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Who Needs Recruiters Anyway?

2nd Mar 2016


The reason you don’t trust recruiters...

Cowboys. Liars. Dodgy dealers. Del-Boys. Chancers. Con-artists. 

Ring any bells? That’s right, this is all about recruiters! 

Ranking somewhere between estate agents and used-car salesmen on the perceived professional integrity scale, recruiters are a much maligned bunch. Generally seen as a necessary evil but avoided wherever possible, recruiters are seen as wheeler dealers with not too much going on between the ears.

Sound harsh? I promise you, that’s tame compared to what I’ve heard others say.

If you’ve ever searched for a new role then chances are you’ve spoken to a recruiter. I’d also give good odds that you’ve spoken to, or been approached by, a recruiter you weren’t too impressed with. I know I have.

So, considering I’ve not yet had anything good to say about the industry, it might surprise you to find out that I am a recruiter and I love what I do. But being on the inside I can see firsthand why we as an industry continue to have such an image problem.

Working with job seekers everyday I make a point of asking every candidate I meet what their prior experience has been with recruiters. There are a few very common responses:

1)    ‘’I constantly receive irrelevant LinkedIn messages trying to headhunt me for jobs that don’t suit me at all. Recruiters don’t bother to even read my profile.’’
2)    ‘’Recruiters don’t understand what I really do and try and put me forward for jobs that aren’t right for me.’’
3)    ‘’I never hear back from a recruiter unless they suddenly want something from me.’’
4)    ‘’They’re pushy and aggressive and just want to force me in to any role, regardless of whether it’s what I want’’

I imagine you have some of your own gripes and irritations to add to that list, too. 

Yet despite the bad image, I’m here to tell you that a good recruiter is worth their weight in gold. Yep, honestly. A professional recruiter will be an asset to you during what can be a very stressful and uncertain time and they will make your job hunt so much easier.

I’ll use this blog to tell you what you should look for when searching for the recruiter of your dreams, and also give you some red flags that should send you running in the other direction!

Before we move on to the good stuff, though, it is worth exploring why there’s an image problem with recruiters in the first place. 

The problem with recruiters

Before I go any further I think I’d better take a brief step down from my high horse and provide a disclaimer. By highlighting some of the problems that exist in recruitment I am not attempting to hold myself up as a shining beacon of perfection. The reason I feel equipped to write on this subject is because I’ve seen the issues first hand and have made mistakes myself. But you live and learn….

So. Back to the matter at hand.

The image problem with recruiters all starts with the terrible culture that’s so common within recruitment agencies themselves. Many recruitment companies still operate an outdated recruitment model with a high-pressure slash and burn sales culture. It’s still incredibly common practice for many agencies to hire a group of rookie consultants en masse with the expectation that only one or two will make it past their probation period. Very 90s.

Hiring consultants with no experience is not a problem in itself of course. Everyone starts somewhere. The problem arises when companies provide no leadership, training or guidance and apply intense pressure on new consultants to bill money immediately. It’s all about chasing that dollar from day one by any means necessary with nowhere near enough focus on quality and integrity. Many new consultants aren’t expected to make it past their probationary period, so the pressure for them to hit KPIs in order to keep their job is intense. There’s really no such thing as job security in most recruitment roles.  

If you’ve ever been called by a recruiter who didn’t really seem to know anything about the job role they’ve approached you for,  how much it was paying, or how you’re experience fits in, then it’s a fair bet they’re working for a company with a bit of a culture problem.

It’s essentially a problem of quantity over quality. If a recruiter is targeted to make, say, 100 candidate calls a day, they will call anyone to hit that number regardless of whether it’s productive or useful to do so. It’s for this reason that you might receive a call at your desk from a recruiter who doesn’t seem to have any purpose  for calling you.  It’s also why you might receive an irrelevant LinkedIn message trying to headhunt you for a role that’s way too junior for you, or completely outside of your skillset altogether. 

KPIs are king in old-school recruitment and chances are someone is counting the number of calls being made, the number of messages being sent, and the number of resumes being sent out. If the recruiter doesn’t meet their targets they’re out the door. Simple as that.  Throw a naturally aggressive or cut-throat sales personality in to that pressure cooker environment where scrupulousness is encouraged and you create a toxic recruiter. 

This kind of culture encourages everything we all hate about recruitment and yet it’s still so prevalent. It reduces the role of a recruitment consultant down to the phone-bashing automaton that everyone dreads dealing with.

So why would anyone bother with a recruiter?

So far, so horrendous. I know. Yet, despite the bad apples, using a recruiter can be a massive boost to your job search and employability.

First things first, if you’ve applied for a role through a good recruiter and been shortlisted by them they will spend a great deal of time providing you with insights on the company that you just wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This gives you a great advantage when starting the interview process as you will already have a head start and a greater understanding of the company than candidates who may have applied directly. 

Secondly, a good recruiter will truly partner with their clients and will understand exactly the type of candidate that will fit best with their company. This means that before you’ve even started interviewing, the company in question can be fairly confident that you fit the bill because you’ve been represented by a recruiter whose judgement they trust.

A good recruitment consultant really will offer a consulting service. They will offer you insightful information about your prospective employer, the role, company culture, your salary expectations, your future prospects, how to resign, how to interview, how to deal with difficult questions, what market demand is like for your skillset and what your promotion prospects look like.

In a nutshell, a good recruiter will take a good deal of burden off your shoulders when searching for your next opportunity and boost your confidence when navigating the interview process.

How to find a good recruiter

Well, as in all situations, I would suggest trusting your instincts and good judgement when speaking to a recruiter. 

Are they desperately trying to get a copy of your resume so they can Email it to a client they potentially don’t know much about? Or are they having a proper conversation with you (preferably face to face for permanent roles) to find out all about you and what type of opportunity and company is really going to work for you?

Here at Xpand we operate a Candidate First model that we passionately believe in.  Does that mean we don’t care about our clients? Of course not, but we recognize that unless we take the time to understand our candidates we really won’t be much use to our clients anyway. 

As a candidate you should be confident that your recruiter will not send your resume for roles you are not interested in or suitable for. The last thing you want is for your resume to be spammed to a whole heap of different companies you might not be interested in.

Here are some key pointers to bear in mind when looking for a recruiter:

Are they really listening to you or is what you’re saying falling on deaf ears? Are you struggling to get a word in edgeways?

Can they explain the details of the job role to you simply and clearly, or are they bending your ear with buzzwords and nonsensical fluff?

Will they tell you what company the role is with? There are caveats to this, such as confidentiality when the role is replacing someone still currently at the company, but generally speaking if you’ve been shortlisted for a role by a recruiter they should be sharing details of the client with you. How else will you prepare for an interview?

Can they explain what their client does and what the culture is like?

If they can’t answer your questions, do they admit it? This is crucial. Of course there are times a recruiter won’t have an immediate answer to one of your questions about a role or company, but they should admit this and come back to you with an answer at another time rather than just wing it.

Equally, do they grasp what it is you do for a living? Are they taking time to understand what makes you tick?

These pointers are really some of the basics that you should be satisfied with, but as with all things, you will know if something is not right. You should be able to chat to your recruiter comfortably and openly about your future without feeling as though you’re nothing more that a set of skills on a piece of paper.

We have a bad rep, but I promise you we’re not all bad!

Layla is a Technology Consultant with a special interest in Cyber Security, Cloud and Architecture. If you’d like to chat to her feel free to email her at or connect via LinkedIn.

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