Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

I Think, Therefore I Blog

Recruiters’ Pet Peeves

Some job seekers who interact with recruiters have concerns and bad experiences.  This bad vibe could be eliminated if candidates know what mistakes to avoid while working with them.

Recruiter Community:  please share in the comment section your #1 Pet Peeve you’ve experienced working specifically with candidates.  Please keep it professional, as I very likely will quote you in an upcoming AOL blog post.

Meanwhile candidates, you are getting the bottom line from some of the best recruiters in the country.  Heed their advice before calling, tweeting, linking-in  or emailing a recruiter.


February 1st Update:

I shared the highlights from the feedback I received in the comments section in my AOL/emurse column.  Thanks for all your thoughts Recruiter Community!

Link to Article: Are You Pressing Your Recruiter’s Hot Button?


January 26, 2010 - Posted by | AOL article, Working with Recruiters


  1. When responding to a inquiry, the first thing not to ask is “what does this position pay?”. Listen or read the opportunity and ask a few questions about the role and organization and then probe about the financial opportunity.

    Comment by Ronnie Bratcher | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. It is such a tough job market out there for so many but I wish that candidates would not apply to jobs where they do not meet basic qualifications. I truly understand that many skills are transferable — or that people are quick learners — but there are also many times that specific experiences or qualifications are necessary to be successful in a given job. This would allow recruiters to spend more time talking with candidates who do meet the basic qualifications for a job to see if there is a mutual fit. This is so critical because it is as important for candidates to find a job for which they can be happy and successful as it is for recruiters to find the right candidates that will be happy and successful. This also mean we recruiters need to ensure we post meaningful and realistic job descriptions 🙂

    Comment by Chris Havrilla | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  3. My #1 candidate peeve are Candidates not providing complete information (months & years of employment) on their resumes and posting on the Web with an application that is something other than a Word document. It is easy enough to embedd the resume in a Word doc in a Web page which makes it much easier for us to work with the document.

    Comment by David Graziano | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  4. I have a few…Hmmm, my #1, eh? It would have to be candidates that are rude. I had one candidate recently tell me that “I am so talented. You and your client need me. I don’t need you”. Lovely.

    Comment by Darryl Dioso | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  5. When you apply for a role, and the recruiter calls you, please don’t ask what the company does. I’d rather you did some research and give me your take on what we do. If you’re off base, I’m happy to clarify. Asking what we do makes you seem like a serial applicant.

    And salary, please, PLEASE, talk openly with me about salary. It’s the only way I can make sure the fit will work for both my company, and for you.

    Comment by Pete Radloff | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. Jeff – This is a great question. To be honest the typical response you will hear from this question are normally the things that won’t bother me. I look at things differently. Candidates are not professional job seekers, nor or they professional resume writers. So I simply don’t treat them as such.

    I am however a professional recruiter. It’s really my job to see through the hollowness of a candidate and get to the crux of understanding their raw ability.

    With that said…

    Candidates should have an understanding that professional recruiters are there to help. By nature, recruiters are social, chatty and helpful. They are also driven to be the best at what they do and typically will not stop short of their goal.

    Respecting your recruiters expertise will potentially open many doors in your job search that once may not have been available to you.

    Candidates should understand that recruiters are in what we call the information gathering business. This requires us to understand the candidates we are working with. Be authentic and provide your recruiter with truthful details and expectations.

    Comment by Ryan Leary | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  7. Many candidates want to shoehorn themselves into a position for which they are not a fit. “But I did that for two months three jobs ago…”. Suggestion to candidates: You will most likely be hired for the skill with which you have the most experience and/or the most recent experience. If you want to work with a skill that you haven’t used in quite a while, or don’t have much experience with, be prepared to take less money to do so. The position for which you are applying that requires current or senior level experience may not be a fit for you.

    Comment by fishdogs | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  8. My # 1 pet peeve is overkill. There is no need for candidates to go in full stalker mode to get in touch with me. From multiple phone calls to even finding my home phone number is just ridiculous. No matter how qualified you are for the position, I will not be running with you.

    Comment by Steve | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  9. I am not a recruiter but I have the opportunity to connect candidates with Sodexo’s recruiters. From a marketing perspective I always wonder what people are thinking when they use “thesaurus” type words in their cover letters like for example “I have a dire interest in being contacted further.” It’s unecessary and a little ridiculous. We blogged about our recruiter hot buttons last year( and it was interesting to see what our recruiters had to say.

    Comment by Kerry Noone (Sodexo Careers) | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  10. As a corporate recruiter I really want to see that candidates put in an effort when coming in to meet with my hiring managers. Please don’t show up less than prepared or empty handed – not sure what my firm does, without copies of your resume, or dressed inappropriately. My #1 pet peeve would have to be someone that shows up completely empty handed – you should have something to take notes with as well as some questions prepared to ask of us, just as we are interviewing you, you should interview my company so that we can both find a good long-term fit.

    Comment by Laura Beystehner | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  11. To many candidates aren’t excited and passionate about what they do. Although I am assessing your skills, and that is more diagnostic, at the same time I’m assessing your enthusiasm. If you can’t get me excited about you, don’t expect me to get hiring managers excited about you either. In my experience Passion + Performance = Excellence.

    Comment by Jim | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  12. Wow – an open invitation to take to the soap box? Thanks, Jeff!

    Honestly, I’m not too concerned about the candidate asking questions about the opportunity, the salary or even about my company; they’re making a big move, so naturally they want to have their bases covered, and I can respect their interest in the details. Naturally they should do their own research, but our clients pay recruiters a premium to effectively market their opportunities to the best candidates for the job.

    My biggest peeve is dishonesty, and withholding information. We make a point of outlining how important transparency is in a recruitment engagement, but even still from time to time we end up with egg on our face due to a double-submittal. Candidates need to recognize that by hiding information, or outright lying, they’re hurting their chances more than improving them.

    In my opinion, almost every other fault or weakness can be mitigated with an open and upfront approach; dishonesty is just about the only thing that I won’t tolerate.

    Comment by Steve Sakamoto | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  13. Chris took my #1 pet peeve but #1A for me is when applicants call about their status of their resume every day for a certain amount of time. Recruiters are not going to give daily updates since we have hundreds of resumes to sort through. Recruiters will contact you when anything goes further. Calling a lot will not going to help your chances.

    Comment by Tracy Tran | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  14. I hear this pet peeve from both sides, recruiters and candidates alike. Prompt communication throughout the process is key. Return calls in as timely a manner as possible and be forthright concerning who you’re talking to, your interest level, your background and experience etc. If I can help you, I will.

    Comment by Brian Bruce | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  15. The responses so far have given the most common and highest ranking pet peeves – rude, no passion, no research, unprepared, dishonest and (what was going to be mine) stalker – so in an effort to add to the pile: my #1 pet peeve is the use of foul language during the prescreen. We are not at a local pub having a drink and letting the “s” anf “f” bombs fly, we are discussing a potential career opportunity in a professional manner. I find it hard to believe that the use of foul language is how you communicate all the time with complete strangers.

    Comment by Mark | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  16. Candidates need to understand that there are differences between full time and contract positions, and that many of us doing agency recruiting have limited information. Also, please if your resume has been submitted by another agency for a position, your chances to get a position do not improve when you are submitted twice!

    Comment by Rebecca Griffin | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  17. An article I wrote for HRNY’s newsletter…some have been mentioned already but that’s life in the recruiting fast lane.

    Things recruiters HATE

    As a result of an around-the-table conversation at a recent gathering of HRNY’s Staffing Special Interest Group, it became clear that despite the countless number of articles instructing job seekers how to prepare for recruiters as well as how to interact with recruiters as a whole, jobseekers are still in need of further education.

    So we went around the room a second time and offered up our own list of jobseeker actions and behaviors that raise our collective eyebrows. In advance of our readers flying off the handle because “I don’t do that!” please keep in mind that many recruiter actions and behaviors fall into a gray area of personal choice and are not covered by any specific legal statute. It is suggested that this list be used as a personal yardstick against which you can compare your recruiting attitudes, beliefs, values, and actions against others.

    But then again, I’m sure you too have a particular jobseeker pet peeve…

    1. People who skooch up to my desk and put their elbows up on my desk.

    2. At the end of the interview, they ask “How did I do?”

    3. Someone who answers their cell phone during an interview

    4. When someone shows up very late and doesn’t apologize

    5. Anyone who bathes in cologne, perfume, curry, garlic – although garlic is great if you fear vampires

    6. Someone who looks around my office hoping to find something to connect to me with

    7. I hate people who interview me

    8. People who show up dressed with their shirt out

    9. People who don’t answer my questions but stick to their scripted answer – they’re just like long-winded politicians

    10. While I’m leaving a message prior to a phone screen, they don’t pick up but call me right back and grill me – “Who is this???”

    11. People who don’t bring in copies of their resumes

    12. When the 2 minute elevator speech drags on for 10 minutes (don’t these people need to breathe?)

    13. Candidates who stalk you

    14. Serial job posters for the same job – even after they received the “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter

    15. I hate candidates who smell of smoke – sorry but smokers have points taken away

    16. Emails that have in it the number “69” or the phrase “baby doll”

    17. Functional resumes: Show me the chronological resume and help me understand what else you want to do

    18. Names on resumes that are three times the size of the rest of the text- hey, this isn’t a freaking billboard!

    19. Cover letters beginning with “To whom it may concern”; what concerns me is how lazy people are. And while we’re on openings, “Sir or Madame” irks me too especially my female counterparts; they like to say they’re not running a brothel so there aren’t any “madams” around

    20. Hearing the toilet flush during a phone interview

    Despite these pet peeves, we’re reminded that George Washington Carver wrote “How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life, you will have been all of these.”

    While we may wince about jobseekers and what they say, what they wear, and how they act, times are tough; a little compassion will go a long way during the recovery.

    Comment by Steve Levy | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  18. It’s in the best interest of the candidate to answer a recruiter’s screening question as if the question was being asked by the hiring manager. As recruiters, we are part of the hiring team. Too many times I hear candidates not answer the question, and instead give a lengthy synopsis of their background. For example, the question addressed to a Project Manager is, “Describe to me what you liked and disliked on your last contract”. If the candidate does not listen to the question, and instead goes around the question, and/or does not answer the question(s), then the candidate is not ready for the next step in the recruiting process.

    Comment by Nicole Silver | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  19. Candidates, who upon learning the client’s identity, then apply directly on-line OR candidates who have previously applied or interviewed with said client and don’t disclose as much prior to the interview process.

    Comment by Melanie | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  20. So many good answers…I could say “amen” to all the above. However, I’ll add in one note that might help the jobseeker.

    Even though one might have an interest in working at a particular company, it’s not wise to apply for 20-30 different jobs within the same company. As the recruiter, when I review a candidate’s background on the company ATS, it shows every job for which they’ve recently applied. When I note that the same candidate that applied for the Quality Manager position also applied for the entry-level Quality Coordinator position, and 13 other unrelated positions, then I can’t help but think the candidate is desperate to get a job and probably not the Quality guru I need in the manager role.

    Use discretion, jobseeker. Apply for the job you really want.

    Comment by Dennis Smith | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  21. Have you ever interviewed someone with your name? Really bizarre, a Twilight Zone moment.

    Comment by Steve Levy | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  22. My pet peeves are pretty simple.

    1. Do not lie on your resume.
    2. Do not lie to me about your background

    Comment by hintonhumancapital | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  23. Due to volume, particularly with this recession, I explicitly state on all job ads “no phone calls or emails, please”. I understand the urge to “check on the status” of your application. But leaving me 3 voicemails is not going to move things along for you. Job Seekers need to be patient. Those Recruiters that VALUE the candidate experience WILL get back to you. With 100’s of candidates for each job and sometimes dozens of jobs at once, it can take weeks (sorry, even months) for Recruiters to respond. All I can say is if you apply for a job at our organization, you WILL definitely hear back from us one way or another with status.

    Comment by Bill McCabe | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  24. Many of my initial thoughts have been addressed above. Candidates should know that it’s really NOT “who you know”. There is no need for “name dropping”. Most recruiters are only interested in “who you know” when asking for referrals.

    Comment by Kelly R | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  25. Pet peeve: She didn’t show up for her final interview at the client when the President flew in from out of town to meet her – did not call me during this process at all, would not respond to voice mail and then called me back three weeks later asking me what jobs I have open that she might be a fit for. seriously?
    Also I really dislike when someone repeats the word “whatnot” dozens of times in the interview process.

    Comment by Ann Luna | January 27, 2010 | Reply

  26. I think that my biggest pet peeve being a recruiter has to do with the lack of trust that candidates have for recruiters in general. As hintonhumancapital pointed out candidates often lie about their backgrounds, their situations and their desires. I strive to be as transparent as possible with all of the people I work with, building a relationship and truth and trust. It always amazes me when I catch people in lies, it is definitely disappointing.

    Comment by Tstonecareers | January 28, 2010 | Reply

  27. Someone else above mentioned that they realize that candidates are not professional job seekers so don’t expect them to be perfect. I completely agree.

    However, the thing that I think kills many people’s chances with a recruiter or with a hiring manager is when they talk far to much in answering questions.

    Most people don’t prepare well, and instead of answering questions concisely, they just keep talking until they think they’ve covered every aspect of the question. Although they think it might be good to be thorough, they shoot themselves in the foot instead. Better to give a brief answer, then ask “Is that what you were looking for, or would you like more detail?” It gives the interviewer a chance to cut it off or give permission to go on.

    Also, candidates need to realize that recruiters are paid by the company, not the candidate. As such, although, most are willing to be of help, they are not career counselors. It’s as important to give your best presentation to the recruiter as it is to the hiring manager. You don’t move forward if the recruiter isn’t confident in your fit and professionalism.

    Great question Jeff, and great responses here.

    Comment by Harry Urschel | January 28, 2010 | Reply

  28. Some great responses — found myself nodding quite a bit.

    My pet peeve — besides being stalked — is anything at all evasive or dishonest, or withholding relevant information.

    Comment by Donna Brewington White | January 28, 2010 | Reply

  29. The most frustrating pet peeve I battle with candidates is dishonesty. These encompass work history, criminal background and even resume accuracy. It is in everyone’s best interest to get candidates hired but not at the expense of jeopardizing the relationships with our clients. I’ve experienced this many times, wherein a tight-knit market with a relatively small applicant pool, a dishonest candidate loses the opportunity to be represented among several clients because information spreads, and negative information spreads over social media faster than a California wild fire. Case and point: Be upfront, beyond reproach, and transparent. Honesty will always get you further.
    Thank you Jeff!

    Comment by JohnnybGood | January 29, 2010 | Reply

  30. Be honest with your recruiter. We really want to find the best person for the job/company that is qualified and a good fit. As an employee do you really want to work with someone that is not happy or a good fit?

    If you are honest with yourself on what you want, your skill sets and with your recruiter you will eventually find the job for you. If you build a good rapport we might even refer to you other recruiters / opportunities.

    Comment by Marianthe Verver | February 1, 2010 | Reply

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