esteemYeah, I know what you’re thinking: oh, good. Another post bashing recruiters. Because you just can’t get enough of people who don’t do your job talking about how damn bad you are at yours. But the thing is, I’m a recruiter, too – and I’m angry. I take pride in my job, have a passion for this line of work and dedication to being the best possible resource for my clients and candidates.

Those used to be the minimum qualifications for this line of work, but these days, it seems that anyone with a liberal arts degree can simply step out of the college classroom and into recruitment; hell, many people who just need a job, any job, somehow seems to find their way into this profession.

These wide-eyed, naive and clueless rookies think that just because they happen to have a requisition to work on or candidates to source, they’re real recruiters. But the truth of the matter is, recruiting is more than just a job – it’s a way of thinking, and, if you’re doing it right, a way of life.

So, if you’re one of those so-called “recruiters” with no experience but a ton of ego, who has more power trip than actual power and who thinks that this is a pretty easy line of business to be in, listen up. We’ve all been there. But there are a few things I think you should know before you go out there and call yourself a recruiter – it’s a badge of honor, not a business card title, after all.

No One Knows It All

SwagIt’s inevitable that within about six months of taking that first job in recruiting, rookie “recruiters” suddenly become some sort of expert who knows everything there is to know about recruiting. They think that after filling a few jobs, this somehow qualifies them to impart their opinions and expertise to anyone willing to listen.

They forget that just a few months before, they were out there looking (and if they ended up in recruiting, it was probably a pretty frustrating and futile effort) – now, after filling a few openings, they’re qualified to impart that wisdom to candidates and colleagues alike.

In fact, I recently got some spam on LinkedIn (shocker, I know) inviting me to a workshop on how to become a better recruiter. The pricetag was pretty steep: $500.

But I’m always interested in learning new things and hearing new perspectives, and as someone who frequently works with junior recruiters, I’m constantly on the lookout for professional development opportunities that will help their professional path, too.

For training that expensive, I figured that the session leader must be one of those big name, blue chip consultants or an experienced trainer with proven techniques and tactics that have worked well enough over the years to justify the inordinately high price of admission. But I’d never heard of the speaker before.

In fact, this “expert” (according to his LinkedIn profile) had a degree in macrame or some shit like that, and his entire recruiting experience amounted to about six months spent at a small staffing firm, working on low skill, high volume searches. The kind of reqs where having a pulse, a high threshold for pain and little to no professional ambition is pretty much the only pre qualification a job seeker needs. The kind of staffing that places a premium on process and paperwork over actually finding and interacting with people. That doesn’t discount this kind of recruitment, it just means that you’re probably not really getting a whole lot of experience or exposure to the manifold complexities and nuances inherent to this industry.

But six months was apparently enough for this con artist to think that he could somehow charge experienced recruiters five hundred smackers for the privilege of hearing this douche lord impart his infinite wisdom. Give. Me. A. Break.

Dude didn’t even try to hide or hyperbolize his glaring lack of competence on his actual profile prior to starting sending out InMails – like, no recruiter is going to click over and figure out how worthless he really is, and simply shell out cash without doing any due diligence whatsoever. Because, you know, our budgets are so big, and our companies love paying for training so much they’d never question the credentials of the person they’re paying to help them be better at hiring. Idiot.

Like I do with most InMails, I ignored this one, but was left shaking my head and wondering how, in the hell, you can be an expert in recruiting after 6 months – I’m still not completely there yet, and I’ve been at this for almost two decades. He’ll probably become a decent recruiter, given his arrogance and swagger – he just hasn’t earned either after such a short tenure. Anyone who can really learn a job, much less develop expertise, within 6 months is either some sort of autodidactic genius or working on an assembly line.

This isn’t a hard job, if you’re committed and competent; still, every day brings a new surprise or situation that you’ve never encountered but have to figure out on the fly, which gets easier with experience, but in a business where change is really the only constant, to say that you’ve seen it all before and know everything there is to know about recruiting is self-delusional narcissism.

And if there’s one thing that’s going to kill your recruiting career, it’s unjustifiable arrogance. No one wants a recruiter who thinks of themselves, first; no matter how good you are, you’ll always be the least important stakeholder in any search, and you’ll never know the job or the job seeker better than either party. You’re an intermediary, and there’s no place for arrogance or ego when you’re putting candidates and hiring managers first.

There’s No Such Thing As A Recruiting “Guru.”

expertConfidence is important, and lord knows that you need it as a recruiter. After all, you’re juggling requisitions no one in their right mind would think could be filled (at least for the qualifications required at the salary offered), and managing needy candidates, needier clients and making sure no feelings get hurt while jobs get filled. That’s not for the faint of heart, and you have to have at least a little bit of cajones to not get eaten alive out there.

But there’s a difference between being confident and being a douche bag. And you’re most certainly in the latter if you’re that guy whose profile refers to himself as a “Sourcing Ninja,” but can’t even put together a simple Boolean string.

Or you call yourself a “influencer,” even though you can’t seem to get anyone to call you back or accept an offer. Don’t even get me going on “gurus.” You call yourself any of this kind of crap, and you make all of us look like asshats, too. Recruiters are none of these things.

I’m still humbled by people who are better and smarter at sourcing and recruiting than me, and get excited to learn from them and grow as a professional, even after all this time. The people who really live up to these sorts of noxious labels or stupid self-identifiers would never think to refer to themselves as such – saying how great you are at recruiting is a pretty sure sign that, in fact, you probably suck. The best recruiters are too busy recruiting to worry about this sort of personal branding BS.

You Have the Time. You’re Just Not Using It Right.

2015-01-29_10-01-20Every recruiter, at one point, has complained about how busy they are, and how they just don’t have enough time to do basic stuff, like tell candidates they’re not under consideration or write interesting job descriptions. Every recruiting team has that one member who’s constantly stressed, burnt out and never too busy to tell you about how busy they are. My mantra is that you must not be busy enough if you’ve got time to complain about it.

Yeah, it sucks juggling a bunch of reqs or having to work with diva hiring managers and demanding candidates. But this is what recruiters get PAID to do. This is your job, and if you don’t like it, find a new one.

GEM Recruiting AI

If you’re concerned your workload is too heavy, then you’ve clearly not been in this business long enough to know it’s when that req load become manageable that you really should start worrying. The busier a recruiter is, the safer their job is – so instead of complaining, suck it up and do it, and be glad for the opportunity. Because as bad as it gets, being on the other side of that desk is way worse.

Besides, most of the people who make these kinds of complaints are the same so-called recruiters who never do intake meetings, prefer post and praying to proactive sourcing and use automated e-mails for everything. The kind who would rather talk about the importance of engagement than pick up the damn phone.

This kind of “recruiting” is really just order taking and administrative work, and while it’s important to set up meetings, make sure scheduling is done correctly and review resumes from incoming applicants, this isn’t being too busy. It’s just busywork.

Lazy Recruiters Are the Worst.

I’m proud to have worked with some great recruiters, and even prouder to call some of the best of them friends. These consummate professionals constantly attend to the needs of their clients and offer incredible care and compassion to every candidate they come into contact with. They know that when the customer is happy, and the candidate is satisfied, the rest kind of takes care of itself – and that is how you make money.

Pissing off people won’t get checks signed any faster or make getting an offer accepted any easier. The opposite, in fact, is true. It will just erode your efficacy, and our collective credibility as a profession. Which, sadly, has already happened. Don’t believe me? Here’s what it looks like when you Google the phrase “recruiters are”:


Yeah. Not feeling so lucky now, are you? These results suck because, for the most part, so too do most people in this profession. The public pretty much hates us, and while we love to sing our own praises, the fact is those fall on deaf ears. The graphic above is all the proof you need that when it comes to perception, things must change, or we’re all screwed, even those of us who have some sort of clue what we’re doing.

So, what’s to blame for this shit-on status?

Recruiters Are…Better Than This.

1317941142614_9055305I think there’s really one main reason: looking for a job sucks. It’s stressful and depressing. You send out resumes to a bunch of companies, each application process taking way longer than it should, and dedicate a ton of time and effort into reaching out to employers, knowing that you’re unlikely to have them return the favor.

Hell, even if you score an interview and think you straight out crushed it, you’re still probably not going to get a call back.

Yeah, you took personal time, made sure to research the company and interviewers, spent a little on dry cleaning and gas to get there, and you’ll likely get nothing from that investment – even a courtesy call telling you thanks, but no thanks. You’re out of the process, and you’re also off the radar of the recruiter who earlier seemed so interested and responsive – kind of like getting spurned after a great date and not knowing what you did wrong. Everything was going great, right?

Seriously. Recruiters, have the common decency to pick up the phone and call candidates to tell them that you’re seeing other people. I can’t understand how so many have so little courtesy that they can’t take the minute to make a call that makes all the difference when it comes to candidate experience. You’re not too busy, you’re just being lazy and rude. Period. Suck it up, pick up the phone and be an adult. It’s not that hard. I promise.

I know a lot of you are thinking who the hell I am to call out recruiters like this, but the answer is, I’m a guy who cares more about this profession than what you have to say about how awesome we’re all doing at it. We’re not, which is why I’m imploring all you out there to help me call out crappy recruiters and the sort of shit that has led us to being so universally loathed. Hell, even other recruiters hate recruiters, as this post proves – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Real recruiters deserve respect – but you’re making it harder and harder to keep it every time the “recruiters” in name only are useless, rude or just plain ignorant. If you’re looking for an easy job where you can be delusional about how powerful and awesome you are while doing next to nothing and never talking to real people, than you shouldn’t have to look very far.

Sounds like you’re a perfect fit for HR. And they’re going to love you over there.

Derek ZellerAbout the Author: Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliancy. Currently, he is a Senior Sourcing Recruiter at Microsoft via Search Wizards.

He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.

You can read his thoughts on or or his own site  Derek currently lives in the DC area.


By Derek Zeller

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.