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The things that separate good and bad recruitersPosted 6 months ago by Nick Boulton

If there’s one thing you must get to grips with when you start a career in recruitment, it’s this:

Not all candidates or clients like us.

Candidates get frustrated with recruiters because their applications get rejected, others are angry because they never hear back.

Clients don’t understand why we don’t have perfect candidates in our pockets or why it takes time to fill their AI role based in the Outer Hebrides.

As recruiters, we accept this – it’s part of the job.

But it doesn’t need to be a given. Communication is the single biggest issue in recruitment. So how can we change negative opinions into positive ones?

Recruitment has come a long way from the days of yellow pages, newspaper adverts, roller-decks and faxing offers (where I started, I might add). The evolution of technology has seen the ‘swipe right, swipe left’ mentality being replicated to find jobs. Technology is just one example of how the industry has moved lightyears away from where it began and that the industry has evolved.

It’s fair to say that I never thought I would work in the recruitment industry. Like a lot of people, I fell into it, and my perception of recruitment over the years has not always been an overly positive one.

But over the last 17 years, I’ve had the greatest insight into the world of recruitment, and I think there are certainly elements of it that warrant the negative reputation that it has. But it really is important not to tar all recruiters with the same brush.

I’m in no doubt the recruitment industry is still populated by a lot of aggressive sales attitudes, recruiters with no knowledge of the sector in which they operate and a lack of understanding of the candidates or clients’ needs. But there are some good guys out there who are really trying to change the way things are done, and Client Server is one of them.

So, to help dispel some of those myths, I thought I’d explain a couple of things to look out for in a good and bad recruiter and what they do daily.

The most common miss conception is that we sit at our desks, clad in pinstripe, shouting obscenities, ringing deal bells, over promising and under delivering.

In the world that I work, I see recruitment consultants genuinely trying to help people. Whether it’s improving a CV, helping with interview technique, or improving someone’s personal brand, I watch consultants battling to help people find a better job.

The reality is that along that journey you speak to many people who aren’t right for the job that we’re trying to fill. That’s not to say they aren’t good people, it just means they aren’t right for the job our client is hiring for, and that’s just the reality of life.

In essence, bad recruiters just want to get the position filled at any cost. These are some things to watch out for:

  • They spend no time learning what is interesting and unique about the company they are hiring for
  • They ignore a candidate’s skills or experience and immediately start selling the opportunity without finding out if it is a good fit
  • They don’t listen to a candidate, deflect questions and gloss over objections
  • They over-prep candidates, telling them exactly what technical questions they will encounter during the interview process so the candidates can learn the answers ahead of time.
  • They push candidates and clients into making a decision, often making the process an overly stressful one (changing job is stressful enough)
  • They always talk too much and don’t listen – open questions are non-existent.
  • They give little or no feedback and just move you onto the next interview or even worse just ignore you
  • They over-promise and under-deliver to their clients


Really good recruiters want to help build companies and engineering teams. They will:

  • Spend time with their client from the get-go, understand what they want to hire and not just from a technical perspective. What culture are their client looking to foster and what are they trying to achieve in the long run.
  • Really get to know candidates, both whether they match the job requirements but also on the "soft stuff" like communication style, cultural fit and career aspirations.
  • Consultant with both clients and candidates even if that means talking them out of hiring or applying to certain jobs
  • Spend most of their time listening, not selling.
  • Coach hiring managers and candidates on what kinds of objections they are getting and how they can improve or overcome them.
  • Take responsibility for bad experiences, interviews or hires and do their upmost to remedy them.
  • And above all else, they will actually care.

One thing to never forget is that recruitment is a service industry. We live and die by the quality of the work we do for others. The moment you take that for granted is the moment you start to fail. But if you keep people front of mind all the time, you’ll see just how rewarding this industry can be.