What I Learned From Dishonest Recruiters
Would most recruiters pass a lie detector test?
Before I became a recruiter myself, I worked for 10 years as an executive/personal assistant to celebrities, CEOs and high net worth families. After a two-year gig working as the Chief of Staff to a high-ranking division of the Saudi royal family, I felt wiped-out and was at a crossroads. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue on my career path; so just to see what was out there in the hidden job market, I went to a number of “prestigious” recruiters in Los Angeles and New York City. I can’t begin to tell you how utterly flabbergasted I was – and I don’t mean that in a good way.
In fact, I was so disappointed with my experience in dealing with shady recruiters that I decided to become a recruiter (headhunter) myself – because I knew there was a better way to do it; namely, with honesty and integrity. Here is a list of just some of the things I learned from dishonest recruiters (of course this doesn’t apply to the entire industry):
Many of the Job Ads Are Fake
I didn’t know it at the time, but I came to learn that many of the job ads that some recruiters post online are totally fake. There is no client; there is no job. Then why would they even bother, you ask?
They want to use you to get to your previous employers. Essentially, your resume is a “sales lead sheet” for potential clients for their firm. All under the guise of “verifying employment,” the recruiter basically introduces themselves to the former employer – wink, smile, elbow nudge – and by the way, if you ever need a firm for a placement, then you know who to call.
HOW TO SPOT THE FAKE ONES: They lack specifics and usually the salary is above average to entice job seekers to submit their resumes.
Most Recruiters Are Sales People, Not Trained HR Professionals
If there is no real job on the table, the recruiter just wants you in their computer so in the off-chance a job actually does come in, they can score a commission because for most recruiters it’s all about hitting the numbers. Many firms’ employees aren’t trained HR professionals, they are actually salespeople. To boot, many of them don’t actually have any experience whatsoever in the field for which they are recruiting.
Actually, it works like this: Employers who want a candidate can sometimes hire several employment agencies at once to get resumes. In short, for recruiters it’s a race to get resumes to employers because many candidates are registered with more than one firm.
This creates a dog-eat-dog approach to scoring commissions. It’s not about “taking your time” and finding the “right fit” as most of their websites boast.
Agencies Can Be Very Impersonal & Unprofessional
The great irony is that many firms brag about being “detail oriented” and giving “special attention,” but it can be totally untrue. In actuality, the agent selling a candidate to a client, sometimes, hasn’t even met the candidate face-to-face because someone else (who is no longer employed at the firm) did it weeks or months ago.
THE REASON: For the big firms with dozens of employees, the turnover can be very high, so dealing with strangers is common. When a “real” job actually does come in, the firm scours their computer system and gets a list of possible matches.
When I was registered with several employment agencies, it was common to get calls from people I had never met, and they would frantically ask me if I could rush over to some office for an interview (the employers are almost always in a BIG hurry, which is a bad sign).
Some Clients That Hire Recruiters Are Just “Tire Kickers”
Because most employment agencies aren’t retained-search (no up-front money), the employers have no stake in the game whatsoever; so they don’t care if they waste anyone’s time. Sometimes the employer is just curious about what candidates are out there in the job market, so they hire a handful of agencies to investigate possibilities – all for the sake of entertainment.
So, basically, the recruiters have you running all over town for weeks (or even months) doing interviews; and it’s all for naught because the employer was never really that serious about hiring anybody in the first place.
Sometimes Recruiters Lie About the Job, Client & Salary
It wasn’t uncommon for me to go on job interviews with an agency’s clients, only to find out that the agent must have been living in an alternate reality to have sent me on the interview in the first place. It all boils down to the fact that some employment agencies are clutching at straws and they’re desperate to get someone in front of the client in the off-chance they may score a commission.
Essentially, it’s an adult-version of the game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Just some of the things I experienced include (remember, I was with “top-notch” agencies):
- Being told the client/job was “amazing” and a “great opportunity,” when in truth the employer burns through candidates in what can only be described as a revolving door from hell. In other words, the recruiter may not care if you’re going to leave a great job and possibly trash your career path when they know deep down there is a good chance that you will be arbitrarily fired in the new position (usually because the boss is impossible to please and/or eccentric – among other things I can’t even mention here).
- Being sent out on interviews where the salary was “negotiable,” when in actual fact the employer was only willing to pay half of what I had been making (of course the agent never disclosed that to me).
- Being told the upward advancement in the job was “limitless,” when in reality it was a dead-end position with no possibility of moving anywhere – even laterally.
- Being offered a part-time-temp position after an interview even though the agent told me it was for a full-time-permanent job.
Dirty Secret: Many Recruiters Make Their (Real) Money from Temps
Some recruiters actually exaggerate a lot about their ability to get you a full-time, permanent position. If you’re unemployed and need some income, temp work can actually be of benefit; but if you read complaints online about recruiters and employment agencies, the candidates usually complain about the fact that they felt taken advantage of and that they were working for much less than they were actually worth.
BEHIND THE SCENES: employment agencies “mark-up” the wage of a candidate so they can take their cut; and nobody should argue that the practice isn’t fair because the agency has to make money; but what candidates don’t like is that there isn’t enough transparency about what the agency is doing with their schedule, wages, and career behind-the-scenes.
FACT: Many employers go to employment agencies because they are desperate for a candidate and it’s a last resort, so they do it until they can find someone on their own. Sure, “temp-to-hire” does exist, but employers don’t like paying the hefty fees that come with hiring someone permanently (through an agency).
My Advice to Job Seekers
In sum, lying in the recruiting industry – for some firms – is standard operating procedure. There are hundreds of stories out there on the web, but one of my very favorite involves a very-well-known celebrity chef. One “reputable” agency (as told by the Los Angeles Times) actually had a personal friend of the firm call to pose as a past employer of a candidate so that the agent could score a commission for a placement.
THE TAKEAWAY: Candidates and employers alike should beware of who they are dealing with. There is a very good reason that many recruiters don’t have biographies listed on their websites.
Make sure you do a lot of research on an agency before you go to see them, especially if you’re currently employed and you don’t want your boss to know you’re looking. If possible, use a retained-search firm that specializes in your field. Retained-search firms weed-out the curious from the serious because employers don’t just drop thousands of dollars on the table to start a search unless they are deadly serious about actually hiring someone (so no “window shoppers” at retained-search firms).
In closing, I want to say that there are many good recruiters out there, so I don’t want to condemn the profession; but just know the really honest ones who actually care about the candidates’ careers are few and far between.
For the record, I regularly turn down opportunities from employers who are going to put my candidates’ careers in jeopardy because, for me, it’s not about the money.
Read more of my featured LinkedIn posts HERE
Brian Daniel is the founder of The Celebrity Personal Assistant Network, which is the world’s only retained-search firm to make placements exclusively for full-time, permanent jobs with high net worth families, celebrities, billionaires and Fortune 500 executives. As a former celebrity assistant and chief of staff to a royal family, Brian is one of the world’s few headhunters that has actual experience in all of the roles that he makes placements for.
He is the author of the book “Dream Careers,” and has been featured in dozens of high-profile media outlets and publications worldwide, including Yahoo!, Aol, Executive PA Magazine and Entrepreneur.