Why the Hate for Recruiters

I’ve previously posted about the contracting life from the perspectives of the employer and the contractor. The intermdiary between these two is the agency, specifically the agency's recruiter. Nobody seems to likes recruiters. Not employers (who complain they are sent the “wrong” candidates) or contractors (who complain about contacts for positions they don’t want and lack of follow-up for those that they do). Of course, recruiters serve a necessary purpose for both parties. But here’s why they frequently get such a bad rap.

(Note:This post originally appeared in Talent Zoo a few years ago; not much has changed since.)  

Probably like most freelancers, I’m registered with a number of contractor agencies in the hopes that at least one of them might occasionally manage to match me with an opportunity. I’ve ranted previously on what you can expect as a contract employer both from the agency that placed you and the entity that is actually employing you to perform work (quick summary: not much). Some of these agencies specialize in placing creative talent; some stumble upon something creative talent might do because they have contracts with companies that are otherwise interested in highly specialized management and technical positions; some have better relationships with their clients than their competitors and thus seem to be better connected to land you a position. 

First, let me stipulate that I have had positive dealings with a number of agencies and their recruiters, even one or two that haven’t as yet gotten me any work. But, one thing you have to understand is that working with agencies is sort of like direct mail; your response rate is likely to be less than one percent. So, there’s really no point in getting annoyed that you never hear back from a recruiter about a position for which you are eminently qualified. Probably the actual employer is dealing with multiple agencies to fill the position, all of which have multiple prospects equally eminently qualified, and it’s just such a hassle to get back to all those people wondering what’s going on when the job is already wired to go to someone’s brother-in-law once someone can say the formality of a job search was conducted. The recruiter is probably as frustrated as you are in not getting any response about what’s going on with the posted job. The one key difference being, of course, that the recruiter still has a job and you don’t. 

It may sound lame when after repeated inquiries about what may or may not be going on the recruiter emails you back (if they email you back) that they haven’t gotten any feedback and that they’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities. Which is sort of like when you’re told, "I don’t feel the same way about you that I used to, but we can still be friends." None of this bothers me because, really, it’s not the recruiter’s fault, it’s just the nature of the game. 

Here’s something, though, that really does bother me: the fact that recruiters don’t read your resume, machines do; and worse, they let the machines do their jobs. That explains why my email is stuffed with job offers that have nothing to do with my skill sets. I’ve done technical writing (even taught it at a technical college), but I’m not a programmer and don’t know COBOL from cobalt (and, actually, the best user manuals are by writers who aren’t techies). Yet I get emails about positions for systems analysts and software architects and other such geek stuff. Similarly, as a copywriter, I work with graphic artists, but I don’t design web pages — I can’t even draw — but yet again, you wouldn’t know that by the job offers that end up in my Inbox. Because a computer scans "technical” or “design” on my resume and assumes therefore that I must be a techie or a designer. Or both. The machines at least have an excuse. I just find it a little galling when human beings lack the humanity of paying at least some attention to what another human being is really all about. 


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