Imagine the shock when I actually had a candidate tell me this on the phone today. His statement was so matter-of-fact that it blew my mind. He was adamant about it too, completely unwavering in his opinion. Fast forward through several minutes of conversation and although his tone had lightened, he stuck to his guns. "Think what you want, but I'm still convinced recruiters are jerks…"

What could possibly have led him to such a fervent belief? Why automatically classify all recruiters as jerks? I'm sure that some recruiters are jerks, but so are some managers, candidates, employees, you name it. There also happen to be some really great people in all of those categories as well. The guy I was talking to refused to believe it, though, and I really wanted to know why.

When I first picked up the phone to call I never would have anticipated the conversation taking such a drastic turn right off the bat. Then again, perhaps this was a good reminder to always expect the unexpected, which is sort of a conundrum in and of itself. Our conversation began amiably enough exchanging a quick hello, confirming that the timing of the call was convenient, and informing him that I wanted to discuss his application to our company. Without skipping a beat he launched into a series of extremely technical questions before I could even tell him my name or what I do.

Taking shorthand notes at breakneck speed to avoid missing any of his queries I let him go on for a couple of minutes then politely interjected that perhaps some of the heavier technical issues are better left for a conversation with the hiring manager than me, the recruiter. Rather than the expected cordial response I was met with something much more abrasive. "You're a recruiter? Why would I waste my time with you?" Clearly not what I was expecting.

Equally motivated by curiosity and a desire to defend my profession I decided to push the issue a little bit and figure out why he was so opposed to speaking with such a base form of life as me. As it turns out, he has been on the short end of a few recruiting deals conducted with less than the usual regard for ethical behavior. Specifically having a current (although now former) boss called for a reference despite the specific request not to do so as his job search was completely confidential. He was immediately terminated and is still holding a pretty healthy grudge.

I did my very best to explain that not all recruiters act only on behalf of themselves and their customers; many actually care about the careers and livelihoods of the people they recruit. I hate to admit that I made little to no progress, but I can understand why. It is like dating somebody and getting cheated on. Your trust is broken, and is generally very difficult to earn back. Even if you move on to somebody else, defenses may still be a little stodgier than before even if it is unwarranted.

In an effort to re-instill a little bit of faith for recruiterkind in this candidate I made the following offer. He was to spend the time necessary with me to discuss the position, his qualifications, and his level of interest. Assuming he desired to proceed I would present his resume to the manager and provide feedback be it good, bad, or indifferent before the weekend. If I held my end of the bargain, he had to loosen up a bit and admit that not all recruiters are horrible people.

"Think what you want, but I'm still convinced recruiters are jerks...but I'll give you one shot to prove me otherwise."

You'd better believe I'll be calling before the weekend.

Views: 596

Comment by Emily Schlick on February 26, 2009 at 3:12pm
It can be frustrating how one experience with a recruiter could change a person's total view of the profession. I have seen attitudes such as what your candidate displayed here increasing as the market worsens. It is tough out there for candidates and recruiters. People who are out of work involuntarily are frustrated and it shows in the way they present themselves. You are doing a good thing by convincing him to work with you until the end of the week. I can't say I would have done the same. Good Luck!
Comment by Gino Conti on February 26, 2009 at 3:18pm
Thanks Emily! I agree, I've seen more and more jaded candidates considering the economy and lack of jobs available. Each time I get my ear bent by an indignant candidate I just take a moment to think about the stress they must be dealing with and show a bit of compassion and patience. If nothing else hopefully I can prove that we're not all bad apples!
Comment by Greg Stenz on February 26, 2009 at 3:26pm
The fact that he felt obligated to make that statement to you, says a lot about his character and professionalism.
Comment by Becky Metcalf on February 26, 2009 at 3:32pm
I hear this all the time, but usually from my husband! But on a serious note Gino, I think you are lucky in a way that this still surprises you. I've run up against this kind of stereotype plenty and it's never fun, but a challenge to try to prove wrong. Nice handling of the situation!
Comment by Patrick Frost on February 26, 2009 at 4:24pm

I think some of it has to do with candidate perception as well. Some candidates think Hiring Managers are the key decision makers and that recruiters have no influence and input into the process. It's a bit of a short-sighted approach, since recruiters are acting on the Hiring Manager's behalf to try and locate the person who matches up to the Hiring Manager's requirements.

I guess at the end of the day when we evaluate what it is that we do, we don't really create widgits or produce a "tangible" product. The success of our organization often depends upon the accomplishments of others who a) we bring into our organization or b) who represent our organization in the firms where we place them.
Comment by Steve Delaney on February 26, 2009 at 4:36pm
I’ve felt the sting of being insulted simply because of my chosen profession. It seems almost everybody gets some form of this...If you're military person; a cop; an attorney; a politician; a salesperson; a waitress, a trash-collector, a stock-broker, banker, real-estate agent...whatever...we all get it from time to time, from people who have no clue what it is we bring to the table.

Such comments are always based on ignorance, prejudice, insecurity, and resentment. They are fighting words and the perpetrator is hoping that you’ll bite. Especially, if they have nothing better to do; if they are unemployed and not focusing on developing their own skills. People without work can often find themselves frustrated, wallowing in self pity, and looking for others to blame. It's a small mind that stereotypes people into a single statement like that - surely a challenge for any diversity class.

Interestingly, times like these bring out the best and the worst in people. You cannot fix him, and it's not your job. You might succeed in changing this person mind about YOU; but if you could, would it be worth it? Instead, be proud of yourself, be grateful, and glad that you’re not bringing a mal-content into your organization.

Looking for people who shine with excitement and anticipate new future and the opportunities your company has to offer; not those who still harbor resentments from the past and will most likely bring those negative attitudes into your work place.

Remember, convincing this person they are wrong about you is not going to make you a better recruiter or a better person. Being ethical, professional, and confident in the value you bring to your employer and the people you interact with is a beautiful thing - it's a blessing.
Comment by Gino Conti on February 26, 2009 at 5:02pm
Thanks to all of you who have been taking the time to post some clearly well thought responses!

We definitely deal with a hard 'product' to control - people. We are emotional beings who make decisions made on a variety of basis whether they be logical or not, and this includes holding a prejudice towards certain segments.

To Steve's comments, I'm not afraid to admit that the imaginary version of Gino puffed out his chest a bit when the "fighting words" were cast my way. I wish it wasn't the case, but a small part of me wanted to show that at least one recruiter could work with a curmudgeon like him and still be professional. The other reason is because I didn't like the thought of what would happen if I didn't. What if I was just one more recruiter who blew this guy off and never gave him the time of day? I would do nothing but feed into his sterotype that we're all slime!

Will somebody with his attitude be successful here? It is unlikely. That said, I don't think it is a bad thing to at least do as I promised and show him how professionally he can be treated by a recruiter. In all fairness, I still need to be mindful of the kind of person being hired into my company, so I will add that in the 'personality assessment' portion of my review he did not score the highest marks of all the candidates I've submitted thus far.
Comment by Slouch on February 26, 2009 at 10:07pm
Do you think that there is a real good chance that you will place this candidate at a position you have available now? Is this candidate the fastest route to making a placement? Sounds like a personal challenge for you to change his perspective and I don't think you will and that is no comment at all on your recruiting skills. It's just some candidates are like that and that's it.
Comment by Gino Conti on February 27, 2009 at 8:08am
Do I think he will get the job? Honestly I don't know. When I look at the type of person this manager has typically appreciated, the more strong-willed and opinionated ones tend to fare better. Unfortunately my office is in Michigan while our HQ (his location) is in Tennessee, so I can't really speak to whether or not this is indicative of the entire group.

That said, he has mentioned wanting somebody with a little 'backbone' to them so I anticipate a more complacent person may get walked on a bit. If this were any other group I've worked with previously I would have respectfully declined to present his qualifications. As much as I hate to admit this, he actually may work out.

To your other point, yes, I felt a bit challenged and wanted to step up to the plate. You are probably right that I could treat him in the most professional manner possible and still not sway his opinion about recruiters in general. I don’t like that thought, but I still wanted to give it a shot in the event that this at least softens him up enough to entertain the idea that we’re not all bad. If I don’t change his opinion, so be it. Some people are just going to be that way. If I can lighten him up, though, I’ll be glad I at least gave it a try.


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