May 17, 2022

Signs You’re Working At A Sh*tty Recruiting Firm


Episode Highlights

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Call time tracking. Cliques. Micromanagement. Unrealistic expectations. Confusing and bogus comp plans. No work-life balance. Complete lack of empathy. Bullying.

The recruiters reading this are probably shaking their heads: “Been there.”

Our industry is full of “boiler room” shops. And the most unfortunate part? They prey on younger workers with minimal experience who don’t know any better. So they leave recruiting entirely.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Perhaps knowing can make a difference?

Jeff Smith and James Hornick go HAM on the awful experience every recruiter had a some point in their career in the next The 10 Minute Talent Rant, “Signs You’re Working At A Sh*tty Recruiting Firm”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we try to break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space. Maybe even pitch a solution two- there was one this week. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found on

This week’s topic, and I don’t know how it took us- what 43 episodes to do this one: signs you’re working at a shitty recruiting firm. I mean, I know exactly how it got to this point, but we’re not going to out that. Alright. This applies to everyone. We’re a recruiting firm, so we put it in recruiting firm terms.

Our industry in general, unfortunately, it has a bad reputation on the whole. There’s great recruiter firms out there. There are more bad ones. I think there’s so many dinosaurs running a lot of these old school shops. So little changes, virtually everyone who works in recruiting has been in one of these places at some point in their career, probably early, probably their first job.

But the reason why I want to talk about it, I mean, yes, let’s dunk on the bad firms out there. But really, I honestly think that so many recruiters have like a terrible first experience. They think this is what the career is and they get out of it and they think the job sucks. And that’s what I want to stop because I’ve seen so many good people that could be great at this, just hate it so much.

But anyways. Yeah. Before we get into the full James, Jeff’s snark, there is a serious undertone to it and we’ll get it. It is, it’s one of the most frustrating parts about the job watching really, really talented folks flame out. So listen, our watcher, if you experience any of this stuff that we’re about to talk about, number one, get the hell out of there. Get out.

Leave. You do not have to make this expectation that this is normal. I promise you it is not. Use your gut. Start networking immediately. There are hundreds of other shops, hopefully ours included. This is why recruiters are hard to find. There are folks who always have potential that flame out of this business because they are not willing to just tow the status quo line.

They’re not willing to work seven to seven. They’re not willing to do a myriad of all these ridiculous things, these antiquated things that people ask for and they walk. And it’s honestly why any clients out there watching, this why you get- no offense- to a recent grad, but this is why you get somebody with zero business acumen running your $30,000, search.

Like you hired a pyramid scheme to fill the job, right? And lastly, like, it just doesn’t have to be this way. Like there are other firms out there that do this well, that turn you into really strong business people, which is why it does need to be kind of outside of just the recruiting structure.

Like go find those places. We crowdsource this, right James, from our group of folks and you put in the notes to no one’s surprise. I was a little surprised by some of these to be honest, like they’re more ridiculous. They’re more absurd. We got a- this was easily the biggest response that we’ve gotten in 43 episodes.

Yeah. So the format of this and let me just kind of go, we’re going to give four real life stories. And I don’t- I’ve never actually read things off the page in the show before. I’ve had notes in front of me. But I want to get this verbatim. So we’ve actually got four real life examples of people

we work with at places they worked previously, and then we’re going to kind of just like speed run through other things you should be looking out for. So we really want to set the tone. All right. Horror story number one- colleague number one here, quotes, reading this up verbatim. “While recruiting for big eight accounting firms

I was instructed to avoid sourcing candidates that were overweight. If a candidate was overweight, my internal leadership team considered that person to be lazy as they didn’t have the decency to take care of their bodies. Oh, how I wish I was making this up.” I thought I’d heard it all. I’ve never heard that before.

Anyways. I don’t want to touch that one any further. It makes me uncomfortable. Colleague two, “The first search firm I worked for was really rigid about start and end times, which is absolutely industry standard by the way. Very intolerant of calling in sick last minute absences like literally to the point, if you were not at your desk, when the day started at 8:30 AM, we’d have a few minutes of a grace period before the office manager would call and ask us where we were. Often, the reply would be I’m walking up the stairs right now about to open the door.

However one morning I was biking to work and a car cut in front of me and hit my front tire, sending me in the air where I landed hard on the concrete. Terrible. If not for my bike helmet, I would have been seriously injured, but my first thought was not how injured am I or why is this car driving off instead of checking to see if I’m okay, or should I call the police?

But I need to call my boss right away and let them know that I’m going to be a few minutes late. Instead of returning home to care for myself, I rode to work and worked the entire day for fear that they wouldn’t be understanding about the situation. I’m still retroactively pissed off at myself for putting up with that bullshit.”

Yeah. A car accident. A car accident. Okay. Colleague number three, “At a previous staffing agency my very first placement had a family emergency three days before his assignment began and wasn’t able to make a start date. Although I was upset, I understood things happen. The next day in the office, I was told by my manager and to stop letting the candidate walk all over me and that he was costing them money.

I was later told by my manager that I was having a bad day and bad days were not allowed- not allowed. Not allowed to have a bad day. Right after this meeting, my desk was moved away from the rest of the team. So I was isolated.”

It’s not funny, but we’re laughing. But oh my God, yeah. Side note, same person. “I was told by another leader on my that when he was feeling burned out, he would hit the phones even harder and work more than usual. And this method would solve burnout.” Solve burnout by working harder. Okay. Oh, last thing.

“Oh and then when I resigned, I was stiffed on commission for several placements, totalling thousands of dollars.” Of course you were. Naturally. The least surprising thing of this entire thing. Yeah, easily. Anyways. Colleague four, last one. That was the lasy one, yes. These were the only ones that made it to print. “I was belittled and mocked on a president’s club trip” which now that I think about that, this person made president’s club

so they’re obviously a top performer “for not sending back food. That was mediocre. I was told it was indicative of me as a person. I would be stepped on all my life if I didn’t start taking charge and making others do what I want” you didn’t make other people do what you want. I’m not a sociopath. As something they’re trying to impress upon you as a positive skill in life.

“He said it would reflect on my work at dinner in front of all of my other team mates. The same person I was talking about with the same boss, they walked into a meeting with their CEO and a client that this person, that the ridiculed was working with only to hear the client say, ‘Oh. Hey clown guy.

Didn’t I tell you three years ago that I would never do business with you ever again? And suffice it to say, that was the end of the week.” Taking your CEO to a meeting and having the client stop doing business with you- just stomp you right to the floor right away. All right. These all happened.

These were all real, anyways. So what do we do? What do we look out for? All right. So things look out for, we’ll kind of speed round through the rest of this. 11 things. If this happens at your firm, you’re working at a shitty firm, simple as that. First, dowels per hour, KPIs call log reviews. Anyone who’s focused on these stupid mundane metrics instead of actual results is a clown,

that’s one. Two, mandatory happy hours every week. Culture of drinking. Look, I enjoy drinking. I do not enjoy mandatory, forced drinking or join a behavior and enabling behavior on behalf of your corporation, it’s inappropriate. I’ve never been a fan of it. Number three, coworker love triangles, which is highly correlated with culture of drinking once again, but the type of drama you just don’t need in your life. Four, the paycheck pyramid scheme.

Yeah no matter what you do, you can never get out from under the draw you’re in, accelerators never kicked in. There’s always a reason why the check doesn’t seem to ever come. Continue. What are we on, five? Five. Celebrating deals with fancy or not even fancy lunch in lieu of compensation. Balloons, food, gift certificates, cash. I prefer cash. I like cash as well. Number six, a fear culture. Unhealthy competition and blaming. Don’t work for a place that does open yelling, open shaming, aggressive environment. Miss your numbers, you’re out. You’re out. You’re out. Just goes right back to “There are no bad days here.”

Didn’t close a deal, your brow beat as to why it’s your fault. Someone else closed a deal, managers rub it in your face. Just that sucks. They never turned down a bad client ever. This is the bane of contingent recruiting. Everyone’s taking on clients. Clients that haven’t paid, they have no skin in the game

because let’s be honest, you’re the one putting in the work. You fill it, you just feed the pyramid scheme and then you get stiffed on the commissions once you try and get out. It’s great. It’s great for all of us at the top of the pyramid. What else we got? Let me finish this off here. A lack of transparency, the secret deals and secret job orders

and if you ask about it, you’re just lied to and questioning your own reality. Gaslit that none of this was ever happening. It always seems like the people at the very top of the pyramid is always working on the real stuff. That’s kind of secret because no one else is supposed to work on the real stuff.

Number nine, bad behavior rewarded. This is kind of a paramount one. So big billers can get away with boarish and inappropriate behavior, leaders don’t care because all they care about is the dollars. That’s a big one. 10. Yeah. Number 10, just lying. Constant lying, lying to clients, lying to candidates, lying to whoever. Normalizing lying, whatever it does to close a deal.

If it feels wrong and immoral it’s cause it’s wrong immoral. If you ever hear “Just tell the client, this they’ll understand” that’s lying. And number 11, which is maybe the most indicative one, people not returning after lunch on their first day. I’ve seen it happen. If you’ve noticed that happened before,

it’s usually because they were able to snip this stuff out real quick. You should feel bad about yourself for not being on their level, maybe, I don’t know. It took me four months in one of my jobs to be that person, but I’m proud to be one of those people. Yeah. Anyways, so Jeff let’s wrap this up.

What should people do in these kind of situations? Quit. Just quit. Just quit. Put yourself situated. If you don’t have the financial means to quit, start interviewing now. Right now. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, you can’t quit bad companies fast enough. Get the fuck out. Anyways. We’re short on clock.

That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on as well as YouTube, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify and Amazon. Jeff, this has been a fun one. Thanks again, everyone out there. Immense pleasure.

We will see you soon.

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