Certainly there are many of us out there seeking jobs. Either we were laid off or just can’t stand our employers and their weird take on employee’s rights or practice of the Peter Principle and the promotion of serial incompetents and mental patients. In job searches for those who aim higher than the food service industry, the search usually entails recruiters. After God made the weasel, rat, leech and lawyer, the recruiter appeared, which is another explanation of the extinction of the dinosaurs and other species.
Over the past couple of years I have noticed a trend among the jobs I have fielded through recruiters – “bait and switch.” They call about a position and salary that makes one’s mouth water and keeps an erection for days or weeks, depending on how fast the process goes until the truth comes out.
It Starts Normally…
My last job of seven years was a bait and switch. It seems I was the only candidate this recruiter presented that made it to the interview stage. I was told it was a creative director position for just under a six-figure salary; certainly a great salary in that area of the country. Doing the dance with the employer, I received an e-mail detailing my interview schedule but at the top it read, “interviewing as: Designer.”
When I brought this up to the recruiter, he said to ignore it and just go on the interview but I shouldn’t bring up titles or salary. That’s not an odd request as part of the recruiter’s job is negotiations with the employer. I interviewed and it was obvious they wanted me as a designer. The offer came in for a design position, naturally at a lower salary and the recruiter was beside himself with glee that he had closed the deal. I told him I wasn’t interested and that I had another offer for an art director position for slightly less than the other position.
“Let me make a call and work this out,” he stammered.
He called back the same day and claimed that I would be a creative director but the company wanted me to learn the business from “the ground up.” He said they would promote me to art director in six months and then creative director in a year. It didn’t sound like an odd plan but I insisted the salary be the original offer that was dangled in front of me, and the “plan,” in writing. He came back with a higher salary then the company’s original offer, but nowhere near the creative director salary and a promise of a written agreement but I needed to start right away. I told him I would think it over.
The other firm was dragging its heels on a written offer and start date and my then wife insisted I take the other job, which was in another city so she could empty our bank account and divorce me. Well, she didn’t say the last part but that’s what happened.
Needless to say, after eight months firmly entrenched and a phone meeting with the firm’s staffing person, I found out there never was a creative director position and none of the promises made by the recruiter were ever relayed to the company. The recruiter had left the firm and the new head weasel didn’t want to “annoy” their client (my employer).
Since leaving that firm, I have had a string of bad luck with recruiters. My résumé doesn’t make it to the employer on time, the job was not a creative director position but a cafeteria bus boy position, the salary is a fourth of what was conveyed and the titles and duties never quite seem to be what the recruiter said.
Does It Happen Often?
The other day, I listed a question about bait and switch on the LinkedIn questions board (a social media site for business. It’s like Facebook but without the swearing, videos and sexual innuendo…come to think of it there is plenty of sexual innuendo. It’s almost a make out party). Within three hours there were a dozen answers. I had hit a hot button.
Job seekers had also experienced bait and switch with infuriating results. Recruiters responded in a very passive/aggressive tone. All of the blame, they wrote, is with the employers not making things clear, job seekers who “demand” a salary range for the job, which one recruiter claimed was impossible as the employer would “match the salary to the person’s skill set” and, of course, on job seekers who should “shut up and accept anything in this economy.” Now I love recruiters even more!
Yes, the economy stinks and most employers have learned that hiring young and cheap saves operating costs, but what can be expected from someone who is overqualified, working for less than they are worth? Less engagement? Moving on when another, fairer opportunity arises? More insightful business decisions that made this country great…or a miserable failure depending on how one describes record unemployment and a doomed trade deficit.
I wrote and asked one recruiter, who claimed he was the best and all other recruiters were incompetent, if he sent a candidate a job description or salary range before the interview process. He replied that he didn’t as the employer may change duties and salary based on the person’s skill set and the “internal politics” of the firm. Ah, good! Nothing works better than the trust system in business.
Of late, when contacted by a recruiter, I ask a lot of questions. I go to the internet to research the employer and then discuss my findings with the recruiter. Recently I had to ask if numerous pending law suits and government probes on one firm might effect my salary or the longevity of my employ. I was told the recruiter was unaware of any of this. Nothing like a recruiter with the whole story!
Steps To Safeguard Your Career
When you are contacted by a recruiter, It’s best not to yell, “Thank goodness, I was about to become homeless!”
In the recent past, it was always easier to find a job while you have one. Employers use to think that the best people were kept and everyone else let go was incompetent. The truth is, the lower-paid incompetents kept their jobs and the experienced, higher-paid workers were let go. Not to say employed readers of this article are incompetent, but look around you and tell me there’s not a good deal of truth sitting at other desks, drooling and sticking paperclips into electrical outlets repeatedly, expecting different results every time.
It’s been tough on all of us. Act professionally and, as if stopping your freelance career for a staff position is of equal weigh to a full time position, be calm and detached but interested. You can dance and sing once the phone is hung up.
While I had a job, many recruiters tried to convince me that a lateral move to one of their clients was a great opportunity. You need to add up not just the dollars, but the company culture, city, lifestyle, relocation costs, job security, etc. You also have to remember if you’ve signed a non-compete with your present employer. If you did, you may not be able to work in the industry for a year or more. So how do you move on to another company? You don’t – mWaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Big competitors hire the other firm’s discards all the time (never fire someone you don’t want working for your competitor). A smaller company may be too frightened of legal actions if they hire you. I had to reveal that in interviews (as I was always asked) and one recruiter scolded me for saying it. Sorry! Let me start with this company based on lies!
A lateral move, unless it is a company that is showing growth, is a losing proposition. Making any move when you are hurting for a salary has few problems, unless you find yourself in a city you wouldn’t live in if you didn’t work there. When you are let go, moving elsewhere is up to you. It pays to ask a recruiter to negotiate an “escape clause,” spelling out costs of being moved back where they found you.
As part of a salary negotiation, aside from a bit more money and a signing bonus, I was given one extra week of vacation. When my years at the company entitled me to an additional week of vacation, I was told I had it already and they never agreed to keep extending my vacation by a week. In essence, I argued, they were lowering my salary by one week. I lost that and the recruiter, who didn’t want to anger the client, had been replaced by another recruiter, who said she didn’t know me and it was my tough luck. Get it in writing and have the recruiter give you a copy. Don’t sign anything until you have copies in hand. There is no he said/she said in business – only paperwork.
How To Spot The Great Recruiters
There are some great recruiters out there. I have them all on my mailing list. There is a large percentage that aren’t. If they haven’t connected with me on LinkedIn, I have to wonder how connected they are in my profession. LinkedIn is a great tool for researching recruiters and workplaces as well.
Look at the recruiter’s connections. 500+? Any recommendations? What companies do they deal with on a regular basis? Then check out the people who gave the recruiter a recommendation. Did they keep the job the recruiter had gotten them? Look at the dates of the recommendation, job mentioned and the person’s present position. Are they still where the recruiter placed them? If not, was it shorter than two years?
Then send a message to some of these people and ask for an updated reference. The last time I did that, I got nothing but thumbs down for the recruiter.
I encourage interviewing as much as possible. It keeps your skills sharp and you network with the people with whom you interview (many high level people with whom I interviewed went elsewhere and are in my network connections – which is good because now they can tell me why I wasn’t hired…and why I am lucky I wasn’t hired).
If it involves travel, well, I love the adventure and visiting different cities, but there is a cost you need to pass on to the firm interviewing you. Gas and tolls to the airport, parking, meals and certain travel expenses can add up to almost $100 for a one-day trip. Make sure the recruiter knows you expect the expenses to be reimbursed. A couple of interviews a month will break you, otherwise. Even across town, you are going to have expenses. Maybe I’m dreaming, these days. Do we need to spend money to show we need a job?
Rather then drone on about the good, the bad and the disgustingly ugly, let me draw some quick tips based on observations, experience and some stolen passages from Harry Potter:
A GREAT recruiter will have done all the research on the client, the people with whom you are interviewing, the salary range and title with job description (one had area information for living and lifestyle).
A BAD recruiter will refer to the client as “what’s-their-faces!”
A GREAT recruiter will go over what you should say in the interview with tips for steering things to your strong points.
A BAD recruiter will be using foul language while trying to remember where it was he/she was sending you to interview.
A GREAT recruiter will explain the salary range, what will effect it, how past placements went, bonuses, relocation costs, etc. It’s not a promise but a guideline. If the client calls and says, “We have to have Kris!” the recruiter will know how far to push.
A BAD recruiter will respond to a question about salary range with, “I’m trying to convince them they have to pay for quality.”
A GREAT recruiter makes sure they have all your travel arrangements set and will be available at the vulnerable time when you arrive at the airport and await pick up by the client, for last minute instructions and updates.
A BAD recruiter has gone to the airport and cashed in your ticket for crack money.
A GREAT recruiter will be available after you return to the airport to chat about how the interview went. It’s important to relay what was said, how you felt, any emotions you picked up on from people. A great recruiter knows the questions to ask to get the information he/she needs when they contact the client, i.e., “Speider thought you might have been put off by the fact his fly was open for the entire interview. He said you kept throwing up. I hope that wasn’t due to his work?!”
A BAD recruiter is still in a crack-induced haze.
A GREAT recruiter will call you as soon as he/she has spoken with the client. If it’s good news, you await the next move. If it’s not good news, the recruiter should have some idea of why, i.e., “they hated your work but loved the open fly!”
A BAD recruiter is never heard from again. Poor crack-addicted recruiter!
What About The “Local Yokels?”
Many freelancers work through placement recruiters for on-site work. More than once I showed up at a client for an assignment, only to find out that they asked for a “great illustrator” and NOT someone who was “great AT Illustrator.”
All of the same rules apply. The great ones are wonderful but few. The bad ones, usually are out of the business before you can request your first weeks pay.
One word of warning on every placement recruiter; they may conversationally ask who in town you are working for. Tell them and they will be on the phone with your clients in two minutes, undercutting your price. The recruiter, when calling to give you the heads up on an upcoming assignment won’t tell you who it’s for, because they don’t want you doing the same thing to them, they want to do to you. Just smile and say, “oh, I’m working here and there, for him and her, this and that!”
Placement people are also notorious for looking the other way on bait and switch assignments. A client wants a designer to “do some little designs for some print pieces.” You show up and are re-branding them for $15 an hour and building their web site.
Will the agent go back and ask their client to pony up more money for the different project description?
A GREAT recruiter will.
A BAD recruiter bonks you over the head with a shovel and dumps you at the edge of town so you can’t turn in your time sheet at all.
If I was a vindictive person, I would take any job via a bad recruiter and then resign just short of the period needed for them to earn their fee but I’m not vindictive, despite what you may see on my Twitter posts and what long-time friends may say. I’m also looking for a great staff position. Maybe you could recruit me for “what’s-their-faces?”