Here’s how to deal with recruiters – and as always, the over 40s need to do it better!

And recruiters will call if you have built a strong profile and resume…

  • Usually it’s best to say: “I’m happy where I am” or “I’m not looking for a move, but I’m always prepared to listen”. As in most aspects of life, playing hard to get increases your (perceived) value. Of course, if you are desperate to move you might say “I’m prepared to listen – for the right job I would move”
  • Fish for information from the recruiter
  • Answer their questions, but only with non-confidential stuff available on line
  • Tell them what might appeal if you were to consider a role – talk about your ideal (but realistic) career goal
  • Tell them the salary range for your ideal job: keep the range broad. The lower end of the range is more than what you are on now – unless it is a major, much sought after career move (then you might go backwards on salary if you can afford it)

And of course, provide the recruiting agent with more information if you are actively seeking a new job. Make it as easy as possible for them to help you.

Dealing with recruiters: A woman sitting at her desk taking a recruiter call

Recruiters are not career experts

Who gets hauled out as experts whenever journalists write an article on job seeking? Who are journalists most likely to call? No surprise that it’s large recruitment firms, the ones who are always advertising. Journalists don’t understand the structure of this evil industry, so it’s understandable they think these sales people are career experts.

Journalists are always short of time but need to fill large amounts of space every day. When they need sources or quotes, they go to those who are top of mind, because they see their ads all the time. And the big firms also have PR people to help the journalists with story ideas and access.

Is it a problem that sales people in large firms are perceived to be career experts? Well, yes.

  • Firstly, recruiting agents are anything but experts in the complex world of career advice (but great at selling bodies!)
  • Secondly, these articles about careers are where most of us get our information and understanding. The advice needs to be unbiased and free of vested interests

Let’s look at one recent example on the complex issue of ‘cultural fit’, and if you think the quote below is ridiculous, remember that there is an article a week on recruiting that is just as implausible. This article talked about a common excuse given to candidates for being rejected for a job – that they didn’t ‘fit culturally’. A Director of a Mega Firm gave this quote in the Sydney Morning Herald…

“It’s about having respect for the candidate. They are entitled to having an in-depth discussion on why they weren’t successful and what exactly the client was looking for. Otherwise they are being short changed.”

Wonderful! And if you believe that such feedback regularly happens when most of their income is sales commission, you probably believe in the tooth fairy. Remember, the structure of any industry and the way people are remunerated is what drives behaviour. There will always be worthy individuals who fight against the tide, and whilst admirable, they are unfortunately rare.

And the Government has made it worse…

The worthy people in academia and the government have unwittingly been the cause of even less feedback being given to applicants Why? Because the feedback may look discriminatory: as in other industries, the recruitment industry is not allowed to overtly discriminate against applicants. But the reality is that they do, every day, every week.

Dealing with recruiters: a woman presenting her resume to a recruiter

Every recruiter regularly gets job vacancy briefs that include ‘nod-nod, wink-wink’ instructions such as:

  • “We need to rebalance our gender, so we really need a woman” (yes, it is happening more);
  • “My team is young, and I’m only 32, so anyone older won’t fit our culture.”

Now, we could present a 49-year-old male to them, but why waste everybody’s time. The client might see them if we insist, especially if HR are watching. Or at least they’ll keep them on the ‘Hold’ list. Of course, no-one is allowed to advertise for a ‘female aged 26 to 34, so all the men and older women apply, and all have to be rejected with illegal ‘white’ lies.

What a glorious and complete waste of time. Like so many politically correct policies, the intentions were admirable. However, the outcome causes a monumental waste of time and requires the recruiters to lie. More insidiously, it frustrates older applicants, women, the disabled, etc. Typically, it leads to disillusionment and damages their self-confidence.

But that doesn’t let the Mega Recruiter, quoted in the Herald article above, off the hook. He knows it’s a lie. By allowing such lies, we are damaging people’s careers and significantly adding to the costs of employing people – and the result is major economic damage. More insidiously, we are not addressing and combating the discrimination and prejudices born of ignorance.

But what else could you expect from recruitment firms? An admission that their corporate strategy and work practices are illegal?

In 2008 I was running a session at the international conference of boutique recruiters, the NPA. Someone had mentioned some dreadfully misleading comment in the press by the biggest firm at the time. My comment was “Well, what can you expect from the Evil Empire.” Pleased that this nickname stuck in the Association for a while, as it summed up the views of boutique recruiters about the salesmen who populate this giant firm. Over half of whom are young travelling Poms looking to stay here – extraordinary but true.

Why not call their bluff the next time you are rejected by one of the mega firms. Ask for a full and frank discussion of the reasons why, and copy in the Fair Work Commission when you do. The response will be interesting as it most likely has never happened to them.


The mission of the Stable and Wise Community…

To unite unprejudiced employers with Mature, stable and motivated employees

“Age is just a number, a number & no more. The experience, maturity, wisdom an older person brings to an organisation is immense & can never be replicated.” Jacqueline Perera, LinkedIn.

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If you personally have not suffered, then perhaps let a friend know about this community – we all know people who have applied for jobs and suffered the deafening silence.