Tackling Cowboy Recruiters

YES! They are everywhere! You know the ones I’m talking about. 

You get a call (usually on a Friday afternoon) and the recruiter tells you they have a fantastic role that you would be perfect for….BUT, they can’t tell you the name of the company and they haven’t got a detailed job description…..HOWEVER, they must submit your profile that afternoon or Monday morning at the latest. 

You agree out of sheer confusion and fear of missing out on this fantastic role and then you hear……NOTHING! NADA! NOT A PEEP! for weeks. You call the recruiter and they stonewall your calls. 

I didn’t behave like this when I was a recruiter but I saw this behaviour countless times and it happened to all sorts of candidates. 

Ok, so WHY do they do this and DOES it really matter?  

It is often done because a) they want to expand their own database, b) they want to hit some internal weekly targets like number of phone calls made or CVs submitted, c) they want to entice a potential client to work with them, or d) they want to muscle in on a role that they don't have. 

This does matter! They may seem like innocent reasons, but if this is what they want to do, then they should be honest and tell you straight from the outset. Do you want to have a working relationship with someone who is economical with the truth? 

More importantly, how would you feel if you see a fantastic role and apply, to then be told that you will not be considered because they already have your details on file from a previous application?......one you, yourself, never made! This really does happen and is the crux of the whole problem. 

It causes a real headache to fix as you need actual written proof that you had not applied previously and, until it is resolved, you are seen in a bad light in the client's eyes.   

I am now sharing my prized list of questions about “How to spot a bullsh**ter” which has helped several clients so far.   You don't need to use all of them when the need arises, even just a small combination of these questions should do the trick!

  • How many agencies are working on this opportunity? (very few roles these days are exclusive)
  • How many candidates are you submitting?
  • Are there any internal candidates being considered as well?
  • How well do you know the company?
  • What is the work/life balance?
  • How is the company and the team structured?
  • Who does the role report to and what is their background?
  • What is the background of the various team members?
  • Is this role a replacement or a new position? If the former, why did the previous person leave?
  • What are the key responsibilities and subsequent criteria for this role?
  • How do my skills compare to the other candidates being considered?
  • How is remuneration package structured (base + bonus + car allowance + pension + healthcare + other)?
  • What is the bonus structure and what is the percentage split between company and personal performance?
  • What type of interviews will the employer be conducting (competency, technical, stress-scenarios)?
  • How many interview rounds are there and when do they ideally want someone on board? 

A detailed picture starts to take shape with each answer and by the end you will know 4 things: a) whether they really are working with the client on this particular role, b) if you are interested in the position, c) why you are being considered and, d) how you rank in relation to other profiles. 

A recruiter who is honest with you and doesn’t bluff through these, is the real deal, that rare breed of recruiter I simply call, STARS. 

There is ONE EXCEPTION to the rule - when there is still someone in the role that they are hiring for. It could be that the company hasn't yet told the existing role-holder or, more likely, the role itself is either very senior or highly sensitive and can effect the company's share price, such as a new CEO. 

This scenario does happen and even I have had my lips zipped from revealing a client's name or key stats when compiling a list of suitable candidates. 

The way to decide whether you have a COWBOY or a STAR is to be vigilant and keep your ears open to their answers. That will tell you who you are talking to on the phone and will help you to decide how you want to proceed!  

One last thing, the next time you get that call on a Friday afternoon about a fantastic role and how you must submit your profile immediately.  Don’t. You may simply be extra cannon fodder that is used to bulk out the list of resumes that the recruiter has promised the client. No one wants to be extra cannon fodder. It’s like being the 3rd wheel on a date! If you are a genuinely worthwhile candidate, they can wait until Monday morning…trust me, most employers are unlikely to be reviewing profiles on a Friday night so why should your CV be the one that sinks underneath the stream of emails that fill up their inbox over the weekend?! 

CVVictoria Fellowes