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Ask the Headhunter: How to spot a job recruiter without standards

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

We’re going to skip the Q&A this week because I’ve been receiving complaints from readers about recruiters.

A reader just told me a recruiter for a major multi-national corporation briefly solicited her by phone after an email solicitation after he found her on LinkedIn. His caller ID was “PRIVATE.” The number was blocked. When he called her again later, it was not from a company number. She worries who she’s dealing with. He wants to send her for an interview with the hiring manager.

Said the reader: “He knows nothing about me, not really. And I know nothing about the manager, the job, or what’s expected.”

I told her to forget about him. He’s one of a new ilk: recruiters with no standards who are dialing for dollars.

What you need to know about recruiters

Here’s the first thing to know about headhunters and recruiters. The good ones, who are worth the money employers pay them, would never in a million years send a candidate to interview with a hiring manager without themselves thoroughly interviewing, vetting and reference-checking the candidate.

That’s what they’re paid for. They do their jobs to protect their reputations.

READ MORE: Why recruiters aren’t always good for the economy

Today, I’d say 99 percent (or more) of recruiters routinely pluck a name from LinkedIn and set up an interview. There is no value in that. It’s dialing for dollars and hoping for a hit. (They don’t care about their reputations because they don’t have reputations. They have cellphones.) It’s why most job interviews are failures.

Are these kinds of recruiters for real? No, they’re not.

If a good recruiter is involved with a hire, the hit rate (hire rate) should be incredibly high. With good recruiters and headhunters, it is. With crank recruiters, the hit rate is dismal — because it should be.

And it’s why job seekers are so demoralized, frustrated and angry about having their time wasted. They actually bring it on themselves because they’re not vetting the recruiters who don’t bother to vet them. The job seekers trust the system, even if they know it’s destroying their careers.

One reader today sent me four Glassdoor job ads from four different staffing firms. All are for the same job at one real company. All four staffing firms are dialing for dollars. Glassdoor makes money four times when it sells space to post those ads. But it’s not just Glassdoor. LinkedIn does the same thing.

What happens when job seekers are free

When candidates are free — it so cheap to solicit them that they really are essentially free — it’s okay for recruiters to make tons of mistakes when recruiting and hiring. They can quickly find all the job seekers they want.

But the cost of this game to job seekers can be staggering.

Today I received three other emails from people who accepted or started jobs only to have their job offers rescinded outright, or to get terminated after eight hours of work. One of them quit a year-long job to accept a job offer. Another moved across the country. It cost all of them dearly.

They all rushed into questionable deals. The reader at the beginning of this story saw the signals and walked away. It was clear to her that the recruiter was using her, not placing her.

Employers don’t care. To employers, job candidates are free, too. What employers do to new hires doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect an employer’s reputation. Thousands more job candidates are waiting in line.

So thank you, Glassdoor. Thank you, LinkedIn. Thank you, Indeed. Thank you, ZipRecruiter. Thank you, dialers for dollars. Thank you, HR. Thank you, employers.

READ MORE: Column: ZipRecruiter turned hiring into a beauty pageant where everyone loses

Good headhunters love this. It means they have less competition when they go looking for the best talent. The best talent doesn’t answer recruiters dialing for dollars. Most job seekers are happy to be suckered — as long as they can have their job searches “automated.” Most job seekers have been corralled and are being processed, chewed up, spit out, and abused by recruiters dialing for dollars. They’re out of the way. This makes it easier for good headhunters who earn their money to find and actually recruit the right talent.

Dear Readers: How do you tell the difference between good recruiters and unsavory recruiters? How do you tell a real solicitation from a terrible risk?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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