Why people hate recruiters

We recently wrote a blog post on misconceptions about recruiters and noted that the first suggestion that pops up in the Google dropdown menu when we type “recruiters are…” (in incognito mode) is “trash.”

In that blog we addressed some of the misconceptions that have led to this reputation. But we thought we would explore the topic further, and look into some of the real reasons people have such negative opinions of our industry.

Our firm focuses on Rec2Rec, or recruiting for recruiting firms, so we think we have a pretty good bird’s eye view of some of these stigmas and ideas about what we can do about them. If you’ve ever wondered why people hate recruiters, read on!

“Recruiters are pests…”

A 2019 survey (via Dice) asked technology professionals what annoyed them most about how recruiters reached out about jobs, and a majority responded that they hate cold calls.

People also complain that recruiters don’t take no for an answer and will often harass them with unwanted communications in an effort to fill quotas or build talent pipelines with no regard for whether the person has any interest in being recruited. We should know when to stop and when to take no for an answer. This should be a no brainer. Persistence can be admirable in some areas, but it is not in this one.

“Recruiters don’t do their homework…”

A user on the website Quora answered the question “What do you hate most about recruiters?” with the following:

“Some recruiters contact you saying your profile is perfect for the role they’re trying to fill and then when you go for the interview, they reject you saying they were looking for someone with 6–10 years of experience and you don’t have enough. Did the 1 year + 6 months clearly written on my resume deceive you?”

People get tired of being contacted for jobs for which they are totally unsuited and/or that are either a side step or a step down, rather than a step up. Do your homework on candidates, particularly passive ones, to learn if they are going to be interested in a role before pitching it to them. Otherwise, you’re basically just wasting everyone’s time and building a bad reputation for yourself.

“Recruiters don’t communicate through the process…”

One of the most common complaints we hear about recruiters in our practice is that the communication is lacking. The candidate might not be adequately prepared for the interview or the ball is dropped halfway through the process.

Recruiters have to be good communicators. This means staying in touch, sharing what you know (and don’t know) about job requirements and employer expectations, and keeping people updated. Job candidates are sick of being kept in the dark throughout the recruitment and hiring process. If you know something that the candidate should know, communicate that to them. Be clear with what you have to say and don’t leave people guessing.

“Recruiters overpromise and underdeliver…”

Responses to the question of “why recruiters suck” on Reddit consisted of variations on the following: “Misleading job descriptions, Misleading compensation, Misleading/false promises.”

Many recruiters make promises the can’t keep in order to get people into their candidates pools. Don’t do this. It’s always better to under-promise and overdeliver than it is to do the opposite. Don’t promise high-paying, senior management roles with amazing work-life balance if you can’t live up to that expectation. Or, a more common mistake, don’t tell candidates a decision is going to be made and that they will hear from you in one week when that is likely not the case. This is frustrating and disappointing for candidates and leads them to distrust you.

Manage expectations. Be realistic in your promises or, even better, be just slightly pessimistic and promise a little less than you think you can do. That way, when the offer comes in early or is better than what the candidate expects, they will be thrilled with what you have done for them.

“Recruiters are always ghosting…”

The same Quora user referenced above also wrote: “THEY DON’T GET BACK TO YOU AFTER THE INTERVIEW: This is the most freaking irritating thing recruiters do. Before the interview, they respond to you within seconds, always follow up, send you reminders, respond to even stupid questions and what not. After the interview? PIN-DROP silence.”

This may be the biggest complaint of them all. Ghosting is increasingly common these days and, while there has been a seemingly endless amount of talk about it, the situation doesn’t seem to be changing. People are tired of getting ghosted and they will hate you for it. We get it, you’re busy. And sometimes it can be difficult communicating to people that they didn’t get the job. But it should be done and in a timely fashion. Leaving people hanging is cruel and it is rude. Be kind and be professional. Follow up.

“Recruiters don’t care about you…”

At the end of the day, when you do an online search about why people hate recruiters, it comes down to people thinking recruiters are playing a numbers game, that we’re in it for the money, that we don’t do our research or actually care about what they need or are looking for a job. Obviously, good recruiters care.

Candidates should feel supported by recruiters and they should feel heard. If a client is making unreasonable demands, conducting too many interviews, taking too long, lowballing on offers, or doing something else that is making the process unnecessarily difficult, you should be asking yourself if this client is worth the time and effort of creating a bad candidate experience. People talk, and if they have a bad experience with you, they will tell their friends to stay away. Clients should be steered away from being unreasonable or overdemanding and candidates should know that you have their backs.

Keep communication lines open, be a good listener, pay attention to what people want and manage expectations. Show you care.

What can the recruitment industry do to change these perceptions? Be visibly better and vocal about unacceptable practices. There are a lot of great recruiters out there. Make sure people know it.

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