT&T put me on a retainer.  I received the check. The HR person who hired me was terminated and, never had another call returned.  After three months of trying, I gave up.  Truthfully, I would rather have placed someone.

Thanks for the reality check.. I've been doing contingency for 18 years and I believe its getting worse!!  Just last week, I had the VP of HR for a leading fin'l firm give me a senior search on contingency at 2pm, call me at 11am the next day to ask where all my submittlals where and that if I didn't hurry they would "put it out to retainer", and by 4pm, left  me a message to say "they went another way".  I was frustrated, since I had a full plate, but pushed all else aside to work on this one...

Of course, my research told me they had "put it out to retainer" weeks ago, so they probably found out they couldn't pay a contingency firm on the search.  The pity here is that I am specialized in this field and the retainer firm is not. AND, by 2:30, I had the perfect candidate, but did not present them!!  And then spent the next few days fielding calls from my other candidates who called me back (after my networking) to tell them the firm went "another way!!

I often ask: Shouldn't this all be about filling the job????


So my question here is:  How do we help to solve this, so we are not mistreated???


Oh why does this sound so familiar?  We have to get smarter and like Sandra turn this stuff down.  Establish good relationships with HR/internal recruitment and only work for the companies we want to.  Paul 25 recruiters on one assignment at the same time I baulk at more than two!  It is in your power and trust me it is makes good business sense too.

See my previous blog on a similar theme:


@Roni and @Dyll:  Dyll has the right idea.  Try this with doubtful clients.  Agree to do it on a retainer, but ask for a "commitment" fee.  I do this and ask for between $5k and $15k depending on the seniority of the job.  About three quarters of the time I get a "no", but for those who say yes, it puts clients on another plane. 

Contingency recruiters are treated badly because they allow it. If you don't put a value on your services, why should your clients? The biggest mistake is competing with multiple agencies on one job. The chance of failure is multiplied right from the start. An why should your client treat you like anything but a resume stream if you agree to be a part of the herd? Client companies know very well that by throwing out the bait, loads of 'sharks' will gather at the scent of blood. You are at the most a convenient tool to be discarded. I understand that it is very competitive in some markets, particularly at the lower levels, but if you don't start differentiating yourself now, then when?

In the world of contingency recruiting it is essential to establish good relationships, trust and a working partnership. That doesn't mean you should be naive, but if you're working with an HR representative who doesn't take, answer or respond to calls, you have a problem. Is it worth the time and effort to work on job orders that you have a 20% chance of filling? If so, then you better be asking the right questions all through the process. If your client goes dark, something is wrong. Time might be better spent searching for those hidden opportunities where clients have a sense of urgency as well as a commitment to the right hire.

This might mean trying to work outside of HR. Not every company goes through the HR organization, and working directly with the hiring manager dramatically increases your success of making a placement. In recruiting, effort and risk pay off if you're willing to raise your head above the crowd.

We all, to some extent take a chance of being used when taking all the risk of a contingency search. I never have a problem pointing this out to a prospective client. It's one of the reasons I charge so much, only work on exclusive searches, hold the line on my fee & guarantees and never, ever, ever return a fee.

I just took a peak at all of the responses - all so relevant. We've all been burned. It's part of what we do, whether contingency or retained ( I do both). Also,part of how the herd gets thinned - survival of the fittest for sure. By being thorough and selective, we can minimize the risk to some extent and maximize our potential to close placements.

If you always work from a one-down position, why are you shocked when you get sh*t on?

Paul has the right idea about doubtful prospective clients.
Anyone can waste your time with a job order. They cost NOTHING to give out to you.

Annoyed HR person: "Want a job order? Here! Have 20!!!" (It does not mean that you'll see a fee from us......ever!)

Few people who do not know you won't value you, and do not care if they waste your time.

Along those lines: I require a modest non-refundable deposit from new clients. I know that I am NOT going to get it most of the time. I accept that. I am very happy to let those "clients" unwilling to put skin in the game waste your time. :)

Here's my carrot: If you pay, I will bust my ass for you, and your deposit will show me the same level of commitment (skin in the game) that you want me to have towards your search.

Look at it another way: Review all the contingency orders you received and worked on over 12 months.
Some of those orders weren't real, right? Meaning you NEVER EVER EVER had a chance of earning a fee on them. Which ones? You don't know, of course. My approach at least eliminates those that will waste my time.

Do I get fewer new clients?
Absolutely...but I get partially paid ( I like the term "container" contingency/retainer? ) on ALL of them.
Every check is a client's commitment....and I know ALL OF MY ORDERS are R-E-A-L. :)

Those struggling....there's a reason for it.
Maybe you're selling to the wrong person? Maybe your client doesn't agree with you on your value.
Maybe you have the wrong clients. I don't know...I am not you, but every time I read "....and this HR person f*cked me"....I want to throw-up all over my computer, reach into my screen and SHAKE you.

If you don't respect yourself and your value...why should they? 

@Daren @Cindy  Spot on the both of you.  But it amazes me how few recruiters are prepared to do this.  I just turned down a potential client on the following basis having trialed a position for a couple of days for them:

1.  They told me they had no other recruiters working on the opportunity (I found out they did and questioned them and they said it was an internal - I questioned my sources and it wasn't!) - this is enough for me to instantly dismiss them.  Lying to me just the once is enough (and they did it twice)  but just to be sure . . . they

2.  Couldn't give me a coherent brief

3.  Were unable to provide me with a list of candidates they had seen or who had been contacted by themselves/other recruiters already.

4.  Did not give me feedback when I asked for it despite wanting CVs 'immediately'.

I only took the role on on the trail basis - despite my better instincts - because an old friend/colleague had introduced me to them.   After two days I have told them I do not want to work with them.  I am expecting £2K for my work so I am not out of pocket.  Get real and qualify your clients as hard as you would qualify your candidates guys.  It ain't tough to weed out the bad ones!

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