Some recruiters deceive candidates like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but do you know how to spot the fakes?


I recently published an article titled “What I Learned from Dishonest Recruiters,” and I received a lot of fan mail from job seekers, and some hate mail from disgruntled recruiters and headhunters who were angry about my willingness to unveil their trickery.


Since I have been on both sides of the fence (as a job seeker represented by recruiters, and now as a headhunter myself), I like to pull back the curtain and expose the naked truth about some of the ugly practices that happen in the recruiting industry. Hopefully, we can all weed-out the bad seeds together and clean up the business.


Here are some hard lessons I’ve learned when I was working with recruiters in the past. In fact, these issues are regular complaints listed on countless websites that rate recruiters and employment agencies (of course this doesn’t represent the entire industry because there are some honest ones out there):


TIP #1: Don’t Give A Recruiter Recommendations Up-Front

Since recruiters and employment agencies are famous for posting fake job ads (for data mining purposes), it’s important to protect your hard-earned recommendations. It’s not uncommon for agents to ask for rec-letters up-front, even if there is no real job on the table because they simply want to introduce themselves to the employer in hopes of getting hired and scoring a commission on a real placement.


On more than one occasion, I’ve had business contacts ask to be removed from my recommendations list because, essentially, they felt harassed by the recruiter that contacted them. Well, needless to say, I was very disappointed that an agent would be so unscrupulous that they would be willing to trash my professional contacts and negatively alter my career path for the love of a buck.


SOLUTION: A great, non-confrontational remedy would be to tell the agent that the people who recommended you are very busy and particular about who their information is being given to. Tell the recruiter in broad strokes the kind of recommendations that you have, and that when the time is right (after the interview process) that you can supply them with hardcopies. If they insist on something up-front, then maybe you should just move on.


TIP #2: Use An Alternate eMail for Each Recruiter

In the past when I was represented by a recruiter, I found it peculiar that I would start getting SPAM emails after I visited their office for an “interview”. In reality, some agencies take advantage of the hundreds of resumes that they get each week and sell that data. Basically, they farm-out your information to third-parties.


This, of course, if very frustrating on a number of levels: namely that you spent the better part of your day at the employment agency filling out all of those stupid forms and taking all of the lame tests – all for no reason because there was no real job on the table.


SOLUTION: Some email accounts, like Microsoft email platforms (Live, Hotmail and Outlook), allow you to open an “alias email” account that is attached to your current email, so you don’t need to create a new one. Simply dedicate another email address for each recruiter and have it go into a separate folder. If you do start getting SPAM after visit a recruiter, you will know for certain that you’ve been targeted by a wolf.


TIP #3: Google The Job Ad

Ever been to a recruiter and been told AFTER you spent half your day there that the job you came in for “has just been filled”? What an amazing coincidence! After I started learning how recruiters were taking advantage of me by posting bogus job ads, I got wiser and started Googling for job ad duplicates.


SOLUTION: Simply take a unique sentence from the ad and enclose it in “quotation marks” so Google will search for exact matches. Lo and behold, if you see the same ad peppered throughout the Web, then it should give you pause. Yes, it’s true that some sites “scrape” job ads and repost them on their sites (for the purpose of having content and selling their own ad space); but you can follow your gut-feeling and decide if you think the recruiter is just blasting the web with reincarnations of the same ad in hopes of attracting candidates’ resumes for data mining.


TIP #4: Don’t Respond To Anonymous Job Ads

If you see a job ad that doesn’t even list a company or an employment agency, like on Craigslist for example, then it’s a sure-fire way of telling that it’s fake and you’re being stalked by a wolf. There’s nothing wrong with job ads that say “Client Confidential,” but that’s when there is – at the very least – an employment agency listed so that you know where you’re sending your resume to. Only data mining operations would post job ads that are completely void of any important information at all. Those fake ads usually have too good to be true aspects to them, like flexible working hours or above-average pay.


TIP #5: Vet Recruiters & Have A Phone Interview First

I learned the hard way that some employment agencies want you to go into their offices for an interview because they want you to fill out paperwork and sign an agreement that allows them to contact your former employers and references to “confirm your previous employment”. In reality, if there is no real job that exists, they are going to use that opportunity to try and nab a paying gig to make a placement.


If you get an email from a recruiter or employment agency and they say they have the “perfect job” for you (especially if they ask for recommendations up front), do a phone interview first to learn more about the job. If the recruiter won’t speak to you by phone, then it’s a pretty good sign that you should be worried.


I don’t know a single HR manager, headhunter, employment agent or recruiter that won’t screen a candidate on the phone FIRST before bringing them in for a face-to-face interview. Why in the world would any business professional bring you in first (without a phone interview) and risk wasting hours of time if, say, you weren’t available on weekends and the job called for that?

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