Things you didn’t know about some recruiters.

I am fortunate. I had a successful and rewarding career before entering into the world of recruitment. I found myself in the hands of recruiters and ‘headhunters’ (if you can call them that) soon after a swift cull of directors whilst working with Crest Nicholson. Both regions saw the departure of Managing Directors and Sales Directors in one swoop over three months. In some cases, employees had served over 30 years with the company, but their faces and mine no longer fitted-in with the new regime.

Headhunters v Recruiters

There are still many people who don’t understand the significant differences between Headhunters and Recruiters, which will become crystal clear in a few minutes of reading this. The entry barriers to recruitment are very low. In fact, so low that the industry attracts all sorts of chancers. There is a perception about recruiters which falls into the used-car sales person or estate agent profiles.

Your role as an employee is to navigate these recruiters and find someone you can trust or at least give the benefit of the doubt, because fundamentally they can cause much damage and in my case, divert your career onto a different track altogether.

Contingency recruitment

CV trading I call it. A term I stole from Mitch Sullivan. (CV spot-traders) It’s where you give your CV to a recruiter and they start trading with it. Until the recent GDPR tightening of data, CV’s were arriving in email boxes over the place, willy-nilly, often the same CV from multiple sources. When you run a department and have your inbox filling up with CV’s from multiple recruiters, it can be a time-wasting distraction.

Even if the CV has relevance, where do you begin? Which recruiter do you respond to and surely all of the recruiters involved will be chasing their fees for introduction. A complicated business for hiring Managers and Directors.

In the meantime, the poor candidate who has their CV going all over the globe has no idea of the potential problems they face.


The other big problem with recruiters is their knowledge of your industry, job role or specialism. They are reliant upon keywords for most things. They won’t have a clue about the culture of each company or indeed how it all fits together. Unless you find a credible recruiter you’re in a deep pool with lots of sharks.

Diverting your career

That’s right, diverting. A strong term but nonetheless true. 

I have seen first hand what can happen when a suitably qualified candidate is offered a job at a new company to then be hounded by another recruiter to try to divert them to their client company. It all starts with leaking information. Walls have ears, or as suggested during war times, Loose-Lips Might Sink Ships. Confidentiality is difficult when you deal with amateurs.

Fees at risk

Contingency recruiters will fight tooth and nail for their fees. They often don’t have any real relationship with the company they are hoping to place you with, it’s just a CV speculative approach and throwing mud at the wall. Be careful with comments such as; I’ll get you an interview with X,Y, Z company and then you hear nothing or some BS about they’ve been told it’s on hold or an internal appointment. What’s probably happening, is that someone like me is working in a partnership arrangement with the client and no other agencies will get a look-in, therefore you have absolutely no chance of meeting their ‘client’ who probably has never heard of them or has no desire to work with them.

Exclusive Candidates

Imagine you are a brand of rice. Why would you only go to one supermarket to sit on a shelf?

When an agency says; will you work with me exclusively, you’re actually closing the door to most companies. There is simply no reason on earth to give one agency control over your career. By all means, as is the case for many of my candidates, who say; “I’d like to find my next role via you” as I understand the industry, job roles and companies so well.

However, I always respond with; you must view the whole market, not a segment and that means looking at all roles with all companies.

Headhunting or Retained/Executive Search

Headhunting is one of life’s mysteries. Nobody really understands what happens or indeed what it all means. Retained Search or Executive Search or Headhunting are terms used to describe a particular service performed either quite badly or very successfully by someone able to find the best candidates for their client. Always, the headhunter will be retained and paid partially in advance to search and select the best people. The result of the search has more to do with the Headhunters ability to demonstrate their trust and knowledge of the sector, of their client and the reasons to consider the proposition. It is quite rare for a Headhunter to work in conjunction with anyone else or other agency as it would create an obvious conflict. Moreover, if the headhunter has any credibility, they will always meet their candidates. How effective they are after this is really up to you to fathom out.

Question the recruiter

What’s their background? How long have they been recruiting in your industry? What do they know about your specific job role or the culture of your company? Not much.

Recruiters have many bad habits;

They don’t call you back – (should be at the top of the list) Let’s explore the reasons;

  1. They have bad news and don’t really know how to convey the bad news to you.
  2. They have gone fishing with your CV and the companies they have targeted haven’t taken the bait.
  3. They are too busy sending emails and tweets.
  4. They have phone phobia.
  5. They advertise roles above your job status title to attract candidates for a job role which they are hoping to muscle-in on. i.e They see a job for Sales Manager with a company, so they advertise the same job in a different way to attract candidates. When they have the candidates, they bombard the company who they believe the opening is with, or worse still, they have a conversation with a disgruntled employee of a company who has suggested that they would consider a move and behind the scenes they start lining up people for the role. It’s called ‘back-filling’ jobs – it happens all the time in contingency recruitment.

Money is important – you aren’t

Making a living in contingency recruitment is tough. It can be very rewarding but also the most frustrating job on the planet.

What I really dislike are the disingenuous recruiters and headhunters. They see you as money, not a human-being with a career decision to make.

I have seen and heard some really slippery slime-balls in this sector. They are the types who call you up as if you’re best friends. It doesn’t take long to hear why they are calling and furthermore, once they have found out enough information, they are off again.

How to spot a recruiter who doesn’t know about the industry they serve.

A few questions will soon uncover the level of competence;

  1. When they call you about an opportunity, ask them about their client and the team or the structure of the dept. Who runs the dept, how long have they been with the company, how many in the team, reason for the vacancy, how long has the recruiter been recruiting for the company and the department?
  2. If the recruiter is still connected (unlikely) ask them whether they are the only recruiter acting for the the company?
  3. Before sending the recruiter your CV or agreeing to listen to the proposition, ask the recruiter about the job role and why they think you might be a good candidate.

I could go on, but I would imagine you will have already discovered that the recruiter either knows little about you or their client by the end of question 1.

Jobs Boards

I hate them. You probably hate them too.

This really is throwing darts with a blindfold.

Upload your CV and wait. Don’t hold your breath. You might be discovered by a recruiter or you might just have opened a can of worms.

Recruiters pay for access to Jobs Board databases. If your CV is the database, they now have a copy. If they have a role which might suit you, who knows, you might be lucky enough to be contacted.

When you apply for a role, the same thing happens. Your CV arrives straight into the recruiters inbox. Possibly hundreds of recruiters.

It’s a mine field. Good luck.

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Simon Wilkins

Simon Wilkins

The Headhunter

07554 234 567