Recruiters, the Good the Bad and the Ugly

My Experience with Recruiters

I recently, for the first time, got a new job through a recruiter, who found me on LinkedIn. I have worked with several different recruiters over the past years with a wide range of results. While I can’t say I worked extensively with all of them, I have gone on several interviews through several different recruiting agencies. I would like to share some of my insights and help you understand how I perceive them to work. Now when I speak about recruiters, I am going to generalize and my opinions are only a reflection of the recruiters I have worked with. There have been some great ones and some horrible ones.

The Ugly

  • They will use you: Some use you to get their client more options when they have no interest in actually placing you and really want to place someone else. This can happen when a company says they need to interview x number of people before making a decision.
  • Not keeping you updated: Some recruiters are really bad at keeping you informed about interview results and positions they have mentioned. A lot of this will stem from my other points. Recruiters can turn unprofessional in a heart beat if they think you are no longer a viable option at the moment. Remember this and do not let it happen again when they call back a few months later begging you to go on another interview.
  • Quality vs quantity: Most recruiters are playing the numbers game. Get as many candidates in front of as many companies and they are bound to get a commission. The problem is they may not always care about the perfect fit and just be looking for any fit.

The Bad

  • What kind of companies use recruiters: I get the feeling, often, and this is probably not always true, but the companies that need to use a recruiter may have one of two problems.
    • The company may be unable to attract talent on their own.
    • The company may have recently had many people leave in a short amount of time.

    Both of these problems should have you asking a lot of questions.

  • Get you a less than perfect job: The recruiters have many openings that they are trying to fill. You are a candidate that could possibly fit. They will try to jam a square peg into a round whole if the position has been open for too long. Just refer to my tip below on being specific.
  • Who pays the recruiter: In my experience the hiring company pays the recruiter a percentage of your starting salary. While this seems to work in your favor it doesn’t always get you the best offer. A recruiter is more interested in a middle ground offer, rather than risk losing the commission altogether. From the book Freakanomicsthe incentives of a real estate agent are shown not to align with a seller’s best interests. The same applies when working with a recruiter.


The Good

  • Large network: Recruiters have many contacts and clients and can get you in front of a lot of different companies. Often you can tell them what company you want to work for and they will help market you to them.
  • Interview advice: They can and often will give you advice throughout the interview process. From interview questions, what the company is looking for in a candidate, and things to avoid. This advice is invaluable and will help guide you in your discussions with the company. This information is perfect for narrowing your research on the company and what to brush up on.
  • Keep you informed: They will often keep you updated throughout the hiring process. Whether you are doing well or terrible, they will let you know how you did and any feedback from the company.
  • Negotiating help: They will act as a middleman while negotiating your salary and benefits. They will help filter out stupid statements you may make and answer questions more openly on possible scenarios. Most people fear having to negotiate a salary, I know I do, but the recruiter helps take that awkwardness out of it. A recruiter is not going to tell the company something that is going to hurt your chances. Just remember a little bit of negotiation is with the recruiter as well.


  • Be specific: In talking with your recruiter, be very specific in what you want in your next job. The better they understand you the better they will be able to find a good fit.
  • Practice interviews: You can use recruiters to get practice interviews. This is especially a good idea if you are rusty or not good at interviewing. Now obviously don’t tell the recruiter you aren’t serious about the particular interview, but who knows you may end up actually wanting the job. So if you are rusty take an interview that you are not completely excited about just to get in a little more interviewing experience.
  • Interview when you don’t need a job: The best time to interview is when you don’t need a job. This gives you time to find a perfect fit as well as being the ultimate leverage when it comes time to negotiating your salary.
  • Don’t give out your current salary info: Never tell the recruiter what you are currently making. Tell the recruiter you want a fair rate that matches the job in question and that your current and past salaries have nothing to do with what you are applying for. The only possible time you may consider telling a recruiter what you currently make, is if you get an offer lower than your current salary and you really, really want that job for whatever none money reasons their may be. In all other circumstances giving out your current or past salary information can only hurt you.
  • Recruiter interview: Most recruiters will want some kind of face time with you before they send you on interviews. This is so they can tell their client they have screened everyone of their candidates and also so they can grade you as well. All recruiters will grade you on their first impression of you on things like perceived intelligence, appearance, and other qualities. Based on this grading they will assign you an overall value and place you in their database. If this grade is low you will probably never hear from them again. Recruiters work from the top of that list as those candidates are more likely to get them a commission. So take this interview seriously!
  • Don’t waste your own time: If you feel a recruiter doesn’t have your best interests in mind and is being unprofessional in any way, stop working with that one. There are so many recruiters out there, just pick a better one, they exist!


Recruiters are a great way to get interviews and handle a lot of the dirty work in the job process, from finding open positions, company research, and negotiating salary. While using a recruiter may not be the best solution to landing a new job it is certainly a viable option. The best way to getting a job is through a referral from your personal network. Just remember a recruiter has their own best interests in mind and those interests may or may not always align with yours!

Let me know about your experiences with recruiters, good and bad, in the comments or on twitter @ScottKerlagon!

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