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Confessions of a Recruiter: What Candidates Should Watch Out For


Confession: Before becoming a journalist and covering financial careers, I spent nearly four years as a recruiter.

Generally speaking, most recruiters are moral and trustworthy. But everyone uses a few tricks to improve their chances of inking contracts with clients and making money. Here are a few that you should look out for, as well as a piece of general advice for when you should enlist the help of a recruiter.

Trick: Giving Away Leads

Any recruiter worth their salt looks for ways to drum up new business. Many recruiters are trained to ask candidates: “Where else are you looking?” This sounds harmless enough, but be careful what information you’re giving away.

For example, let’s say you just completed a first interview with a small hedge fund. You mention this to a recruiter.  If you give a recruiter the name of the firm and details on the job, the first thing they’ll do after chatting with you – if they’re trained correctly – is to call the company you just interviewed and then send them the resumes of candidates on their books.

If you are not interested in the company after an interview, feel free to pass the information on to a recruiter you are working with – it’ll likely put you in their good graces – but otherwise be careful of casual-sounding questions meant to make you tip your hand. And don’t feel badly telling recruiters that you would rather not discuss your other options. They hear it all the time.

Trick: References

Most jobs require references, that much is obvious. But be leery of providing references to recruiters before you feel it is absolutely necessary. Most references are hiring managers – prime targets for recruiters who are looking for new positions to work on.

If you provide your references to every recruiter you’re working with, don’t be surprised if your former bosses are soon calling you with complaints.  A recruiter walks through your background with your former boss, and then, at the very end, asks the inevitable question: “Are there any jobs that we can help you fill?”

Do your best to keep your references private until you’re at the offer stage of the process, lest you frustrate your former bosses and get on their bad side.

Watch out for: Contract Roles

With the cost of benefits rising, many firms have become more reluctant to offer full-time, salaried positions to employees. Instead, companies will reach out to recruiters and ask them to find candidates who are willing to be paid on an hourly, daily or weekly rate.

You’ll technically be employed by the recruiting company – even if you’ve never stepped foot in their building – and will be put on their payroll. This can create sticky situations.

More often than not, a hiring company and a recruiting firm will agree on a working rate: what you get paid; and a billing rate: what the recruiter charges their client. The difference is usually based off of a static percentage, say 25%. As an example, the search firm will pay you $100 an hour and then bill the client $125, making $25 for every hour you work, minus the cost of payroll taxes and some mandatory benefits like worker’s compensation. Everything is transparent, and there are no issues.

However, things can get difficult when the hiring company doesn’t know or agree to your working rate. This happens more often than you’d think. For example, you may find out that the firm is billing $125 an hour for your services and telling the client it’s paying you $100 an hour when you’re only receiving $80 an hour.  It may sound crazy, but it happens.

Ask questions of the staffing company and the firm you’ll be working with. Make sure everything in terms of salary is transparent before accepting an offer.

What you Need to Remember about Recruiters 

The role of a recruiter, at its essence, is to provide a hiring company with the perfect candidate – not just a quality person who can grow into the role. Knowing that can help eliminate some of the frustration that occurs when you’re working with recruiters, who are often blamed for not being as attentive as they could.

If you don’t have a near spot-on resume for the job in question, you probably won’t have much success with a recruiter. As highly as they can recommend you personally, their value is identifying a hard-to-find skillset, along with the right personality of course.

If you’ve spent the last 10 years in commodities trading and are looking to make the move to wealth management, don’t bother ringing a recruiter. The easiest way to lose a client is by sending in a resume that doesn’t remotely fit the job opening. If a recruiter is smart, they won’t be submitting your resume – no matter how well you say you can make the transition.

Only ping recruiters about jobs that fit your background, and they’ll do the rest. If you want a job that’s different to anything you’ve done before, use your network. And don’t blame recruiters when they can’t help out.

Comments (21)

  1. Highly successful recruiters rarely leave the business. I guess there is a reason this individual is a journalist and not a recruiter any more. Enough said!!!

  2. If a recruiter is smart, then they would get out of the business because it’s a dead end job.

  3. eF, why are so few comments nowadays? What’s happening, before there used to be 20-30 comments on each article related to recruitment?

  4. Refreshingly straight-talking

  5. Good point Mystery, Sarah please can you answer why the comments have reduced. There used to be bantor about what is the new Goldman Sachs and teasing an arrogant guy called Henry. What has happened here, efinancialcareers is no longer the soap opera for the finance industry that it used to be!

  6. Some good points made.

    Another point to watch out for is that recruiters often know very little about the position they’re recruiting for. Therefore, if the words on your cv don’t match those on the job spec, they won’t forward your cv, even if in actual fact you’d be a good fit for the position.

  7. Good article, for once

  8. @Curious and @Mystery – comments died when we made it mandatory for people to login before they left comments around a 15 months ago. We kept this system in place for a year, before relaxing it recently. Comments are only now building up again…

  9. Some people on this page talk a lot of crap about recruiting. I expect they spend most of their lives talking crap.
    If you’ve got a couple of days I can give you plenty of examples of job seekers behaving incredibly badly. Some jobseekers seem to get very frustrated when they don’t get the job that they are applying for based on lack of appropriate experience and some others decide that they are no longer willing to accept a two year contract being asked ten times on the previous month if they have thought it through , shall I go on?
    Show me another example of where a person will help you pursue your life goals dedicating their time and efforts to you with no payment from you and no guarantee from you that you will accept whatever employment is oranised for you. Recruiters essentially place a lot of trust in candidates and hope they will behave in an appropriate way, I have to say sadly this is not the case a lot of the time. Everybody does what suits them at the end of the day with no regard for anybody else, and if a recruiter has dedicated two weeks of their time helping you and you get a contract from other source, well thats just too bad for the recruiter.
    I have made between 200 and 300AUD per year over the last fifteen years and I work about 50 hours per week, I dont have to worry about being made redundant by someone I’ve never met in a far away office after working very hard all year. I have a great deal more freedom in my working life than all the candidates that I meet, who are working in the pit of despair sometimes referred as financial services.

  10. This guy has obviously failed in recruitment due to a lack of understanding of the business. To be a top headhunter you must be tuned into the flow of information in your sector, otherwise why would candidates use a headhunter who doesnt know anything? This site is becoming less and less useful due to the consistant negative articles about recruiters, strange given how much revenue we generate for it. I dont subscribe to it anymore to to the generally poor level of candidates generated and the consistant negative articles about recruiters

  11. I am a 28 year old recruiter. I command a salary of over £150k per year. I spend Friday afternoons in the pub. I didn’t spend endless years studying maths at university and playing around with Excel. I just have a good time and earn loads of money. Ask yourselves – who is the really smart one?

  12. sounds like John Gough should have been named John Grouch.

  13. I can’t believe this guy has given up all of our secrets! What am I going to do without knowing the name of their boss? How on Earth will I generate money without knowing where he is interviewing!?
    I don’t think I will ever sleep at night again. Looks like a career in internal recruitment looms.

    Alternatively, I can just know my market well and not rely on candidates to give me this information.

  14. The FS recruitment industry has exploded into an unregulated, infected and incestuous joke. Use them at your own risk and learn to sniff them out quickly, especially the technologist recruiters who have every trick up their sleeves. Hopefully, the likes of The King will soon end his short and useless recruitment life run over by a truck whilst walking back from a friday pub session. Sadly many of these despicable migratory characters from the motherland are also circulating the Australian recruitment scene. We need a clean up here!!

  15. The one comment I’ve not seen is that HR employees – on both side of the fence – have not only the integrity – but the intelligence- of politicians. In the sense of not only a sense of bereft, but also, as a result of that dearth, the mentality of VINES.

    Possibly orangs, but that might be a, ahen, LEAP.

  16. Only unscrupulous executive recruiters will find out where a candidate is interviewing and then send in resumes for the position.

    Yes, I have clients. I also have strong relationships with candidates and would never seek to break their trust.

  17. Why would eFinancialCareers publish a piece on recruiting from Tuttle who was in the industry for a few years and failed at recruiting? This is a blow to eFinancialCareers credibility. Worthless piece of writing.

  18. Mr. Tuttle’s professional profile on LinkedIn does not reflect any history of professional experience in recruiting.

  19. Hair gel
    Square toed shoes
    Nylon suit
    Marshes accent

    Nuf said.

    DAMN! it feels good to be a banker Reply
  20. Good article, I wish I read this earlier. Often I get call from recruiters – specifically recruiter from UK location targeting US candidate, often they inform a fake position (I was asked for a GS position at different location, since I worked in same area in GS before, I know the position is in a different office/location) and ask for where u interviewed. I asked them ‘Why u want to know?’ Another issue, they post fake position (in EFC & other broads) not sure how best to spot that.

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