Recruiters are often the gateway to a company you'd like to work for or a particular job you'd love to win. But recruiters aren't always easy to work with, and often come with a whole host of aggravations that you don't see as commonly if you're talking directly with a hiring manager.
First, a quick vocabulary lesson: A hiring manager is the person who would be your manager if you got the job. A recruiter, in contrast, works solely on filling positions, and often works for a recruiting firm and has many different companies as clients. The hiring manager will make the final decision on the hire, but when a recruiter is involved, you often have to go through the recruiter's own screening process first.
It's important to note, of course, that there are plenty of great recruiters out there. But there are also a lot of bad ones, and they have their own special ways of frustrating job seekers:
1. Advertising jobs that don't exist. Staffing agencies are notorious for posting boilerplate ads for jobs that don't really exist to build a database of candidates who they might call on in the future. Agencies defend this by saying that they fill jobs that are similar to the ones advertised all the time – but many job seekers are frustrated when they arrive for an interview, only to discover that there's no job to be had.
2. Calling candidates at work. You'd think that recruiters would understand why candidates might not want to tip off their employers that they're job searching, but recruiters regularly call candidates at work without their permission – leaving candidates trying to disguise who they're talking to and why.
3. Contacting candidates about jobs that they're not remotely suited for. While good recruiters can read a résumé and get an initial sense of whether someone might be worth talking to about a particular job, less skilled recruiters sometimes take a more scattershot approach. As a result, they end up pushing graphic designers to interview for programming jobs, researchers to interview for sales jobs and other obvious mismatches.
4. Misrepresenting jobs. Too many job seekers have been told that they're interviewing for a position working on A, B and C, only to meet the hiring manager and discover that she's really looking for someone to do D and E. Bad recruiters don't always understand exactly what a hiring manager is looking for or what the work really entails, which leads to frustrated and disappointed candidates who spent their time interviewing for something that clearly wasn't a fit.
5. Scheduling phone interviews and then not calling. You cleared time on your calendar, prepared for the interview, and maybe even found child care to ensure that you'd have a quiet time to talk, and then the recruiter doesn't call at the scheduled time. Recruiters and others involved in hiring who do this to candidates are behaving as if only their time matters, and it's incredibly inconsiderate. And on the other end of the spectrum…
6. Calling for an unscheduled phone interview and expecting the candidate to drop everything to talk. It's fine to call a candidate to see if they have a few minutes to discuss a position, but too often recruiters expect the person to drop whatever they're doing and are put out when they can't or won't.
7. Changing candidates' résumés without their permission. You should maintain control over your résumé at all times, but some recruiters will change key details on it without your permission, sometimes even rewriting it inaccurately. This, of course, can result in an awkward moment if you're meeting with the hiring manager and she asks you about a project you never worked on or thinks you were at your last job longer than you were. (Even good recruiters will remove your contact information from your résumé, to ensure that employers can't go around them and contact you directly, but they shouldn't be changing anything else without your OK.)
8. Acting excited about a candidate but then dropping out of contact. The ranks of job seekers abound with people who are weary of hearing recruiters describe how perfect they'd be for an open role – only to then never hear from them again. It's frustrating to be told what a great match you'd be for a position and how excited the recruiter is to have found you, and then be dropped with no explanation or follow-up.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.