How can you tell if a recruiter is shit?

It's easy to know if a recruiter is good but how do you know if one is terrible?

There are a bunch of blogs out there on why you should use a recruiter, why recruiters are awesome, what makes recruiters awesome. Many of them are perfectly good articles and make solid points but they’re mostly on recruitment websites so the general point of the blog is “so anywaaay, send me your CV”

I know this because I’ve written dozens of blogs on job hunting and recruitment topics and the hidden secret topic was always “send me your CV”  (I always want your CV.) There’s also about a million blogs/tweets/angry forum posts about the shit things recruiters do.

suck meter

HOW do you tell though if your recruiter is shit and you should bail?A shit recruiter SUUUUUCKS so much. At best, they’re vaguely incompetent. At worst, they’re destructive to the reputation of the client they’re representing, your reputation as a candidate, and could basically be replaced by a small Perl script.Shit recruiters make me so angry, they cost me candidates and cost me business.

When I go to tech events, I can expect to talk about recruitment some of the time after I introduce myself. However, I have to defend my industry in a way that I don’t think many other industries do. The stereotype is that people hate lawyers but few people will ask “Why are all of you so shit?” straight up to their face!

These are the dark signs of shittiness. As they say in Criminal Minds, a profile is just a guide. There are no absolutes… And a really amazing job might be worth handling a little shit to start with.

1) Their initial contact shows they haven’t read your CV/profileYou know the ones. They ask if you want to work as a Chef in Alaska when you’re a Build and Release Engineer.  They’re basically keyword regurgitators – stick a list generated by one of the handy tools for recruiters into LinkedIn, select all. Boom, InMail Cannon.The InMail cannon does work, if you don’t mind annoying 200 people to land 5 CV’s that might be ok.This type of recruiter will make money on nice, solid, roles. However, They will not be capable of hiring into the top level companies with incredible products and hugely talented teams to learn from. They just won’t be able to attract the type of candidate who is able to secure that job.

2) They don’t know the clientIt’s hugely important to understand the client, their product, their culture. It’s all an intricate web. The job spec on paper isn’t necessarily 100% of what the client is looking for. If it’s a start-up, just getting off the ground, someone who is coming out of 10 years in a huge multinational may not be a great fit. Start-ups are ‘fast-paced’ (say goodbye to your front door, you’ll be working all hours from now on) and will likely have a pretty flat operational structure. (the CEO is someone you can holler at from your desk, not a mysterious shadowy figure several levels up on some org chart)This (imaginary) person might be awesome in this (imaginary) job but a good recruiter totally needs to address that issue.Your recruiter should get a sense of your expectations from a job. Do you need to be pushed, to work at pace all the time? Do you want a structured environment with leaders who mentor? Having the skills on paper is only a part of the puzzle.

3) They don’t know anything/very little about the technology set.I do actually feel bad about this sometimes. I’ve known amazing recruiters who are basically incapable of troubleshooting an unplugged monitor.However, tech recruitment is crazy competitive. Recruiters as a species need to compete with massive internal recruitment teams and online platforms which weed out human recruiters altogether.A software platform can easily keyword match and forward CV’s to clients. The core of my job is the subtle matching of backgrounds to jobs, prepping people for interviews on a personal basis, negotiating salaries. Recruiters NEED to know what technologies do, how they fit together. Sure, the client says they’re flexible on what language the dev knows. However, if they’re all about Python, an embedded C developer is going to find it hard to make that jump. I’m better off starting my search with talking to developers working on similar applications. These people will be more likely to be interested, if nothing else.

4) They’re insincere. You know the mails. They have that creepy serial killer vibe.

“Hi $Human, I came across your CV and had to contact you! I hope you don’t mind this email. I have an amazing role with a great company and you would be a perfect fit!!”

C’mon dude. The role might be objectively amazing but you don’t know if anyone is a perfect fit til you’ve talked to them for a bit. It might turn out that they’re morally opposed to using git for version control. They might be violently allergic to people with beards.If you do end up on a call with them, you feel like every sentence ends with a hollow exclamation point. They’re not really listening to what you’re saying, they’re just waiting for their turn to talk. And by talk, I mean talk you into this role whether you want it or not.You could say that the location doesn’t suit because it’s an 8 hour commute in city traffic and they’ll say “It’s actually only 45 minutes via the motorway!!!” (which is technically true, if you take that route at 3am, on Christmas Day)

This is probably the worst one. If a recruiter has passion for the job and they really care about their candidates, not knowing the technologies or being inexperienced with the clients, or even just being shitty with how they reach out to you can be forgiven.But if they appear to be a hollow shape in suit, mouthing a script, as they stare into the all consuming void. Run away. Run far away from their dark embrace.

Relationships are the most important part of recruitment for me. I go in HARD for my candidates. I want to get you everything you want. I want you to still feel happy with the service even if you didn’t get/take the job.  Insincere recruiters don’t give a fuuuuuuck. They’ll have a database of candidates and might bring up a previous interaction for a bit of leverage but there’s nothing inside.

I mean, I’m evil but I’m not evil evil.

If you spot these signs in your recruiter, tread warily. Lots of other stuff goes into making a shit recruiter but these are the early symptoms. Decide if the job is worth the hassle and if it’s not, just bail. Give your business to recruiters who care.

In conclusion, please give me your CV.