5 Things You’ll Never Say When You’re Working With A Recruiter Worth Their Salt.

For as long as I can remember recruiters have gotten a bad rap (let’s face it, I have been one of the biggest critics well before I started ATP). And as much as I hate to say it, it’s often very well deserved.

Thanks to the internet, it’s so easy to find a decent resume or profile and pass it on or relying on a simple email blast and hoping that something will “stick.” And sadly, that’s all most recruiting firms seem to do in their race to collect a commission check (that or they’ll ghost you if nothing sticks).

But seriously — this unremarkable way of working frustrates me to no end — and it’s why I started ATP. Because when recruiting firms are more concerned with the shortest path to their bottom line than making meaningful connections, everyoneinvolved suffers:

  • Your candidates are left wondering what kind of company you really are after all (which makes it harder for you to hire all-star talent in the future)
  • You’re left figuring out how to start the process all over again (which is a lot of wasted time and money for you — not to mention opportunity cost)
  • You’re left with a bad taste in your mouth about what working with recruiters is like (because there are some there really working their tail feathers off to make a difference).

Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to know which firms are going to do this to you and which aren’t. Because while many will appear to be better than others thanks to slick marketing, what happens under the hood is still almost never built to truly benefit YOU.

I find the best way to know whether you’re really getting what you need is simply to do a gut check. You can’t hide from the truth — if a firm isn’t getting it done, you’re going to feel it (even if you’re not consciously aware of it yet).

So to help you figure out if you’re working with someone who’s just hoping the spaghetti sticks on the wall and looking for payday, here are 5 things you should never be able to say about the firm you’re working with.

1. “Here we go again… another stack of resumes to sort through.”

As I said above, every single recruiter can find the same people thanks to the internet. And since that’s the case, you should absolutely be hiring a recruiter first and foremost for their ability to filter and thoroughly vet the talent they bring you.

But if that’s the purpose of hiring a recruiter, why are you so often left doing all heavy lifting yourself?

Folks, here’s the dirty little secret about the recruiting industry: recruiters know that the faster they find something the stronger the chance that the role will be filled. And that’s where ALL of this nonsense comes from in the first place.

Here’s how this usually plays out behind the scenes:

  • Recruiters know it’s way easy for them to play a numbers game, so they overload themselves with as many “job reqs” as possible.
  • They give the search 15–30 days with the first 2 weeks being spent on giving you as many candidates as they can as fast as they can and hoping someone will stick.
  • They slither out the side door to focus on the other reqs they loaded up on when they don’t get a hit in that 2–3 week timeframe.

The truth is, recruiters aren’t actually spending time vetting their candidates at all. Typically, no more than a cursory 30 minutes with each in the rush to get them in your hands and check off the obvious obligatory boxes. It’s just more profitable for them to let YOU do all of the hard work instead.

But that puts you in a bind. Either you take a gamble on one and hope they work out or you’re left starting over with a new firm who is likely going to do the exact same thing to you.

It’s nothing short of MADNESS.

That said though, there are good recruiters out there who know what kind of tough spot this method of operating puts you in and won’t do this to you.

I’m not talking about just giving you less resumes (though you’d be surprised… a lot of firms will do that to make it look like they’re doing more work). I’m talking about the ones that actually do the hard work up front and provide you with a tight selection of people you can feel are different from the first glance.

(Note: If you’ve never experienced that, I’m not blowing smoke here. This should be your expectation, and it definitely realistic)

Bottom line: if your recruiter is handing you too many resumes to consider, there’s no way they know what they’re doing or they actually have YOUR interests in mind. You shouldn’t make hiring decisions or even decisions about who to interview on resumes alone, and you shouldn’t have a stack of them to go through either.

2. “This recruiting firm doesn’t speak our language…”

And if that’s the case, do you really think you can trust their evaluation of the people they’re bringing you, even if they did let go of the numbers game we talked about above?

No way.

It’s much more likely that you’ll end up spending just as much time sorting through a stack of resumes or banging your head against the wall as every candidate falls flat and churns out in the first 3 months just like you would above.

You’d just do it with fewer resumes at once.

Not only that, but their ability to pivot as you give them feedback on the candidates they’re bringing you would fall flat as well, since they won’t be able to absorb what you tell them to change.

The old adage really is true and I can’t say it enough… it really does take one to know one and ATP is living proof. The single greatest reason we’ve been able to achieve interview-to-hire ratios as high as 98% with our clients is because all three of us have been kicking butt as salespeople ourselves for over 20 years.

Shameless plug aside (hey, I believe in our team) don’t settle for a firm that can’t speak your language… it’s a good sign they’re not specialists in the area you’re hiring for and that you’ll likely end up with mediocre talent (or no talent at all).

(Note: If you’re just trying to put butts in seats, I would highly encourage you to abandon this mentality immediately… your growth depends on it)

3. “That intake meeting was pretty quick and painless.”

Finding all-star talent is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle — it’s one thing to be able to find a good puzzle piece, but it means nothing if the place you’re trying to put it isn’t the also the same shape.

Finding incredible people that are going to onboard/ramp quickly, as well as stick around longer than 6 months requires you to do much deeper discovery than your typical shoddy intake meeting. You have to look the trajectory and the “why” of your business to find a kindred spirit in the candidate you hire to join you.

How important is this? To quote Scott Schwartz (one of our very own clients):

“The recruiting firm that we were working with before ATP wasn’t taking the time to understand us, our product, and most importantly, our process and I spent 3–4 months just teaching one of the people they brought us how to sell before they churned out, costing me $400K in addition to the placement fee I paid.”

That’s exactly why you should never settle for a “quick and painless” (read: fluff) intake meeting — if your recruiter is doing things this way, the chances of you wasting a lot of time and money are high because the likelihood they actually understand what you need is low.

4. “Well… THAT interview was a waste of time.”

Again, this ties back to everything I’ve been talking about so far. If your recruiter meets all 3 requirements above, you should be getting a tight selection of highly qualified candidates to choose from. And while this can’t completely ensure every candidate will be the right fit for you, it does usually mean that you’ll at least feel like it was worth talking to them to find out.

It also ups your chances that you’ll actually struggle to decide between the ones you do interview, which is a good problem to have if you ask me.

Bottom line: if you feel like you’re wasting your time interviewing even just a few of the people a recruiter has brought you for the role, reassess whether they actually know who you’re looking for and revisit the discovery process from point #2 (and potentially even point #1) above.

5. “I have no idea which of these candidates should I hire.”

While yes, the final decision on who to hire is always yours, if you’re left hanging after interviews, your recruiter isn’t doing their job. A real recruiter is a partner who helps you achieve your business goals through hiring, not a glorified resume dealer. They’re experts in the field you’re hiring for and they should have an opinion on who would work best.

Furthermore, they’ve seen a side of your candidates that you likely can’t (and won’t) pre-hire, since they have had behind the scenes contact with them that you haven’t. They can tell you things about them you won’t see from your interactions, which is just another reason you should never catch yourself wondering who to hire.

Actually, let me rewind that a second. They SHOULD have had contact that you haven’t. So if they can’t tell you anything you don’t already know, you should be asking yourself if their vetting process is more than a 6-second cruise through a resume.

Bottom line: quality recruiters are as much consultants as they are talent specialists. They should be helping you navigate things post-interview and even post-offer just as much as the stuff on the front end.

Final thoughts.

Again, a recruiter that is out for more than their commission check will be doing way more than just bringing you resumes and waiting to see if you hire one. We can all find the same people thanks to the good ol’ internet and power of networking, but it takes a dedicated expert who understands what makes you and them tick to usher people through an effective process where everyone wins.

So if you’re feeling like any of these things above are true, the chance that your recruiter actually has the ability to do that is very slim.

I want to hear from you. What parts of working with recruiters do you hate the most? Which ones do you like? Join the conversation below in the comments!


I help startups hire sales leaders without the cringe • Founder/CEO • 2X Entrepreneur • Personally closed $100MM+ in revenue (and counting) • LinkedIn Top Sales

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