Haters Gonna Hate: 5 Reasons Why People Really Don’t Like Recruiters

2014-11-04_06-14-42It’s no secret that most recruiters out there get a pretty bad rep.  Some of this is deserved, of course; some of it is not – but whether public perception actually reflects recruitment reality doesn’t change the fact that for most job seekers out there, the fact of the matter is that recruiters are the vocational equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield: we get no respect.

This is too bad, considering the critical role that recruiters play in helping clients build better businesses, and candidates build better careers – outcomes that, for whatever reason, seem to go largely ignored in the daily grind of the talent frontlines.  You’d think that the person responsible for finding the perfect fit for an open job or presenting the right opportunity to the right candidate would be approached with more appreciation than animosity, but let’s face the facts: most people really, really don’t like recruiters.

Candidate Experience: 5 Reasons Why Don’t Really Like Recruiters

Most of us have long ago accepted this as something of an occupational hazard, taking the fact that we’re not largely liked for granted – or at least with a grain of salt.  That’s why it’s important to take a step back and considering why, exactly, it is that people don’t really like recruiters.  The following five truths should be self-evident – but an important reminder of what we all could be doing to better serve our clients, coworkers and candidates – and, hopefully, our professional reputation.

fe7f325a48e14f5e20ad9a72edf7970970b333be3c1aef565c1b705ff29d68231. They’re Onto You – And See Past Your Facade.

Candidates know that when it comes to priorities, they’re at the bottom of a three-tier pyramid.  Recruiters spend most of their time managing internal relationships and ensuring that their employer is happy; after all, it’s hard to make a living in recruitment if the people paying you don’t like you.  A close second is ensuring that the hiring managers and clients recruiters work with actually like doing so, too – making hires is hard enough without adding an unnecessary layer of resistance from the key decision makers serving as the ultimate arbiters of recruitment success.

Making sure these stakeholders are satisfied often requires an inordinate amount of time and effort, relegating candidates – those people in the process who don’t directly pay you – to the bottom of the pile.

That’s why candidate experience might be a hot buzzword, but has emerged as such a persistent problem because what little effort recruiters actually expend on candidates comes across as artificial, forced and impersonal.  Candidates know it.  And they hate you for it – after all, they’re putting their professional lives in your personal care, and you couldn’t personally care less.

The fallacy of this too common recruiting reality is the fact that candidates are as essential to making placements and getting paid as any other key stakeholder; it’s impossible to close a requisition without first closing candidates.  Their value to recruiters and the employers they represent is inherent; after all, to cite the old cliche, these are every company’s greatest asset.  That’s why treating many candidates like they’re worthless is not only wrong, but incredibly misinformed – they are, in fact, the most critical currency for every recruiter.  Show them you not only recognize their value, but that you’re willing to do what it takes to ensure that value is realized throughout the recruitment process.

dd13edd29a5d8498830ef502ceee9e61cf3b82f81c9b2f8a1bde47a08d7354722. You Never Called Them Back (Or At A Time Where They Could Talk)

Recruiters often come across hot and heavy during an initial candidate interaction, particularly when they think that one is strong enough to lead to a potential placement.

Every conversation during the screening and selection process ends with a promise to follow up on next steps, but the moment a candidate status gets stuck in stasis, all communications seem to suddenly cease.  You know the drill:

“Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.  Feel free to contact me with any questions in the meantime, but I’ll be in touch next week to discuss the outcome of the interview and go over next steps.”

And then, crickets.  The week passes, and candidates never hear another word from you – which often exacerbates an already poor experience by opening the door to an opportunity, but never bothering to close it once the candidate is no longer under consideration.  Candidates have a right to know when they’re rejected.  There’s nothing worse than leaving them in the lurch and ignoring them entirely the minute that you decide to proceed with another candidate in the process.

It’s obvious why candidates still under consideration are treated with consideration, but ignoring the ones who aren’t moving forward can come back to bite you.  Sure, as a recruiter with reqs to fill, you might not care, but your candidates certainly do – and they’ll likely resent you, your company, and likely, the recruitment industry as a whole.  The more people burned by unresponsive or unprofessional recruiters, the harder finding, attracting and engaging the candidates will be.  In the long run, you lose.

Another pervasive pet peeve is that when recruiters actually do reach out to candidates, it’s always on their time – which is rarely the best time for candidates. We all want those elusive “passive” candidates, but if they fit the bill, that means that inherently, they’ve already got jobs to do.  They’re unlikely to be responsive to unscheduled or intrusive calls or communications while they’re at work, given the difficulty and sensitivity of having recruiting-related conversations in the office.

Of course, it’s rarely a good time for recruiters when candidates actually have the time, which often leads to poor communications, extended games of phone tag and often, losing out on top talent because the lack of scheduling flexibility or delayed response time can kill a candidate’s interest.

Constantly trying to reach a candidate at work can also put their jobs in jeopardy by sending implicit or explicit signs that an employee might be looking – and they’ll hate you for it. In recruiting, like real estate, timing is everything.

a3. Candidates Know You’re Getting Paid For Placements

Even if you’re not a contingency recruiter or search firm, there’s a pervasive belief that all recruiters operate entirely off a commission-based model, which means that job seekers often feel more like chattel than candidates.  We’ve all been there before. We’re trying to convince a candidate that an opportunity we’re representing would be perfect for them, and tend to ignore any pushback, even if it’s pretty clear that, in fact, they’re not necessarily qualified, available or even interested.

After all, recruiters see overcoming objections as a badge of honor instead of badgering – and there are only so many strategies for getting a candidate who’s cool on your job to reconsider or rethink an opportunity.

That doesn’t stop us – and most of the time, recruiters start sounding like pushy salesmen, which reinforces the candidate misperception that most of us don’t see them as anything more than a commission – even if you’re a corporate recruiter.

And there’s nothing people hate more than an overly aggressive salesman.  Particularly when lives – and livelihoods – are concerned, as is the case in recruiting and hiring

images (16)4.  They Are The Only Candidates Who Should Matter

Fair enough – this one isn’t actually the recruiters’ fault.  But since candidates trust recruiters to find them a job, and recruiting relies heavily on playing to candidate’s egos and convincing them that they’re needed, this means that when you succeed in the goal of making a potential new hire feel special, this often creates a sense of entitlement that’s impossible to overcome.

Candidates, particularly those with experience and expertise that’s in high demand, often know the power dynamic inherent to the laws of supply and demand should equate to the ability to supply demands that are too demanding for many recruiters to meet.

But no matter how many other candidates you’re working with or how many requisitions you might have open at any moment, most top talent doesn’t care – that’s not their problem.

Their only interest is self-interest, which makes engagement critical.  That’s why setting expectations around engagement is critically important to any successful recruiting relationship.  If you can deliver on those expectations and live up to your end of the deal, chances are candidates will, too – and creating boundaries almost always creates respect while minimizing recruiting resistance throughout the process.

5.  You Don’t Understand What A Candidate Actually Does

3571330520_221549a143In today’s age of automation and the ease of mass communications, it’s increasingly common for recruiters to reach out to professionals whose only qualifications for a position are that their profile or resume happens to contain a particular keyword or relevant search term.

Blasting irrelevant jobs out with the false belief that quantity of outreach beats quality of engagement means more and more, even the most relevant messages get ignored or lost in a sea of unsolicited, unrelated recruitment communications.

Even after a candidate is successfully identified and enters the hiring process, recruiters risk turning candidates off during the screening process because it becomes readily apparent that they have no idea what they’re looking for, or any clue about the industry they’re recruiting in.

Which makes it pretty hard for a job seeker to trust their careers with someone who doesn’t know the first thing about careers in their sector.

For example, if during a screen, a marketing candidate has made it clear that they’re looking to make the next move after a long stint as an SEO executive, and you’re still pitching them on a content marketing role, it’s clear that you know nothing about digital marketing, given how drastically different these roles and career paths really are – even if they happen to sit in the same department or share space on an org chart.

This is why it’s important not only to know the company you’re representing and the candidate you’re targeting, but also the industry you’re recruiting for. Doing due diligence on the kinds of roles, requirements and responsibilities unique to each job as well as how they fit within the larger sector and competitive landscape is an overlooked, but essential, research requirement for recruiting success.

It not only helps build trust by building credibility, but also ensures that you don’t spam candidates with irrelevant opportunities or waste your time reaching out or presenting candidates who don’t even remotely resemble the requirements for a particular requisition.

Good recruiters know that candidate experience and successful outcomes are inexorably intertwined – and that genuinely caring about candidates pays off in both hires and good will.  If you realize that your outcome isn’t related to days-to-fill, a placement fee or any metric other than the fact that your job is placing the perfect candidate into the perfect role, then you’re recruiting for the right reasons.

When you define your success by the success of your candidates, then rest assured that you’re probably one of those rare recruiters who candidates don’t really hate, after all.  What’s not to like about that?

Read More at the Black Coffee Blog.

ronan-gay2About the Author: Ronan Gay has previously worked as a freelancer and editorial assistant before joining 4MAT. Having graduated with a First in Classics, Ronan adds his passion for writing to 4MAT’s growing content marketing department. Whilst at university, he devoted himself to playing sports, debating and poker.

He has an understated interest in business practice, having started up and sold the successful ‘University of Birmingham Memes’ Facebook page, amongst other projects including running a school tuck shop and a university ice cream business.   In his role as a Content Writer, Ronan is responsible for the production and curation of written, video and photographical work.

Follow Ronan on Twitter @RonanUK or connect with him on LinkedIn.


  • I would say it is all about the company, and the recruiters that work there! Do I agree that SOME recruiters don’t care, care only about the money, don’t follow up, don’t understand, etc., ABSOLUTELY… The company I work for broke away from the BIG names, and started their own! We do care about the candidates, and the clients!

    • A good point – I’ve (anecdotally) noticed a rise in people touting themselves as ‘ethical recruiters’. If this is in response to the low regard for recruiters, then I am all for it…as long as they act on their word!

      • Pete Radloff

        And I think that this can all be said about agency/firm or corporate recruiters. What’s sad is that people need to brand themselves as “ethical” to have some cred (from their perception). Not sure we’ll ever be able to change the entire view of the profession, but we can change the perception of ourselves to others.

        Really liked this Ronan. Good stuff.

  • This is a perennial favorite topic. The reality is, whatever it is that you do for a living, some people will not like you. No matter how good you are at what you do, some people will hate you. No matter how nice you are, or how successful you are, there will be people who demean you. In my mind, the best a recruiter can do is to do the best possible job recruiting that they are capable of. Treat candidates well. Be fair. Listen carefully. Strive to bring both parties together. Be encouraging.

    Even if you are Jesus Christ (historically speaking), there will still be people who are haters. I use that as an example, because I’m not too aware of anyone persecuting Buddha, although Moses certainly had his detractors.

    “You can’t please all the people all the time.” But, you can focus on pleasing the people who are receptive to it and willing to accommodate your input and assistance.

  • Pingback: Haters Gonna Hate: 5 Reasons Why People Really Don’t Like Recruiters - openreq()

  • Pingback: Haters Gonna Hate: 5 Reasons Why People Really Don’t Like Recruiters | Techly()

  • Adt92

    I have nothing but sympathy for recruiters…juggling candidates and hiring manager expectations can be challenging…its understandable that each player wants to be treated like they are the ‘only customer,’…but that makes life hard on the recruiter.

    • Fern

      Then you must also have sympathy for used car salesman

      • Adt92

        @ Fern…no I don’t have any sympathy for you.

        • Fern

          wow thats so clever ADt92. And to think, it only took you a month to come up with that

          • Adt92

            I just don’t check often…Im not obsessed with comment section minutia…’oooh who commented on my comment’…its silly- go bug someone else.

    • Crunch Stick

      No thank you. You may as well have sympathy for the devil and lately the devil gets my vote. Recruiters have zero respect in my book. I don’t think recruiters care one bit about me, my livelihood or my life that they hold in their slimy paws. I’ve had recruiters contact me, leave a voice mail, I can’t answer on the job so 20 minutes later I call them and they don’t answer, I write them, still nothing, so I contact their employer and complain. 2 weeks later, that same sleaze ball recruiter calls back claiming he has no recollection that he called me. He should have not called because calling back with such a lame excuse only proved that he lied and poorly at that. I also get recruiters calling me for jobs 1,000 miles away for jobs without travel expenses or relocation assistance…yet expect me to take it! And while recruiters, who know nothing about maps are looking at my profile on Monster or many other sites, they should notice the section that lists cities that I’m willing to work or relocate to. You poor person, you really need to get out more!

  • Pingback: Revue de presse - Totems et tabous du recrutement innovant - #rmsnews()

  • Creative 925

    yeah this is a favorite topic – bash the recruiter. honestly I am tired of seeing posts on linkedin and such with people venting their frustration and placing all the blame on recruiters. yes there are bad recruiters and/or bad agencies, but most are human and professionals and experts just like the candidates they are reaching out to. just this last week there was something, so I changed my title to “trying to be a good human just like you” honestly…give it a rest.

  • Maruszka

    As a job seeker, I don’t hate recruiters, I sympathize with them. Because I’ve got a sense of how you’re treated by your customers (other companies you recruit for) – far too often they can’t decide who they’re actually looking for… More than once have I been recruited for a post only to find out later that: 1) the customer doesn’t really have a vacancy there 2) they do have a vacancy, but for a different post 3) whose description turns out to be decisively different to what was sent to the recruiter before… This mess affects me as a job seeker, but I think it affects you more.

    But I do hate the refusal to give feedback after rejecting my candidacy. It’s OK not to do it every time on your own initiative, but if I repetitively ask (by e-mail and phone) and get no response, some not-very-friendly adjectives come to mind 😉

  • In the UK it is a deregulated and fragmented recruitment market but If candidates do some due diligence, get recommendations and work with accredited specialists there shouldn’t be many problems. Of course not all candidates will be placed so they will not always be happy but the experience should still be professional. Interestingly I don’t begrudge the bar staff their wages when they serve me a beer so seems unfair that recruiters are reviled for making a living from helping change a candidates life for the better. If any candidates are unhappy with the service they have received at Aspire I would like them to tell me

  • Fern

    Only internal recruiters are tolerable. My experience with any outsourced recruiters has been unpleasant to downright illegal. They are nasty, do not care about you and are simply in a rush for everything. Recruiting companies also often design these extremely long and completely irrelevent questionares filled with all your confidential personal information that job seekers must fill out before there resume has even been looked at or sent to the potential hiring manager. Some recruiting companies go even a step further and outsource their background checks to companies that are located overseas. You can only imagine the confusion and frustration this results in for the job seeker. Its intolerable and should be illegal. This trend really needs to change

  • Pingback: Top Recruiter: Reality Bites | Recruiting In 3D()

  • Pingback: Building A Case for Building A National Recruiting Association | Freelance Recruiter()

  • Mandy A

    I don’t like it when my recruiter asked me to ask her after my interview and ask me how did the interview went. I told her I feel it went well and then she asked did hiring manager said I would get to second round, I said no. My recruiter said , then how you know it’s good?

    Indeed I went to second round, again she asked me how did it go. I told her the interviewer said she can only decide in 2 weeks time so I can’t tell. She ask me to tell her how I feel… errm

  • Santi

    I dislike recruiters so much. I have spoken about this issue before and I am positive that something needs and can be done. LinkedIn was designed to actually fix this issue, not make it worse, and I do think a further technological platform is the answer.

    A recruiter should be someone that connects people. Persons, professionals and talent with enterprises or similar. Nothing more and nothing else.

    To me, a recruiter today is synonym of a spammer, salesperson, time waster and a liar. And I don’t think this should be the case!

    This isn’t a topic about who’s good or bad, nor candidates vs recruiters, it’s about professional integrity and my biggest concern about recruiters is lack of professionalism.

  • Pingback: Mobile tools for staffing agencies: Finding candidates on the go - Jobscience()

  • Pingback: 301 Moved Permanently()

  • Tan Bha

    Yes – recruiters are very annoying. In particular the young ones. I work in software. They have NO understanding of what it takes to develop large systems. Totally ignorant. I’ve worked on major systems – where total sloc is over 1M and I’ve written over 30K. They have no clue about writing clean code, design, refactoring, error handling, performance improvements, code readability and standards, not to mention resolving inter-personal conflicts and getting the team to work together. All they do is look for keywords – do you have 6 years of java, do you have spring etc. And they are the ones who filter out candidates. Oh their personal favorite is to send you a ridiculous IKM test that will grill you on language features but will NOT test you on developing real systems. So you take the test anyway, get a high score and never hear back – what happened? Oh you don’t have real world experience in that language (Java). Idiots.

Just add your e-mail!