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The Insider's Guide To Job Search

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Recruiters: Warning Signs To Watch For
By Kevin T Buckley, CPC

These are specific warning signals that your recruiter may not be serving your interests properly.

Your resume:

  • They want you to change or significantly upgrade your titles to make you more marketable for the position they're representing.

If they want you to inflate your titles, or add duties that you didn't have to make you more appealing to their client, be advised that employers can release employees for misrepresenting facts of their employment.

  • They're asking you to misrepresent your current employment status by having you claim that you're still employed at a company that you actually left recently.

Do they want you to note that you are still working "to Present", or are they asking you to adjust your employment dates to make up for gaps in your previous employment history?

The job description:

  • Does the job description sound like it was written by someone trying to sell you a used car; very enthusiastic, portraying the opportunity as something you just have to go for?

Sometimes, the ad copy doesn't match the reality. Positions that have a lot of turnover are often oversold by recruiters trying to generate enthusiasm, and glossing over the limitations of the job, its future career growth, or lack of it.

  • How does the recruiter's job description compare to the one given to you by the client, or the ad that you find on the employer's own website?

If there are substantial differences in the duties and authority level of the job, you'll want to clarify the actual responsibilities versus the recruiter's representation of them.

The salary range:

  • The recruiter suggests that you meet their client, although your salary range is well above their client's maximum offered; your recruiter says not to bring up your salary in the meeting.

This is using you as a willing tool to establish their credibility with their client by presenting high quality people that buys time for them to find candidates in the right salary range.

If they impress on you the need to be absolutely silent about your current earnings, telling you to tell the interviewer that you prefer not to discuss this now, that's a red flag.

  • You're between jobs and the recruiters sends you in, gets back to you and says he/she has good news, but the client wants a lot of salary flexibility from you---even though there is a pre-established range for the position.

This means that the recruiter is putting pressure on you because (a) he/she has told the client that they can get you down to a lower level than the range offered, or, (b) the client is putting pressure on them to pressure you to accept a lower salary because they're trying to offset the recruiter's fee through the lower salary offer.

The employment offer and resignation:

  • The offer contains a different salary figure than the one discussed with the recruiter, or a different review date.

Don't jump to conclusions because there could be a simple typo made by the person who typed the offer. On the other hand, if the recruiter verbally assured you that the salary was going to be "around" a certain figure, and you're unemployed, and there's a lower figure than the minimum expected on the offer, the recruiter may have assured their client that they can get you on board by putting pressure on you to accept.

  • You've told your recruiter that you're accepting an offer, but you need to give two weeks notice; they pressure you to shorten your notice, citing the employer's desire to have you on board sooner.

The standard notice is two weeks, given as a courtesy to act ethically in making a move to another company. This gives you time to wrap up loose ends, and take your departure with goodwill, rather than leave your department and former colleagues in the lurch.

Most employers recognize the standard business courtesy involved in giving two weeks notice, and will respect your decision.

The recruiter has the advantage of a shorter billing cycle to work with.

Marketing you to other companies:

  • The recruiter asks you about the types of companies that you see yourself working with, and presses for specific company names of interest to you, and you're employed.

Be careful that your resume doesn't land without your knowledge on the desk of the HR departments of the companies that you've identified. A recruiter who's unconcerned with confidentiality may make 50 copies of your resume and send it out to companies you mentioned, without your knowledge.

Firmly establish the guidelines for handling your resume and confirm by email that you don't want your resume sent to any company that you haven't approved, or that the recruiter isn't actively searching for.

Some normal prudence and clear communications will avoid the above scenarios happening to you. Trust your intuition; it's your career and your reputation. Knowing what can happen doesn't mean that it will.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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