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References? Already? You Shouldn’t Have…

Terence Channon
30 May 2019

References? Already? You Shouldn’t Have…

For the past 3 years, I have had a wide range of experiences talking to recruiters about helping me locate a new career position. Thus far, the recruiters have not done me any good — and well, I suppose I have not done them any favors either. After all, recruiters only get compensated when a candidate under their wing is hired. So, it should be a team effort — this is a rare case where there are 3 primary stakeholders that can all win — the employer finds suitable talent, the candidate finds a career match and the recruiter earns compensation and builds relationships with not one but 2 parties that could very well be future, recurring clients.

So far, my experience with nearly all recruiters has been lackluster. And that’s not just because I did not receive a mythical job offer letter. Today’s experience is one of many that I feel compelled to continue to share. Maybe my cries will be heard as one voice among many that is passionate about improving the landscape candidates have to play on? Maybe I can teach these recruiters that are struggling to make a connection with their candidate clients a thing or 2 about building trust and a relationship? Or maybe I will just take the plunge and become a recruiter myself.

Today, out of the blue, with no notice, I receive a call from a familiar number of a recruiter out of the Bay Area.

Over the past year, I have spoken with this recruiter 3 prior times — with today being the 4th. And today, well, did not go so well for either of us.

In each of the 3 conversations with the recruiter, I have found myself answering the same questions again and again — almost as if my answers are not recorded, remembered or important enough to take note of. Are you open to relocation? Do you have experience in XYZ? So, when the conversation started off with those questions again — not to mention our prior dialogue 3+ weeks ago ended up with me being ghosted, well, I was not too happy to hear from this person.

After reminding the recruiter about our last conversation and noting it would have been professionally courteous and respectful to provide some feedback on the last opportunity, the recruiter insincerely apologized. I am not sure what is worse — not caring about treating a professional — and one that potentially represents the key to filling your pocket with cash — without respect, transparency and other behaviors to build trust. Or, genuinely apologizing for treating me unprofessionally and disrespectfully? Thoughts?

So, once those pleasantries had passed us, the recruiter informed me that prior opportunity was no longer valid but a new and even better one has come up — and considering my wealth of experience, I may be a great fit. Fantastic — I am listening — tell me more.

RECRUITER: So, are you open to relocation?

ME: Yes.

RECRUITER: It’s not in XYZ city? But it’s in the same state.

ME: Yes, there is no obstacle to relocating — I’d love to learn more.

RECRUITER: You don’t seem that interested, so I don’t know.

ME: I know nothing about the position except it is not in XYZ city. I can’t say I am interested or not at this stage.

RECRUITER: Ok, it’s in ABC city — it’s full time — and compensation is negotiable based on experience.

ME: Very good — tell me more.

RECRUITER: First, I need to verify your experience with references?

ME: References? You mean names, numbers and contact details of my most trusted colleagues and clients?

RECRUTIER: Yes, I need to verify your experience.

ME: How about we further explore this position and if it appears to be going down a great path of a cultural, compensatory and professional fit for all involved, I will gladly share references — and I can promise you those references will validate my successes and experience.

RECRUITER: I can’t proceed further without references.

ME: I am not going to arbitrarily give you people to randomly call, especially since I have no idea about any of the specifics of the opportunity, except it is in ABC city.

RECRUITER: I don’t want to waste my time and find out you don’t have the requisite experience.

ME: My resume and profile are an open book — we have had several conversations over the past year. What questions do you have? I will gladly answer anything you would like to know, but I will not blindly impose on my colleagues at this time. I feel you can understand.

RECRUITER: I do, but I need to verify your experience.

ME: I already said, I won’t blindly give out that information at this stage of the opportunity. I think it’s fair to respect that. So, if we are at an impasse, best of luck and please do not contact me in the future about other opportunities.

What in the name of all that is holy would prompt a professional to ask for references at this stage in the game? This hesitancy is further compounded by the fact that this recruiter has, well, wasted my time — and likely the recruiter’s time as well. If references are a requisite of being in the recruiting firm’s job pool, well, this could have been asked upfront. My response may have been different considering I aim to provide people with the benefit of the doubt.

This recruiter, during all our dialogues did nothing to establish trust with me. From repeatedly asking me the same questions, calling me out of the blue when it was convenient for the recruiter, and failing to follow-up with me with feedback on the status of the opportunities. Now, this recruiter wants to randomly call people I have worked closely with for years?

Perhaps I did not establish trust with the recruiter. Possible, but unlikely considering this recruiter continued to call me back with new opportunities. Or maybe trust was never even on this recruiter’s radar? It did not matter — it is just one more example of how the system seems to be fundamentally broken.


References? Already? You Shouldn’t Have… was originally published in Terence Channon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.