Quality of Recruiters Reaches Record Lows


During my 17-year career in headhunting and corporate talent acquisition, I have seen many changes in the industry, but unfortunately, the average quality of recruiters has never been worse. I recently read an article by a “recruiting expert” that no candidate should make a job change without a 30% pay increase. The “expert” went on to say that recruiters should attract more candidates by telling them they will get a 30% increase.

Let’s be clear: this is an example of a bold marketing claim aimed at grabbing attention on LinkedIn. This is not a sound career strategy and quite frankly represents what’s been going wrong with LinkedIn. It’s another sad sign that most recruiters just don’t get it. Recruiters will say anything to get your attention.

Why Are Recruiters So Bad These Days?

LinkedIn has allowed many bad recruiters to find you. It’s created a degradation of the quality of people calling themselves recruiters. It’s gotten so bad I don’t even want to call myself a recruiter anymore. These days, anyone willing to fork out the cash for a LinkedIn premium account can buy InMail and call themselves a recruiter.

It’s become a race to see who can reach out to the most people on LinkedIn the fastest. These bad recruiters cast nets to try and get people for their clients.

Signs of a Bad Recruiter

In the words of Jim Cramer – “They know nothing.”

  • Last week they were a used car salesmen, this week an engineering recruiter.

WRONG—It takes years to learn this business.

  • They claim that recruiting is recruiting, and they lack any knowledge of your market, industry, or function.

WRONG—How can they be a consultant and coach for your career without knowledge?

They make bold claims without data to back it up.

  • They promise large pay increases and big promotions.
  • They promise the most “amazing” company – “Hiring Exposition.”

Good recruiters make interesting claims based on data and market knowledge.

They are here today and gone tomorrow.

  • It takes years to learn a market.
  • They spam people on LinkedIn with jobs that don’t make sense.
  • They lack the expertise or attention to approach you with the “right” opportunities.

They have an ethically questionable approach:

  • Lie
  • Push their own agenda
  • Don’t listen to you or help you with what you need
  • Make promises they don’t keep
  • Advise you to do things that don’t feel right

Common Attributes of the Best Recruiters

In my book, This Book Will Get You Hired, I explain how you can pick the good recruiters and identify whether a recruiter can actually help you.

In this tidal wave of horrible recruiters, there still are some real headhunters out there. Here are a few things to remember about the best ones:

Market expertise

  • They have deep market knowledge of your industry.
  • They have a strong reputation and brand and have been in business for years.
  • They have relationships with key companies, leaders, and high-performing candidates.
  • They know the jobs that aren’t posted and the candidates who are not looking.

High-integrity, long-term approach

  • They don’t just focus on filling a job—they strive to build relationships.
  • They will say what they do and do what they say.
  • They have an unbiased approach to companies and candidates, and they believe in being a “neutral market maker.”
  • They tell you the truth, good or bad.

They don’t just rely on LinkedIn.

  • They maintain their own market intelligence database.
  • They personally call, text, or e-mail you on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line

Finding good recruiters has never been harder. You must invest more time weeding through the horrible ones to find the true headhunters, but do not despair. If you’re a great candidate, an amazing headhunter can be a powerful ally in your career. Use people you trust to give you recommendations and listen attentively to the person who calls you. They may just be a real headhunter.

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