Specialist Recruiter James Liddell explains how to spot a bad recruiter and how to avoid them.
Much like used car salespeople, most recruiters are fine upstanding members of society and a pleasure to work with. But there are a few bad apples who tarnish the reputation of the rest of us. As a recruitment consultant who recently had a bad experience with a used car salesperson, I’m hoping my experience will give you some idea of the warning signs to look out for when you’re dealing with recruiters.
Last week, at the age of 30, I finally passed my driving test. I’d tried a few times in my twenties but never quite got the hang of it; it turns out that if you clip a wing mirror on a parked car and the examiner has to lean out of the window to push it back into place, you will not pass your test. Who knew?! I decided it was time to get my licence at last, now I have a young family, so I can take the kids to birthday parties and bring bulky DIY items back from B&Q.
Once I’d got over the elation of finally being able to drive on my own, I realised I was going to have to spend quite a lot of money on a car. After my partner talked me down from a two-seater sportscar (not the most practical vehicle for three little ones or the weekly shop) and a monstrous 4×4 (not much call for off-roading in suburban South London), we decided a practical hatchback was our best bet; something with a big boot, five doors and low MPG, and from a reliable brand. In many ways, working with recruiters is much like buying a car. Finding a new job is a big commitment, so know what you’re looking for.
As I don’t have a car yet I can’t drive to dealerships, so I decided I would only look at cars within walking distance. This was a mistake, and I should have looked for the best dealership, not the most convenient. A quick Google search would have shown that the one I chose didn’t have particularly good reviews. I started looking at cars on the forecourt, and a salesperson quickly joined me, pointing out some particularly good offers on BMWs and Mercedes. I had to interrupt him to tell him I wasn’t interested in them. This was my first warning sign. If a recruiter doesn’t listen to what you’re looking for, they don’t have your best interests at heart.
Having told him about what I was looking for, I asked whether or not I would be insured to take a test drive. He dismissed my concerns and didn’t address them. I certainly didn’t fill out any insurance forms, and I’m still not sure whether or not I was actually insured! If a recruiter doesn’t address your concerns, or seems to be acting unethically, avoid them!
We picked out a car that was slightly more expensive than I was hoping for. The salesperson started telling me about how it had a great engine and could really get away at the lights – it was clear that he hadn’t listened to what I was looking for, as this really wasn’t one of my priorities. Then he started telling me about how it was a one-of-a kind, and no other car in the country had an engine like this. It’s a five-door hatchback with a big boot, not a Formula 1 car. Calling it one-of-a-kind is over-the-top. Be wary if it seems like a recruiter is trying too hard to sell to you: what are they trying to hide?
He left me alone for my test drive. I noticed almost immediately that the clutch was riding very high, and my foot was almost off the pedal before I found the biting point. After I’d finished my test drive, I mentioned this to my partner via text, and to the salesperson. He told me that it was normal for the clutch to ride high on this model, and that it was a new clutch. I asked to see the service history, and while he got the papers ready I did a quick vehicle history check on my phone. One advisory came back: the plates had been changed and the car was really two years older than it appeared. My partner texted back too; she’d done a quick Google search and found several people had been told by used-car salespeople that the clutch naturally rides high on this model, only to have the clutch develop serious faults. It was clear that this salesperson had not only neglected to mention key information about this car, but had actively lied to me. I made my excuses and left. No recruiter should ever mislead you or lie to you.
The ironic thing is that he could probably sold me a car that day if he’d had a different approach. Instead of telling me about what great deals they had on offer, he should have asked me what I was looking for and tried to meet my needs. Instead of dismissing my concerns around insurance, he should have put my mind at ease and told me exactly how he could fix that problem. Instead of lying to me, he should have been honest about the car’s faults and how much it would have cost to repair them – who knows, maybe a new clutch was in my budget! It’s the same with recruiters. A good recruiter will listen to what you are looking for, put your mind at ease, and be honest with any difficulties you may face. You might need to drop your salary expectations to find a job at your level, or travel a little further for your dream job. A recruiter does you a disservice if he or she doesn’t tell you about these issues.
Needless to say, I found a fantastic used car garage just around the corner the following week and very happily drove off into the sunset!
If you feel like a recruiter is acting like a dodgy second-hand car salesman, walk away. In both worlds, there are plenty of honest alternatives that work with integrity and transparency. Choose them. After all, you don’t know what issues lie in wait round that bend in the road.
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