5 Frustrations Job Seekers Report when Working with Recruiters

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If you’ve ever been on the job hunting path, you’ve likely experienced the frustrations that come with being at the mercy of recruiters. Placing high-qualify candidates with the right clients in the right role is critically important skill. Unfortunately, many recruiters are less-skilled than they should be to successfully place job seekers. When we asked friends, family, and followers about their experiences with recruiters, the stories fell into several broad categories. Here are the top five frustrations, and some ideas overcome the challenges of working with recruiters.

Pay too Much Attention to the Resume

With the increasing reliance on keyword matching, do you ever feel like your conversation with a recruiter is over before it really starts? It can be hard to even get a second glance if your number of years of experience with x software or y process doesn’t exactly match the job ad.

Sometimes recruiters focus nearly exclusively on the resume, and that can dent your self-confidence at a time when you need to shine. Even though you are qualified, the years won’t match up, so maybe it’s better not to apply. Perhaps the recruiters have pressure to stick with that exact target number, but often it’s a matter of adding some narrative to your first encounter. Whether you’re setting up a cover letter, or responding to a phone screen interview, if you can tell the story of how your years of experience with a related skill or process do qualify you, the recruiter might look more closely.

I believe it would be far more impactful for recruiters and employers prioritize capability to quickly learn and adapt over mastery of a particularly brand of tool. I was overlooked for roles in the past because I didn’t have as many years of experience using a specific software application as someone else. That’s despite having experience with several others that required the same thought processes or workflows to understand. I knew I could learn the requested software in a few days, but the reliance on keywords knocked me out of the running.

As a job seeker, keep the keyword(s) in mind when you’re applying for roles, but don’t let them scare you off Specific requirements for five years of experience in the industry or with a particular type of process, software, etc., set a boundary. However, not all years of experience are created equally. If you’re well-trained otherwise and you can explain that value, you can still get the interview and job.

Pay No Attention to the Resume

Another common complaint job seekers have about working with recruiters is that many don’t pay enough attention to the resume, to even see if there’s a match to industry, ability, or experience. As an example, I am often contacted for computer programming roles, especially focus on Objective-C. I tend to not respond back to these messages, and they sometimes just feel like a scheme to get me to do their job for them. Dangling the offer of referral money they’d like to give me if I know of someone who does need a job programming in Objective-C might seem like a good method to them. But when the respect is so low for my time or what I do, I’m not likely to excitedly pass along the info to anyone else.

When we asked readers and friends about this topic, they shared some pretty outlandish examples. One person got an offer for an entry-level role as a server at a restaurant —he has 15 years of experience in business, change management, and project management, completely unrelated to food service.

As a job seeker, you may feel obligated to respond to all inquiries, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to respond to people who pay no attention. Odds are that you won’t miss out on opportunities from recruiters that clueless.

Insult a Seasoned Pro with a Low-Level Offer

I hear increasingly about this problem, and have run into it myself. Someone contacts you for a role that requires the skills of someone working in the industry for 10 years. You have the experience, and quickly share with the recruiter how you see yourself solving the problems of the client. Then the recruiter tells you the highest hourly rate or salary you’re likely to get, and it’s barely the rate a graduate intern should be receiving for the duties. Or, someone randomly recruits you for a new associate role as an opportunity to kickstart your career, when your resume obviously reflects senior-level status in your industry.

Even though it’s insulting, if you have any interest in the type of work, you can quickly discuss your expectations, and direct them to run a salary.com report to back up what you’re saying about matching years of experience, skills, and rates. These reports are easily tailored to match geographical location, education level, and other factors.

Or, if it’s a completely random inquiry, such as offering you a role in a franchise company or junior associate role in an industry where you’re already well-established, you can simply ignore the request—it’s junk mail—and move onto viable opportunities.

Ignore Pertinent Details

I had a woman reach out to me on LinkedIn, a local recruiter who wanted to meet for coffee. Our schedules didn’t match up and it never happened, yet I got on her mailing list, where she clearly had entered my contact information wrong. The emails addressed to me from her contact management system called me “Kayla,” when my name is “Jill.” I was just a number, so the false sense of connection she tried to put into her email messages was totally lost by calling me by the wrong name. Her lack of attention to detail made me uninterested in communicating with her further.

I also heard a complaint from my social contacts about what the job applications ask you to fill out. If your application form asks me if I prefer to be contacted by email or phone, and I say email, do not call me three times in one day. If I clearly post that I’m not interested in relocating, don’t pester me with opportunities thousands of miles from my location. You asked for the detail; don’t ignore it.

Communicate Inconsistently (or Not at All)

A final complaint about working with recruiters is the lack of communication or lack of consistent communication. Many people reported that recruiters hound them for information upfront—updated resumes in their format, answers to background questions, etc., but after the application is submitted, they rarely hear back.

Yes, job seekers should realize they’re not the only applicants the recruiters need to manage, but the recruiters also need to respect that job seeking is very stressful to the individual, and the effort they put into polishing the resume, and being available for interviews should never be met with silence. When you begin working with a recruiter, make time early in the relationship to discuss a consistent schedule for communication. For example, will the recruiter check in with you weekly, even if there is no change in status with the role? Are you ok with only hearing when the recruiter has an update about the status, whether good (you get an interview) or bad (you’re passed on in favor of another candidate)? And be a good communicator yourself. When you’re working closely with a recruiter, respond quickly to requests for information, and be clear about what your expectations are, including rate of pay, willingness to commute, and how soon you’d really like to be placed in a role.


Job seeking is hard, and recruiting is hard. For both to succeed, everyone needs to put in the best effort to create good job materials, connect the right experience and abilities, respect the other’s role, and communicate effectively and consistently.