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.