Talent Acquisition

How to Spot a Good Recruiter from a Bad Recruiter

There seems to be a large, growing population that views the profession of third party recruiting as a useless industry. They find recruiters to be greedy, selfish and caring more about the commission checks they cash than the people they place. Used car salesmen are starting to get better reputations.

As a seasoned recruiter I take offense to this. It pains me to hear people talk so poorly about a profession I have worked so hard at and take so seriously.

At the same time, as a seasoned recruiter, I’ve seen enough to know these people deserve to look down on the recruiting industry. They are well within their rights to put a recruiter down and diminish the profession. Unfortunately there are recruiters out there that are proving them right. If you have a LinkedIn account, a few hundred bucks to get set up on CareerBuilder and a working phone line you can call yourself a recruiter. There is no degree to get into the field. And for most agencies there really aren’t any specific qualifications to be hired either, which means anytime you receive a call from a recruiter you are either about to work with someone who can change your life, or waste 5 minutes of your time.

It’s that latter part that causes such ill feelings about the profession. Dealing with someone who doesn’t value your time or more importantly, your career, can cause these negative opinions, and I don’t blame candidates for feeling this way.

I want to highlight 5 points to ensure that when you do get that call, you will know if they are worth working with or not:

1) Do they understand what is important to you?

What I am about to say here is no surprise: recruiters are compensated by their clients, and, as such, the loyalty lies where the money stream flows.

The bad recruiter only sees this and their process is pretty simple. They will get you on the phone, determine if you are a fit and move on.

The good recruiter sees the bigger picture. They will make sure that they are gathering the information that is important to your career, and if it matches the open job, then great, we are one step closer to a placement. If not, that’s OK too.

Knowing what is important to the candidate will help the recruiter determine what future positions make sense to approach you about. Bad recruiters will sacrifice the long term relationship for immediate results.

RELATED: Are Recruiters Really Bad People?

2) How much do they know about the job?

Give me 10 minutes with the most entry level recruiter and I can get them to take a half decent job order from a hiring manager. Believe me, it’s not difficult.

But what do they really know about the job?

Of all things, this is probably the top complaint from candidates. However, candidates must be realistic. Some information is just hard to get as a recruiter because a client does not want to give too much to a third party.

But a good recruiter will dive deeper – they should understand why the position is open, how many people are on the team, how long their client has been in business and what personality traits are important to the hiring manager among many other things.

If a recruiter is just reading off of a job description and hasn’t done their homework, look out.

RELATED: The Principles of Being a Better Recruiter

3) Knowledge of your skill sets:

Another popular complaint from candidates is recruiters not understanding their industry. This is an easy thing to be angry about because you take pride in what you do – to have some person you never met try and tell you if those skills that took you years to acquire match a few bullet points on a piece of paper can feel intrusive and offensive. Recruiters aren’t Web Developers, CNC Machinists or Executive Assistants, they are recruiters, and their job isn’t to pretend to be something they aren’t.

However, a good recruiter should do some research on what they are hiring for – they should be able to talk to you with some level of understanding what it takes to get the job done for the position they call you about and they should be comfortable enough to be honest about not having the same knowledge of your industry as you do.

RELATED: What Skills Do Employers Want from Candidates? [INFOGRAPHIC]

4) Follow up skills:

A good recruiter should keep you informed throughout the process – after all they are the middle man! If you go several days without hearing from your recruiter, and they will not return your calls, that’s a concern. It’s unfortunate but more times then not a client will go silent on recruiters and there is nothing they can do about it, however that should not mean you shouldn’t hear from the recruiter!

The recruiter should be keeping you up to date on whatever it is that’s going on. They haven’t heard back from the client in 3 days? Well you should know that. And realize that the recruiter can only do so much to get an answer from them during those times.

RELATED: How to Contact Recruiters on Social Media [Best Ways]

5) Detail oriented:

What is the recruiter’s process? Is it a 5 minute call and the next thing you know you are interviewing with a client? Although sometimes that is the case, for the most part your conversation should be pretty thorough – the recruiter should fully walk you through every part of the job, prepare you thoroughly for any interview and take the time to walk you through each step. You aren’t a child and shouldn’t be treated as such, but this person has taken a lot of time understanding the position they have approached you about, the least they could do is share their experience for your benefit.


I understand the decision to lump recruiters in the same bucket. Even a few poor experiences can ruin your outlook on the entire profession. However by doing that you are only hurting yourself. Countless times I have called candidates about a position only to be answered with “I don’t deal with recruiters!” What you refuse to “deal” with is my connections and relationships that I have worked hard for, that will leverage you to that next position you have been searching for.

What I suggest to candidates I work with is find a recruiter who staffs your industry and works with the major employers you want to work with and build a relationship with them. Ensure they are the type of recruiter that understands your career goals and can align you with the right hiring managers. They may not have an immediate opening, but chances are they have already established a relationship with the company that eventually decides to hire you.

By Chadd Balbi

Chadd Balbi is a seasoned recruiting professional with extensive experience in full life cycle recruiting and business development in both Corporate and Staffing environments. His emphasis is on strong recruiting, business development and client relationship focus. Specializing in the IT staffing industry. Follow Chadd on Twitter @CFBRecruiter.