This little incident happened just the other day.

It was Sunday, so I was not in work mode at all. In fact I was watching my son trial for a Sydney Representative cricket team, and my mind was on him bowling fast and batting straight.

On the side of the field, the mums and dads congregated, and the usual banter was flying fast and furious, when one of the guys turned to me and said,

“I thought of you this week.”

The dad in question is well known to me. We have sat on sporting sidelines watching our sons for years, so I was expecting a joke or maybe even an oblique compliment.

But when I asked why, he looked at me steely-eyed and said “God, I hate recruiters”.

There it was. What every recruiter suspects, but does not really want or expect to hear.

It seems my friend had recently resigned his senior IT job and was seeking out a new role. That brought him into sharp and intimate contact with a wide range of Sydney IT recruiters, and what he had to tell me about the experience made me want to hide in shame.

What he said is not new. We have heard it before. But this was from a friend. And it was recent and raw because it happened to him in the last few days. At a vulnerable time.  And so it was so much more real than some esoteric Boardroom conversations about “candidate care”. And clearly, as a recruiter, I was caught up in his perception of our industry.

In short, he had this to say:

  • Recruiters don’t listen. They assume they know what you can do and what you want to do. They are arrogant and ride roughshod over your dreams, fears and questions.
  • Many recruiters are technically deficient. They recruit in areas they don’t understand and they are not even ashamed when its obvious that they don’t understand
  • “The bastards don’t return your calls.” Verbatim. Enough said.
  • They tell you lies. They lie about the jobs they have, and they lie about what stage your application is at with the client.
  • They provide no feedback, or scant feedback on the process, on interviews and on client opinions.

He went on to say one more thing, which I was hesitant to repeat here. But regular ‘Savage Truth‘ readers know I will always tell it as it is, so here goes. 
He said, and I quote,

“As soon as I hear the recruiter has an English accent, I won’t deal with them.”

Now, let’s dig into that.

Firstly I don’t share that generalisation, obviously. Apart from a whole team of English recruiters in our London office, Firebrand also has English recruiters in Melbourne, Sydney and elsewhere. And they are amongst our very best. There are great English recruiters, and there are duds. Same as any nationality.

But secondly, I do understand his attitude. Because it is true that Australia has seen an influx of UK trained recruiters, many of who have a poor reputation for service. Recruiters who call candidates ‘punters’ and placements ‘deals’. The point is his experiences were bad enough for him to simply refuse to work with them. Probably reducing his chances of getting a job, but he is prepared to take that risk.

But that is all a distraction. The primary point is that candidate service is getting no better in Australia – or elsewhere in my opinion. Why are we so blind as a profession? So shortsighted? We know accessing talent is where the real battle in our business will be fought, yet we continue with this shoddy behaviour.

It’s a training issue for sure. It’s a leadership issue definitely.  It’s also a problem with the fundamental model of our industry, the fact that most work is contingent and in competition. That means recruiters fill only a small fraction of the jobs they work on. That drives speed over quality. And all that is compounded by the way we pay people. Telling them to provide service, but rewarding them only for financial outcomes

And guess who loses. Candidates.

The only good thing that came out of that sideline chat? The fact that there is clearly an opportunity for forward-thinking recruiters to differentiate. To go against the tide. To stand out as a beacon of service in a sea of mediocrity.

So this very day I have scheduled company-wide training at Firebrand. And I will be running it myself.

The topic?

“Differentiating our business through candidate service.”

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Views: 409

Comment by Suresh on April 24, 2011 at 8:36pm

I have to disagree a bit, don't think the candidates loose. They will find other alternatives in the marketplace.

Its the corporations that promote such behavior (internally and externally) that will lose out in terms of their brand.

Comment by Donna Welch Mast on April 25, 2011 at 12:54pm
I feel sorry for this candidate as I feel sorry for a lot of them when they deal with recruiters...of which I am one.  The last company I worked for had this philosophy of just making calls all day long and, of course, I would not do that and I stood out like a sore thumb. I do not beleive in "fall-offs" - if you staff appropriately on both sides - that should be at a minimum.   I am a recruiting relationship builder and in this day and age - do not fit into the model that most, if not all, recruiting firms want.  That being said I have been and continue to be very successful and the money comes but it is not at the expense of someone's soul.  But I've had to do it alone....
Comment by Todd Witkin on April 25, 2011 at 12:59pm
Greg, I have to agree. My recruiting team runs into candidates often that tell stories like this. We work hard as a group to provide candidates with real feedback, good or bad. We continue to find that candidates just want information - give it to them...good recruiters will always filter the information in order to keep a candidate in process while others are being interviewed. As for recruiters that don't know their technical space, that's a problem. We've found over the past 10 or so years that both candidates and clients expect recruiters to know the space technically - clearly it differentiates them from non-technical competitors. Treat your candidates well, they'll be talking about you for a long time - good or bad.
Comment by Doug Boswell on April 25, 2011 at 1:36pm

I hate recruiters like this, but I also love them. Recruiters who treat their candidates as commodities and/or are rude to them, and even recruiters who work career areas they don't understand give the rest of us a bad reputation and a tough time of turning around those who have crossed their paths. On the other hand, they also greatly lower the bar for what is considered good customer service, making it as simple as returning phone calls and providing feedback to become your candidate's hero. I may be guilty of not responding to every email I get, but I do respond ASAP to those I am actively working with, and others if I have time. I return all phone calls. I always provide whatever feedback I can to candidates who are interviewing with my clients, and if I don't have any, I explain that some companies just don't give feedback.


Recruiters who are poor representatives of our craft have always been a problem. Part of being a good recruiter is learning how to deal with it.

Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on April 25, 2011 at 2:38pm
Hope your son won his match
Comment by Santosh Balajapalli on April 25, 2011 at 11:00pm

Greg, I totally understand where your friend is coming from and trust me I too have felt that and there is no excuse if a recruiter is arrogant but where I think things went wrong especially with your friend is Managing Expectations. Some recruiters will get on the phone and say things like  "this position is a perfect fit" or "this is the right career choice for you" there is no way one can predict that and for recruiters to say it, they skyrocket the candidates hopes only for it to come crashing hard to the ground when things don't work out. All in all it comes down to how the recruiter communicate with the candidate and not answering calls and making outrageous statements will clearly result in a disgruntled candidate.

Comment by Chris Hofstetter on April 26, 2011 at 10:56am
Candidates aren't paying recruiters anyway so I don't  know what they are complaining. Candidates should not let recruiters send their resumes anywhere without prior consent. This way they are better able to control the situation. Also if I were a candidate I would want to know if the recruiter is working with the hiring manager and not just sending a resume to the HR dept. Many candidates I work with ask me this question and will not send me a resume unless I am working with a real decision maker and the position seems to be a step upward and not just a lateral move. I primarily work with gainfully employed people.
Comment by Nancy McGarry on April 26, 2011 at 11:17am

I agree with Suresh.  The candidates don't always lose.  This guy sounds extremely negative, so he's probably partly to blame for his bad luck.  I'm sure that if he got the job, he would be 'loving' recruiters that week.


That being said, of course we can do better as recruiters for our candidates.


I will come back to...the guy was incredibly rude to you as he knew you were a recruiter.  I wouldn't want to place him ...

Comment by Tom Dimmick on April 26, 2011 at 12:57pm

I do not think that there is ever a good excuse for a recruiter to be rude to a candidate.  A long time ago, a senior manager at the firm within which I was working told me . . . . "It is wise to be nice to everyone.  You never know who you will work for."  That's the very practical side.

The human side just wants to help the guy that got laid off but if I spend too much time with an unemployed candidate I may not give enough time to my client's needs.  I must also remember that it is the client not the candidate that pays my fee.

I think much of the resentment I hear from candidates towards recruiters really has to do with the unfortunate perception that many of them have that they are somehow the client.  It is bitter news to many candidates who have yet to regain their composure from the loss of their last position.

Having said all of that . . . "Be gracious to everyone; you never know for whom you will end up working."


Comment by Karen Siwak on April 26, 2011 at 1:18pm
"Candidates aren't paying recruiters anyway so I don't know what they are complaining about." Sorry Chris, you are wrong there. They do pay. With their time. Good recruiters get this.


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