In the November 7, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a careful reader gets recruited to fill out a job application. Welcome to recruiting today.


recruitingEarlier this week a recruiter contacted me. The salary was stated as a maximum only, and it would mean a 20% raise from my current salary. Even though I am not looking, I went ahead and applied. Following your advice, I asked who the company was and the recruiter told me “in confidence.”  I disclosed that I know someone there, but didn’t give a name. The recruiter said he could still submit my name, so I gave him a PDF copy of my resume.

Things changed fast!  First, he said I would be required to fill out an online application for the HR department. But I couldn’t proceed with the application unless I put in a numerical value for salary. I asked about this and he said whatever I put in could be discussed later. I put in $0. There was also a short “personality test.” I completed all this by mid-day Friday. By noon on Saturday, I got a rejection notice. BAM!

Could it be my salary expectations were too high? The recruiter recommended I come down, but because I’m not desperate I did not. Could it be that HR was totally offended that I was non-compliant? My feeling is that a junior HR person went over this and saw one thing out of order, and eliminated me. I seriously doubt that this application got further.

The bottom line is that I would not want to work for these people anyway, but I will admit that such a rapid-fire rejection hurts. Maybe I will hear from the recruiter as the week begins, or maybe not.

Next time I will ask if the recruiter’s contact is a hiring manager or HR. If it’s HR and not a manager, I will pass. So this was a good lesson learned. It cost nothing. Insofar as missing out on the raise? No problem there because I am not yet vested with my current company and I would lose the equivalent of the raise if I moved now.

Two last questions: Why does just about every recruiter who contacts me seem like a slime ball? How can they sleep at night?

Nick’s Reply

Welcome to the biggest recruiting scam going: job applications. Thousands if not millions are victimized daily. They don’t even realize it. You didn’t get recruited. You got scammed. And it’s legal. Employers encourage recruiters to scam you every day.

A recruiter contacted you to recruit you. That is, he’s out scouring the world for the right candidates for his client. He identifies the best, and then he goes after them — he pursues them. He and his client still need to interview you to be sure you’re right enough, of course, but they chose you and now they’re approaching you, enticing you, seducing you, cajoling you, trying to convince you — the guy they selected to go after — to consider a job there. They’re trying hard to impress you with an opportunity so you’ll invest your valuable time to talk with them.

Is that how this process felt to you? Of course not.

Recruiting you to fill out a job application

You were not recruited for a job. You were recruited to fill out a job application.

You were recruited off the street to do what anyone does to apply for a job they found posted on a job board. My guess is the employer is not even the recruiter’s client. I doubt they have a contract. The recruiter is hoping to throw enough job applications at this employer, in the hope one might “stick” so the employer might pay the recruiter a fee.

The recruiter led you down the path every other job seeker takes on their own. Like every other job seeker that is summarily rejected instantly, you got rejected. No surprise!

The only difference between job applicants who go through the process and you is this: If by some miracle you had been hired, the recruiter would have earned a big fee for doing nothing but ushering random people through the application process.

I’ll say it again: You were recruited not for a job, but to fill out a job application.

Recruiting to fill a job

Here’s what recruiting really looks like. Last week I finally reached a person I’ve been trying to recruit for almost a month. She’s a good candidate for my client. The president of the company and I carefully selected her because our research showed she fit our carefully defined criteria. I knew exactly why I was reaching out to her.

When I finally reached her, it was to set up an interview with the president of the company. No forms. No online links. No personality tests. No obstacles.

My job for a month was to eliminate obstacles so my client could talk to her. I never asked her for her salary information. I still don’t know it, and I don’t care what it is. When I finally got her on the phone, I spent most of the time trying to impress her. I didn’t want to let her get away.

My goal has been to pursue and persuade her to talk with my client about a job — and to impress her with the opportunity so that we’d have a good chance of hiring her. Why would we risk offending her by making her jump through hoops? That would not have impressed her!

How to test a headhunter

  • Who are some of the headhunter’s clients? Get the names of companies and managers.
  • Who has she placed? Get the names of a few candidates placed recently and a year or two ago.
  • What firm does she work for?
  • Where is she located?
  • Who owns the firm?

From How to Work With Headhunters, pp. 28-29.

Why they do it

Recruiters like this one sleep at night by mentally counting all the lottery tickets they’ve acquired — job seekers they’ve convinced to fill out job applications. Then they dream that a company will pay off on one of them.

The daily recruiting scam is a numbers game. Recruiters play it because sometimes it pays off — just like everyone else plays the lottery.

How to save loads of time

The recruiter’s trick is to get you to spend loads of time applying for a job that pays “20% more than you’re making!” It’s a simple rule of behavioral psychology: The more the recruiter can get you to do, the more you will then rationalize doing even more to comply. So the recruiter’s goal is to get you to start complying.

You ask what to do next time. Here’s a quick and sure way to save loads of time. The next time a recruiter contacts you, ask this question:

“Why does your client want me?”

Then ask this question — and nothing else:

“When does your client want to talk with me?”

For more on this topic, see Why do recruiters suck so bad?
If the recruiter answers with a list of tasks for you to do first — submit your resume, complete online forms, take a test, disclose your salary — tell the recruiter to take a flying leap into a cactus bush.

It takes a mental re-set to realize what that guy did to you. He made you apply for a job. It’s the daily recruiting scam.

How do you sort out the recruiters? What percentage of contacts from recruiters have resulted in face-to-face job interviews for you? At what point should the reader above have recognized what was going on?

: :


  1. A couple thoughts on today’s post.

    The folks that jump through hoops are usually desperate. Unemployed or stuck. When we do not have options, we do what we [think we] need to do.

    Not sure how specific it is to headhunters, but it is not unusual for companies to post job notices (when no job exist) in order to gather information on the current talent pool.

    • Hi, Ask The Headhunter Community!

      I wanted to share the last few days of my 15 month-long job search, which has been typical of many weeks before. I know there are many Tales From HR Hell; but this one is mine; and frankly, if I don’t vent to people that are going through the same BS as me (other than my long-suffering wife), we’ll probably both go certifiably nuts.

      My background in brief: After getting my MS in the early 1990’s (a proto- ‘Tech MBA’), I got into technology consulting, and quickly moved into management and leadership roles for most of the next 15 years. After hitting an earning peak, I went out to seek my fortune as a startup founder (almost 10 years ago…time does fly by) with a couple of mobile/digital marketing products. My partner and I didn’t hit pay dirt, so I’m back in the job market. I figured a strong tech background, demonstrable leadership, plus legit entrepreneurship would make for a solid resume. Haha! The joke’s on you, Gen X sucker! This week has been typical of the responses I’ve received from companies large and small over the last one-year plus:

      1. A company in Wisconsin turned me down for not one, but two individual contributor positions. This was after telling me that, “we’ve been looking for a unicorn, and you’re it!” and, “you have an ideal background…we’ll make a position for you.” After the initial screening, I went through two rounds of in-person interviews with a dozen individuals, including the COO; where I passed all their cultural-fit tests (I was told, “cultural fit trumps all here.”) I even passed a Wonderlic test although they wouldn’t tell me what my equivalent NFL score would be. This week, they told me a junior-level consulting job may be available in early 2018. Maybe.

      2. I responded to a LinkedIn recruiter representing a well-funded startup in NYC seeking a VP of Customer Success. After writing up my approach to CS, leadership, and growth in their industry, I found out they’re passing. The recruiter noted, “They feel your experiences are more on mobile solutions versus a sufficient focus on enterprise software B2B (cross platform).“ As though the customer success needs of B2B SaaS mobile customers (my startup experience) are incredibly different from those of B2B SaaS enterprise software customers.

      3. I had a call for a Director of UX role at a large telecommunications company in Denver – where by brother-in-law works! He managed to get the VP to at least give me a call; but in the end, “While I am completely confident in your leadership ability at the end of the day I really need someone with more hands on design experience.” This was after telling everyone within the department that she really needed someone with ‘soft skills’ to manage this team.

      As of today, I have 697 jobs applied through LinkedIn (I know it’s a waste of time, I do read Nick’s posts, but I just can’t stop the self-flagellation). I have at least 25 positions that have gotten past the HR goons and made it to conversations with hiring managers. Some of those conversations went on for two months or more. They all ended up going nowhere. Not a single offer. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

      If this were my first month job hunting, I’d confidently move on, knowing that there are other fish in the pond. That was the guy I was a year ago. As much as I hate to whine and feel sorry for myself, the guy looking back at me in the mirror is beginning to look like a washed-up, 48-year-old middle manager with experiences that nobody cares about, driving Lyft to make ends meet (but maintaining a 4.9+ rating, at least my passengers like me!). It’s hard for me to admit, since I’m not the defeatist sort; but I’m beginning to believe that my best professional years are in the rear-view-mirror, and my future is starting to look a lot like a Wal-Mart greeter!

      Thanks for letting me vent!

      – 15M&C

      • Hello, fellow GenX sucker :) Your story is much like my own and so many others I’ve seen these past four years, I quit counting my rejections after hitting 1,500 and have indeed concluded my best days are over (just turned 50). I’ve got enough nonsensical experiences to fill every sheet on a double roll of toilet paper. Bottom line is there just aren’t enough jobs available and the ones being advertised are fake. I’d wager if you audited all those companies you had interviewed with you’d find that none of those jobs were filled by anybody. It’s easy for companies to look like they’re hiring, quite another matter when they actually have to commit money and do it. Wish I could offer some advice, I’m not going to give you that “things will get better, they have to” line I’ve been given so many times as I find it insensitive and clueless, I can only tell you you’re lucky you have a significant other to offer emotional support (that you can’t be single in this new economy is the harshest lesson I’ve learned).

        I’d recommend putting all your stories into a blog, it’s good therapy plus I think it’s important we share our stories as not enough of us are doing so (mine is up to about eighty entries plus I’ve got a huge back load to get to,

      • You are not alone.

        As a fellow Gen X’er looking at a slight career change, it is a punch in the gut when someone 15-20 years younger than you gets a job yet doesn’t have the qualifications you have on paper anyways.

      • @15 Months: Whew, that’s a good venting! And that’s what we’re here for!

        You gave 697 examples of how you’re doing this wrong, and it’s clear you understand the problem. Please stop telling yourself you’re washed up at 48. You’re not. The employment system is washed up. Not you. So get past it – and try the methods we discuss on ATH.

        START with a hiring manager, not with applications, StinkedIn or HR. It’s hard work, but so is getting depressed. My way, you make new friends even if those contacts don’t turn into a job.

        The “system” virtually guarantees, by virtue of how it works, that any interview you get will be for the wrong job with the wrong manager. So pls don’t beat yourself up about the results.

        Do you know and believe you’re good at what you do? Add that to your realization that the employment system is NOT good at matching people to jobs, and you should be able to walk away from it.

        • It’s not that easy to just “start with the hiring manager”. You can’t always find out who that is, even with LinkedIn, and you can only draw on your network so much before you start looking like a stalker. IF you reach the hiring manager, your approach may not be welcome. Even if it is, you could well be forgotten when a job actually comes up.

          I say this as someone who has done it several times, and still does it when I think it might work. It’s an OK strategy, but it can fail a lot.

      • Hoo boy, I’m also a GenX sucker, who was also confident at the start of their job search. I had a brand-new master’s degree in an in-demand field. My 24-year-old classmates with virtually no work experience at all got snapped up within months of graduating. But not me, I’m still looking. I too self-flagellate with online applications. I can’t even get office temp jobs or volunteer jobs.

    • @Gregory: In my experience, MOST job seekers will do as they’re told.

  2. Two things I am completely finished with in this life are recruiters and online applications. Recruiters have proven themselves to be useless to me. I got a call a few weeks ago from one I had not heard from in three years (and he had done absolutely nothing for me even then) and now he calls out of the blue sounding like we’re best buddies. I didn’t return his call, hopefully he got the hint. I have a few useless recruiters in my StinkedIn network and I don’t know why I even bother keeping them they’re so damned useless. One of them is always posting jobs (instead of taking the time to go thru her damned network to find a candidate), last week she posted one that said “must have swagger.” I posted a reply, “‘Must have swagger?’ What the hell does that even mean? That’s got to be the dumbest job requirement I’ve ever seen.” That earned me a load of snooper/stalker views on my profile from her cronies. I once went so far as to put “No recruiters, please” on my profile, well some floozie I had hired to make my resume keyword/ATS-compliant saw it and boy did she verbally bitchslap me for that and proceeded to regurgitate the standard gobbledygook about how important StinkedIn is to find a job (that’s when I realized I paid her way too much for her service, can’t recall but it was something like $200).

    As for ATS applications, you once questioned why Congress isn’t investigating these, I’d like to know this as well. I’m convinced every one of the 1,500+ jobs I’ve applied for did not exist. Our economy is driven not by making things but by moving data bits around, I’d like to know to whom are they selling our data and for how much.

    • @Sigh: There are some good recruiters out there. Not many. But they exist and are worth your time. I think it helps to withhold the title “recruiter” when talking about anyone who pretends at it, but isn’t really. After all, we don’t call telemarketers “sales consultants.” So why call them “recruiters?”

    • @Sighmaster: I’m with you on the “fake jobs”. I recently saw a job vacancy posted, so I researched the company (they’re legit), and figured out who the hiring manager would be. The ad “required” me to fill out an online application, so I called the hiring manager. Was he ever surprised to learn that there was a job vacancy in his department, so I directed him to the company’s website and their employment opportunities page. He agreed that even though no names (re who to contact) were listed, said he was impressed that I had done the research to find him and that I had called him to learn more, but he said there was no such job vacancy. It looked real, and he apologized, saying that he was sorry that I had wasted time doing the research and getting in touch with him. Additionally, he didn’t think that there would be any job vacancies in the near or far future (people who left weren’t replaced).

      I decided to take it a step further, and called the CEO to let him know about my experiences with his company. I wasn’t nasty, but told him how I had found the listing for the job vacancy, and that I learned from the hiring manager that there was no such job (the hiring manager was very puzzled re why there was a posting for a job that didn’t exist). I told him that the job looked like it was a good fit for me, quickly summed up what I could do for company (if the job existed), and said that it was unfortunate, because any job vacancies I see posted for his company in the future I will ignore, and I’ll tell my family and friends to ignore them. At some time, when this company will need to hire, people will not apply because they’ll have learned the hard way that they can’t trust the company. Was he aware of what HR was doing? And who is guardian of my information, in the event that I had filled out the online application?

      Of course, HR will probably claim that there is a skills gap and talent shortage, not thinking that by crying wolf so many times they’re taught people not to trust them.

      • Did you get to actually talk to the CEO, or just a secretary/clerk? If the former how did he respond to you? I’ve never had any luck getting a response from a CEO. Back in Aug/Sept I went thru the usual song and dance with State Street in Boston, they advertised a design job to which I applied, a few weeks later I was granted the usual waste-of-time phone screening with some “talent acquisition vice president” who sounded semi-catatonic and whose only real question was “what are your salary requirements.” She said she’d forward my application to the hiring manager “who’s looking to act quickly” and I told her to tell the hiring mgr to be sure to visit my StinkedIn profile, one of my former clients is a VP at State Street and she wrote a very nice recommendation for me there. I also told her to make sure the hiring mgr has the login credentials to view my website/portfolio. This was a Friday at noon. Monday at 4pm, I got her rejection email. I checked StinkedIn…NO profile view notifications. I checked my website…NO visitors. Busted. I emailed her back asking just what criteria did they use to disqualify me as it seems they didn’t look at a damned thing. No reply received. So, I sent my usual complaint letter to their CEO, where I accused them of using me to check off the EEO compliance box. A few weeks later, I got a voicemail and an email from another “talent acquisition vice president” (who are they kidding, changing HR to “talent acquisition?” their field is going to stink no matter what shiny new name they give it!) saying she wanted to discuss the position with me. I emailed back saying they rejected me for this role, so what’s there left to discuss. She replied, “you expressed dissatisfaction with the process and I’d like to discuss this with you.” Ah, yes, of course, the issue is entirely on my end for being *dissatisfied*, shame on me. I replied back that I have no desire to talk to her. And that was the end of that. Once again, the CEO didn’t think it was his job to care. I’m just proud of myself that this was the only online app I had completed in months, pretty sure I’m well on my way to recovery and it’ll have been my last :). (Oh, and not only is the job still being advertised but they posted another one for their Quincy location, sheesh…)

        • @Sighmaster: It was the CEO, not a lackey. The CEO admitted that he didn’t know HR was doing this (posting fake jobs on the company’s website). He seemed unconcerned, because he commented that “this is how HR is”. So who is running the business? The CEO or HR? I am becoming more convinced that HR is running the business.

    • ” Our economy is driven not by making things but by moving data bits around, I’d like to know to whom are they selling our data and for how much.”


  3. Nick rips the bandage off the festering wound again. I try to deal with American recruiters as much as I can (the Indian recruiters have pretty much locked up the contract work in marketing). Back in the spring I had a long talk with an American recruiter from an IT recruiter called Tephra Inc. about a job with Tata Consulting, part of a large Indian conglomerate. So 30 minutes later after all sorts of questions like a real recruiter, she tells me she’ll send me links to a bunch of forms that are ‘private’ and ‘the next step’. I found the whole thing curious. I thought she was working to round up people for Tata, which was offensive enough, but maybe this was the game.

    • This sounds a lot like a scam I ran into once as a career advisor. A customer using our resource room received an email from an “employer” providing a link to a “by invitation only” website where she could fill out an application for the employer. Access was restricted because of high application volume (supposedly) so the only way to get there was through the links provided. The website looked authentic until you really examined it. The catch was that they needed you to submit a credit report through a “free” website that they partnered with. It cost $1 that would be refunded but you needed to enter your credit card number. Thankfully I stopped her before she could do any real damage to herself beyond wasted time and another disappointment in the hiring game.

      • @Al: That’s a different kind of scam – they want money. My point is that the really big scam is the recruiting industry itself. I’m surprised real recruiters aren’t shouting about it from the rafters, as it hurts them.

    • @Dee: I think far too many of these so-called “recruiters” are thieving scammers. Lately I’ve been getting tons of spam email from these “recruiters”. It goes to my junk mail file, and before deleting/trying to block them I’ve looked at a few of them. They’re usually from “Jessica-HR” of no specified company or agency. There’s always a boilerplate statement about how she found the perfect job for me because of my skills, and there’s always a link I’m supposed to click in order to move forward. She never indicates who the employer is, what the job is, or anything important. I’ve never been tempted to click on the link (who knows what kind of virus that will unleash), but a friend of mine has been getting similar emails and did click on the link. These thieves want you to fill out forms and you have to pay for them to “process” the forms for the supposed employer. I wonder how many people fall for that one. I get over 50 emails per day from these recruiters, so yes, either they’re in India or Nigeria and they’re looking to sucker me for thousands of dollars.

      I’ve also looked at their email addresses when trying to block them, and see really weird addresses like “” and “qvce%*”.

      • Marybeth, I recently received a pitch from a “recruiter” that combined several scams covered by Nick at this website. Position was with a competitor in my line of work, and I had browsed that particular job description months ago at the company’s own web site.

        Employment scammer reached out to me via Linkedin and direct email. I recognized the company description and the same position was still posted at the competitor’s web site (just like the way I spotted most of the Ladders’ phony job listings back in the day).

        Scammer pitched me that he was certain he could get me a $10,000 raise over what was getting now. When I first checked out that position, I didn’t think it was paying even $10,000 near what I am getting now. ;)

        Scammer asked for a copy of my resume after I “briefly update it,” and stated that we’d have to have a discussion and an agreement for me to allow him to confidentially represent me. I followed up with an email with a complement and asking if he already had my resume since it sounded like the job was written from my resume. Never heard from him again.

        A quick web search brought up his early background, some self-promoting in discussion forums, and his web site(s). A fairly clean web site, may have bought it out of a box. Has a dozen or so job listings for programmers, with most of them being work from home, but listed simultaneously in five different cities. His “latest” job listings are from the middle of 2016. Found another web site for another “company” he ran, different address and phone, same jobs. Companies are all inactive per the state where he lives (including the one shown in his email to me). His twitter account appears to have stopped activity same time as his web sites. Got all that in about 10 minutes. This guy’s a loser.

        But the scammer’s inquiry did convince me to respond. I dropped most Linkedin employment details, dropped years for all education, dropped all employment info from before 2000, and made my profile look nothing like my resume. Then I reported the scammer to Linkedin as a spammer, blocked him from reaching my profile, blackholed his email.

    • If you’ve been in IT for long, you know that the name of Tata is mud for American IT workers.


    “Why does your client want me?”
    Then ask this question — and nothing else:
    “When does your client want to talk with me?”

    If the recruiter answers with a list of tasks for you to do first — submit your resume, complete online forms, take a test, disclose your salary — tell the recruiter to take a flying leap into a cactus bush.

  5. A similar scam is where recruiters post ads saying or implying that they’ve got lots of jobs of a particular type. That may just mean that they’re pitching a client in that field, and they want to show they’ve got a lot of recent contacts from potential hires.

    Recruiting (and HR, for that matter) attracts a lot of people who have no real skills to market. By definition, they’re often desperate and ready to try scams, and are very flexible about principles, if they claim to have any.

  6. This happens a lot in the UK: I got a call from a recruiter contracted to the hiring company. He rang me out of the blue about a ‘career opportunity’ how I would be a great fit etc (he had earlier sent me an e-mail ‘in confidence’ outlining the job. So I said I was interested but then he said I had to fill in the forms etc. I asked why, given that he had already screened me and identified me as a suitable candidate, was he requiring me to fill in a form from scratch and he replied it was ‘for compliance reasons’. It was obvious that he was simply trying to drum up more applications for hiring managers to screen. There is a growing tendency for recruiters to effectively re-advertise external positions but dress it up as ‘headhunting’ when all it is is ‘application hunting’.

    The proposition I put to one such recruiter was to suggest that if he/she wanted me to fill in a long form, I wanted to be paid for my time. Otherwise why not just apply direct?

    Perhaps some recruiters who do this can explain their perspective

    • @Nick: “There is a growing tendency for recruiters to effectively re-advertise external positions but dress it up as ‘headhunting’ when all it is is ‘application hunting’.”


      “The proposition I put to one such recruiter was to suggest that if he/she wanted me to fill in a long form, I wanted to be paid for my time. Otherwise why not just apply direct?”

      Bingo again! So let’s add a third question to my two:

      1. “Why does your client want me?”
      2. “When does your client want to talk with me?”
      3. “Why shouldn’t I just apply direct? (I never agreed to keep the employer/manager confidential.) I don’t see what value you’re adding.”

      And you’re right — if the recruiter is getting paid to “do their job,” YOU should get paid to DO THEIR JOB, too — since THEY’ER not doing it!

    • British recruiters now and then call or email me about petroleum geology positions they “have on my desk”, and which they want to recruit me for. Usually, these are positions, which already have been advertised publicly, or at least on company websites. Especially during the downturn, any advertised position would lead to recruiters calling, hoping to pick one of the few fruits available.

      There aren’t that many oil companies in Norway, and people know each other, so I know them already, and often I get the impression that I know the company and position better than the recruiter. And I tell them; I know the industry, I know whom to talk to. And why the heck would I apply through a recruiter instead of just sending in an application myself?

  7. I’ve said this before, but the first thing I asked recruiters was to tell me about my work. I was in a very specialized field, and if they had no idea about what I did and what I was known for, then I kind of doubted that their opportunities were too useful. One or two headhunters passed the test, and I spoke at length to them. Most had no clue.
    Good way of telling if they did any research or if they just got my name off a list.

    • Once, a recruiter called and asked if I wanted a position as a development geologist for a consultancy in the UK.

      I pointed out that a cursory look at my LinkedIn profile would reveal that I would not be qualified for that work.

      The defense: ” I am very busy, so I didn’t have time.”

      I tild him straight out: “You are f****g lazy” and hung up.

    • @Scott: “the first thing I asked recruiters was to tell me about my work”

      That’s a GREAT test. Reminds me of these tests, from How to Work With Headhunters:

      “* [Good headhunters] are knowledgeable about their business, their client, the job they’re
      trying to fill and about you.
      “* A good headhunter doesn’t call anyone blindly. He already knows quite a bit
      about your background, or he wouldn’t call you.”
      (p. 26)

      “Try this test. When you’re done talking to a headhunter who sought you out, ask
      yourself, Could this headhunter write an adequate résumé about me based strictly on
      our phone call? I sometimes write a candidate’s résumé just like that, after a phone
      call, and I provide it as a summary to my client. It’s a good test of my own grasp of
      a candidate’s credentials and value. If a recruiter’s call is so cursory that you don’t
      think he could write your résumé from it, that reveals an unskilled headhunter or an
      inadequate recruiting call. A headhunter who calls to merely request your résumé is
      no better than a job posting on the Internet.”
      (p. 27)

  8. Variation on this theme? I was contacted by a NY recruiter–from a fairly big shop–about a marketing director job that was not in healthcare, but they’d be open to someone like me. Sent over my resume for forwarding to the client, but no right to represent or forms to fill out. She set up a call for a week later to supposedly discuss it after meeting with the client. Nice, warm, relationship building. Then came the odd close–that if I was interested in certain companies or saw jobs online, to call her to “see if they were clients”. I said ‘thanks’ and closed the call.

    On the call a week later, no mention of progress on the job she called me about, but plenty of talk about the weather and those other companies I’d be interested in. And no, I didn’t say. Asked about the original job she called me on–it was ‘put on hold’. Yeesh!

    Once in a great while, I run into a real recruiter…but not here.

    • @Dee: that if I was interested in certain companies or saw jobs online, to call her to “see if they were clients”

      TRANSLATION: If you find a job posting you want to apply for, let me apply for you so I can earn a fee for doing nothing!

      Sheesh! This is how 95% of them work!

  9. Some of these calls are only rip-off-money scams. True story:

    A friend from university, Norwegian petroleum geologist like me, moved to Houston as an expat some years ago. There he found his wife and had a son. Fast forward, the oil price crash took his job, and he has been searching for two years.

    Then, he was called by a recruiter for an oil company in London. He really needs a job now, and agrees to a telephone interview. A short interview, and he was offered a job.

    One short interview and a job…sounds a bit too good to be true?

    And a salary equivalent to $7000 net after tax per month, plus covering expenses for expensive London…sounds a bit too good to be true?

    My friend called the landlord of the supposed office address in London. No such company there.

    The smoking gun was when they asked him to cough up $2000 to their lawyer to apply for a work permit in the UK. In bitcoin!

    Here’s the catch: As a Norwegian citizen, he does not need any work permit, because the UK (at least for a while more) is a member of the European Union.

    Luckily, he did not pay anything, and ha has now asked them for bank details so he can pay them the ordinary way, since he does not have bitcoin.

    In reality, he will use those data to get help from a friend in a big bank, which hopefully may be able to investigate a bit more about who the fraudsters are.

    • Just search for “scam” on this website and you’ll find more tales like that!

      • With the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that the very high salary was made to make him “stick” – fork over money for the hope of reward. Nice psychological bait….

  10. Hello, lurker here…

    What I cannot fathom is how the system can be so broken (and all but the most clueless seem to agree that it’s broken), yet there are no widespread efforts to overhaul the system. Pockets of resistance, like what our friend Nick does here, empowering some to escape the insanity – but overall the general pretense is that if we follow the rules of this pathetic game, we’ll come out ahead.

    Meanwhile, employers continue to bitch about “lack of talent” and job hunters continue to bitch about the dehumanizing process.

    Someone’s laughing all the way to the bank, and it sure isn’t any of us.

  11. Nick: Love the carnival huckster image you used! This week in my current city of residence there’s an annual “Veterans Appreciation Breakfast and Resource Fair” which according to the ads will have employeers there eager to talk to veterans about job opportunities. I might go just for kicks (even though my 1984-88 service no longer counts and I’m not a protected class of veteran).

    It might be fun to see how many of these employers tell me to fill out an online application, as well as calling some of them out on being too stupid and/or lazy to do their jobs (politely, of course). “You mean you came here and set up your table to “recruit” veterans, and I came here because you’re here, but you won’t tell me about what jobs you have, and won’t sit down and read my resume and then talk with me right here and now?”

    • I got my first job out of college by going to a “job fair.” What I found out years later is that most companies there have no jobs to offer, but they want to keep up appearances, so they send a representative or two to collect resumes. My case was just dumb luck, I guess.

      • This sort of thing has been going on for the last 15 years. Companies show up to job fairs, and then refer you back to their website. Thanks for nothing; I could have stayed home.

      • @Kevin: Job fairs are usually an HR trick to meet “candidates” face-to-face and to gather resumes “in person” so HR can check off the equal opportunity hiring boxes on federal regulatory forms.

        “Yes, we interviewed 2,000 people who fit the required diversity criteria…”

        Shucks, we really did.

    • @Bill: If you’re going to attend that “Resource Fair,” read this first, to prepare:

      You already figured part of it out: You will show up to meet the hiring managers and to get interviewed for jobs, but more likely (hope I’m wrong, but it’s the trend), they’ll tell you to go online to apply!

  12. “Suzy Welch asked Bezos the question, ‘What are you looking for when you promote someone into a leadership position?’

    The title of the article below sums up everything that is wrong with talent acquisition and retention.

    “The Surprising Trait Jeff Bezos Looks For In Successful Employees”

    “‘He said, “I want people who are right most of the time,”‘ according to Welch.”

    “It’s not about intelligence, per se, or motivating people, or strategic vision, or any of the usual suspects…it’s much more tangible.”

    “Bezos looks for people who strive to deliver the best results and are willing to make difficult choices to get there. In his words, it’s about being ‘right.'”

    • Cool. And what does Bezos ask or do in a job interview to figure out whether he’s talking to a person who is “right most of the time?”

      • While the article did not say, I suspect they spend time talking shop.

    • Gregory, the physician who is “right most of the time,” would be considered a failure if a critically ill patient dies before the physician can complete his diagnosis and treatment. But a “smart” physician may come up with a brilliant solution that could save the patient’s life, even if it wasn’t perfect. Which would you prefer, as the (potential) patient?

      Anyone trying to understand Mr. Bezos’ statement would be grossly misled if they didn’t understand the critical relationship between those two concepts. I sincerely hope that no one in this discussion takes this guy seriously. But if you do believe Mr. Bezos, I have this nifty little bridge in Brooklyn that I can get for you for a great price!

  13. “You were recruited off the street to do what anyone does to apply for a job they found posted on a job board. My guess is the employer is not even the recruiter’s client. I doubt they have a contract. The recruiter is hoping to throw enough job applications at this employer, in the hope one might “stick” so the employer might pay the recruiter a fee.
    The recruiter led you down the path every other job seeker takes on their own. Like every other job seeker that is summarily rejected instantly, you got rejected. No surprise!
    The only difference between job applicants who go through the process and you is this: If by some miracle you had been hired, the recruiter would have earned a big fee for doing nothing but ushering random people through the application process.”

    One would think companies would get tired of such recruiters and send them packing after failing them again and again. So why haven’t the companies caught on yet?

    • @Paul: “So why haven’t the companies caught on yet?”

      Companies don’t hire/work with those recruiters. HR does. Now ask, how does HR get paid? For what? Not for successful hiring. For processing.

      So, where’s the metric for successful hiring? The dirty little secret is that it does not exist. Wharton labor expert Peter Cappelli reports that modern corporate accounting systems do not account for the costs of leaving jobs vacant.

      With no idea what the real problem is, companies are so clueless that the best they can do is blame the labor pool. “There must be a skills shortage! Ah, yes — a skills shortage!”

      Gimme a break… If only investors knew that boards of directors won’t go NEAR the HR function because it’s so… icky. Thus HR is free to make up whatever explanations seem plausible…

      Until investors force the boards to confront what’s really going on, nothing will change. As always, follow the money.

      • My sister is a banker, and has also been a stockbroker. From my discussions with her, people at the top are concerned only about one thing: financial performance. That’s it. They don’t get involved in the mundane piddling things like HR, or God forbid, actually making the product! That’s for the lowlife junior employees who can and will be disposed of “at will.” As a rank and file employee of a large company, I can assure you that upper level management (entirely male, by the way) only gets excited about the work I do when things go wrong. “You better make this right or else!” Now I think this is short sighted. I would love for these people to see how I’m succeeding.

        In spite of what I wrote about, and thankfully, my company is privately owned rather than publicly traded, I adopt the following strategy: Make your customers, employees, and vendors happy, and you will realize the best success possible. The most important thing a company does is provide products and services to a customer who is highly satisfied; you hire people who are dedicated to making that happen; and finally pay attention to your supply chain – your vendors – so that they will give you great deals. Don’t hold your vendors over a barrel – treat them kindly. Owners, whether private or shareholders on the board, should want this sort of thing.

        PS: My state is notorious for high taxes. It is also has a lot of money to be made. You can save money, but you also have to make it. For example, we moved from a state with cheap housing to California where I got a 66% pay increase. My salary is higher than what my wife and I were making combined in our old state. Sure, we pay high rent and taxes, but we are still ahead. Got it? In this mild climate, utility bills are cheaper, and we can get by on one car just fine. (I often ride my bicycle to work, and that makes my physician happy.)