Oh dear, I am harsh on recruiters. (Although, incidentally, none has come by here to defend the profession…)

I stumbled upon an obstetrician’s struggle with recruiters.

I started out with enthusiasm about recruiters, and with great hope. Here are these people that have “hundreds” or “thousands of jobs nationwide”, that have “the best jobs”, that “personalize a search for you”, that routinely find “the perfect practice for you”. Great! Call several recruiters, get a great job and start working!

It turned out quite different. I had graduated from one of the large Boston teaching hospitals and wanted to stay locally. And with “locally” I meant really Boston, specifically inside the I-95 ring. So I sent my CV to recruiter after recruiter, but strangely, such a job did not seem to exist. Even the recruiters that advertised jobs with “Enjoy all Boston has to offer” live and work in “the Boston suburbs” never had jobs within the I-95 ring. To my dismay, recruiters defined the “Boston suburbs” very creatively and differently than I did. The suburbs suddenly turned out to be Methuen, Lowell, Lawrence, Framingham, Worcester, Plymouth etc. Driving distances in ads were routinely understated; places advertised as “only 30 minutes from the city” always were an hour away.

Why oh why do this? To attract people who don’t want the job you are offering? Hoping to get someone to “settle” for something? Because as a contract recruiter you are only interested in placement, not retention?

Outsourcing your recruiting seems to be growing in popularity, but I believe it has some unintended consequences–like looking only for placement. If I get paid based on a placement and then walk away, what is my incentive to find a good fit, not just a warm body?

Granted, the hiring manager makes the final hiring decision. But, in this case, the hiring manager’s specialty is obstetrics, not hiring. The expert should be the recruiter.

The best job interview I ever had was done by a former boss. Why? She said, “I’m going to tell you all the problems about working here.” And she did. And there were many, many, many problems. She also told me the perks and what she would do to protect me from the awful politics of the place. I took that job knowing full well what I was getting into.

If she had said everything was peaches and cream I still would have taken the job, I just would have been angry and sullen and prone to leaving as soon as possible.

Recruiters, please note: I took the job even knowing the bad things. In my situation, the good outweighed the bad (which it did and I still work for the same company 6 years later, although in a different department and the problems she spoke about went away after a time anyway).

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7 thoughts on “Bad, Bad Recruiters

  1. Well said! I’d rather scare a candidate away in the interview than have him or her miserable or resentful once in the job.

  2. Exactly. You don’t just want a person in the job, you want the right person–and the right person is someone who is willing to work through the problems of the business.

    Some people aren’t, and that’s fine. They just aren’t who you want for a problem job.

  3. Here’s something I used to preach to people who worked for me: Never, ever, take a job where everything is going well, because then the only thing you can do is screw it up. Take a job where everything is already screwed up, then you have the opportunity to show what you can do.
    Recruiters rarely point out this fact to candidates, although with their lousy reputations today, they wouldn’t be believed anyway. I think recruiting is contracted out because many HR people hate doing it, but hiring the right people is perhaps the most imporant thing HR can do. It really ought to be done in-house, where the quality of the effort can be controlled.

  4. Mike–excellent point. We have a vacant position in my department right now that they are recruiting externally for. Why? No one internally would take it–because it’s a very complex, high visibility job that was done *perfectly* by the previous person. We all know that there is no where to go but down with that job.

    It sounds like an ideal position to someone from the outside, but those of us who know, know that it’s unlikely that the new person can do as good of a job as the previous person. We don’t want it.

    But, hey, if you want that kind of a position ($75k or so), send me your resume. Strong HR and strong technical skills required.

  5. Evil,

    I would love to defend my profession, but frankly, there are plenty of firms and individual recruiters out there that make “headhunting” pretty indefensible.

    What I can do is talk about what I believe to be the right way to behave as a recruiter:

    First, understand what it really takes for a candidate to be successful in the job and understand what the “problem” is that needs to be solved. – Every opening in a company fills some hole or addresses some need – why do they have to hire this person? (Hint: “They need a Mechanical Engineer to engineer stuff” is not enough information)

    Next, identify potential candidates and talk to them (not at them) about what they REALLY want out of a career AND from an employer. It’s important here that the good recruiter isn’t talking to them about a specific job, but talking to the candidate about their career goals. (Hint: “A job with benefits” is not enough information.)

    Good recruiters do much more than match keywords. We talk to candidates about specific achievements, technical skills, salary and benefits AND about cultural fit, employer values, commuting distance, the impact of a possible relocation, about what happens if their current employer makes a counteroffer, etc.

    Only now should recruiter talk to the candidate about a specific job, and only if that job fits their career goals and criteria. The recruiter should be completely honest with the candidate about the client, the problems and challenges they will face in the company and the benefits and perks of joining this company. Good candidates (and good employees, like a challenge!)

    But wait.. there’s more! Now the recruiter must objectively evaluate the candidate’s ability to solve the problem the opening creates for the client. If, as a recruiter, you skip this step, you are just wasting everyone’s time.(Hint: “They are a Mechanical Engineer and they can engineer stuff” is STILL not enough.)

    Our job is to connect the right people with the right companies. That means we serve both the client and the candidate, and we don’t just look for “warm bodies”.

  6. Dear EvilHRlady!
    Thank you for quoting a part of my recent post. I think it is important to tell the other side of the story of recruitment, the story of the disappointed and mislead candidate. It is necessary to publish the the drawbacks of recruiters. Everybody should know what they can do, what they cannot do and how many of them work.

    Nobody has done it in an organized or systematic fashion.

    All you get if you Google your area of work and “find job” is hundreds and thousand of recruiter websites touting the same “advantages” of “fabulous” recruiters. If you look behind the curtain, you find that the wizards of recruitment are not quite what they claim.

    They mostly turn out to be volume oriented sales people that add much less value to a job search than you think.

    Medicine is an area where recruiters might be close to unnecessary. Why? It is not hard to find doctors – they advertise, their names are published in many lists that can be purchased with a few click on the Net, they do not hide, they are easy to find, they want to be found.

    All a physician looking for a job has to do is get a list of doctors in their chosen area and send all of them a letter. Done. Response will be 1-2%. And with this method you uncover all the never advertised jobs, you tap the “hidden job market”. You will find more positions than you (and your friendly recruiter) thought possible.
    Direct mail works! Why would the NAPR, the Natinal Association of Physician Recruiters do regular massive direct mail campaigns? They know what works for them!

    But this fact (your employers are easy to find) may not apply to all areas of the job market.

    I highly recommend direct mail in addition to personal networking as a winning job search strategy for physicians. Direct mail and networking is all you will ever need!

  7. This is fabulous. I am convinced that the “outplacement world” told the rest of the world that “recruiters” get people jobs. Now I have to admit, I think most recruiters are nothing more than traders….except they trade people for a living. Even my brother who works for Heidrick & Struggles…and trust me, they’re are recruiters..just given a nicer title.

    A recruiter “doesn’t get people jobs”. That’s not WHAT A RECRUITER IS SUPPOSED TO DO!!

    WHAT A RECRUITER IS SUPPOSED TO DO IS work for both the candidate and the client. But what people..candidate’s fail to realize is YOU AREN’T PAYING THEM..SO THEY DON’T WORK FOR YOU!!!

    NOW, I KNOW this sounds pretty wild, but I believe that when you’re great at what you do in this field you tell the candidate the good the bad and most importantly…THE UGLY! Why do you tell the ugly? Because then they know exactly what they are getting into!

    Even more important, what I don’t do is ever tell the candidate what the job is or who the client is until I am convinced…ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED THE JOB IS PERFECT FOR THE PERSON!

    WHY? BECAUSE, people put themselves into a box. Once you tell them, here’s the job and title…all authenticity is out the door. And the person will “make stuff up to fit the job.” If they don’t know anything about it…guess what? They have to be authentic, don’t they?

    NOW, I KNOW THIS IS RADICAL CONCEPT…AND TRUST ME, MOST CANDIDATES INITIALLY DON’T LIKE IT..BUT ONCE THEY UNDERSTAND MY PROCESS……..THEY ARE AMAZED AT HOW interesting it is for them…why? Because someone is actually interested in them and what is best for them…not jsut in making a placement. What a novel concept isn’t it?

    IT’S PROBABLY THE REASON WHY I HAVE A 100% SUCCESS RATE…BUT, it also requires I interview hundreds of people to find the “perfect candidate. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Why? Because my when I place a candidate, they never leave……..not in 12 years.

    So what do I do? Build companies.

    Here’s the problem with the HR people. You know what they want to know? How many placements have I made….they evaluate me based on whether or not I’m pushing through hundreds of placements a year instead of the quality of my work???? That’s really freaking smart, isn’t it????

    HR jokers, which is what I call them, because they obviously don’t know any better, are looking at the wrong information. They are looking at how many people you throw into the system instead of the quality of your work.

    This is why I never bother with HR.

    They haven’t been smart enough to figure out what the CEO figures out!

    Maybe HR needs to wake up…what do you think EV HR Lady????

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