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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

5 Things That Drive Recruiters Crazy (and How to Avoid Them)


Love us or hate us, recruiters typically have the connection, the ear, and the trust of the very decision makers you’re dying to impress. In fact, said decision makers pay us to bring them the right candidates, which means that partnering up with influential recruiters can dramatically accelerate your job search. (More on that, here.)

If you play your cards right.

On the other hand, irritating us (intentionally or unintentionally) can bring the operation to a screeching halt.

So, if you’re planning to—or currently—work with a recruiter, you should learn how to make the most out of the relationship.

Here are five things recruiters commonly complain about—and how to avoid them.

1. Dishonesty

When we contact you about a specific opening and you’re kind of lukewarm about it (or on the fence about changing jobs at all), it’s OK to tell us this. We would much rather know where you’re at up front, rather than go all the way through the process only to have you say, “Oh, hey—I don’t really love this opportunity. I’m just going to keep my current job.”

Feigning interest—even if you’re simply trying to be polite—doesn’t benefit anyone in the equation. It wastes your time, our time, and hiring managers’ time.

Likewise, if you have another possible opportunity on the table—one that will compete with our client’s opening—please tell us. If we have an honest and complete picture of you, your interest, and your circumstances, we can best represent you through the process (and not look like a moron through the eyes of our client if you pull a fast one on us).

2. Applying for the Same Job Directly

Good recruiters will ask you early on in the process, “Have you ever applied for a job at or interviewed with this company?” We ask this because, if the hiring company already has your information on file, we will more than likely be ineligible to represent you. Why would they pay us to “find” you if, in fact, you’ve already introduced yourself to the same company?

Similarly, if we discuss a position with you and agree to introduce you to the client, please don’t race out that afternoon and apply for the very job we’ve just talked about “for good measure.” Always remember that recruiters are paid to introduce talent to our corporate clients. If you trump our ability to do this after we’ve shared an opportunity with you? You might be on the express train to our “blackball” list.

3. Cancelling at the Last Minute

Sure, we understand that things come up. Emergencies happen, absolutely. But if you decide at 2 PM on a Thursday that your 2:30 interview time sort of puts a crimp in your day, we’re not going to be happy. Your move will also then make our clients disappointed in us, because we’ve just wasted their time.

When you commit to an interview with one of our clients, we’re relying on you to show up, on time and fully prepared. If you have any doubt that the timing will work, alert us in advance so that we can arrange an alternative.

4. Thinking it’s in the Bag

My grandmother used to always say, “Close doesn’t count, except in horse shoes.” (I now know the phrase includes “… and hand grenades.” My grandma spared my eight-year-old ears that part.)

Close certainly doesn’t count when attempting to land a new job. I’ve seen some spectacular crash-and-burn moments among candidates who assumed they had the job offer in the bag before they actually did. The most memorable of these moments, by the way, was the time the frontrunner made a Rogaine crack to the bald interviewer, seconds before he was going to receive a job offer.

(He did not get the job offer.)

Even if a recruiter shares exuberantly that you’re this close to landing the job, you absolutely must go the distance performance wise, all the way through the interview process. You’re still interviewing until you have a written offer in hand.

5. Going Around the Recruiter

When a recruiter finds you, introduces you to an opportunity, gets your buy-in on working together, and then submits you to the employer for consideration, she sort of considers you “hers,” at least so long as this particular opportunity goes. If you then go around her and contact the employer directly, without first discussing your plan with the recruiter? She will be annoyed.

If you feel like a recruiter isn’t being timely or is not representing you well, you should first attempt to discuss this with her directly. If you get nowhere, your next step is to contact the department manager or the agency’s leader. Dialing up employers directly when they’ve already commissioned recruiters to help will more often than not backfire on you. They’ve hired the recruiters for a reason: to work with you.

Recruiter relationships can be fruitful and rewarding, especially when you get a great one. Just (pretty please) accept that you have a role in the relationship and the process. And, whether you love or hate us, realize that recruiters have both power—and feelings.

Photo of job seekers courtesy of Shutterstock.