To get a job and stay employed is a lot like the Olympic Games. These athletes train day after day and year after year for these events. Similarly, jobseekers are going to have to do the same to understand their industry, track hiring trends, and steer clear of opportunists who would take advantage of them.

For weeks I’ve been writing about job security, hoping to help jobseekers find their way and be aware of companies and practices that might lead to potential failure. This week, it’s about unprofessional recruiters, some of whom are impostors.

* * *

I thought I’d heard and seen it all. On Thursday an excited client called me and asked for a quick 1-hour interview preparation review. A recruiter had called and in a brief conversation set up an interview for the following day.

Their conversation went something like this:
(The names are fictitious.)

Recruiter (in a hurry): “Hi Fred, this is Steve and I’m calling from Manhattan. I’m with Executive Recruiters Management. Are you interested in an executive Marketing and Public Relations position with a major energy company on the east coast?”

Fred: “Of course.”

Recruiter: “What kind of salary are you looking for?

Fred: “Somewhere between $145 and 170K.”

Recruiter: “Well that’s too bad. This job pays $250K. Would you be able to make that work?” (laughter)

…Please call me tomorrow at 1 PM sharp. Don’t be late. My client really takes punctuality seriously.”

The recruiter quickly spit out his phone number and ended the call. A few minutes later he texted the same information to Fred, including the part about being punctual.


So Fred researched the company and the recruiter. Neither the recruiter nor the company could be identified on LinkedIn. Not that unusual. None-the-less, the more we talked about it, something just didn’t feel right.

Fred could not find anything on the recruiter or the company anywhere and he was concerned that the recruiter might pop a “pay to play” option—where the job seems real and the recruiter wants the jobseeker to pay to be considered. If the jobseeker got the job, it could be as much as 15% of the first year’s salary. (Assuming there actually was a job.)

Sure enough, the next day, when Fred called (at exactly 1 PM), he received a voice mail about some glitzy resort. He had spent hours preparing for the call.

Fred identified the area code for the recruiter’s cell number and found it was a small town in upstate New York. A call to the Chamber of Commerce indicated that Fred wasn’t the first person to complain to them on this matter.

* * *

Jobseekers receive abominable treatment:
Jobseekers are perhaps the worst treated people in America. The call to an interview brings hope and excitement. It’s invigorating. Jobseekers tell their friends, their family. They prepare as if their future depends on it —because it does!


It’s cruel:
An interview validates to jobseekers that they are credible and noteworthy. It indicates a belief that they can do the job and bring value to the hiring entity. It affirms their sense of self, their professional standing, and their belief that they can have a future.

When the hope of an interview (and future) turns out to be a joke, the incessant mental traffic begins. The jobseeker considers that it was ALL a lie. They may not have what it takes anymore. They aren’t credible or noteworthy.

Jobseekers often suffer from situational depression. Depression is part of the grief process and comes with the loss of their job and career. Horrendous treatment by the hiring profession frequently triggers a downward mental spiral.

It is unconscionable.

Again, jobseekers are the worst treated people in the U.S. They are treated as if this disaster is all their fault!

It’s a two-way street!
Studies show that the poor treatment of job seekers is coming back to haunt hiring companies.

The date of an interview is circled on a calendar so you remember the important meeting with your potential new employer

Big box retail to manufacturing:
About six months ago a C-level client navigated his way through a series of interviews—including the president of the big-box retail chain. Afterwards, he was told that it would take a month to interview the rest of the candidates. My client was promised phone calls and face-to-face meetings but none of those ever materialized. Nothing.

Two clients have actually received job offers, including salary, benefits, and a start date…and that’s the last they heard from the company. This happened to one client repeatedly to the point where he called me and said, “Marcia, I just received my third job offer and I’m going home to apply for some more positions.” Months later, the other client caught up with the recruiter who said, “Yeah, they decided to reorganize the company and close that office.” Huh?

Why is basic courtesy such a struggle?
What percentage of jobseekers have been interviewed and never heard another word? I suspect that is a very high number. How many jobseekers have applied (no interview) and never heard back? That number would likely include every active jobseeker—100%.

What is the cost to the company?
Forbes indicates that this practice could ultimately cost companies a lot. This article: Treating Job Applicants Badly May Cost Employers, indicates that when job seekers are treated poorly, their opinion of the company plummets, they are less likely to consider employment at that company and a whopping 78% indicated that they shared their experience with others. Through social media, some stories have gone viral.

A CareerBuilder study shows that 56% of companies reported that an offer was rejected due to a bad experience with the hiring process. One-third indicated that they were less likely to purchase a product from a company that treated them badly.

It’s no wonder that CareerBuilder is trying to find a way to quantify the financial impact in dollars to companies that mistreat job seekers.

Beware of the backfire:
All in all, companies might do well to remember that jobseekers are also customers and consumers, and with so may unemployed people, this could backfire sooner rather than later.

How to vet a recruiter:
Before an interview:

  • Ask the recruiter to connect with you on LinkedIn—especially if you can’t find them.
  • Ask for the web address of their company.
  • Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau and/or the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Don’t fall for the “pay-to-play” game.

Inspire change:

  • Be kind to jobseekers—especially if you are one.
  • Be kind to hiring professionals—set the standard for professionalism.
  • Reward those companies and hiring professionals who are courteous and act with integrity.

The recruiters that I know are decent, respectful, and true professionals.
Here is a little inspiration for all of us about being kind:

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