Recruitment Agents Are Not All Evil. Part One

There are many groups on Linkedin where all you will read is discussion after discussion on how people ‘hate’ Recruitment Agents (RA’s) and how RA’s do ‘nothing’ and never reply to calls or emails, how many add fake job adverts on the internet to attract candidates and so much more. Constant ‘RA’s are a waste of time’, etc.

It becomes tedious after discussion number 10 in a particular group (Webrecruit), where the Group clearly has an agenda to ensure that these ‘bad news items’ about RA’s get out into the public (as Webrecuit simple run a flat-rate internet recruitment solution, so they WANT people to not like RA’s). I even tried adding a post about supporting RA’s, but it got deleted and I messaged the group owner, who looks at my profile at least once a day, but doesn’t have the courtesy to reply.

Before working in Recruitment, I thought RA’s had it easy. It seemed like all they did was find a CV, get it over to me and I then paid a fee to them. All the RA’s I knew were making £100k+ a year, worked 14 hour days, then 6 hours in the pub, then 4 hours sleep. I moved into recruitment and the reality is very different, especially when I moved into recruitment during a recession. RA’s I knew still worked very long days, making calls to candidates at 7.30am and then again at 7.30pm, meeting 5 candidates a day, interviewing them, then making 50+ cold calls to businesses to see if they were recruiting, etc and 49 of those calls getting a simple  ‘Piss Off!’ from the prospect.

Then the RA’s go home, but they are still ‘on call’ and candidates are calling them at 9pm, 10pm, emailing them even later and expecting a reply asap to help them get a job. Then candidates send an email advising they can’t make an interview (that the RA hs worked VERY hard to get for them in the first place).

The RA then goes into work, turns their PC on and there’s 200 new CV’s overnight from one job ad, lets say for a HR Manager in Manchester. About 20 of the CV’s are from Poland, Nigeria or India. Then 50 or so are from candidates who have never worked in a HR dept, but have ‘sat in a few disciplinaries’. Then there’s, say, 100 candidates left. Most of them are a waste of time, there’s the candidate who knows its a full-time position being advertised, but wants part-time hours and wants to work Monday Afternoon and Wednesday only. But still wants to be put forward so more time can be wasted. Then several candidates make phone calls into the office, usually when they wake up at about 11am and they ‘want to know more about the job’, but the RA won’t reveal anything til they send in a CV.

“I sent my CV last night to you, have you not read it yet? My God, you RA’s are rubbish!”

“Sorry, I have had 200+ applications for the role, I’ve not had time to go through each of them, because all our candidates expect 5-10 minute phone calls, explaining whey they are not suitable for the job. And in that time, my competitor has not replied to the emails or made phone calls to every none-relevant candidate who expects reply. They’ve also got 3 ideal candidates, 1 already registered with them and 2 who I may also have the CV of, but haven’t had a chance to ring them yet because of the Nigerian Fork-Lift Truck driver, who has now sent his CV 33 times to me. Oh, my competitor has two interviews set up as well already.”

“So… Why am I not suitable for the role?” asked the angry candidate.

“Sorry, I haven’t read over your CV just yet, I’ve been working for hours without any break and your CV is a mess, it’s formatted all wrong, there’s spelling mistakes galore and your email address is ‘’. Oh and you were previously an electrician, not a HR Manager, I’m afraid you won’t be suitable for the role.”

‘Well, thanks for wasting my time then you stupid RA!” exclaims the candidate.

The RA then rests his head in his arms, shaking in disbelief. Then the phone rings again, this time, it’s ‘Shirley’ and Shirley is a Cook, but she has read a book about HR, is immediately available and wants nothing less than £45k…

  1. October 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I could not have said it better myself, an excellent example of a day in our office!

    Thank you

  2. Paul Halliwell
    October 18, 2010 at 10:11 am

    As usual Steve your blog is interesting and well-informed. As a former recruiter you views are certainly ones that I can empathise with and I look forward to reading further instalments…

  3. Eric Young
    October 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I know the LinkedIn site you refer to and in fairness not all posts are as one sided as you state here.
    There are a number of frustrations with RA some of which are justified and, admittedly, some are not.
    However there are a number of agencies who are bringing your profession in to disrepute. These are large agencies and therefore attract a lot of attention.
    Perhaps if there was transparency and total honesty between the RA and the job seeker things may improve.
    I have had agents who have said they doubted they could place me as they did not really deal in management roles, for which I thanked them and moved on. Similarly I have had agents who have called me very excited about registering me and I have never heard from them again.
    Of course it is difficult to get back to everyone, there are not enough hours in the day. For the HR role it would be sufficient to advise the fork lift driver by email he has not been put forward, however the HR assistant would, in my opinion deserve a call.
    We are all overworked and underpaid, that is a fact of modern life in the UK, but we must work to provide a solution to this issue, or it will simply get worse.
    The employer, RA and job seeker need to work together otherwise it will degenerate in to a farce

  4. October 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Having worked as a recruitment consultant, an in house talent manager and now as a self employed person who helps find homes for good recruitment people this blog struck a chord with me!

    Since January this year I have been speaking to recruitment consultants within the creative and marketing space in London and I have encountered some of the most professional, bright bunch of people you would hope to help you find great talent or help you find a job in this sector. Informed, honest, tenacious, communicative, polite with high degrees of emotional intelligence.

    The really good recruitment consultants are often well known in their space, but not always! Some of them are also really well kept secrets. They listen until their ears hurt, nurture, empathise and most of all really put themselves out to find the right roles for the right people. The term ‘what goes around comes around’ could never be more true in the recruitment world and the great ones are really mindful of this.

    The very best recruitment agencies and recruiters are those who don’t work with the short term goal in mind but always work with the longer term in mind, not just for themselves, but for their clients and candidates too.

    Find a good one and the doubters will eat their words.

  5. October 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Very interesting comments, having been in resourcing for a while myself I do sympathise. In my experience a good RA keeps in touch with his/her candidates and is on the lookout for suitable roles. I guess I am lucky to know a few and if I don’t have a role it’s not because these people are unable to do their job, it’s simply that the roles are not on the market right now. One cannot blame the current market and totally irrelevant applications on someone else’s incompetence, that’s just not helpful.

  6. Phil Roebuck
    October 18, 2010 at 4:21 pm


    As the CEO of webrecruit and its LinkedIn group manager, I do feel I have to put the record straight.

    Having come from a traditional recruitment background myself, I’d like to stress that we haven’t an agenda about “bad news items” – I honestly feel that lots of RAs do that job themselves!

    I apologise for deleting your previous post as you have a similar name to one of webrecruit’s competitors, but with over 200 people requesting to join our group a day – it’s sometimes a difficult task to police every discussion thread.

    This aside, I wish you all the very best with your new venture. Also, you may be interested in an upcoming piece we’re doing on Mat Wilkinson’s (MD of RRE) successes as a result of the advice shared within the group.

    Best, Phil.

    • October 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Phil, I appreciate your reply, thanks. And yes, it does seem to be an ‘agenda’ of the Webrecruit Linkedin Group, I’ve noticed lots of discussions started by RA’s or supporting RA’s suddenly be deleted, several of my own as well. I can understand what your aims are within the group, etc, but Linkedin is a community and group members, especially RA’s tend to be victimised without recourse in the group, which is unfortunate.

      Obviously, there are ‘bad apples’ in recruitment like any other career/sector, but in the interest of fairness and so it doesn’t come across as a pure ‘Recruitment Consultant Hate Group’, I’d ask politely for the censorship to cease – Maybe you are not fully aware, maybe another moderator is doing it? Also, I’m good friends with Mat Wilkinson, aware of the help/support you have given, etc, big credit to you for that.


      Steve Smithson

    • October 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      Hi Phil

      Could I suggest that you post a set of guidelines on your LinkedIn group so that people can know what kinds of questions not to ask you?

      If people know they have to conform to a certain kind of acquiescence, they can decide whether or not to join – which could save you the bad PR of removing members without explanation.

      Two hundred people a day apply to join a group so they can be sold to, eh? That’s quite impressive. It’s remarkable how much validity appearing on television can provide, isn’t it?

      Those last two questions were rhetorical by the way.

  7. Mark John McVey
    October 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Mark McVey Nice one Steve, made me laugh despite how true it is. In my industry, Retail Recruitment, it does not matter how good or accurate the advert is you still get a huge number of unsuitable candidates applying. Its a shame because its not possible to reply to every applicant when so many just ignore the criteria, click and send. I don’t view Web Recruit as a like for like competitor against recruitment consultants, you do get what you pay for. I cannot see computers, databases or robots replacing the human element that is required in matching the right person to the right job. Therefore price comparisons are not applicable.

  8. Natalie Rosato
    October 19, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Having been in recruitment for over 12 years I have met some fantastic consultants and some extremely bad ones. Recruitment does have a bad name in general and I believe it is down to the attitudes of the consultants and the companies they work for. I have worked for the High Street agencies and was ordered to make 100 cold calls when I had 30 immediate jobs to fill, where is the logic in that kind of behaviour? Certain agencies put extreme pressure on their consultants to hit ridiculous targets that are completely unecessary to them achieving their goals. This results in the consultant not doing what they need to do and not doing anything particularly well. Recruitment is an industry that is complately reliant on the product it sells, people. I have some amazing consultants working for me, they follow up the cvs sent with interviews, they keep in contact with the candidate, they call them the day before the interview with the client to wish them well only to recieve a call form a screaming client the next day when the candidate didnt bother to show up and take an incredible amount of abuse for “wasting” the clients time. This can be a thankless role and it is largely due to other peoples attitudes. It is a joy to meet a candidate who actually puts a suit on for an interview, who calls you with feedback and who actually thanks you when you find them their dream job. Every role has challenges, every industry has pitfalls, all I will say with recruitment is this…..If you ate in a restaurant and the food was awful and the service appalling, would you never eat there again or never dine out anywhere? Some of us actually care about the fundamental issue of our industry, helping people find work! 90% of our clients only work with us as they have had bad experiences with other agencies. Dont tarnish us all with the same brush….some of us are pretty good at what we do.

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