“God, I hate recruiters!”

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. 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.

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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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123 Responses to “God, I hate recruiters!”

  1. George March 3, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Just a thought Greg , but are you going to refer this thread to your friend? May provide some insight for him?

    • Greg Savage March 3, 2011 at 8:07 am #

      Yes, good point George. I was weighing tat up just last night. I think I had better do exactly that. I never told him I was going to blog on his comment obviously. It only occurred to me 24 hours later. But he is anonymous , so its best he reads it

  2. Eddie Knight March 3, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Im holding a team meeting around this, its crucial for my team to care and understand that the hopes and aspirisation of every candidate go with each application, I also will address this issue with my clients and request their feedback is quicker. Thx Greg

  3. Blackers3047 March 3, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    “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”

    An excellent article, so much to think about and discuss internally and externally. One question for me is, why has no one commented on the paragraph quoted above?? Surely if the fundamental business model is wrong OR perhaps needs further refining then client-centric, candidate-centric, under-qualified recruiters, time vs quality, fees, leadership, team culture, responsibilities of the recruitment consultant role customer service and many more, are all areas that we can talk about till the cows come home, but honestly not much is going to change?

    I believe the problem starts with the client – as consultants we need to educate clients and build relationships with them and candidates over time to create a customer experience that is focused and unique to you as the consultant and business you represent. If the client is educated, then when the tables turn the experience will be what is expected and this conversation will be avoided. Does this mean recruiters need to up their fees to create this “educational and professional service”?

    • Greg Savage March 3, 2011 at 9:51 am #

      I have received an email from my friend, the candidate in this story. I referred to him to my blog today, and suggested he read the comments. I have his permission to paste his feedback here
      Cheers all… Greg

      Wow, what interesting reading in the blog. I certainly hope I didn’t offend you (never intended to) but it sounds like as a great ‘people person’ and leader that I believed you are, you have seen the comments as a way to look for improvement and that is great to see.

      My comments about ‘english accents’ was mainly to do with temp recruiters as one of your bloggers (Aaron Dodd) picked up on. When I was managing a team of 7 engineers about 10 years ago, the amount of recruiters that would call me to build relationships was outstanding. I was getting calls every few weeks from different recruiters so it got to the point where anyone that had an English accent I just automatically presumed was here on a working visa for a short period of time and I just declined the invitation. I actually got to the point where I started asking recruiters questions about how long they had been with the organisation and what they knew about the industry to determine whether I would spend time building a relationship.

      One interesting thing happened to me yesterday with a recruiter that is worth relaying. Firstly let me say that I have come across a very good recruiter who is niche recruiter in the IT Security industry and knows the industry and the people very well and when she has set up interviews for me, took the time to prep me to let me know what the interviewer was looking for in a candidate and what their personality was like. On the flip side, another one I am dealing with organised an interview for me with another organisation (he has an English accent) and when he sent me the interview confirmation email, he forgot to include the address for the interview. All he gave me was the name of the person I was meeting with and the time and no information about what he was looking for in a candidate. Like opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of professionalism.
      This lady recruiter asked me to give her a call back after my interviews to let her know how they went (as all recruiters generally do) and after having a phone interview with a guy in Singapore, I rang her back (an hour and a half after I got off the phone as I had to rush into another appt when the interview finished). After doing quite a long de-brief, she said to me, ‘thanks so much for getting back to me so promptly after the interview’ and it made me think, doesn’t everyone do that ? Isn’t it just the right thing to do ? I mean, it is just common courtesy to call someone when they ask you to. Maybe common courtesy is not as common as we would like to believe (as your first blogger pointed out).

      In regard to this job opportunity that I have interviewed for, the company has approached a number of recruiters and as a result, I have applied 3 times for the same role and been approached proactively by another recruiter for the same role. One of the recruiters I applied to (via SEEK), took 8 days to return my call (I generally call rather than click on the apply button on SEEK). When he finally returned my call and we spoke for about 10 minutes about my background and the opporrunity (and him apologising for not calling me back earlier), he said he really wanted to organise to meet up because I was a perfect fit for the role. When I quizzed him about the opportunity, I discovered it was the same company I was interviewing with that same day and candidly told him that if he’d returned my call when I rang him 8 days earlier, he would be representing me, rather than the recruiter who lined up the interview (in hind-sight, I’m glad it worked out the way it did).

      So, while I was a bit ‘one size fits all’ in my comments to you, this recruiter I am dealing with now has proven there are professionals out there who really know what they are doing. These are the recruiters I will go back to time after time if I am either looking for another role, or recommending a recruiter to a collegue or friend.

      I hope your training goes well and am really pleased to see that there are recruitment organisations like Firebrand out there who take customer service seriously.

  4. Benn March 3, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    What strikes me the most is that if a recruiter treats me well, then I’m likely to pick up the phone to them when I need to start hiring. It seems that this potential for new business is forgotten by most and illustrates such a great level of short sightedness.

    And I’m not talking about the recruiter whom places me, because it might well be that the one I eventually get a job through isn’t great, but at least I will have seen him/her in action and decide whether they’re worth being part of my business when it comes to talent acquisition.

    Having just been through the process here in London, I wasn’t amazed at the lack of quality of out there, because it’s something that seems to occur wherever I’ve worked or needed to hire talent. But, I was dismayed.

    But, you do need to give people a chance – no matter what their origin. The 5 best recruiters I know are 3 English folk (two of which are in Australia and one whom was at one time and is now back in London and another who’s American and has left the industry to go agency side, and there is one Aussie (in Sydney) in that lot – certainly not token.

  5. Jacob March 3, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I still think there should be a name and shame web site for recruiters that companies can refer to prior to dealing with them after all is said and done this would be the easiest way to get the rotten apples out of the barrell

  6. Laura Vezer March 3, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Greg, I have some excellent contacts in the IT Recruiting industry that I’d be happy to share with you, to pass on to your friend. Will send you an email.

  7. @millionsofmyles March 3, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I was done with recruiters years ago.

    My experience has been that they place you anywhere for their commision.

    A few instances i’ll relate:

    1. After two interviews with a specialist Autmotive Industry recruiter (my industry) and relating to him my corporate, account management etc. experience he came up with the perfect job. Unpacking cars off container ships on the docks! I was stunned. I asked him how that applies to my experience? “Well you want a job don’t you?”. Never again.

    2. Father who was a CEO at the time and having decades of experience in his field goes to a big name executive recruiter. Sits down in front of in his words “A kid in his 20s that came straight from being a ski instructor”. Kid does not ask him a question but goes straight into the perfect job for my father. A lower job in an unrelated industry. Thank you for your time. Never again.

    3. The many interviews and appointments that only results in me chasing them and never being called back about anything.

    In the end ive improved my networks. I cannot for the life of me see why I would go to a recruiter in the age of social media, especially with such sites as LinkedIn.

    Recruiters have been a rude waste of time for me. Never again.

  8. B.N Epartaeboi March 3, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I can only imagine this Senior Exec holds the same kind of disdain for recruiters when he is utilising them in a client capacity. Well Mr. Candidates in short here are some truths from the other side of the fence.

    Candidates don’t listen. They assume they know they can do everything ever acheived by a human being and then some, and the fact that you even question that they just might not have a required skill set and don’t just forward them to a client immediatly with out question is a crime worthy of a million compaints to anybody that will listen to their pompous and self-aggrandizing diatribes.They are arrogant and have dreams of delusion, their fear is only that the exagerations on there shodily prepared cv will come into question.

    Many candidates are technically deficient in understanding that the way they behave as a client can sometimes influence a recruiters attidtude towards them when it finally comes time to themselves look for a new job. As a client they treat consultants with contempt when they don’t understand the hardwork and time taken to do such work (and for free in a lot of instances) and they are not even ashamed to make a recruiter who is trying to acheive an outcome feel as if they are the lowest common denominator when its obvious that they don’t understand the work that is going on in the background.

    “Candidates (The bastards) never stop their calls, assume they are the only person important enough that the recruiter should be dealing with at any given point. Even when they have been informed an hour previouslt that the consultant is still trying to contact the very difficult to get a hold of mananger that they once where when they were a client…they just don’t get it” Verbatim. Enough said.

    They tell you lies. They lie about the their acheivments and qualifications and they lie about what stage their applications are at with other client. They also lie about many other things such as their actual intent in really looking for a role rather then a pay grab excercise with their current employer.

    They expect detailed feedback, even when informed that the client has no detailed feedback or has not contacted the consultant back, they can’t accept that a client would be so uninspired by how poorly they performed in interview, no matter how much coaching and assistance a consultant gave them to maximise their chances during the process, they cannot take negative feedback or client opinions.

    One day we will live in a world where recruiters, clients and candidates join hand in hand…singing we are the world, we are the people..Lawyers will be hugged in the street for their valuable service to community and Real Estate agents will be embraced for their ability to match white shoes with any colour of suit..then I will go in and hug my local bank manager and congratulate him on another record profit this financial year…in fact any organisation who rely on a fee for service (which I think a lot of clients\candidates forget this is how business that employs them works in most cases) will be celebrated and unite in a common goal of ending global poverty and war..But alas I don’t think it will be in your lifetimes or mine Mr. Savage.

  9. Megha March 3, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I still haven managed to talk to any recruiter. They dont return my calls, so I cant comment on anything else.

  10. Stuart March 3, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Great article Greg,
    I find it extremely frustrating when telling anybody that I am a recruiter (and an English one at that) I receive that same look and attitude your friend gave you. Having worked as a recruiter for the last 5 year’s 2 in London and 3 in Sydney I have made a point of trying to work with companies that take a professional approach over a contingent (cowboy) approach and offer a service rather than a transaction.

    As a few people have mentioned the problem stems from the head, the attitude to training, commitment to quality and the drive to be different from the rest. It also ties in with your article on the 16th Feb “Clients don’t only want resumes, they want insights!” to many agencies claim to be specialist recruiters but spread themselves over multiple industries and vertical’s, a specialist is someone / company that works in one area and has expert knowledge in that industry and can offer insights to clients (candidates and hiring managers).

    There is no magic formula to being a good recruiter; in fact it’s quite simple: talk to your candidates and clients, don’t ignore them, understand their motivations and needs, understand their skills, and even if you cannot place them or fill that position tell them why. Candidates and clients alike come to you because you have the expertise, don’t abuse that trust. Candidates are putting their trust in you to help them find a new career, you can have a positive or very negative influence on a person’s future depending on how you treat them, and don’t forget anyone of your candidates could potentially become hiring managers in the very near future, do you think they will choose you to recruit for them if you ignored their calls, didn’t give feedback or just lied to them?

    If you are honest you will gain the trust of everyone if you lie you will fail and become just another recruiter that adds to the stigma.

  11. Megan March 3, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    After living abroad for many years my husband I recently returned to Australia, both in need of jobs. I’ve been in recruitment for about 13 years in Australia, UK and the UAE. He’s in commercial construction. Based on my husband’s experience – no return phone calls, no acknowledgement of applications… all the bad stuff, I decided that I wanted to recruit in commercial construction. All those dodgy, numbers-game consultants are a gift to me really.
    All it has taken me to become successful in this sector, very quickly, is to return calls and be honest. Why stopping us from telling candidates how it is? “Sorry, but my client is going to pay me about $20K to find a candidate for this role, I have a list of requirements as long as my arm that I have to match and that’s what they pay me for. You’re not going to get on the shortlist. But hey, you may suit something else, come in and have a chat”. Or, “you have some good experience and a good CV, I’m not likely to be able to do anything for you right now, but if you want to come in and meet me, there may be something in the next week or so”. I’ve only ever received positive responses to these conversations.

    When discussing salaries let’s be transparent, “What’s your range? At the bottom of that range, what would insult you? Here’s how it is, I get paid a commission on whatever salary you are offerred, so I want to secure a good offer for you, however, if I talk it up and secure you well above market and my client needs to tighten their belt or downsize in a few months time, you may well be the first down the road”.
    It’s returning calls, being honest and transparent that will make any consultant stand out from the crowd and it aint that hard!

    By the way, I have never experienced any shame or ribbing for being a recruitment consultant. Lucky me?!! Oh, and I’ve had the pleasure to work with some cracking British consultants. As with everything, sometimes it’s a minority that causes problems for the majority.

  12. Malcolm Waldock March 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    I think Connor and Laura have both nailed it !!! Less defense and more proactivity might just win the day here

  13. Martin Davies March 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    The hard fact of the truth in most businesses is that it is a numbers game and the competition can be stiff so you need an edge.

    From the article : Candidates are punters and Placements are deals – Glad they have that right. Unfortunately that is probably the raw reality of it, whether you are selling guns, drugs, derivatives, toothbrushes or people, it all comes down to maximising your potential and heading off the competition, that is what these guys are doing: playing the numbers game.

    In the end those that aren’t thick skinned usually end up on the psychological rubbish tip however those that are willing to rock and roll in the candidate placement gig are probably most suitable for the job anyway.

    Benn is on the money here, you want to do well with recruiters pick up the phone and control the process, if you need nanny to find you a job you probably won’t last. So set the ground rules guys, explain what you can and can’t do and how you want to approach opportunities. Personally I am glad when I find someone who is a broker of positions, they are hungry for the deal but I don’t expect them to fully understand my role as a candidate otherwise they should be doing my job and me theirs.

  14. Frank Morrisson March 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Sorry Greg, I enjoy your blog – but I find the whole external recruitment industry pointless & a service that is simply not required in today’s modern world.

    Once upon a time when finding talent was a difficult task to do, a relationship with a good recruiter was worth it’s weight in gold. Today, with a team of tech savvy geniuses that can search for & find any skill set out there known to man and then as they pass those leads over to my team of wonderful internal HR/Recruiters I have employed, I see absolutely no need for an external agency. We build talent banks ourselves and find & retain those we seek.

    I am positive to say that a candidates experience as they come via an employers front door for consideration will far exceed their time they spend with an agency. Our brand & business is paramount to us, it is crucial for us to leave the candidate with an experience as so they can share this with others they may know & thus keep the cycle of endless referrals coming through. Recruiters are in it for a sale – a quick buck if you will to meet a target & get the commission. If you retain the relationship with a client, it’s just to get more money via the placements – nothing else and prove me wrong if that’s not the case. When you apply directly to myself at a client site (or we find you via our own methods) we treat all candidates the same and do so as we want the candidate to work with us, be part of the team for the next 10 years and grow harmoniously all together. Recruiters treat candidates like dirt unless they can see a placement in the very near future.

    Of course there are good recruiters out there & it’s a shame some bad ones tarnish the industry, but I like the poster above – have had far too many bad cases of shameful recruiter salespeople trying to win me over to do business with us. Even to the point of applying for roles we advertise via false CV’s to get themselves in front of us to pitch what they do – seriously Greg, how will you ever change the industry if your competitors still resort to those types of tactics in today’s modern age.

  15. Estelle March 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    As a recruiter I am heartened to see this article – It’s an opportunity to air these views and discuss possible solutions. I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering how to destabilise the current industry and re-work the model. I think Blackers3047 has hit the nail on the head. The very substance of the client/recruiter engagement is at fault. Contingency recruitment – payment on successful hire – doesn’t help anyone. It means Clients are less engaged with their recruiter, by definition they have more agencies working on a vacancy and so don’t spend the time to provide a detailed brief and context. Nor do they have the time to provide the feedback needed to ensure a position candidate experience. This in turn means that the Recruiters are less able to present these details to a potential candidate, Recruiters are additionally challenged by the competition so respond by sending as many CV’s as possible to their Client before the competition. And last, but definitely, not least is the Candidate who loses on all fronts – they have no reason to engage fully with the recruiter knowing that they are, in all honesty, just another faceless CV and potential ‘deal’. In many cases they don’t engage at all with the Client who makes a decision based on what little the Recruiter has been able to tell them.
    It’s all about throwing as much mud at the wall to see what sticks.
    Retained assignments relieve much of this pain but so many Clients are, understandably, reluctant to part with their cash unless they know and trust the Consultant in question – many of my Clients have had very bad experiences in the past and I know from first hand how many agencies will take a retainer of a brief that they cannot possibly fill based on their existed client relationships and restrictions!
    My only hope for the future of this industry is that the ongoing economic conditions facing us will result in the demise of many shoddy recruiters and that the professionals committed to offering a quality service to both Clients and Candidates will survive. I’m not convinced it’s enough so I will continue to run through alternative models in my bid to overthrow the recruitment industry and create a new world order!

  16. Sandra March 4, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    I have had experience with recruitment agencies in France, Ireland and now Australia. After all that, you do know how it works.
    Went on interviews insisting that I wanted a Marketing role (having a degree and experience in Marketing), and be called back for an administration position. ??!!!
    Looking for a job is very frustrating, and usually knock your confidence down.
    I can understand recruitment is a stressful role, and I am not the only one they have to deal with. But does it really hurt to send a quick email after we tried to reach you saying: “Sorry , you did not secure an interview with the recruiter or They chose another candidate.” I have lost my faith in many recruiters and I have learnt my lesson. I am sending an email now, if they don’t call me back, means I didn’t make it. If they ever need me , they will call.
    I play the same game.
    Until I find the recruiter that will make the difference. I always have, and the latest one was so helpful. Giving me lots of tips for my interview : Who are the people I am meeting with, their personalities, how to get in the game, what they expect, what questions they may ask.
    It was great, I knew what I was getting into and I was prepared. I got the job, and she would really follow up on me. I would call her after each interview as she requested, and give her the feedback.
    She was great, and I am happy that once in a while, you find a gem !

  17. Liz March 4, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I was lucky enough to train with Greg in Sydney when I very first started in the industry in 1995, I’ve since moved into generalist HR and hold a senior GM role. I have always remembered the training and ethics in the Sydney office though and find it unbelievable the way some recruiters treat candidates, do they not realise that candidates are in all likelihood going to become clients at some stage and it will be the recruiters that treat candidate with respect and professionalism that will get their business? It might not always be the recruiter who places them as they can just get a lucky break but the one that you remember as someone you enjoyed working with

  18. Benn March 4, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Frank – it’s all well and good that your internal HR staff are superbly skilled and tech savvy, but the reality of it is, is that you probably account for 0.001% of all business who have this function that performs in such a fashion.

    Many still don’t even know what LinkedIN is. So, hats of to you for having a great team, but the reality is that recruiters – good and bad will be around for some time yet to come.

  19. Jennifer Bailey March 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    God How I agree, we will never change the perception of our industry until the owners of recruitment firms stop seeing it as a numbers game and realise we deal with human beings!

  20. corry prohens March 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Nice post Greg. I hear this all the time and have found it to be generally true… most recruiters suck. At our firm we work in a very small niche: web analytics. There are only a few thousand people in the world that do what we recruit for. In our situation we can not afford to burn bridges and the only way we can succeed in the long run is to become valuable members of the web analytics community… and to be perceived as such by as many web analytics practitioners as possible.

    So I submit that another solution to shoddy customer service is hyper specialization. If you just recruit for “IT” it feels like you can burn people up and there is no consequence bc there are millions of people in IT. If however you just recruit front end web developers, you better work hard to get a good reputation among those folks…

  21. Edward Cook March 7, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Frank Morrisson makes a valid point, if transactional recruiters don’t work out how to deliver more value to their clients they will be made redundant by the increased use of technology within the work place. As a quote on the back page of the AFR a few weeks put it “Why should I pay 30% of a person’s first year of compensation to a recruiter who found them on Linkedin?”.

    But, to be fair to agency recruiters, many experiences people have with internal recruitment teams are no better. Last year I had the misfortune of going through the recruitment process with the consulting practice of a Big 4 accounting firm and an HR Consulting firm post MBA graduation. The process at both was pitiful, poor or no feedback, slow drawn out interviews and a negative decision for both made before the final (Partner) stage interview due to a “lack of project management experience”. Something they both knew before I started the process.

    I really think there is an opportunity to coach employers on how to utilise Linkedin and other social media tools to build their own talent pipelines, as I mentioned before, if recruiters don’t improve the service they provide to both clients and candidates they will become redundant in the talent attraction process.

  22. Candice Ramsay March 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Very interesting article. I do believe that “wasting time on non-profiting activities” will be a thing of the past. The recruitment industry set our KPI’s decades ago and not much has changed. I truly see a rise in better treatment due to online networks which has made the world a much smaller place. We are sales people and having a direct link to our clients and candidates reminds us that we are easily accessible. It is our job to nourish those connections and by doing so, I hope that today’s recruiters will understand that the profit comes from referrals and repeat business.

  23. David March 8, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Wow, I go away for a week – don’t read Greg’s blog and come back to two pages of responses !

    I see it simply as this – recruitment agencies are established for one main purpose by the owner – that is to make a profit. Agencies are not the Salvation Army or a non for profit organisation, the owner puts in plenty of money to establish the company, pays staff salaries to grow and then expects a healthy profit in return if all the balances are right.

    Candidates are a product for an agency, same as a bottle of perfume is to a shop sales assistant. The Perfume Manager may have a range of bottles sitting on the shelf, but they want to sell (i.e. – push) the bottle they feel is right for their prospective buyer (i.e. – the client). The Manager has no long term relationship with the bottle of perfume, all they want is to move it out to make a sale. Bottles come & go, some sit on the shelf for far too long, some just don’t look right – but at the end of the day if they find one that is a seller (i.e. – can make money from), that’s the one that is given the focus & attention over the others (I’m being slightly facetious here, but I’m sure you see my point).

    Greg, I have no idea how you manage your business, but how long do you carry a non performing / under achieving consultant for before you release them ? Perhaps you go through ample training to try to develop & good luck to you if you do, but the large majority of your fellow recruitment agencies will show said consultant the door very quickly. I have led one of this countries largest agencies at the highest level and whilst not publicly said ( and I’m not going to name any names here), but has an unwritten policy of if a consultant doesn’t meet targets within the first 3 months (i.e. – probation period), remove them before it takes extra work to remove them (i.e. – after probation period). This is a highly recognised brand name agency ! I’ve also worked for some lesser known agencies over my years and the removal of consultants who don’t make money can be a lot harsher than that too – so how on earth would a candidate ever expect to get fair treatment if the consultants of this industry don’t have time to focus on them to assist if there is no quick sale on the horizon ?

    There’s far too many agencies in the market today & far too easy for anyone to open up an agency. It’s fine to state how it should be done and how I wish the industry was cleaned up, but there are far more small (shonky) agencies in existence who will always tarnish the larger ones via their actions.

  24. Dick Carlson March 8, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    As someone who has worked with recruiters both to hire candidates and to locate contracting positions myself, I find this thread fascinating. Much like Realtors, I’ve found that the good ones are few and far between. There’s just too much at stake for most of these folks to be honest. If they can lie or mislead you, and come away with thousands of dollars in their pocket, they will. Mostly.

    I don’t have any problem if you have an English accent, but (in high tech) if you’re a recruiter with an Indian accent I’ll bet you 10:1 that you won’t listen to a word I say. And you don’t have a clue about the technology you’re trying to find someone to work in. I just hang up my phone quietly and move on.

  25. Gareth March 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm #


    I agree with your friend as I’m in a similar boat having left my job recently to find work elsewhere. Have been to half a dozen agencies the past 2 months including your own and I must say it is the lack of communication from the agent is the most disappointing (inc. your own organisation).

    I tend to now look for roles where companies recruit directly rather than meet more agencies just so they can add me to the ever growing candidate (punter) list but no action from there on.

    I get in touch with agents myself but same old story ‘sorry nothing available at the moment’.

  26. Barry Frydman March 9, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Client feedback on candidates:

    – When I send a candidates resume to a client or arrange an interview and the client is not interested I definitely am interested in why it’s not a fit. But to be totally honest my focus is using this information to find a better candidate not to use it so I can coach the rejected candidates. I also don’t want to spend to much time discussing why I sent the client a candidate who they think was a waste of time.

    I like helping candidates but even if you get them a job with a 50% pay increase the most one can expect is a thank you. It’s hard to pay the bills no matter how many thank you’s you receive today.

  27. Ally March 9, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    I was in agency recruitment for 15 years and have spent 4 years managing a national internal recruitment function. I am constantly amazed at the lack of respect for candidates and clients from agency recruiters – and sorry to generalise, but the English recruiters are the worst (as a rule). They are pushy, inconsistent and constantly try to go above to get a placement. I know agencies are there to make money but the ones who get my business are the smaller boutiques who take the time to get to know me, my hiring managers and my company and the landscape of the industry I am in.

    David – not sure what large recruiter you work for but I would suggest this is a prime example of how NOT to run a business. Businesses like this, and I know these exist ten fold, shouldn’t be in operation. Totally ridiculous attitude. Makes me ashamed to have been in agency recruitment.

  28. Arod March 9, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Perhaps there is some value in understanding the opinions of our peers and different candidates, but saying that I’m very protective of my optimistic outlook.

    Personally, I’m not concerned about general stereotyping.

    I believe we each have an amazing individual proposition and the ability to make a massive positive impact on peoples life by facilitating candidates next career move as well as making a direct impact to our clients success. I encourage everyone to maintain a situational approach but we can’t help everyone.

    Candidates will respect our honesty and professionalism and our main directive has to be aligned to supporting our clients, but ensuring every candidate receives a positive experience, regardless of the outcome.

    As for this being a training issue, I disagree. I think we all know we are in the people business dealing with people and a bit of honesty and respect goes a long way.

    We offer a service that is in demand and we can make a difference if we believe in our approach and ability.

  29. Mark March 11, 2011 at 8:56 am #


    Candidates are human beings. Thinking of them as a product and treating them as such is the reason recruiters are getting bad names – get rid of the commercial reality attitude and focus on service, the sales will be there to and your agency will shed their poor reputation. I don’t think the issue is time spent on candidates, it is just common manners. I worked for larger agencies for a number of years and now I am very niche and specialised in a boutique. The sevice smaller agencies give far out weighs the larger agencies. Every time a candidate complains about service to me it is a big agency they name.

  30. Naomi March 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm #


    I really enjoyed reading your article regarding your friend who said he ‘hated recruiters’.

    Yes you’re right, it’s an unfortunate saying and as a seasoned recruiter with 16 years in the industry, company owner and true lover of the industry it’s disappointing to be reminded that there are many out there who feel that about the industry.

    Just a thought though, has he stopped to consider his role in the job hunt situation? Admittedly, IT recruiters don’t have the best reputation for their cowboy ways however; maybe an article could be run in the careers section of the SMH relating to the role a candidate plays in their own job search.

    When they sit at home and apply to 30 odd jobs without reading the ad (and have no relevant experience for that role) then hope for 30 quick responses and wonder why no-one calls them should they really be shocked? When they arrive late to interviews poorly dressed, lacking energy and expect to be seen as a high achieving, dynamic individual should they really be disappointed? When they can’t even answer simple questions relating to their own skills and experience should they really wonder why they’re not being picked for the top jobs?!! And don’t even get me started about inflated salary expectations!

    These are all things I know you’ve witnessed yourself.

    I’m not saying this is your friend however, I do feel there is sometimes a miss-match between the candidates expectations and what is actually out in the market for them (whether it be lack of specific roles, salary levels etc). Honesty is required by both parties in order to build a long term relationship.

    In my business we truly believe in candidate care and work very closely with candidates to build a positive working relationship. We have a strict policy to be kind, considerate and understanding towards candidates both over the phone and face to face. But we also don’t sugar coat the truth and when candidates are not honest with us we’re left with a disappointing taste in our mouth, just as I’m sure they experience when they come across the ‘terrible recruiter’. So it goes both ways.

    If only all recruiters did the same, and all candidates were a little more understanding toward the fact that recruiters are not ‘God’ and cannot always create the amazing, perfect, life changing job (with huge salary increases) they’re hoping for then everyone would benefit.


    During my time in recruitment I have worked for some of the larger players in the recruitment industry and for the past six years I have ran my own boutique recruitment agency. All I have to say is that it is the attitude of recruiters like you, in the larger agencies that give recruitment this bad name. We are not dealing with a bottle of perfume….bottles of perfume do not have memories, emotions and expectations.

    I don’t think it is an argument of ‘big vs. small’ agencies, it is about the way an individual recruiter manages the expectations of their candidates and clients throughout the recruitment process.

  31. Cross March 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    So, here’s a question, how do you get to a recruiter then? I have a 100% response rate from applications direct (they like my CV and application) and 0% contact rate from agencies (I don’t know if they even have real jobs). I’m submitting the same CV for the same sort of jobs and I don’t get calls, emails – nothing from recruiters. I was tipped to try and build a relationship, but these guys don’t return calls or emails. I’m not unique, these seems to be a usual experience.
    Any suggestions?

  32. OldRecruiter March 14, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Like any industry there are good and bad recruiters. We need the two main industry bodies to take a more active stance. There are some unethical agencies who belong to ITCRA. We need to be more proactive in marketing what we actually do, which is a lot more than just cv flicking.

  33. Paul B March 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Cross – I agree 100%

    Like you, I have recently been on the lookout for a new role, I saw an agency advertise a role to which I applied & I waited and waited and nothing – no phone calls, no emails, not even a response to say “thank you – we have received your application”. So I called them, yes, they certainly had my application they advised, so I asked to speak to the consultant handling the role, he was in a meeting, so I left a message and waited and waited and waited…… again – nothing.

    So, I called the company they were hiring for direct (as the ad they ran in the specialised field I work in didn’t take too much guess work who they were) – I spoke to the HR Manager who said she was dealing with a “number of agencies” all of which had submitted CV’s for the role but none were even close to what she was seeking. They asked me to attend a meeting the following day where I was met by the HR Manager, the GM and the MD and a week later – the offer was made to which I am now preparing to start with them in my new role next week.

    Greg, please don’t take this personally as I like your posts (thus why I am reading this blog), but I agree with the very first comment made by your cricketing friend – God I hate recruiters – too. I understand there are thousands & thousands of candidates on the market looking for work and everyone cant expect to come in for a chat, but the amount of calls never returned is poor. Again, I network with a very specialised skill set of individuals who have all pretty much vowed to never use an agency again as it’s simply easier, less hassell and much more productive way to find a new job by going direct to the end client.

    • Greg Savage March 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      No personal offence taken at all Paul. Indeed, thanks for your comment and your fascinating story, which serves to prove again how recruiters let themselves and their clients and candidates down. My mission is to change this -first in my own company, Firebrand – but preferably across the entire industry.

  34. Cross March 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Paul that’s great news, excellent.

    Greg, it’s great that you want to change this and that you are setting your own standards high, but it does not compensate for the way that the majority appear to be working. It seems from various discussions I have had that many recruiters accept that this is how they are viewed and don’t see that it is an issue, and that HR also do not see communication as a value adding activity.
    A recent poll on linked in showed that more than 60% of recruiters are in it for the money. So it’s a sales process. (Although apparently 80% of statistics are made up).
    Oh dear, I am still “cross”.

  35. Mervyn Dinnen March 15, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Some great comments here Greg but I will take you up on one thing. You said to Paul B that his story proves again how recruiters let their clients down. In his case they didn’t. Their poor operating practices did their clients a favour – the company was able to find the person they wanted at no cost.
    They’ve created another hiring manager who has seen that he/she can do it better directly…and as such have let only themselves and the rest of the recruitment industry down.

    • Greg Savage March 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #

      We agree on so much Mervyn, but not this time. This recruiter has let this client, and probably many, clients down…badly. Sure at the micro level this seems to have panned out for the client. But how do we know that an even better candidate for the role was not also blocked from reaching the client? Indeed, can we be sure that six better candidates were not properly screened and shortlisted? If so then this client did not end up with the best available candidate. And that is the recruiters role. The client engages the recruiter to attract, source, screen and present the best possible talent. This recruiter clearly let him down on that score. The fact the client ended up with an acceptable candidate was despite the recruiters incompetence. A fluke. An own goal. A ricochet. The client wont be thanking the recruiter for what happened -or if he does only in words dripping with sarcasm. If the client worked out how that candidate got to him, he would no doubt fire that recruiter on the spot – for letting him down on the assignment

  36. Mervyn Dinnen March 16, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    I doubt we’ll agree on this one Greg. The company had used ‘a number of agencies’ and all were wide of the mark. The company hired Paul B – you refer to him as an acceptable candidate but the fact is that he is the one that the client felt could do the job. One of the agencies had him on their books but clearly felt that they had better candidates.
    The errant recruiter did his client a favour…his incompetence led to the client saving a fee.
    I stand by my view…it’s himself and the recruitment industry that were let down.
    We both know that clients are increasingly looking to use direct methods…recruiters who turn a client happy to pay a fee into one who feels that he doesn’t have to are only helping to increase that further.
    Methinks a beer when we’re next in the same City!

    • Greg Savage March 16, 2011 at 7:45 am #

      Well its comforting to know that we definitely agree on that beer next time I am in London…. 🙂

  37. Mervyn Dinnen March 16, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Definitely! Probably more likely than me being in Sydney…much as I’d like to go there ;o)

  38. Megan March 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Today a candidate replied to a rejection email I’d sent him on Friday – a standard template that we use. It surprising how doing even one of the most basic activities/requirements of our job can have such an impact. It made me think of this blog. I’ll share with you the candidate’s response:

    “I wish to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Your are the ONLY ONE (from the recruiting agencies around) who has had the professionalism to send this really courteous and decent reply. This is your strength, the type of personal treatment candidates expect to receive from recruitment companies. You’ve got the essence, it’s all about being human and down-to-earth (you know emotions, feelings, uncertainties, aspirations,…).

  39. Brad April 5, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I admit that I struggle to keep up with responding to all of the applications that come through. I am aware of this and make a conscious effort to stay on top of my responses and communications. I do the absolute best I can with the time and resources I have – I’ve found if you are genuine in your dealings, this can make up for alot. I am currently in the scary process of seeking my first consultant to assist with the workload and it scares the bejezuz out of me to think I will end up with a consultant who fits the transactional recruiter profile… Good brands are let down by poor consultants, I dont think this topic will ever die.

    A great post Greg with heaps of great feedback. I feel like a nap after reading this lot!!!


  40. Steve Bulman April 19, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    I usually find this is not a recruiter issue – it is a management issue. In the way so many recruiters are driven towards their targets by KPI’s rather than quality of working, the candidate becomes a commodity. The individual is merely a conduit for the recruiter to make money. The care factor is gone!

    So – if the majority (and I say this with confidence) of management in recruitment who drive their staff towards a quantitative, numbers led targets were to change their ways, maybe the industry would stand a chance.

    But I cannot see this happening…

  41. Shane O'Donnell April 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I have been with the same agency for over 10 years. Multiple permanent jobs & contracts and as a senior manager I have used many contracted agencies to recruit, with Curran+associates being the only one to send candidates actual close to the description. The Curran recruiters have been consistently excellent. The most prevalent problems in dealing with other agencies as a candidate is they seem to assume that only 30yr olds will fit their client’s “culture” and if you have a lot of experience you will be bored. Other unfounded assumptions include… “if you have been a contractor, you won’t be suitable for permanent” or “if you have had 5 years recent specialised experience but aren’t actually currently working in a particular role … you can’t be suitable for this role”. Finally, when you do actually start work the job description is pure fiction as their client hasn’t provided the information or has taken so long to decide, the job has actually changed.. Just as well adapability is one of my strengths!

  42. Shane O'Donnell April 21, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Candidates are people and resent it when they know they are being treated as numbers. Most experienced candidates understand sheer response volumes often prohibit contacts in many cases – 200 resumes for each job is an impossible workload & that agencies often only have the possibility of competing with other agencies to fill the job. You win some, you lose some.

    However, being spoken to as if you are an object required to justify their time to speak to you is another thing entirely. Being polite often seems such a chore! Gruff often hurried recruiters do not entice good candidates to be interested and it might not always be a buyers market… good candidates are perishable!!!~

    Also, when they think the sound of your voice indicates you are over 30 and they ALL say “I will call you tomorrow” … and not one out of 5 has, it does not help a candidate’s/future recruiting employer’s opinion or the likelihood of those agencies being used to hire in the future – I have a list

    In my recent job seeking episode I found many agencies use recruiting websites including an automated message explaining – paraphrased – “We will look carefully at your application & if we think it matches the needs of our client we will contact you within 2 weeks. If not we will not proceed further”.

    This was entirely acceptable & my expectations were politely managed.

    It is being left to swing in the breeze of unknowns that indicates you are unimportant and not worthy of respect by the agency (some don’t respect you but should not make it quite so obvious). When candidates recruit others they remember this treatment. I often recruit whole teams and I remember who treated me well.

  43. Geoff Harrison April 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    I’ve been on both sides of the recruitment fence in the UK as a both an employer and a candidate. As an employer you issue the recruiter with a job spec, which they speed read and extract the important points – viz. they get you to employ someone; you pay them lots of money. They then pester you to death trying to send you unsuitable candidates in the hope of being able to charge a massive fee (typically 20-25% of the first year’s salary), should you actually take someone on.

    As a candidate, you send them a CV and application and, again, they speed read it. They then ask you lots of questions – the answers to most of which are already on your CV. They then proceed to ignore them and, if they actually send you any vacancies, it will be for jobs that are not what you want, not where you want and not paying what you want. They excuse this by telling you that, because you were matched by computer from their enormous database using keywords, the results may not always be relevant. They send you rubbish, but admit that it is. So that’s alright then. Should they actually submit your details to a prospective employer, they will invariably fail to keep you informed of the status of your application and in 90% of cases will completely ignore your requests for information and leave you work out from the silence that you were unsuccessful. It’s just plain rude, but courtesy doesn’t earn commission, so they don’t do it.

    Gone are the days when you signed-up with an agency and they looked for work for you. This was called being pro-active. These days they advertise their vacancies on numerous Internet job-sites and just sit back and wait for the applications to flood in. This is called being in-active. Strangely, although they now make you do most of the work, the fees they charge your new employer for “finding” you, have gone up rather than down.

    I used to think that they were no better than estate agents for people – now I’m not sure that I’m not doing estate agents (despite their own failings) an injustice. Would you buy a house where you didn’t know its location? Of course not; but some recruitment agencies expect you to allow them to put forward your CV to a company they won’t name and in a location they won’t specify, beyond the general area. Of course, they have all sorts of excuses – including the fact that, if they tell you the company name, you might go direct and cut them (and their commission) out. What they’re saying here is that they don’t trust you – always a helpful basis on which to begin a relationship! Even though it’s now illegal under recent UK legislation, if they refuse to give details, what choice to you have? If you argue with them, they just refuse to put you forward and a possible job opportunity is lost. They’ve got you by the short and curlies – and they know it, whatever the law says.

    There are a few decent agencies out there – usually smaller independent ones. The vast majority of the big boys (and there are some REALLY big ones out there now) are just sausage machines that treat you as a commodity, not a person. Out of the more than 150 that I’ve had occasion to deal with up ’til now, I can count the number that I’d be willing to use again out of choice, on the fingers of one hand.

    In my search for a new job, I’ve encountered some astounding (as in “astoundingly bad”) people – including one recruitment “consultant” who called me about a role, but was really only interested in pumping me for details of companies I’d had interviews with, so he could approach them for business; and a company Customer Services Director who, during an interview, asked me how old I was (illegal under the recent UK anti-ageism legislation) and then topped that by asking whether I was still with my wife!!!!

  44. Ben Shorter August 7, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Reading this installs a belief that I have an extremely strong future in recruitment, and that I will be able to generate alot of revenue for my employers/myself.

    The reason is that I am traditionally a servicer, rather then a sales person. I am candidate driven as well as client driven.

    I have just joined a new position recruiting into the education industry within London. Each candidate that I have met has told me the same thing; ‘Recruitment agencies over promise and under deliver’.

    One of my main principles is networking, and that applies to candidates as well as clients. I have a note on my PC monitor: ‘Catch up with everyone fortnightly’ and ‘ Be honest’.

    I find out what my candidates do, what motivates them, and do my upmost to place them in their dream roles. The reason is, I am 23. I have a long time in recruitment. These guys will be decision makers at one point and they will come to me, because I have given them a better service then anyone else.

    I need to stay on the ball, and not just learn about my industry, but I need to stay on top of it.

    This shows that there is a need for good strong recruiters, and for those that are willing to invest the time, there is infinite potential for achievement!

  45. Dean Gollings August 8, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    Very interesting discussion. I have been in the industry since 1982 and am fully aware that certain, predominantly large, recruitment agencies are completely and utterly useless.
    For the past 8 years I have operated as a freelance recruitment trainer for the ‘professional’ sector and will only work with firms who share my philosophy; ie put exceptional quality first( for candidates and clients), and revenue plus increased market share will follow.
    Believe me, loads of these firms do exist, yes even here in the UK, though some are getting swallowed up by the mega agencies, only then lose their values, market share and best people.
    With any luck, direct sourcing by employers and candidates will mortally wound the ‘death by kpi’, witless approach of so many recruitment organizations, leaving those with indepth sector knowledge, skill, imagination and intelligence to clean up.

    • Greg Savage August 8, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      Thanks Dean,

      Your last paragraph I believe is prophetic. This is what is very likely to happen in my opinion. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting

  46. Mary Bustillo October 13, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    Hello Greg, i’ve just come across with this website and let me tell you, it’s AWESOME.
    I am a Staffing & Recruitment Assistant for a Refinery Expansion Project in Colombia and before i worked for a headhunting company. I just love the Recruitment Industry and this blog is a huge blessing in this moment of my career.
    Thanks and i hope we can keep in touch.


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