The Dreaded Recruiter Blacklist: Does it exist and are you on it?

rejected by Sean MacEntee from Flickr

rejected by Sean MacEntee from Flickr

 

Have you been worried throughout your transition that “it” would catch up to you. You’ve been watching over your shoulder and trembling uncontrollably at every interview. You do your best to calm your jittery nerves, but you’re afraid the interviewer picked up on some of your unease. Why are you so nervous during the interview?

Did you exaggerate your experience on your résumé?

Did you tell a small white lie about your qualifications?

Did you change your birth date to make yourself seem younger?

Did you not research a company as well as you wanted to, and tried to wing-it throughout the interview?

These little white lies could cause a recruiter to blacklist you (yes, it exists), if he or she discovers you weren’t being completely truthful. Even a small faux pas during an interview could cause your name to be written down on a blacklist. No one wants to end up on such a list. Being blacklisted means recruiters will not work with you, and will ensure your résumé won’t end up in front of a hiring manager. In short, finding the next job or career opportunity becomes that much more difficult.

Allow me to paint you another scenario:

A woman desperately wants to land a job at her dream company. She enlists the aid of two recruiting firms to place her résumé in front of a hiring manager. Recruiting Firm B gets the credit for submitting her résumé to the company. Recruiting Firm A had no idea she was using another recruiter, and was furious when they didn’t get the credit, or their fee for her hire. The slighted firm swore they would never work with the woman again and blacklisted her. Later, the woman decided to take a counter-offer from her current employer. At the very last minute she turned down the position, leaving that employer in a bind. To further make a mess of the situation, Recruiting Firm B lost the fee they would have collected from the placement, and their relationship with their client was damaged. Firm B also blacklisted the woman.

Incredibly, the woman decided she wanted another shot at her dream company. She contacted one of the recruiting firms and was met with a chilly reception. She was never called back for an interview and her calls to other recruiters were ignored. She tried to apply for positions at other companies, but found it incredibly difficult to land a job. By burning both recruitment firms, the woman was branded as difficult to work with, deceptive, and unreliable.

In the recruiting world, this woman’s actions would be considered a huge “no-no.”

Why job seekers are blacklisted:

Potential job seekers can be blacklisted by recruiters for a variety of reasons, ranging from minor to major offenses. Perhaps you told a little white lie, or had a blow up with your old boss, who now serves as a bad reference. Being let go early from a contract you had through a consulting firm is also a reason that recruiters might blacklist you. These are actual scenarios I’ve encountered as a recruiter. The criteria for getting blacklisted generally fall into two categories:

  1. You make a recruiter look bad, or make them fear that you will make them look bad with a client.
  1. You waste a recruiter’s time.

Bullhorn Reach has a fantastic infographic on the major reasons why job seekers are blacklisted.

Lying and/or exaggerating experiences: Roughly 21% of job seekers lie or exaggerate their qualifications on their résumé. Lying about your qualifications, or the experience you have for a position can be detrimental to everyone in the long run. If someone lands a job based on skills they lied about, it would quickly become apparent they aren’t match for the job. The employee is out of a job and now has a black mark on their résumé for lying. The employer has to expend time, energy, and money to fill the position again. Additionally, the recruiter’s reputation takes a blow with their client, the employer. When a recruiter markets a candidate, they are using the information they were provided. If it turns out a candidate lied, then the candidate is perceived to be untrustworthy, and that information is passed along to other recruiters.

Lying can come back to haunt you. Be truthful about your experience and qualifications when applying to a job

Using different recruiters to apply for the same job: Last week I touched upon how recruiters collect fees for the successful hiring of a candidate. However, only one recruiter can collect a fee per candidate. In other words, if a job seeker uses two recruiters to land the same job, only one recruiter can collect a fee. If a recruiter works to market a candidate to a client, only to find out someone else did it first, they’ve just lost their pay. Employers don’t want to fight with recruiters over fees, nor do recruiters want to fight over fees. Think about it this way, if someone at your job caused you to lose a potential chunk of income, would you want to work with him or her ever again?

Too many résumé submissions: A job candidate who applies for too many open positions at one employer can find themselves blacklisted. You may think you’re increasing your chances of landing a job, but the opposite actually occurs. You come off as desperate, and more interested in simply having a job, versus seeking a career and being a good fit for the employer. Too many résumé submissions also make you look unfocused in the eyes of a recruiter. Desperate employees can be hard to motivate, are disinterested in the job, and tend to quickly move on once they find a better position. No recruiter wants to make extra work for themselves by trying to find a suitable position within the company for the candidate. Nor is it a recruiter’s job to do so. Their only job is to fill open positions, not to discover which job a potential employee would be a good match for.

A better strategy is to boil your submissions down to three positions, max. The positions should closely match up with your qualifications, because you want to appear interested and focused.

Being difficult to reach: Making it difficult for a recruiter you’re working with to reach you by phone can be a huge turnoff. A recruiter may call you during working hours, or while you’re at home, but if you’re actively seeking to change employers you have to get back to them within a reasonable time. Recruiters are extremely busy with multiple candidates, and don’t have much patience for playing phone tag. If they make a reasonable effort to contact you, and their calls are never returned, they will move on to the next candidate. A good rule of thumb is to call a recruiter back within an hour (or less) of a missed call. They are more flexible with working candidates, but they’ll need to make sure that if they do the work of arranging an interview for you during work hours, that you’ll be able to make it. Reassure them by finding away to make a call work. Likewise, you may turn down too many jobs. It is your prerogative to pick and choose which opportunities to pursue, but if a recruiter believes that your criteria are unreasonable and you say no to 4 or 5 opportunities in a row that seem to be suitable, they won’t bother with you next time around.

Too many calls per week: You can be proactive, and follow up with a recruiter to show them you’re interested in the position. There is a “good” frequency and a “bad” frequency when it comes to calling recruiters. It is possible to be overly-eager or outright aggressive. The Bullhorn survey reveals that 11% of recruiters have had job seekers follow up with them about a position multiple times each week. According to the same survey, 43% of those recruiters have blacklisted a candidate because of those multiple calls. Getting numerous calls per day or week from a candidate is extremely annoying, especially if a recruiter has already responded to them about their status. It’s not much different from if you were disturbed each day at work by multiple calls from telemarketers. It can be a major turn off, and can make a person never want to work with you again.

Limiting your inquiries to once a week can fulfill the need to know about your status without annoying a recruiter. A little patience goes a long way.

Being unprepared for an interview: Your recruiter has finally gotten you in front of a hiring manager, and you’re completely unprepared for the interview. A failure to ask questions, not bringing more than one copy of a résumé, showing up late, being overly nervous, and not know much about the company are many factors that go into a bad interview. A bad interview is a waste of time for everyone involved. You don’t get the job, the hiring manager has wasted his or her time, and the recruiter potentially adds you to a blacklist if it was more than a fluke.

An interview is your time to shine. Thoroughly researching a company, practicing before an interview, and projecting self-confidence are good ways to conduct a great interview, and to leave a great impression on a hiring manager. Self-confidence may sound like something you manufacture, but it’s more like a byproduct of being prepared. This includes not only understanding the company’s needs, but how to articulate how your qualifications and skills fill their needs. Good impressions mean you’ll be able to obtain a referral from a recruiter or a hiring manager, or you may be considered for another job opening in the future.

Rejecting a job offer: You aced the interview, and you were offered the position within the company. You have the details of your salary, a contract, and a start date finalized. At the VERY last moment you decide to reject the job offer. Now the company that hired you is in a bind. They were expecting you to work for them, now that have to scramble and find a new candidate for the job. The recruiter who vouched for you is now out of a commission fee. Such a move makes a candidate unreliable, and is generally a major headache for all of the involved parties. A candidate who can’t commit to his or her obligations, or is indecisive at the very end of the hiring process is not the type of person a recruiter (or anyone for that matter) would want to work with in the future.

Being unprofessional and/or disrespectful: This last topic covers a broad range of issues. You could come off as unprofessional in an interview if you show up late. At the interview you may be dressed too casually, or you may be negative about your previous employer. Unprofessionalism could show up before you even get to the interview process. For example, a recruiter could look up your online presence and find less than savory information about you on your social media outlets. Or perhaps you talked to a recruiter at a job networking event, and a joke came off as unprofessional. Joann S. Lublin writes about a number of cases where job seekers have landed in the bad graces of recruiters in her Wall Street Journal article, “How a Black Mark Can Derail a Job Search.

You could have a genuine, but very emotional reaction to a job rejection, such as anger or sadness. That’s uncomfortable and a recruiter will fear you’ll break down in front of their client. They won’t consider submitting your résumé to hiring manager again. Even if you are rejected for a job, you can still build a relationship with a recruiter. This could come in the form of a future opening with the company, or even a good referral. Even if a recruiter is unprofessional to you, it is in your best interest to remain professional and calm. They still have the power to blacklist you, and word of mouth can travel quickly.

 

How recruiters blacklist job candidates:

Recruiters may or may not keep an actual blacklist for job candidates. The list can be in the form of an internal document, or red flag on a candidate’s profile. Other times, recruiters may simply make a mental note of a candidate they wish to never do business with again. Recruiters don’t live and work in a bubble. They connect and network with other recruiters, hiring managers and career coaches on a regular basis. Going back to Lublin’s Wall Street Journal piece, the opening anecdote is about a software developer who was well qualified for a position, but had terrible presentation skills. The recruiter pointed the software developer out to an HR official and a career coach. When the man inquired about relevant openings for a job, the recruiter replied he had been checking, but didn’t find any openings. The recruiter then quietly told the pair that he “would never submit him to any clients.” That day, the software developer landed on two blacklists. The recruiting world is especially small. Recruiters bump into their competition all the time. When recruiters want to advance their own career, they sometimes go to the competition, which means that the competition is rife with former colleagues.

The main point of blacklists is to raise red flags against the liars and misfits. Oof. It’s true, but it hurts, and this is also something that happens. Someone can show up on a blacklist for not presenting well, having a funny smell, wearing loud clothing, or an annoying laugh. Liars can damage the reputation of a recruiter, and can wreak havoc on an employer if they are not qualified for the position. Or a candidate can be unreliable or unprofessional. Sometimes candidates are put on blacklists for good reasons, such as lying about qualifications. Other times, seemingly small infractions can land a candidate on a blacklist, such as joke told in poor taste at an interview or networking event. Or perhaps a former boss doesn’t like you and adds you to a blacklist. Either way, being on a blacklist can negatively impact your career. It can make it more difficult to land a position, but we’ve helped good people through these things.

 

The negative impacts on your job transition:

Again, it can be difficult to navigate a job transition with any strikes against you, but not impossible. Good people can recover from being blacklisted.

Being on a recruiter’s blacklist means that he or she won’t forward your résumé to a hiring manager. You may be highly qualified for a position, passionate about your job, and ready to make a difference at a company. None of that matters, if you’re labeled as unpresentable or unemployable. You won’t get interviews for positions, and you could find your career stalled. If you’re employed, you may be stuck at your current employer for much longer than you want to be. The inability to change jobs means that you won’t be able to improve your salary or compensation. Employees who change jobs can earn 10% to 20% more than someone who stays at their current job for more than two years.

If you’re currently unemployed, the results of being on a blacklist are even worse. It can take you much longer to land a new job. A task that could normally take weeks or a few months, could be delayed by years thanks to a black mark on your file, if you attempt to confront the job search by yourself. The continued loss of income is devastating for your personal and professional life. No one wants to have to burn through unemployment compensation, or savings just to survive.

 

Being on a blacklist doesn’t have to be a permanent predicament. First, you have to find out if you’re on a blacklist. A career coach could help you discover if you’ve been blacklisted, or a recruiter you have a relationship with could also help. Other times, you may immediately know if you’ve fallen into a recruiter’s bad graces.

Recruiters are reasonable people, and reaching out to make amends can go a long way in getting yourself removed from a blacklist. You can refer people in your network to recruiters as a favor to them. You can treat them to lunch, meet them in person, and apologize for the offense. The important part is to get off of a recruiter’s blacklist once you’re on it IF you can. If you can’t, you will have to land a job without recruiters, which people do all the time, especially with our help. Of course, the best way to avoid the blacklist is to be your best self at all times and understand the powerful impact your actions and words can have.

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