If you have been on the job market for any length of time, you will come to learn that an increasing number of job postings on the web aren’t really job postings. A lot of them are actually postings put up by recruiters for jobs they are not even directly filling. They are putting an ad somewhere to get a qualified person to apply to them so they can then submit that person to a company to get paid for “finding” that person through the incredibly “difficult” job of publishing the ad. But this post isn’t about the dubious ethics of such a transaction. It’s about how insidiously horrible they are to fellow human beings during the entire process.
If you ever want to feel like complete garbage, work with a recruiter.
Why we have to
Let’s face it. Job hunting is a war with many battlefronts, and the more prongs to your attack (online applications, networking, job board sites, job fairs, LinkedIn, volunteering, recruiters) the better odds you will have of landing an interview. The more interviews, the more likely one of them will say yes.
So recruiters are just another part of your overall job plan. They are another voice out in the ether applying to jobs for you and pushing your brand.
Why it sucks
Recruiters are not working for you. They are working for themselves and the companies they work with. How are they going to make thousands of dollars if you don’t have the common decency to land the one job they put you up for? Becky and I have had plenty of run-ins with recruiters from known and unknown agencies over the years. We’ve learned things.
So here I present:
Five ways job recruiters will suck your soul dry
1. They won’t work with you
My first recruiter experience was back in 2001. Fresh out of college, I was selling shoes at a department store. I was applying to several creative industries and hoping my awesomeness in school would pay off like all the teachers and parents said it would. I got a hold of a recruiter, who told me they don’t work with anyone that doesn’t have 3 years of experience. Though I wanted to live in the Twin Cities, this forced me to leave to rural Fergus Falls for several hellish years of newspaper reporting, where I got paid less than I did selling shoes. A chunk of my soul never recovered from this.
2. They will work with you
So you’ve got enough experience for the recruiters to now see fit to bother with you. Now comes the Ike Turner-ized relationship. One second they are singing your praises and how you deserve 100k an hour with an ice cream/foot rub machine on standby. The next second they are punching your stupid face for even believing you should be put up for a job that you are more than capable of doing. It’s like Mean Girls, but with professional adults being the jerks.
One recruiter recommended adding another paragraph to Becky’s LinkedIn summary. We looked at that recruiter’s LinkedIn summary for reference; it was 10 words long. So even her advice was hypocritical.
Recruiters will tell you they have nothing that fits for you and that the market is just dry and your resume sucks. You respond that you’ve been getting 3-4 interviews a week with that resume in the same market, so you aren’t sure what they mean. They will then ask you where you are interviewing. (Hint: Don’t tell them! This will make them want to work with you even more so they can find out where you are succeeding. Also there’s no reason for them to know unless they plan to send your resume to that company. Otherwise, it’s just another way they can hold all the cards.)
3. They vanish
After spending some time with the recruiter so he has a good idea what you are looking for and several jobs that he will put you up for, you never hear from him again. You email after a week, and nothing. You call a week later, and he says in the most annoyed voice possible “I don’t have time to tell you I haven’t heard anything.” You say, “OK, well, how about we work on some other positions?” And suddenly you are made to feel like the most annoying person on the planet for daring to call two weeks later to check in.
4. They lack vision
If I thought the way recruiters do, I wouldn’t have applied to my current position. I recently read the job description in an old email, and I didn’t have everything they were looking for at the time. Luckily, they were open enough to hiring someone that could fit the main needs and grow to fit the secondary needs. This happens all the time. The fact is pretty much everyone I know didn’t 100 percent have the skills listed in the job requirements for their current position, but they are working there anyway.
Lots of job advice columns (written by recruiters) say you should only apply to jobs that you are a complete match. If we all did that, how would we grow? I would still be jobless if I listened to that advice. Look for 70 percent match. (Does not apply to HR departments that use Taleo or other services that screen out anything less than perfect matches, but that’s another blog post).
5. They just don’t care
Your job hunt is a very personal beast. Your future is on the line in a huge way. Job recruiters see that with many applicants, and I can’t imagine it doesn’t numb them to the experience after a while like a combat army surgeon. You are a wounded human and looking for some sort of hope. Recruiters see you as worth an hour to see if they can make several thousand dollars on spending a few minutes to get you hired. They may even put your safety in danger to do so.
Twice Becky had to drive to downtown Minneapolis in a blizzard to speak to recruiters. Here’s what happened when she did so to talk to Kelly Services last winter.
Kelly is a temp place that got me some work when I was unemployed in 2012. They were regularly putting me up for $20-an-hour jobs that year, without question. However, when my more talented and skillful wife went to Kelly, here’s what happened
Recruiter: So what sort of job are you looking for?
Becky: If we’re talking contract work, I’m up for anything.
Recruiter: Really? I don’t believe you. I’ve got a warehouse job where you’d be moving 100 pound items regularly, would you want that?
Becky: Well, as my resume that you have indicates, I’m good with pretty much any office software and have loads of experience with databases, training and marketing.
Recruiter: We really don’t do that sort of thing.
Becky: (Glad you asked me to come downtown and pay $10 for parking during this blizzard then.) Oh? You did nine months ago.
Recruiter: And how much were you wanting?
Becky: $17-20 an hour I think would be good.
Recruiter: Well, we don’t do jobs that pay that much.
Becky: But my husband worked for you not even a year ago and you paid him that much.
Recruiter: That was a different recruiter who no longer works here. (This is verifiably not true BTW, according to that recruiter’s LinkedIn page.)
And so on.
We once drove up to Aerotek so the recruiter there could tell Becky in person that she wasn’t qualified and why on earth would they want to help her when her masters degree was in philosophy? This came from a recruiter who had a degree in communications. Again, it’s fine for the recruiters to have degrees that aren’t related to their jobs, but heaven forbid that you slide into a new position that’s in the same field.
It’s a nuts world in job application-land. Recruiters are the mayors of Crazytown. Approach them at your own risk.