How to Spot a Dishonest Recruiter

It’s incredibly easy for judgements to be formed, and when it comes to the recruitment market, many have mixed opinions due to past experiences. However, one terrible stint with a recruiter should not hold you back from exploring the very vast market of jobs boards and recruitment consultancies. But beware: not all recruiters are as genuine as they could be. Lizzi Hart of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau explains how to spot a dishonest recruiter…


“I’ve submitted your application” …but you haven’t heard back

On one hand, you may well have been put forward, but the recruiter has forgotten to tell you the result, or they are being lazy and hoping you’ll assume you didn’t get it. While the former isn’t acceptable either, the other instance is that they already have other candidates in the short-list and they’re holding you back in case one of them falls short.

What to do: It’s fairly difficult to catch, this early on in the process, but always insist upon a written record of your application, like a confirmation email. Also, ask directly about the timescale of the application process. Vague or avoidance-based answers should be seen as a reason to be wary.

Did they provide interview feedback? If so, was it vague?

Granted, employers sometimes don’t provide feedback, no matter how much the recruiter chases them for it. However, there are times when the recruiter is simply not invested enough in the process and/or candidate, so they won’t bother to get hold of any feedback for you. Receiving honest answers about why you didn’t get the role will be extremely helpful for the future, and the least you should receive, after the hard work involved in preparing for the interview.

What to do: If not offered, insist upon receiving feedback. You may be told that it wasn’t provided, which could be true, but if other warning signs are present, you might have chosen the wrong recruiter.

Have they been honest about you?

Firstly, mistakes and misunderstandings do happen. However, if you discover that the client’s interpretation of your work experience or skill-set, for example, is different from the information you originally provided, it might be time to ask questions – especially if this could damage your chances of the job. It could be a case of a recruiter who wants to bend the truth slightly so as to persuade the client to hire you, in order to get paid quickly and easily.

What to do: This is very difficult to uncover as a deliberate mistake, but by requesting written confirmation of the application, you will hopefully eliminate any doubt.

Are they using a fake job just to get your CV?

Recruiters need candidates in order to get paid, and to do so, they need a large database to be able to comfortably search through. Genuine recruitment agencies will have subscriptions to databases like Reed, and also generate their own registrations through various marketing techniques. However, a fake but enticing job could get a candidate to send over their CV, with which the recruiter could apply for other jobs that they are recruiting for. 

What to do: If they are being purposely vague, ask further questions. If the role meets all of your requirements, and you are genuinely interested to go forward, the recruiter should not hold back the client’s name (but they do need to gauge your applicability before they reveal vacancy details). After all, you need to know this if you apply to work there.

Are they using you to compete for a client’s approval?

Perhaps the recruiter you’re dealing with is gathering CVs for a role that they are not authorised to recruit for. Most clients won’t accept these unsolicited applications, as they trust their existing candidate channels, but either way, it won’t end well.

What to do: The best way to tell if they are acting shiftily is to gauge how interested they sound in hearing your answers. They may also rush through mandatory questions, as well as being elusive about the role. If so, it’s worth probing them for more details.

How a real - and honest - recruiter works:

Yes, a lot of these instances can be because the recruiter has an ulterior motive, but most of the time, it’s not worth jumping to conclusions immediately. Recruitment can be a long-winded process, and while you might get frustrated left 'in the dark', it is often just a waiting game by its very nature.

A good recruiter, before they even try and put your application forward, will take the time to get to know you, and exactly what you want from a role. Rather than throwing as many CVs as possible at a client, someone who knows what they’re doing will take the time to carefully hand-pick the right people, ensuring the candidate is happy and keen at every stage of the process. After you get the job, a good recruiter will occasionally check in with you to see how your new role is going, meaning that if you ever needed them again, they are still there for you to ‘use’.