pushy recruiters and multiple recruiters with slight variations on the same job

A reader writers:

My question deals with external recruiters. I’ve never used a recruiter before to get hired, or interviewed, for that matter. However, I’m branching out into the professional world after a couple years of doing freelance work in the same field. As I’ve discovered, this field (web design and development) tends to rely on recruiters, or at least there are a lot of recruiters for the field. My resume has been submitted to a few online job posting sites, including CareerBuilder. Luckily, my resume is specifically tailored to a specific position. (Or rather, specific tasks, as the titles/positions vary depending on the company. For the most part, it’s geared towards front-end web design/development with some back-end experience.) Taking some tips from your site and others, I’ve tweaked my resume a bit and updated the sites I belong to. Now I’m being swarmed by recruiters!

This is a two part question:

1. Is it common for recruiters to swarm a new “candidate” with job offers even if their resume doesn’t match the qualifications? My resume clearly shows front-end experience with experience with a fairly common back-end language, but essentially NO programming, yet 99% of the jobs being thrown at me are programming jobs waaaay beyond the scope and skills that I have. They won’t stop calling either, and then they follow up with an email, and then call back two hours later! What is the etiquette for dealing with pushy recruiters? I’ve responded via email that I wish to only be contacted by email (as I do have a day job, one that I can’t just stop and answer my cell phone), yet they keep calling and calling and calling about jobs that I’m not interested in or remotely qualified for.

2. I’ve been contacted by 6 different recruiters with 3 different agencies for the SAME job offer, and the number increases daily. Thankfully, this offer is the 1% that I am perfectly matched for, so I don’t feel like I will be wasting the client’s time applying. However, despite the job description being identical in each email, some recruiters divulged the client’s name and even their salary range. But that’s about it as far as similiarities go. One states one title, another states a different title, but according to the offer, it’s same exact description. Some are stating it’s a W2 + benefits position, others ask for my 1099/C2C rates. How do I go about getting accurate information? Is it proper to contact that employer/client about the position directly or ask the recruiters for more details? Since it’s a position I’m most definitely interested in and perfectly matched for, what is the proper way to getting an interview? Submit my resume to one recruiter? All of them? Submit to the employer/client directly?

In response to your first question, about overly aggressive recruiters pursuing you for jobs you’re not qualified for: Don’t work with these recruiters. Just like you wouldn’t deal with pushy, inept people in other areas of your professional life, don’t deal with them here either. Say you’re not interested and ask them to stop contacting you.

You might worry that by cutting them off, you’ll lose out on hearing about better opportunities that they might be able to bring you in the future, but their actions here are like a flashing sign telling you that they’re not good at what they do. You don’t want to work with bad recruiters, because these are the ones who will misrepresent you to employers, change your resume without telling you, and waste your time in all sorts of ways.

So don’t worry about not building a relationship with these particular recruiters. In fact, make a note of their names so that you avoid them in the future.

Now, regarding the multiple contacts about the same job with varying details:  Ask. Just be straightforward: “I think I was approached about this job by someone else, but it had a different title / was a W2 position / etc. Do you know why there’d be a couple different versions of it out there?”

And on the question of whether to stick with one of those recruiters or apply with the employer directly, read this post and the comments on it (you’ll see strong opinions on both sides in the comments, so take it all in and decide for yourself accordingly).

Overall, though, the thing you want to keep in mind with recruiters is that there are good ones and bad ones. Don’t feel that you have to work with one who’s giving you a bad feeling — assume you’ll be better off passing.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. Soni*

    Consider getting a Google Voice phone number that you can redirect anywhere, specifically for using with online resume/job-hunting/recruiter sites. This way, if specific recruiters are pestering you without being useful (i.e. pitching jobs you’re not even remotely interested in) you can block their number while still allowing the others to call through (or go to voice mail).

    1. Blinx*

      I do this with my cell phone — I created a “contact” called Junk Calls, and have my phone block this contact. Whenever I get an unwanted call, I just add that number to the contact. No voicemails to sift through, and no more hangups from the same number.

    2. BW*

      I did this. It makes it much easier to manage where these calls go, and Google Voice will send me a text message of voicemail, so I usually don’t even have to make any effort to listen to a message unless it seems unclear or I’m potentially interested.

    3. Beth*

      I started using google voice in this manner a few months ago. I really like keeping my cell number private. The blocking features on Google Voice are awesome.

  2. Andrea*

    My experience with posting resumes online (mine and my husband’s) is that even if you include a nice statement about preferring email over phone calls, a lot of recruiters and potential employers will still call you. I suggest you do what I did and get a Google Voice number, and use that (along with email) for your contact information on your online resumes. You can always give out your “real” number later if you are interested. Google Voice is free, and you can do a lot of fancy things in the settings, like forward calls to your cell or block callers, and it will send you emails when you have voice mail or missed calls. As a bonus, it will email you a transcript of the voice mail, and this is almost always hilarious (you can also just click on it to listen). Anyway, I’ve had a lot of luck using my Google Voice number for just this purpose, so I recommend trying it.

    1. Soni*

      As you noted, it helps to have a specific email address for this, as well. But if you have a Gmail address already, you don’t have to bother. Just give your email as yourname+keyword@gmail.com.

      The +keyword can be anything you want: the name of the recruiter, the site name, a handing reminder word or whatever. So, for example, if you apply through LinkedIn, you might use the address yourname+linkedin@gmail.com. For those using Monster.com, it might be yourname+monster@gmail.com.

      No matter what you add in the keyword area, gmail will deliver it to your main account just as if the keyword wasn’t there. But you can use the keyword to filter the mail into labels, automatically delete them and so on. And it’s helpful to see who’s sharing/selling your email and who’s not.

      1. Anonymous*

        Hmmm…. but when you reply, it removes the “+keyword” portion. Plus, the recruiters have your ‘true’ email address anyway.

        1. A Bug!*

          Yes, this trick is mostly useful with automatic systems where a person is not processing your e-mail address. It is super handy in those circumstances.

          An internet-savvy real person will immediately see what’s going on and it won’t be an effective way of filtering them out.

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s why I liked the way a friend of mine set up his mailserver – the ‘realname’ portion was not an actual mailbox, so if you tried dropping the ‘keyword’ portion, you’d just get a bounce. Unfortunately, that relied on him being able to manually set the mappings, which is not practical for Google.

  3. Esra*

    There is a glut of terrible recruiters in the web design/development industry. I’m a graphic designer and have had the same trouble with recruiters approaching me with programming jobs I’m nowhere near qualified for. I think it’s because graphic designers are a lot cheaper than programmers. A lot of us have light coding skills and it attracts crappy, resume-massaging recruiters like nobody’s business.

    If you really want to work with a recruiter, look for a firm that focuses on design professionals. Personally, I tend to look at job sections in design trade mags.

  4. Anonymous*

    Some of the software developer recruiters take the spray-and-pray approach to applicants. “Oh, you’ve used a computer at work? You must be a programmer, let us recruit you!” I don’t know how they stay in business.

    One of my friends had the same problem – a recruiter got his name somehow and tried to recruit him for various completely unsuitable positions. He’s not a programmer (nor a web dev, he happens to do sysadmin), and he’s told the recruiter what he does and what kind of jobs he’s willing to do. The recruiter disregards anything he says and keeps throwing programming jobs at him.

    This last round, he told the recruiter he was looking for a job in or near Town X, as he is moving to Town X for family reasons. The recruiter actually managed to find a suitable type of job, finally… in a city that is a 3.5 hour drive away from Town X. This time he had to explain that a 7-hour daily commute was not really feasible, no thank you.

    At this point, I think he talks to the recruiter more for an occasional laugh than in hopes of it leading to a job.

    1. perrik*

      Spray-and-pray, an apt phrase indeed.

      Once upon a time, I toiled in the weedy fields of tech support. Recruiters would call now and then, looking for tech skills which had zero to do with my skill set.

      One called about a programming position (I’m not a programmer) in another state (no). When I indicated no interest in that position, he asked if I had any skills as a crane operator.

  5. William Eldridge*

    I am on the other side of the coin – a back-end web developer with little experience working on front end design. Unlike most career fields right now, there are many more jobs than qualified applicants. After I was laid off three years ago, it almost felt like a feeding frenzy as I was hit with a deluge of calls from recruiters.

    Really, there are two types of recruiters, similar to real estate where you have buyer agents and seller agents. Some recruiters are hired by the company that has the opening to find the right person. This is particularly common with smaller companies and specialized jobs like IT and web development. These recruiters, in my experience, tend to be professional, and can often get good leads.

    On the other hand, you have “job brokers,” which I think are the class most of the recruiters the OP has been hearing from. These recruiters tend to scan the job boards and try to match a job posting to a resume in hopes of getting a commission. In my experience they tend to be much more aggressive, trying to fit the applicant to the job using whatever means necessary, even outright lying to the job seeker or the employer (or both) to get their commission.

    My best advice would be to check the job boards and look for agencies that post jobs frequently and make contact with them. There are a few agencies around the US that work with hundreds of companies and can lead to great jobs. After my layoff, that was the strategy I used, and found a new job in a few short months.

  6. SrRecruiter*

    The points that AAM and William make here are spot on. If you are getting the same job description with different titles and ways of being hired, some of those “Recruiters” have no relationship with the Client. They hope to form a relationship with the Client (and make a commission) by using your resume to open that door. I recommend that you talk to the top one or two Recruiters that appeal to you to determine if they are actually in a partnership with the Client yet. If not, move along.

    1. Lisa*

      So true! I ended up interviewing for a job, and I mentioned that I never had so many recruiters call me about a single job before. The interviewer said that only XYZ and ABC Recruiters were contracted with them.

      side note – One of the recruiters that were not contracted with the company told me a big secret and i let it slip in the interview , not realizing it wasnt announced yet. Well that pissed off the interviewer royally and made me tell him, which firm blabbed. Basically I knew they were in a hiring tizzy cause of a huge contract that they won from Prctor and gamble, but the current contract holders were not told they lost yet!

  7. Amanda*

    Interestingly enough, I am in the same field as you. I typically get swarmed by recruiters when I update my resume on Monster.com. I have found that, in general, recruiters for Web Dev positions in my area (the Northeast) must use keywords when searching. For example, I know Javascript, but continuously get calls regarding Java positions. It has gotten to the point where I screen calls and don’t usually return calls from recruiters who obviously don’t have time to look at my resume.

    That being said, it can’t hurt to talk to some of the ones that seem more “on-the-ball”. I was working with an agency for a while that got me a great contract role. The difference was that this agency seemed to be knowledgeable about the field and interested in filling the role with the right person.

    Good luck!

    1. Anon*

      The same happens in the NW too. I still get calls for Flash positions even though I haven’t worked with it since 2005. :P Those kinds of recruiters who do keyword searches don’t usually get callbacks (I screen all calls from numbers I don’t recognize) or e-mail replies if they send me job descriptions which are clearly not within my skill set.

  8. Anonymous*

    I don’t work in this field but most everyone I know does, and I have heard some amazing tales of ineptitude when it comes to recruiters. Some of them have even gone all the way to the interview phase before discovering that the work is not something they even know how to do.

    Recruiter contacts them, insists that even though the listing says they need the A my friend doesn’t do, they know the people in that department and they really also need B which my friend DOES do. HR does an interview where they go over their checklist of things to look at. Second interview comes around, they actually talk to the department, and it becomes clear that the recruited misrepresented the applicant to the hiring manager and misrepresented the opening to the applicant. Huge waste of everyone’s time, and I’ve heard this same story more than once.

  9. Karen K*

    If there is some way to do it, tt’s not a bad idea to find out from the company who their preferred agency is, and if indeed they are using one. Some bad recruiters will troll internet job postings and then market the job without even getting a job order from the company. I also wonder about a company that gives a job opening to multiple recruiters. Also, if they have the job posted on their own site, that tells me they are not going exclusively with a recruiter.

  10. Camellia*

    I was also deluged with calls from recruiters when I posted my resume to the job boards after a lay-off from an IT position. They would say, “I’d like to discuss your qualifications to see if we have anything that is a good fit for you,” and, after taking up 45 minutes of my time would say, “We don’t have anything right now, if something comes up I’ll give you a call!” and then I would never hear from them again.

    My best guess is that they must meet some sort of quota of ‘clients’ to add to their list and that’s all I was to them. (I’m curious – are there any recruiters out there who could confirm/deny this?)

    The good ones, however, had taken the time to read my resume and knew they had an opportunity and would tell me that right away. And they already had relationships with the companies for which they were recruiting.

    Once I learned this distinction I researched the good ones for their reputation, etc, and focused in on a couple that I would talk to. One in particular is the only one who consistently gets me interviews and so far I have worked three contracts with them.

    So there are good recruiters out there and with the excellent advice here from Alison and her happy Chocolate Teapot crew you will quickly learn who is worth your time and attention. Hang in there!

    1. Camellia*

      And I forgot to mention – this will happen again every time you update your resume on any job board.

  11. Original Poster*

    OP here.

    I was so stoked to see this on AAM!

    Anyway, I ended up Googling the job ad I was being swarmed with, and found out that it was an “augmentation contract” with the State, which meant it was specifically only available through recruiters as it was not posted on the state’s website as an open position, and said to not contact HR about the position because they aren’t the one’s handling it.

    I responded back to the recruiter who provided me with the most information, the one that actually dealt with me via email as I requested, and also told me about the particular software the state was using to screen resumes (and how to word my resume so it passed the screening).

    A few days later, I get a call from what appeared to be the recruiter. The recruiter left a message (as I was at work) and I called back when I had a chance, and it turned out to be a different recruiter for the same company, and tried to guilt trip me because he apparently sent the information to me first, but I submitted it to another recruiter he works with. He apparently called to harass me and try to make me feel bad about not going with him on the job offer.

    I’ve since replied back to the other recruiters with that position that I have already decided to go with a different recruiter regarding that position, but good luck in their searches.

    I haven’t heard anything back from that particular job, but in other news, I DID get called back for an interview with a design agency for junior developer position within 12 hours of submitting my materials (resume and cover letter), and have an interview them on 8/8!

      1. Meg*


        Thanks! I’m pretty sure I nailed the interview (thanks to all the interviewing help on AAM. I used a few questions on what to ask the hiring manager – the first one being “how would you measure a successful first year in this position?” and he even said “Wow, that’s the best question I’ve ever been asked during an interview.” I also asked what the typical work day is like/culture of the agency. It went very smoothly from what I could see.

  12. Another Job Seeker*

    I have the opposite problem. I am a web developer, and I have been seeking employment for most of this year. I am not using recruiters or LinkedIn because I do not want my current (crazy/jealous/vindictive/micro-managing) supervisor to know I am looking. I even disabled my LinkedIn account that I created some time ago. Someone looking at it would have no idea I am searching for a new job, and I don’t want it to mislead potential new employers.

    I am applying directly to positions. I have had several interviews – one company even called my references. (The company canceled the position, unfortunately). I have not received any offers so far. Does anyone have any tips for identifying reputable web development recruiters who will respect a discreet job search? My work environment, which is already more insane that most people would believe, would get much worse if my supervisor knew I was trying to leave. (I saw the recommendation to find some recruiters who blog and Tweet – I will do that). AAM, thanks for all of the valuable information you share.

  13. B*

    An even easier solution to not getting phone calls….do not put your phone number on your searchable resume. I also go a step further and leave off my exact address as well. Yes, they can probably still find it but that is an extra step. Keep the resume with all of your contact information unsearchable.

  14. Neeta*

    I know perfectly well what you mean. For about half a year I had a company literally bombard me with emails for tech support jobs… even though I’m a computer programmer.
    The only reason they did this, was because I listed German among the languages I speak.

    At first I tried sending them emails about this, but eventually I just unsubscribed from their mailing list. A process that I found quite tedious, since I never signed up in the first place for one.

  15. BW*

    ” Is it common for recruiters to swarm a new “candidate” with job offers even if their resume doesn’t match the qualifications?”

    Ohdeargod YES! This is what I hated most about posting my resume to these job sites. I got swarmed with calls and emails from recruiters who were clearly just following up on a warm body and not even reading my resume. This last time around, I didn’t make my resume searchable or public.

  16. Eric Pulsifer*

    I’ve been getting calls/emails from recruiters pushing sales positions, and I’ve prepared a stock answer for these: a) I’m not a good fit for sales. b) Here’s what I do, and these are my salary requirements. If you’re still interested, let’s talk.

    Surprise! No takers, and I’m hearing less and less from these bottom feeders.

  17. anon in the UK*

    A recruiter recently contacted me via LinkedIn and sent me a gushing message about how she thought I would be an ideal candidate for a particular job she had available.

    Had she actually read my profile, she would have found that I actually did this job from 2006-2008 and moved companies for a promotion and payrise.

    No, oddly enough, I don’t fancy a paycut or a demotion. Nor do I want to work with a recruiter who cannot read.

  18. Weasel007*

    This is an old post but one of the questions was important to reply to.

    Never never never allow multiple recruiters to submit you to the same position. Always ask for the req number and client name plus job title and store it with the job description. Keep them in a log. If you get submitted to the same job by multiple recruiters you will get removed from consideration and your account will be locked. Too many times and you will never get considered again. Companies that use taleo for recruiting do this. I live in an area with two top 5 financial companies are and we regularly swap back and forth. We learn very quickly which companies to avoid. One time I got 11 calls, 6 of them from the same company (different recruiters all in a foreign call center reading a script in a 6 hour period. The pay ranges for the same req were disturbingly different.

    Also, if your recruiter isn’t asking your permission and documenting it in an email run! Always ask to see the resume they are submitting as well. Note, shifty recruiters will submit you without your authorization and screw you.

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