What this recruiter really wants

Radical transparency Aug 26, 2021

I can’t speak for all recruiters, nor would I want to. Actually, I emphatically speak only for myself, although I assume--hope--other recruiters share the feelings I’m about to express.

What I really want as a recruiter is to have a handful of candidates with whom I can build actual relationships based on trust and mutual respect, with the shared goal of working together to find each candidate the right next career move resulting in a mutual win. Is that unrealistic? Am I asking too much? AM I??

Gesture of humility
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

In a perfect world, I think the answer is: emphatically, NO. I’m not asking too much. Actually, I would argue that my plea articulates what every recruiter-candidate relationship should be!

After all, your career is a big deal. It’s a huge part of your life. An important part of your identity. (At least, if you’re reading this blog, I assume that’s true.)

So if you turn to a recruiter for help taking your next step, shouldn’t you feel confident that you’re working with someone who cares even a little bit about whether that next step is a good one?

Chasing light and manipulating light with the tools we have are the main things photographers do. This was a little bit of both.
Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog / Unsplash

I know, I know. A recruiter is not the same thing as a career coach. A recruiter is a headhunter: “A person who identifies and approaches suitable candidates employed elsewhere to fill business positions.” (thanks to dictionary.com.) By definition it’s a very transactional role, and it’s certainly structured--and compensated--as such. Recruiters cold-call/cold-email large numbers of candidates who are at least minimally “suitable” with no context other than an online bio, with the goal of placing SOMEONE at a firm that will pay the recruiter a commission.

It’s no wonder that many recruiters treat candidates like nothing more than a potential payday, pushing placements with the absolute minimal amount of time investment and work and with no concern for whether the particular job is even remotely right for the particular candidate--

--and candidates notice, of course. Y’all are smart cookies. So word spreads that recruiters are slimy and self-interested, leading to generalized candidate distrust of recruiters… and THAT leads to candidates behaving, shall we say, badly with respect to recruiters. This is a problem.

Behaving badly?

GIrl covering her face
Photo by Caleb Woods / Unsplash

Here’s what I mean, and let me know if it sounds familiar.

  • Withholding pertinent information about your current job (like, that you already got fired, kinda relevant IMO).
  • Withholding pertinent information about your job search (like, six other recruiters have already submitted you to 90% of the law firms in NYC and therefore there’s not much else we can do for you).
  • Ghosting your recruiter every time you have a concern or thought about your job search (because we don’t know why you disappeared).
  • Cheating on us, meaning starting a job search with us and then also going out and working with another recruiter without telling us, which inevitably leads to confusion and prevents us from doing our best for you (believe it or not, good recruiters actually form nuanced strategies for candidates that can be totally wrecked by a little side cheating).

Like I said, this behavior is a problem, and yet the majority of candidates engage in some or all of it… because you feel like you have to, thanks to the shady recruiters who triggered the behavior in the first place.


Folks, hear my words: it doesn’t have to be this way--and for a select few recruiters, it’s actually not. There are those of us who see the job as something bigger, something longer-term, something personal. We see that each candidate is not just a dollar amount, but a complicated person who represents not just a potentially successful placement, but also a long-term relationship who may come back in the future, and/or refer others to us. And when recruiters treat candidates with care and concern, those candidates may see in us a trusted advisor who knows the market, knows what we’re doing, and won’t steer you wrong.

It’s the long game, people, and smart people play it--on both sides.

Would you dare to cross this bridge?
Photo by Sven Huls / Unsplash

The long game has different rules. Better rules. And once you know what they are, you should expect absolutely nothing less from your chosen recruiter, because the long game rules are what will get you to the best possible place in your career. And you might even make a friend in the process.

Want to know what those rules are? Yeah you do, but this post is already kind of long. Stay tuned.


Julia DiPrete

Biglaw survivor. Former Assistant Dean of the Duke Law Career Center. Currently exploring the magical world of legal recruiting. Yeah, I've pretty much seen it all. And I love to write.

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