5 Ways to Spot a Good Recruiter in the Rough

How To Spot A Good Recruiter

Today we are living a world with high unemployment on one end of the spectrum and companies starving for top talent on the other. Combine this with the low barrier to entry to become a recruiter (thanks to platforms like LinkedIn) and it being a highly lucrative profession and we have the birth of the nightmare recruiter.

It surprises me we haven’t put into place some kind of professional license (like something equivalent to a Real Estate license), but we haven’t. Recruitment has always been a job that was an apprenticeship of sorts which seems to be slowly dying.

The bad behavior of clueless recruiters has smeared a black mark over the whole industry and it isn’t fun to be a recruiter now even if you are good. Avoiding recruiters is not the answer, because good ones are worth their weight in gold. A relationship with a good recruiter is one that should last years. A good recruiter will know how to represent you or your organization in a way that reflects you at your best. A good recruiter has a deep sense of understanding of organizational culture and can call “a fit”.

There are still gems out there and I want to give you some tips how to know one from an imposter.

Spotting a Good Recruiter

1) Good recruiters are relationship oriented. This can be gleaned from the kind of conversation she has with you as either a candidate or a hiring manager. Is she taking the time to ask questions about what you care about, what motivates you & is not trying to shove a position down your throat? As a hiring manager is she asking about your organization, the history of hiring for the team, and using a solutions based approach?

Good recruiters know it is a long game and a small world and will protect their reputations above all else. They will also honestly tell you when they can’t help you.

2) They don’t send mass, form emails. Ever. Good recruiters are better hunters than fisherman and the tactics they use to find candidates will reflect that. Good recruiters recognize that dynamite fishing will kill the ecosystem. If they fish, they do it with a spear.

3) You can ask them for references, and the feedback will be consistent & positive. This is not rocket science. Before engaging, ask to speak with other clients or candidates and ask questions about how they work. Look for examples of integrity in the way they operate.

4) They have an actual mandate from a company or an actual relationship with the candidate. Here’s a news flash, anyone can read a job listing off a job board or company site & you can download PDFs of people’s LinkedIn profiles. It doesn’t mean anything. Before agreeing to work with a recruiter, ask questions to ensure they aren’t smoke screening you.

5) Good recruiters could do their job if LinkedIn didn’t exist. Even better is if they started recruiting before LinkedIn existed. I know I tend to be down on LinkedIn, but here is the reality. While LinkedIn is clearly a great data source , it has given rise to this new lazy recruiter I have been talking about, who also happen to believe all talent is on LinkedIn. We all use LinkedIn, there is no escaping that. But the truth is, top talent hardly responds to inMail and there is plenty of talent that simply isn’t on there. As a hiring manager, to make sure you are getting a deep pool of candidates, ask them about their sourcing practices.

There is no need to be a victim of bad recruiters. Take back responsibility and how to identify ones that will be your ally.

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Perri Gorman

Perri Blake Gorman is the CEO / Founder of archive.ly, a people research platform for recruiters and the co-founder of Unroll.Me, the popular email unsubscribe service. Prior to getting into tech, she did retained executive search for over 13 years on Wall Street.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lance Harvie says

    Great article! Regulation is the key to weeding out the bad recruiters. Recruiting and sourcing is becoming so technical and relationship based that someone should create a degree course around it. This course will teach students the workflow and including all the technologies involved plus the human studies. Someone entering the recruitment workplace with such a degree would stand put above the crowd and shear proformance would make bad recruiters redundant.

    Recruiting should be consulting that’s how I run my business, full engagement which requires a deep understanding of the technology sector plus the experience in dealing with people at all levels.



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