Applicant, Beware! The 10 Biggest Lies Headhunters Tell You

When you’re looking for a new job, you spend a lot of time working with headhunters and recruiters. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

A recruiter works for the company for which she’s hiring while a headhunter works independently. A business hires a headhunter to fill specific positions, and they only get paid when the position is filled. A recruiter gets paid no matter what. This distinction is very important when you’re looking for a job.

While most headhunters are awesome, there are a few bad apples in all professions. And there are a few things that the headhunter doesn’t have control over or even insight into. After all, they are independent professionals who contract with businesses. They aren’t privy to the day to day operations of the company you want to work for.

Here are 10 of the biggest lies you’ll hear from a headhunter.

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11 thoughts on “Applicant, Beware! The 10 Biggest Lies Headhunters Tell You

  1. While I agree with most of these, I would add that the headhunters/recruiters who are guilty of these are the ones who should leave the business to those for whom it is a profession, not a hobby and go find some other job like being a greeter at a big box store.

    Also, many of these are the result of clients who fail to take recruiting seriously let alone actually act on it. I am waiting 5 weeks for feedback from a Fortune 100. USE search “professionals” the right way and we are an invaluable tool. Don’t, and you will just continue to fail.

    “I argue that the reason that quality of hire has not improved in 15 years is because HR has been in-charge. This needs to change. Talent acquisition is as important – if not more important – as any other business function.

    Recruiting needs to report to the CEO or HR needs to report to the head of recruiting! 87% of you will agree. Those that won’t are invested in maintaining the status quo”
    – Lou Adler

  2. Great article! I would add that I have never met a headhunter who didn’t at least tell a minor “fib” if not outright lie. It has gotten to the point that I don’t believe most of what headhunters tell me – I’ll wait until I get to meet the hiring manager to get to the truth.

    Sometimes though, I think it is also the fault of the hiring manager who simply took the previous job description and passed it along to the headhunter/recruiter without updating it! (Like the time I was told to take a Mac usage test, even though the company was no longer using Macs. They were now a PC office and no one bothered to updated the job requirements with HR. I did get hired and then found out that the only Mac left in the office was in HR being used for hiring tests! As the trainer, that was one of my first tasks – get rid of that Mac test)

    As for what the headhunter/recruiter really knows about the job? Forget about it! They only know what they read on a piece of paper; which isn’t much. Far too many times I get done with a phone screening thinking that I just educated them about the job. Now, it may be because my position is a one-of-a-kind – a trainer. This is a type of position that they usually don’t hire for; unlike something like an admin assistant which they might have more experience filling. Some basic training terms, such as ADDIE, they have no idea what they mean.

    It is rather frustrating to think that someone who cannot even describe the job properly is the one making the decision if I make it past the first cut!

  3. As a head hunter, I’m only as good as the information that HR gives me. Those clients who allow me to speak with the hiring manager and get a real feel for the position tend to do better and also I tend to get a truer taste for the job. I find that HR sometimes doesn’t always have a full understanding of what they need, but rather what they think the candidate needs. Or the knowledge that HR has is limited and there fore they are rejecting candidates based on not having some criteria when in reality they have a “higher” criteria than the one listed. I find that most of my problems tend to come on the candidate side where they are less than truthful about their motivation for looking or using me to get an job offer so that they can get a raise at their current job. That is something that drives just about every headhunter crazy. Also, some companies use headhunters as a lotto machine, they pull the handle but really have no serious want to use us unless we happen to present Bill Gates. As a headhunter, you get to know your territory and know which companies are serious about it and which ones are not.

  4. This is more an issue on the employers side, but in my experience and that of several people I know, if the company wants to pay a max of, say 75k for a role and the head hunters fee is 10k, the candidate ends up being offered 65k. So often you get lowballed by not going direct. They say that’s not supposed to happen but it does.

    1. 10k? Stop low balling. We are worth every penny of 25%, 30% and more. Recruiters are the second most important (ok, good ones which are admittedly too rare) person in a company behind the CEO. Without us putting great talent in place, the CEO vision goes nowhere. And if the CEO came from a recruiter, then they are the single most important person in a company. You really need to stop treating them like the enemy

  5. Headhunters are salespeople. If they don’t place candidates into positions at clients, they are soon unemployed. It’s all about generating revenue. No revenue, no job. That said, the extreme pressure to fill client’s positions can lead to a very wide range of unethical behavior. I’ve seen it and have fired recruiters for it, both as the hiring manager and as the applicant.

    Ms. Lucas is more generous than I. My view is that about 20% of recruiters are good. 5% are sleazy. The rest are in the muddled middle and really don’t stand out in any way.

    1. I totally agree with your 20% number and think that may be generous. 5% are nothing but con men (or women) but they really muck things up for us all and the rest are doing it “on their way to a real job”: and really need to go be a waiter or something and stop dirtying up the reputation of us who actually treat it as a career

  6. So, read this article and then thought I would check out some of the links on your site. Went to About Human Resources and looked at the categories. Guess what, not one is about recruiting, working with recruiters or headhunting. That says it all.

    Guess what, until someone gets hired, HR has nothing to do and it does not even rank a category. How funny. Sad, but funny

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