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Why Recruiters Suck So Bad

Why Recruiters Suck So Bad

I spend a lot of my time hanging out at tech user groups and meetups. Being a frequent face, sharing career tips, giving job search advice… creating relationships over time, builds a lot of trust.

So, tech pros are not shy when they tell me their recruiting horror stories. They forward email, name recruiters and the companies they work for. And it is equal opportunity… it seems that search firm, consulting firm and corporate recruiters are all equal offenders.

A number of years ago while having a video glitch at Minnebar I was asked to not start my session yet. They wanted it all on video so to pass the time I ask, “So what do you want to know?” And the room was awkwardly quiet. Then an attendee from the back of the room says with a very loud voice, “Why do recruiters suck so bad?” The room erupts in laughter and of course… the video started recording and I have a blank look on my face.

While I share the frustration they have with poorly written job descriptions, being ghosted, doing “tell me about yourself” questions during every interview and a huge number of other offenses… I also share with them why some of this happens.

I explain that most of my corporate recruiter friends have an insane workload, frequently their teams are understaffed and underbudgeted, recruiting tends to be an “entry level” role to HR so experience can be lacking and more. When I finish and at least for a moment… I see some empathy.

I’ve always wanted to do a day or week in the life of a recruiter but as a consultant, my weeks rarely are the same.

I bumped into this amazing post on LinkedIn Adding Up Why Recruiters Suck from Terra Carbert a Minneapolis Recruiter who I have known for a long time. She’s one of the good ones. Click => LinkedIn and @terracarbert to learn more about her and to say hello. I asked her if I could repost her article here and she said yes. She shows what it’s like being one of us. So the next time you think, why do recruiters suck so bad? You’ll know that much of it is not our fault and most of us really are doing the best we can.

Thank you Terra!!!

And if after reading you have some comments and thoughts to share (I hope you do)… don’t do it here. Click the link above and comment on Terra’s post.


Adding Up Why Recruiters Suck

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot more time on social media. Recruiters sure do take a beating around here. The image from google search completion says it all.

Today, I felt compelled to provide a glimpse inside a week in the life of a corporate recruiter at large organizations. I apologize for the length of this post in advance, but recruiters do A LOT in a week. I'm sure you do too.

Here’s the why behind the two most common complaints I hear:

“I haven’t heard anything on my application and I applied three weeks ago”

"I haven’t heard anything on my opening and it’s been open for a week”

The recruiter is working on anywhere from 15 (dream world) to 50, 60, 70 openings at a time. In my experience leading teams, partnering with clients, and as a corporate recruiter the average runs somewhere in the 20-30 range for most. Let’s take the average and do the math. Let’s assume about ½ of those jobs (call it 12) are in the phone interview stage.

Okay, I'm the corporate recruiter and I've got 10 hours left (assuming a 40-hour workweek) to take care of all this other stuff:

1. Writing and posting job descriptions. This takes about 30 minutes each if you have an ATS that works well for this & and an up to date library of job descriptions used for posting. It could take up to 2 hours if you have to manually post on every job board or social channel along with a full rewrite of the job description (because you were given an old template). I have 2 new jobs ready to post this week (assuming I have an awesome ATS that never ever shows a spinning loading wheel and is lightning fast) so 30 minutes each! Another hour gone…9 hours left.

2. Reading resumes of applicants on posted jobs. I have an average of 20 applicants per job and 10 jobs that need resumes reviewed this week, that’s 200 resumes! Let’s take 30 seconds to read those resumes. Oh wait 30 seconds isn’t long enough to actually READ THE RESUME I need a minute average. 30 seconds to review on the obvious "no" and at least a minute and a half on those worth a full review. 200 minutes gone. Why touch all of them? Doesn't the ATS handle this? We recruiters must at least scan a resume or review the pre-screen answers from the person who has absolutely no relevant experience and change their status in the system because….COMPLIANCE! 3 hours and 40 minutes left

3. Sending emails to all my hiring manager(s) providing them updates on their positions and presenting any candidates I recommend move forward – call it another hour gone. 4 hours 40 minutes left

4. Chasing down the hiring manager to get the feedback on who they want to interview because they DIDN’T RESPOND TO THE EMAIL – 5 more minutes follow up call/email both methods tried this time per manager. It’s a good week only 2 managers didn’t respond. 10 minutes. 4 hours 30 minutes left

5. Filling out the interview request form for the coordinator to schedule face to face interviews with the hiring team or scheduling myself – I have to schedule 6 face to face interviews this week. Those forms are cumbersome 5 minutes each at least so another 30 minutes gone. 4 hours left

6. Chasing down the interview participants to ANSWER THE DAMN INTERVIEW INVITE – 2 minutes per 5 people who think outlook scheduling is dumb and still use their desk calendar. 10 more minutes 3 hours 50 minutes left.

7. Notifying candidates of the next steps in the process or making sure my coordinator was able to do this. I have 6 who are interviewing onsite, 4 headed to offer and I need to make sure I know what they’ll accept, 2 I need to complete background check paperwork and aren’t getting back to the coordinator. This is 12 candidates I have to call them all. I’m either leaving a voicemail (1 minute each or talking to them 4-10 minutes each). So, say I reach ½ by phone and keep it quick, 4 minutes that’s 24 minutes on calls and another 6 minutes leaving some messages. 3 hours 20 minutes left

8. Scheduling and conducting feedback sessions with hiring teams from interview five of these meetings will take me 30 minutes each. I'm fortunate, these people know how to hire and NEVER disagree; these meetings ALWAYS end on time. 5 x 30 =150 minutes = 2 hours and 20 minutes. One hour left

9. Chasing down the interview panelists about the feedback session because they didn’t ANSWER THE DAMN INVITE – 55 minutes left

10. Getting into the applicant tracking system and closing out candidates, moving them to the right “step” in the software, making sure their applications are signed, offer letters are signed and of course that it’s all compliant in the event of an audit or and EEO or OFCCP lawsuit. There is no way this is less than 30 applicants often way more. Call it a minute a piece because I've got that awesome ATS….25 minutes left

11. Rescheduling the interview (or delegating the rescheduling) that’s scheduled for tomorrow at 8:00 AM when Janet who ACCEPTED THE INVITE lied and she is a required participant – of course, it’s 4:30 PM and I’m supposed to attend a baseball game tonight with my kid, but I’ve got this. I call the candidate and apologize that we need to cancel, grovel, get availability, and fill out that interview request form again, send an email to notify the rest of the interview panel that the interview is canceled because my coordinator actually owns the invite and well….left the office at 4 and someone has to do it. 25 minutes work week is done. ZERO hours left

12. Meet with hiring managers to learn about the new positions put on desk this week (3) 45 minutes each. Negative 2.25 hours

13. Attend that training session on the new law related to fair pay in several states and learn how we are supposed to implement this at the company and what our approach will be. Negative 2.75 hours

14. Notify talent sourcing about those three obscure positions that aren’t getting any qualified applications and I need help – 15 minutes Negative 3 hours

15. Find appropriate headhunter to help with the one opening my sourcing department can’t help with because they are supporting 25 other recruiters who all have needs too. Interview 3 of them to make sure they know this area 15 minutes each Negative 4.25 hours

16. Research the career fair the Joe asked me if we thought attending would be beneficial for that job he’s hiring for next week – 15 minutes Negative 4.5 hours

17. Contact the two job boards that Annie is convinced has all the right talent we need and get the pricing for posting a job there…wait on hold, jam out to some Billy Joel learn it’s $585 for a single job posting on one and $395 for the other Negative 5 hours

18. Okay, let’s get real. Those phone interviews, if they are 30 minutes, take at least another 10 minutes to clean up my notes and attach them to the system. They actually deserve 40 minutes and if we're being completely honest almost NEVER end on time. It should be 45 minutes each. Technically, I started the week with 45 hours of phone interviews activity not 30….negative 10 hours. Never mind, I’m an excellent recruiter and will recognize the candidates who aren’t a fit quickly and get that 5 hours back by cutting phone interviews short. Negative 5 hours. Besides, this is America! No one works 40 hours a week. It’s okay, I’ll just bring lunch everyday and eat at my desk. I’ll somehow find the time to:

19. Call Abby and keep her warm because the hiring manager “loves her” but still wants to see “a few more candidates” No one is counting anymore

20. Tell Jim that the candidate he just offered a job got a counteroffer for 10k more to stay at his current employer and though he really wants to come work for us it’s to tempting to refuse unless we can at least meet in the middle.

21. Contact the background company and ask why in the heck Andrea’s background isn’t cleared yet and she’s supposed to start on Monday only to find out that the drug testing company labeled the sample as diluted and she needs to retest.

22. Contact Andrea and ask her to get the drug test done today or her start date might slip only to learn she’s out of town taking a vacation prior to starting on Monday so she can’t.

23. Notify Andrea’s hiring manager that there’s no way on God’s green earth that she can start on Monday.

24. Follow up with my coordinator to ask why 2 of the 6 interviews I have in queue to be scheduled are still not on my calendar.

25. Track down that missing payment for the recruiter who helped me fill a job 4 months ago and their invoice is 60 days past due.

26. Track down the hiring manager to get the cost center information so that recruiter can get paid.

27. Conduct the market research on mechanical engineers to support the 2019 diversity hiring strategy aiming to hire at least 20% females into the role only to learn just 7% of all mechanical engineers are female. Shit, there goes my bonus.

28. Contact compensation and present my business case for why I need permission to go $2,000 outside of range on that job that’s been open for 145 days so Jim can get that candidate with the counter offer on board.

29. Contact legal to kickoff the legal posting requirements needed to bring on that H1B candidate

30. Build rapport with my coworkers, attend the team meeting, have the one on one with my boss, meet with my mentor, meet with my mentee and attend that “must see” webinar on the latest video interview technology we are piloting, go to the bathroom, workout, spend time with family, contact my friends, PLAN MY VACATION

Dear corporate recruiters, It’s not hard to see why things slip. More people need to know why. I know your boss tells you not the tell the hiring managers or candidates how many jobs you are working at once. It’s okay. You’re doing your best and probably doing a kick-ass job! I’ll help if I can.

Dear applicants, it’s usually not the recruiter’s fault.

Dear hiring managers, answer the emails, answer the invites and please send Janet a note that if she ever backs out of an interview the night before again she won’t be part of the hiring process anymore - that’s a start.


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Darryl Arnold

I understand your situation. I would not be a corp. recruiter even if my ass fell off. Take all that knowledge and do your own thing. You would not be held hostage by the company and you would collect a fee for finding the right company and the right candidate. Keep in mind candidates and companies work with recruiters they know, like and trust. Spend time developing those relationships and make sure you do this equally between the candidates and the hiring managers. Once you do this then you will have a steady flow of fees and will make more in a month than you make in a year as a slave to the corporation. And you can work from home if you choose and be close to the people you love. If I were you, I would walk into my boss and tell him/her that you have an eye problem. When they ask what do you mean? You simply say "I can't see myself working here anymore and walk out with your head held high. End of story and my two cents.


Darryl, It's almost as if you finished my story for me. I ended my time in corporate recruiting about a year ago to have more time to focus on things that matter outside of work and still do what I love.

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