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Why the “hate” toward recruiters?

Recruiters: everyone loves to get a phone call from one, but once that phone call is over, a LOT of people will go on to say how much they ‘hate’ recruiters.

I’ve always been aware of this odd biting-the-hand-that-feeds-you phenomenon, but earlier this month, Ian Lenehan wrote a post called ‘Why does everyone hate recruiters?’ that really got me thinking. Lenehan, an Australian recruitment consultant, told an anecdote of being embarrassed to admit his own job in a social setting.

He went on to blog:

Recruitment is a valuable profession — everybody needs recruiters whether they like it or not. But unfortunately many people claim to hate recruitment consultants. Like car salesmen and real estate agents (hey, we need those guys too). Even recruiters engage in rec con baiting. Agency recruiters hate in house recruiters, and everybody hates rec to recs. So why is this?

Good question. It got me wondering: does everyone hate recruiters? I plugged the relevant words into Google, and the results were pretty disheartening. Evil HR Lady did a 3-part posting series on why she hates ‘em (she was partially kidding). Less playfully, an anonymous someone has created a Facebook page under the name ‘I Hate Recruitment Consultants,’ which is mostly filled with unflattering jokes.  Someone else went to the trouble of setting up a blog called I Hate Recruiters on Blogspot. It reads, in part:

  • Don’t you hate recruiters who try to push you into jobs that are not right for you just so they can make a few bucks?
  • Don’t you hate recruiters who say they’ll call you back and don’t?
  • Don’t you hate recruiters who claim to be experts but don’t understand what you do?

Clearly, some people have had bad experiences. But people have bad professional experiences all the time, and don’t go out of their way to create blogs denigrating entire professions. Where does this hate come from? Lenehan, in his blog post, opines that a job change is an ultra-sensitive time in one’s life — a huge change — and any bad moments are thrown into especially high contrast. Fair enough. My own suspicions revolve around the middleman nature of the job. The recruiter stands between people, by necessity. This is actually a service, but when jobseekers and hiring managers are frustrated, they focus on the limiting factor of having a middleman, when they should be counting their blessings that the recruiter saves them from having to meet and screen everyone. People who need jobs (or need to fill jobs) can be very stressed out, and anything that they perceive to be slowing them down can be a target. Recruiters control access to people, and access to jobs, and this seems to tap into people’s control issues in a very tangible way. Add in a payment structure that is performance-based, and people start to bash the very recruiters that hook them up with jobs. I checked in with a few popular HR bloggers to get some more thoughts on this trend of bashing the recruitment profession. There’s a real difference between people just hating recruiters (like the person who made the Facebook page) and actual recruiters tackling the profession’s image. The well-known Jim Stroud at The Recruiters’ Lounge has an oldie-but-a-goodie up called ‘6 reasons to hate recruiters, 3 ways to get revenge and 1 way to keep everyone happy.’ I’ll let you click through to read all 10 tips, but two of my favorite points here are:

  • Managers hate recruiters because they are after their best people (and it took forever to get the team just right.)
  • Ego-geeks hate having to use a recruiter to find work because (they feel) that it is an admission of weakness. (After all, shouldn’t all companies be beating down their door to hire them?)

Finally, I came across a very good post that is brutally honest about why some people have problems with the profession. In 10 Things to Hate About Recruiters, Jeremy Sisemore, president of a recruiting firm, compiled this list of things people sincerely complain about in the recruiting profession:

10. ‘Recruiters don’t seem to truly understand the role they are recruiting for or that much detail about the client’s needs.’ 9. ‘I am not sure if the post-interview feedback is honest or I don’t get feedback at all.’ 8. ‘Recruiters don’t want to help or talk with me if I am not a perfect fit for their open search assignments.’ 7. ‘Most headhunters don’t return my calls or acknowledge that I applied for a job.’ 6. ‘As a hiring manager, I hate when recruiters sling resumes at me and don’t take the time to understand my needs.’ 5. ‘Dishonesty about a position, company, or the requirements for a role’ 4. ‘Some form of discrimination or even reverse discrimination’ 3. ‘Recruiters seem unethical and will do anything to make a placement; their tactics to recruit or develop accounts are dishonest.’ 2. ‘I feel like job postings are not real jobs some time, the Bait and Switch.’ 1. ‘Recruiters are only working for the company and aren’t looking out for my best interest through the Offer Stage.’

Now, I feel like we’re getting somewhere. Recruiters, what do you think about these prejudices and misconceptions? What would you like to share about what you do?
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