The Recruiter’s Guide to Candidate Etiquette



This post is in response to Carmen’s post at Social Hire. Her tone and indignation towards job seekers both annoyed and rubbed me the wrong way. With that said, this post is written partly in jest, and partly due to my annoyance.  Here are the same guidelines from the candidate’s perspective.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
– Thumper

I’m getting tired of recruiter’s unsolicited phone calls, emails, and LinkedIn requests. When I’m employed, your job posting is of little importance to me. I don’t care that your looking for talent. My talents are actively being put to use for my current company. Seems harsh, but it’s true.

This rant is not mine alone, ask any employee that’s been interrupted during an important discussion with their Vice President by the beckoning of the unsolicited recruiter. I’m sure there are a myriad of ways to get job seeker’s attention besides blasting out unrelated job postings to everyone on your LinkedIn contact list.

I wish the recruiting business had a Steven Tyler of sorts, someone who would blast a tune to all job seekers belting, “Walk this Way!” Maybe he could come up with 7 commandments so we could let all of the lackluster recruiters understand the errors in their ways.

Since Steven Tyler didn’t respond to my request for comment, here are my 7 golden rules on how to not suck at recruiting.

  1. Don’t lie to my secretary to get me on the phone. Don’t lie to me and tell me that you “heard” I was in the market. Yeah David, I’m talking to you. After I tell you that you are mistaken, don’t immediately ask if I have any openings in which you could help me fill. I already determined that you suck.
  2. Check out my work history before you contact me on LinkedIn. Oh, it’s not in my headline? That’s because my headline isn’t optimized to please you, Mr. Recruiter. It’s optimized to help me find business leads in my current role. You know, the job I get paid for? Since you are seeking me, take a second to look at my work history. It’ll take you two seconds to find my job titles.
  3. Sending an unsolicited email or InMail? Research my background before you reach out. The awesome position that you think I would be perfect for would have been great for me three years ago, but I don’t think a step backward at this point is a good move for my career.
  4. Don’t ask me about my current salary. I’ve known you for three minutes. I wouldn’t tell you anyway. Oh, and to the recruiter that tried guessing my salary… You said that based on your market knowledge you knew their was no possible way I made more than X dollars. You were wrong. Due to that, it was your lack of knowledge of my market value that led to me not answering your calls.
  5. Recruiters are a dime a dozen. The best way to help a job seeker is to give a sh*t. Yes, that’s right, you have to care about my well being because in the end it will help your bottom line. Give a sh*t, and when I’m in the market again, I’ll contact you. If I have a strong candidate for you, I’ll introduce you. Yep, I’m talking to you John. You are the man.
  6. Do you want to increase the chance of a candidate placement and make more commissions in the process? Give a quick coaching session to your candidate before the interview. You know the client better than anyone. Let the candidate know what the client is looking for so the candidate can start off on a good foot. Does this take more time? Yes. Will it lead to more placements? Yes. Will that client appreciate it and try to help you in the future? Yep.
  7. Give your candidate some feedback. I understand that it takes some time before you hear back from your client. However, your candidate is anxious to get some news. If it takes a while, that is find, but don’t blow your candidate off even if they bombed the interview.

As I mentioned, this post was 50% opinion / 50% joke. The truth is that 90% of the recruiters I’ve encountered weren’t worth their weight in salt. I’m not a recruiter, but I assume it is a numbers game. When you’re not established, I understand you are doing everything you can to find the right candidate. Just think before you dial. My assumption is that the majority of candidates aren’t jumping at the bit to make a lateral move with their competitor. At least I’m not. I’m only aiming higher.

As this post was to poke fun at recruiters, there are some great ones as well. I’ve only utilized a recruiter once. He placed me in a job that I love for a company that I’ve never heard of before. I wouldn’t have found it without him. Thank you John. I’ve also heard great things about a second John. I’d contact these guys if I was on the market, but with my network, I think I could find a job pretty quickly without their help. It’s the undiscovered gem of a job where they are really useful.

Lastly to Carmen – While your post did offend me, I do understand that some job candidates have unrealistic expectations of a recruiter’s role in the job search process. Your job is not to be someone’s personal career search concierge. Your loyalty is to your clients and helping them find great candidates. I think unsolicited resumes are just part of the job, and maybe it’s time for a little candidate etiquette as well.

Images Courtesy of:
Xanboozled / CC BY-NC-SA

About Paul Chittenden

JobKaster Co-Founder & Resident Career Expert

6 Responses to The Recruiter’s Guide to Candidate Etiquette

  1. Recruiting Animal September 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Anyone who has a linkedin profile but doesn’t do it right is a dope. So you should optimize your headline. If you don’t want to be found I think there are extreme privacy settings.

    Most people don’t like other people hitting on them for a date and many will complain about getting hit on — until they find the other person attractive. Then they are hoping and wishing that they get hit on.

    It’s the same with people in the workforce. They don’t like any kind of sales person hitting on them — until they need them. Then they hit on us and as Carmen said, it can be hard to keep them at bay.

    As for feedback, we’re paid by the client and they usually don’t want to tell the rejected candidates what went wrong.

    Before I even knew what recruiting was I had a real asshole call me and yell at me when i didn’t want to take a look at his job because of a long commute. So I know that there are scumbags who are recruiters. But most of the people I know in recruiting are not scumbags.

    I’m going to post this on under the title Recruiters Are Scumbags and we’ll see what kind of comments you get.

    • Paul Chittenden September 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      The whole point of LinkedIn is to be found, but how you set it up depends on your goals. Lewis Howes has some great info on using LinkedIn.

      To be honest, I am contacted by at least one recruiter a week. I don’t really mind it. They’re doing their job, and their is the potential that this could be the next job of my dreams. I believe John contacted me unsolicited, but he did it with tact. He researched me first. He had two positions that were really good. After asking me what I wanted, he ruled out the second job because he realized it wasn’t a good fit for me.

      The big thing that gets me is the lack of research when contacting a potential candidates. Pitching a crappier job than I currently have is a waste of both our time. Telling me that someone told you that I’m looking… If he would have taken one second to look at my job history, he would realize that I was only in my current position for 6 months.

      Overall, I’m sure most recruiters aren’t bad, as I said this was partly satire.

      Like most things, I surround myself with professionals. I have a financial adviser that I trust, I have a legal adviser, a real estate agent, a mechanic, etc. The same goes with recruiters. I have 2 A-list recruiters on my list, and they are the only two that I would really contact if I ever needed their services. I just hope it never comes to that.

  2. Recruiting Animal September 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I’d love to have you come on The Recruiting Animal Show to talk about this article. See

    • Paul Chittenden September 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Sure thing. Let me review the show, and I’ll let you know.

  3. PhilTomm September 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Hey Paul,

    Just want to chime in and say Recruiting Animal and his friends are all super helpful recruiters. If I hadn’t of gone on his show, I probably would still be looking for a job.

    I know they didn’t do it for the commission. I’m sure they would love to hear a non-recruiters opinion on what they should and shouldn’t do. I know that I’d be interested in seeing if they have any logical arguments to disagree with your points.

    • Paul Chittenden September 20, 2013 at 12:21 am #


      Thanks for pointing that out.

      I’m not familiar with the show, but I’m going to check it out.

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