How to Spot a Recruiter worth Working With

There is a large, growing population that views recruiting as a useless profession. They find recruiters to be greedy, selfish and more concerned with their commission than the candidates. Used car salesmen are starting to get a better rep.

As a seasoned recruiter, this quite frankly pisses me off. It pains me to hear people talk so poorly about a profession I have worked so hard at and take so seriously.

At the same time, throughout my years in the industry I’ve seen enough to get where these critics are coming from. I know that there are recruiters out there that are proving them right.

If you have a LinkedIn account, a few hundred bucks to get set up on CareerBuilder and a working phone line you can call yourself a recruiter. There is no degree to get into the field. And for most agencies there really aren’t any set-in-stone qualifications to be hired.

This means that most times you receive that first call from a recruiter, you are either about to work with someone who can change your life, or waste five minutes of your time.

I want to highlight 5 points to ensure that when you do get that call, you will know if they are worth working with or not.

1.  Bad recruiters will sacrifice the long term relationship for immediate results.

What I am about to say here is no surprise: Recruiters are compensated by their clients. As such, the loyalty lies where the money stream flows. The bad recruiter only sees this and their process is pretty simple. They will get you on the phone, determine if you are a fit and move on. The good recruiter sees the bigger picture. They will make sure that they are gathering the information that is important to your career. If that info matches the open job, than great, we are one step closer to a placement! If not, well that’s OK too. Now we have more information for future opportunities.

2.  How much do they know about the job?

Give me 10 minutes with the most entry level recruiter and I can get them to take a half decent job order from a hiring manager. Believe me, it’s not difficult. But what do they really know about the job? Sure, some information is just hard to get as a recruiter. A good recruiter will dive deeper anyway. They should understand why the position is open, how many people are on the team, what skills can be compromised on and what personality traits are important to the hiring manager among many other things. If a recruiter is just reading off of a job description and hasn’t done their homework, look out.

 3.  They understand what you do (for the most part).

Another popular complaint from candidates is recruiters not understanding their industry. Recruiters aren’t Web Developers, CNC Machinists or Forensic Accountants. They are recruiters. And their job isn’t to pretend to be experts on an industry they know a Wikipedia page worth about. However, a good recruiter should do an adequate amount of research on what they are hiring for.  They should be able to talk to you with some level of understanding what it takes to get the job done for the position they call you about. Most importantly, they should be comfortable enough to be honest about not having the same knowledge of your industry as you do and ask you to explain so they can make sure it is the right match.

4.  Follow up skills

A good recruiter should keep you informed throughout the process; after all they are the middle man. If you go several days without hearing from your recruiter, and they will not return your calls, that’s a concern. It’s unfortunate, but more times than not a client will go silent on recruiters and there is nothing they can do about it. But that shouldn’t mean they go MIA. The recruiter should be keeping you up to date on whatever it is that’s going on, even if it’s absolutely nothing.

 5.  Detail Oriented

What is the recruiter’s process? Is it a 5 minute call and the next thing you know you are interviewing with a client? Although sometimes that is the case, for the most part your conversation should be thorough. The recruiter should fully walk you through every part of the job, educate you on the interview process and take the time to answer any questions about each step. The recruiter has taken a lot of time understanding the position they have approached you about and the least they could (read: should) do is share their experience for your benefit.


I understand the decision to lump recruiters in the same bucket when even one poor experience can ruin your outlook on the entire profession. If you decide to work with recruiters, find one who staffs your industry and works with the major employers you want to work with and build a relationship with them. Ensure they are the type of recruiter that understands your career goals and can align you with the right hiring managers. They might not always land you a position, but hopefully they can open a few doors for you along the way.

Views: 23142

Comment by Derdiver on August 30, 2013 at 1:16pm

"This means that most times you receive that first call from a recruiter, you are either about to work with someone who can change your life, or waste five minutes of your time." LOVED this.  Great read. TY

Comment by Scott Boren on August 30, 2013 at 2:59pm

I agree with almost all of this but would like to spin #1 a little.  

Yes our clients pay our fees.  But if I have a great pipeline of really good people then my clients will keep coming back to me, even when times are slow.  So I share my loyalty with my clients and candidates.  They both have to be responsive (as I do) to earn that loyalty.

Comment by Noel Cocca on August 31, 2013 at 12:31pm

Very good list.  Thank you.  I especially like the follow up #4

Comment by Sunil Kumar on October 29, 2013 at 7:52am

Very good Read Chadd. Thanks.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on October 29, 2013 at 5:10pm

@ Chadd: "Bad recruiters will sacrifice the long term relationship for immediate results."

When you're working in-house or you're looking to place/hire contractors, there's a saying:

"If you have time to have a relationship with someone, you don't have enough reqs."

Plus, contingency recruiters that get placements from job boards like CB, Monster, DICE LIR probably have fools for clients- there are a number of ways of getting the same resumes/candidates for a lot less than a 20% fee.



Comment by Nicholas Meyler on July 25, 2014 at 5:16pm

Most people are intelligent enough not to develop a bigotry against recruiters, but some certainly do.  I would like to suggest that those people are generally misfits, job-hoppers, low-lives, etc.  Anyone whose first comment to a recruiter is "You're a conman pimp." is unbalanced and best avoided. 

On the other hand, I went to two dentists in a row who told me I had multiple cavities that they wanted to drill.  I hadn't had any cavities for twenty-plus years and I brush my teeth 3x per day, at least.  I actually went to the first dentist for about 10 years, and then he dropped the cavity claim on me.... I sought a second opinion, and the next dentist told me I had 7 cavities, and pointed them out to me as 'the white spots in the x-rays'.  Obviously, they were crooks.

I went to another dentist, recommended by a friend, and he said "absolutely no cavities... you have great teeth."  I've had no problems with him for over two years.  Next time some loony candidate tells you all recruiters are unnecessary middlemen, say 'thank you for your opinion', walk away and find a sane candidate who appreciates your value... and think of dentists.  Sure, some are crooks, but they are essential to Civilization and good ones are very valuable.  Be the good recruiter!


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