12 Lies Recruiters Like To Tell

Apart from the few Web 2.0 recruiters I’ve met via Twitter, who seem intent on bringing ethical practice into their profession, most of the ones I’ve ever come across are a slippery bunch.

Thing is, they recognize that, because they’re dealing with your career, they hold a lot of power. A call out of the blue from one of them can put you on top of the world. You may even get a meeting. But when you never hear from them again, it has about the same effect as realizing that the bloke you thought was The One was only ever a hook up.

To avoid giving yourself this experience, wise up and read between the lines. Here are 12 lies that recruiters love to tell, along with a translation of what they actually mean.

  1. We’ll be in touch. A ubiquitous lie, and whatever way it cuts, this really means, you’re not a fit.
  2. We’ll keep your details on file, if that’s okay. I know you’re flattered that I’m asking you. But you won’t actually hear from us again.
  3. We’ve had a few admin problems. Since you gave us your CV three months ago, we’ve pitched a short list to our client that we totally stuffed up and are now back at square one.
  4. You’ve got an impressive CV. But we’re not going anywhere with it.
  5. We’ll get back to you once we’ve formed a shortlist. You’re not on it.
  6. The client has changed their requirements. Since I promised you a place on the shortlist I’ve seen some better candidates and bumped you.
  7. I’m sure the client will want to talk to you. Some uncertainty about this job is afoot and having warmed you up for it I’m not about to risk looking like a dick by sharing the truth of what’s going on.
  8. The client is reorganizing and, just as soon as they’ve done so, we’ll come back to you. Don’t hold your breath. This job is about to disappear.
  9. They definitely want to move ahead, but there are some internal issues they need to resolve. There’s a political bun fight going on about the spec or the reporting line, which means the budget for it is in danger of being scrapped.
  10. You’re a bit too big for this job. You’re too old, too experienced, or too threatening for them. They want someone they can boss around and pay half of what you’re looking for.
  11. You’re clearly ahead of the pack. Having sold you in, I now need to make sure you stay engaged through to the next round of the process.
  12. There are certainly  a few things we’ve got on the go at the moment that you’d be good for, but I just need to go back to my colleagues and check. Next time you call, if you get past my secretary, I’ll express surprise that none of my colleagues has ever followed up with you.)

What about you? What lies have you fallen foul of from recruiters? Are there any others than the ones above that you can think of?

Photo credit: Samuel Mann

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  1. Wow. Thank you for this honest post. #10 is…so common…

  2. El Edwards says:

    Oh this made me giggle so much Christine. I have no real experience in this arena but I had to leave a comment to tell you how much I enjoyed this. Very clever and I suspect also oh so very true!
    .-= El Edwards´s last blog ..Audio smile 1- What Severus Snape can teach us about being awesome! =-.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, El! There are some great recruiter out there. Sadly, they’re in a minority. The stories I hear from folks being treated really quite disrespectfully are shocking. It was fun, though, to call the bollocks for what they are.

  3. Nikki Hutchison says:

    Christine, this is a fantastic article and so very true! My biggest frustration when it comes to recruiters is how few are willing to be totally honest with their feedback, however, if they did tell it how it really is without the empathy that many poor recruiters seem to lack what impact could it have on the individuals who are seeking new opportunities? Perhaps having the feeling that the recruiter is crap is better than taking it personally. I could go on all day…

    • That’s a seriously good point, Nikki, and thanks for sharing it. What it raises in my mind is the possibility that recruiters are complicit in a bigger smoke and mirrors game, where it’s generally easier overall to avoid taking responsibility!

  4. Matthew Needham says:

    Hi Christine, a very true post. I read last week that it takes about 11 months for an executive to find a new role at the moment, so they must hear these lies all the time. Interestingly enough, I note that a number of recruiters don’t even bother to acknowledge a CV submission now.

    I spent a couple of hours with the MD of a large recruitment organisation quite recently and he said to me most recruiters are “a bunch of lazy b****rds” and will only call the people that they can think off of the top of their head. Regardless of having a database.

    So, if anyone is looking for work, then my advice is to realise that you’re in sales (regardless of your profession) and the commodity is you.

    If you don’t know anything about sales, start learning, because some jobs are getting 400+ applications at a time and if you’re not very special, then you’re not going to get called.

    I could write you a post on this if you’d like!

    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..Buy An iPad Now or Wait For iPad v20 =-.

    • That’s great advice, Matthew, and thanks for sharing it.

      And, I’d LOVE you to write me a post on this. Fill your boots!!

  5. I love these type of posts from you Christine and these are so true! Personally, I have often found recruiters like other sales people (estate agents in particular! :)). I realised after a while, you have to realise it’s a game and not take it too personally.


    • Exactly, Jen. Sadly, if a recruiter doesn’t follow up, people imagine they must’ve done something awful to warrant the silence. More often than not it has nothing to do with the individual, but more to do with the recruiter having moved on to something and someone else. Your point about not taking things too seriously talks to this.

      And I’m glad you like these kind of posts. Any ideas for other things that might warrant similar treatment?

  6. Brilliant Christine.

    Sad though that so many people just can’t be open in situations like these.
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..7 Awesome Ways to Deal with Negative People Both Online and Off =-.

  7. Adrian Swinscoe says:

    Hi Christine,
    What an exposé of what really happens with recruitment agencies. I believe that I have heard a number of these before. It’s so sad but a reflection of how for many in the recruitment business it is a numbers game and not quite as bespoke and ‘match’ oriented as they would often have us believe.

    Thanks for the honest exposé. Refreshing!

    .-= Adrian Swinscoe´s last blog ..What icebergs can teach us about real and lasting change in business =-.

    • Thanks, Adrian. It can be quite psychopathic at times, I think, but for a great deal of recruiters, people are just commodity. There’s little concern for feeling.

  8. Karalyn Brown says:

    I think the very heavy commission component linked to what is essentially a sales role, and a whole host of other issues around that means that people/companies will never get the service they deserve at a critical time.
    .-= Karalyn Brown´s last blog ..Stop puffing up your profession What do you do- really =-.

    • Great point, Karalyn, about the way recruitment folks are paid and incentivized. Makes me think of some conversations I had with someone a few years ago, who’d been hired to try to revolutionize one of the big firms. He proposed to them that they rethink their game, move away from performance targets being about JUST recruitment revenue, and act as consultants, not transactional nerds. But having hired him to lead change, they weren’t ready to risk watching their pay packets shape-shift. They told him “That’ll never work”, and eventually he chose to leave. Now? They’ve had to lose a lot of their own staff because, with the move to in-house, SM assisted recruiting, and the drop in vacancies because of the recession in the UK, they’ve got less business. And are writing articles about how recruitment needs to become more consultative!!!

  9. Hahahahahahahahahaha – I have been away for a while (from your site) but just catching up on your posts.
    This one is great I have actually been busy speaking with some of these people and they are hysterical at times. I have seen some 8′s, 4′s 10′s and 12′s. Having lived with a recruitor I got quite a good view from the inside and they can be the laziest money grabbing people ever, but also some can be excellent.

    • Hey, Tim. Happy catching up. Meantime, glad you liked this one and could relate from your own experience.

      And, you’re right – there are some lazy money grabbers in that world. Also some inspired, intuitive recruiters, whose talent allows them to stand head and shoulders above their competition.

  10. Jane Blackmore says:

    Oh dear – us recruiters are not popular people!
    However you have made me smile!

    I firmly believe honesty in the best policy although I push my clients to be constructive in their feedback, its a hard market and as a recruiter I don’t like to kick people when they are down but instead like to be able to provide feedback with solutions of how to improve for the next time.

    One thing though – as recruiters we are the messengers – and sometimes we get shot down when it is not our fault. We need our clients to give us fair and good feedback so we can hand it on and sometimes come clients dont give us any at all which then makes us examine our partnership relationship with them.


    • Glad it made you smile, Jane! As you know, I was really excited when I found your blog and read what you were saying about raising the bar on the whole recruitment practice.

      I think you make a great point here about the client’s role in recruitment. I’ve seen some shocking stuff from the other side of the desk. And indeed some great recruiter responses. An example that sticks in my mind was of a search assignment for a senior HR person, that was being handled by a rather flaky and soon to be ousted HRD. The recruiter did a great job, but the HRD, who was playing games with the whole position, turned down two short lists. As she attempted to go for a third, the recruiter named the game and said he wanted no part in it because she was ruining his reputation as a professional recruiter. He walked away from his final cut of the agreed payment, but he kept his own integrity intact.

  11. J. Walker says:

    I have a standard rule of thumb to avoid disappointment. It comes in two flavors and goes like this…

    A lot of recruiters like to post jobs then call in candidates to their offices for a “pre-interview” meeting promising to get you an interview when you leave.

    Most of the time you’re going to leave this little shmooze session with little more than your unvalidated parking voucher. Yeah, some of them don’t even validate! Pro Tip, don’t go to the meeting unless you have a hiring manager’s name and address before you hang up.

    and for the recruiter phone freaks that call…

    I have one question that I like to ask when they make pie in the sky promises.

    It’s this…

    “So, can you guarantee me an interview in the next 48 hours with the hiring manager?”

    They usually backtrack, igonre the question and make demands (at which point I insult their family heritage) or they just hang up at that point.

    Saves time for everyone..
    That’s the way of the world, don’t let anyone BS you into thinking it’s not. Look out for #1 because nobody else is no matter what they say.

    • I agree with the message from J. Walker and I will use that next time a recruiter wants me to waste car fare to come see them.

      “So, can you guarantee me an interview in the next 48 hours with the hiring manager?” If they do not guarantee that and information about the company itself, I will not use their services.

      If you do not have anything, do not call me telling me how my resume looks and will sit in a file cabinet for nothing.

  12. It doesn’t take too many job applications before one can justifiably conjecture that the vast majority of recruiters are compulsive liers in their daily jobs, and not very good ones.

    Here are other common recruiter lies, and their translations:

    ‘You’re over-experienced.’ You’re obviously not over-experienced.

    ‘We’ll pass on your CV.’ We won’t pass on your CV.

    ‘Competition is fierce.’ We don’t like you.

    ‘We cannot provide feedback on your application [due to (the number of applicants)(etc.)].’ We’re lazy, incompetent assholes.


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