4 Truths About Working With Recruiters (That They'll Never Tell You)

I’ve spent most of my career as a recruiter in Boston and New York. I’ve been able to help a lot of job seekers, and one the reasons I love what I do is that I get to share good news.

I get to tell candidates when they’ve made it to the next round, and when the company they’re excited about loved them, and the best news of all, when an offer’s being sent!

But, there are some things I can’t share. One of the hardest parts of my role is not being able to tell the applicants I’m working with everything going on behind the scenes.

However, based on my experience, I can let you in on four things you need to know that your recruiter isn’t going to tell you.

1. Recruiters Want You to Land a Job (For Better or Worse)

Most recruiters in staffing agencies are paid on commission, earning a fee based on your first year’s salary when you get hired. (It doesn’t come out of your pay. It’s just an added expense for the company who hires you.)

This often works in your favor. Since their bonus is typically 20-25% of your base salary, they’ll try to get you a great offer. The more money you make, the higher their rate will be, too.

However, if you don’t land a job, they get paid nothing. So, if they can’t think of other roles you’d be a fit for, they may encourage you to take a low-ball offer. (In their minds, they’re helping you be realistic.)

To make sure you get what you’re worth, have a chat with them in advance about the range you think is reasonable. Then, if you’re extended an offer that’s lower than you deserve, say something like this: “I’m really excited about the position, but I was hoping the offer would come in higher. I would accept on the spot if we were able to get it $5,000 higher on the base salary.”

Also, if you ever feel like you’re being persuaded to take a role that’s not right for you, say so. Don’t let anyone—recruiters included—pressure you into taking a job you don’t actually want.

2. Recruiters Have to Put Company Interests First

Job seekers often refer to themselves as the “clients,” and recruiters are trained not to correct them. The truth is: The companies who hire headhunters are the people who foot the bills.

So, while helping people is the most satisfying part of our work, it’s literally our job to put forth candidates who have a chance.

That sounds pretty cutthroat, but this can work in your favor. That’s because many recruiters want to coach a candidate to be more appealing to hiring managers. So, take advantage of their suggestions! For example, if they recommend a resume change, it’s because they think it’s going to get you more interviews or increase the odds that their client responds positively.

3. Recruiters Can’t Tell You Everything

Sometimes, we’re asked to look for things that have nothing to do with your professional qualifications. I’ve been told that a certain team has too many males, and they need to hire two women before we show them any more men. We don’t like it, but it happens (and we can’t tell you when it does).

So, if you’re told a company isn’t interested, don’t assume it’s because you’re not great or your experience isn’t attractive.There are several things that could’ve happened behind the scenes that aren’t your fault.

One thing you can do is ask the recruiter if they can share any feedback. If they revisit the topic of changing your resume around, you’ll know it had to do with your application. But if they say something reassuring about how, no, there’s nothing you should be doing differently, it’s a safe bet that you weren’t turned down because you’re doing something wrong.