Meet the former bastard: an EXCLUSIVE chat with a former recruiter

I catch this guy in his own house, just to make sure he wouldn’t escape. He worked for a short period as a recruiter and then he left. For obvious reasons, I won’t report his name. We were thinking of using a fake name to call him, but he’s too paranoid even for that.

So I’ll simply dub him Former Bastard.

Hey Former Bastard, let’s talk again about all the things we’ve been talking about these days.

What do you mean?

Let me take a picture of your feet just to prove people that you actually exist.

Don’t show my face.

Man's legs in jeans and socks, black and white picture

A pair of recruiter’s feet.

Great to see you don’t trust me at all.

Well, you need to be careful with journalists.

Tell me everything about your past job, and why you quit.

Do you want some coffee?

No, I won’t accept anything from a recruiter. So, you said your manager told you that you were not enough of a bastard…

You won’t report my name, right?

I will also report your national insurance number.

What do you want to know? Yes. My ex-manager told me I am too nice and that I needed to be more ruthless. He wanted me to irritate people, to get on their nerves and to provoke a reaction. You never pick up a client initially if you’re not like that. You need to call them 8 times before they say yes. You have to keep calling and calling, or other recruiters will pick up the client by lying to them, by saying they’ve got all the CVs of the best candidates, a big database of exclusive candidates. Actually, you’re restricted to find clients because others will lie before you. You have some daily targets to meet about cold calls.

What do you mean with “daily targets about cold calls”? Get me a coffee now, please.

You said you didn’t want one. That’s a contradiction.

I’m a woman. What else did you expect?

I mean that you have to do business development. Hours of cold calls to companies that are in your database but have already said no. These calls are primarily designed to make you take away your emotions, to make you cold inside. You know the human reaction you’ve got when someone says no to you, yah? This makes you immune to rejections. They force you to bombard companies with cold calls to break your barrier to pick the phone up. Cold calls make you cold – it’s like military training.

And I’d also like another of those little biscuits, please. They’re delicious.

Almond and Rose Water biscuits, homemade by me. You’ve got the recipe on the fridge.

Handwritten paper recipe for almond and rose biscuits

Recruiter’s food recipe attached to recruiter’s fridge.

Now tell me more about the cold calls to candidates, like when you call them, but you don’t have any job to offer them. Do you do it to expand your database of candidates?

Not at all. That is what people think, that recruiters call the candidates to expand their database. Actually, it’s to get leads.

Leads? What leads can you get from someone who is looking for a job?

Leads about other companies looking to recruit people. That is why fake jobs are posted. A recruiter needs the candidates to tell him what companies are currently recruiting, how many job interviews they’ve had and where, and also with who. Graduates are the most vulnerable in that sense.

Are you saying that most of the fake job offers are meant for graduates?

Yes. Fake jobs are generally for entry-level and lower positions. If you phone a graduate, they’ll get nervous, and the more pressure you put on them, the more answers you’ll get. You want to know if they have had job interviews, so they tell you the company’ names – and also the person they’ve had the interview with – and you’ll use the information to call those companies back and pick up new clients.

Did you use to do that, Former Bastard?

Never. I’ve never lied on the phone ever. I told them from the beginning I refused to do so. I’ve tried to be a good recruiter by understanding exactly what the jobs were about, sending CVs to clients and meeting sales target. But when they force you to make 30 cold calls per hour, you just become a machine – to be honest with you. A statistic machine.

Why did you leave such a lovely job?

I didn’t see a future for me there. I lost all my clients because other recruiters got in before me by lying.

I want more.

OK. The problem I had is that I was given the warning to change my character on the phone as it is scientifically proven that you sell more if you have a deeper voice on the phone. You have to do it because if you sound just normal, you’ll get eaten alive. It’s like a race to find the candidate, with no ethic at all. It’s not like if you’re working for a charity, charities shouldn’t lie and should have some ethic in their work.

So you were given a warning for just having a regular voice?

Well, you know me.

I do. You’re a bloody salesman-at-heart. You could sell me anything.

Yeah – I am polite, you know, and I believe in myself as the person who I am. I tried to do it my way, and it didn’t work. I had to be more rude and loud. The irony behind this is that the most recruiting agencies show off their ethical values on their websites, they say they’re different and that they do the right thing, and they are honest, but it’s simply not true.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Leah K Stewart

    As an ex-recruiter, I really enjoyed this interview! Thanks. For a few years I managed to get a nice niche for myself within the company which helped keep me sane, but in the end I left too because of not seeing an emotionally sustainable future in that world. Learnt allot about what it looks like when candidates have control over their futures verses being at the mercy of well trained recruiters.

    • The Shortlisted
      The Shortlisted

      Thanks for this Leah, you raised two very imporant points: firs, recruiters ARE human beings with emotions and all, second: candidates CAN have control over their future.
      How long did you work in that industry?

      • Avatar
        Leah K Stewart

        3 years full time. That was enough. Within 6 months I was training new staff. My first grad job (before recruitment) was as a sales consultant in a high end leisure centre where I became fascinated by sales, partly because I was terrified of not doing a good job and being fired! Didn’t take me long to learn the ropes and realise how possible it is to manipulate people, rather then help them, using sales skills.

        In recruitment I found that candidates who could not be bent were those who had reflected enough to really truly know what they wanted and were going for it regardless of what a recruiter might offer. They had taken control of their own future and were amazing to work with; I could ONLY either help them or get out their way. Working with them always felt like a win-win.

        In contrast, those candidates who weren’t sure what they wanted (and this seemed to be around 90% of employees I had contact with) were easy to move, but I tended to feel like I’d only served myself via the transaction.

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