Soul Suckers: The Stress Of Job Searching with Recruiters
Originally posted February 3, 2014
Re-edited and updated August 25, 2017
What I viewed as the onetime ‘The Prince,’ of my career, working for a venture capital-funded, Silicon Valley, medical device startup, was more realistically akin to a sexist Satan’s lair. Regardless of what type of job someone is looking for, we all share some relatable parallels which can help others ask the right questions to avoid making the same mistakes. So whether it’s looking to get into medical device sales or any other type of job the information below applies.
Our careers are one of the most important relationships in our lives and yet we put up with abuse at work that we’d never put up with in personal lives. Think about a time an executive or manager lied to your face, took credit for your work, insulted or demeaned you…in front of others, or threatened or intimidated you. I bet that was followed up with something charming along the lines of you should just be happy to have a job. For the record, that’s exactly what abusive people say when they want to continue their abusive unethical and or illegal behavior without shame, remorse guilt or accountability.
Hindsight being 20/20, it wasn’t until I started to think about my career in terms of a relationship did things become more clear about what questions to ask and what signs to look for when selecting an ethical company. For instance, think of a job interview in terms of a blind date or first date. Unknown variables generate anxiety but could potentially be alleviated with more information. Google searches are done on both Companies and potential mates, to help the candidates/dater to decide if they want to:
- accept the interview/date
- impress well enough to get a second interview/date
- accept the position employee/dating
The circumstances around meeting ‘The Prince,’ started out like any other relationship in my career, with a recruiter. Recruiters are more or less the ‘matchmaker’ in this scenario, only often without a soul and quite possibly selling you knowingly & willingly into slavery for their own commission check. As with any industry there are good (non-abusive) and there are bad (abusive). The bad (abusive) in this scenario are likely to sell their own mother’s soul to the devil for a $1.
Signs that you’re working with an bad (abusive/unethical) recruiter:
Unethical recruiters often abusively expect and ask for loyalty from a candidate, meaning they don’t want you working with any other recruiter. Inconsistently & contradictory to that request, recruiters will work with many clients (your competition) at the same. That’s not a problem until they send several of their clients on the same interview as you. It represents a conflict of interest and is unethical. It happens every day, but it still doesn’t make it right.
If a recruiter asks you not to work with any other recruiters you have the right to ask that they not put any other candidates they represent up for the same jobs you’re interviewing for. If they can’t agree to that-don’t just walk away-run away!
Think Millionaire Matchmaker, but you’re not looking to date dysfunctional millionaires, you’re looking to work for dysfunctional millionaires . Recruiters stand to make a lot of money placing a candidate which lends to a predatory element to the industry.
Never pay a recruiter or school to get into medical device sales. Be realistic. If you don’t have a four-year degree, there’s a 99% chance you won’t get into medical device sales today. Years ago, before the internet, several people abused the system and lied about having a degree. That doesn’t fly today. This article isn’t about whether or not I agree with the criteria of a four-year degree, it’s to try and prevent people who don’t meet the minimum criteria from becoming victims of predatory recruiters who just want money
Recruiters should never make or take money from candidates, they get paid by corporations. The new trend is for an abusive recruiter is to tell you your resume isn’t good and instead of telling you how to fix it (that’s in already in their job description-they get paid when they place you), they sell you their services to fix it. Nope. See above: unethical & conflict of interest.
Ask the recruiter questions: Remember this is your time to decide if you want to interview for the job, just as much as it’s a time the recruiter’s time to decide if you’re a good candidate to put forward in the interview. Ask:
- Why is the position available?
- Was the rep promoted? How many reps have been in the position in the last five years?
- If it’s an expansion territory, ask the last time the company expanded and how many of those reps are still with the company?
- When discussing salary & compensation ask the recruiter to verify the average from the company (in writing) taken over the last two years. If it’s a startup understand stock option prior to signing. Negotiating from the onset (bigger base salary, more options, car allowance, vacations days, etc.) is more successful if you know what they’re offering and why your talents deserve more than the average rep in the company.
- Ask that the recruiter contact you after your interview, even if you didn’t get it. Seems silly and like you shouldn’t have to ask that, but there are tons of people, myself included, that were told by the recruiter they’d hear back and never did. All parties need to act professionally.
Unlike the mixers on Millionaire Matchmaker, at the device ‘mixers,’ aka interviews, mainly men and a few women were vying for the attention to be the ‘chosen one,’ aka the hiring manger. And we’re not pitted against one another in a cocktail party. There is an unmistakable mix of arrogance, too much cologne, too much teeth whitening and ill-fitting pin stripped suiting, in the lobby or bar area, which will alert of our competition & the hiring manager.
Verify what the recruiter stated during the job interview. The questions asked during these interviews, not unlike on a date, vary from interesting, to at times, sadly inappropriate. This is a good time to verify what your recruiter told you to make sure they’re ethical; and, not just selling you a job for their paycheck. If what the recruiter told you differs from the hiring manager, it’s a red flag about the job and the recruiter. Seldom in my medical device career did I do this but, in hindsight, I know it could have prevented me for working a lot of assholes.
Trust your instincts-Don’t be Desperate. On an unrelated interview, earlier in my career, after getting the approval of the Regional Manager (RM) I met with his superior the Area Manager (AM) for the final interview. The AM gave off some disturbing vibes which I justified ignoring because I wanted the job and would have limited interaction with him in the future. He gave the company line, that it was up to the ‘Regional Manager’ on the final decision but, if it were up to him, the job was mine. He gave me a creepy smile and ordered another drink. (Yes, another drink during an interview during the late morning).
I thanked him, and was getting up to leave, and he continued, “But, it might not hurt to further get to know you know, since we won’t have very much interaction in the Company since I’m on the other side of the Country. Stay and have a drink with me.” I somehow had the uncharacteristic restraint of thinking “Oh, he’s on a liquid lunch,” and actually not saying it. I politely and respectfully turned down his offer; but, did accept the job later from his subordinate the Regional Manager. The inappropriateness during the interview was a red flag. Later confirmed the company lacked the understanding of employee/employer boundaries and that we were there to sell our products not ourselves as “booth babes” at medical device and surgeon associations meetings.
I’ve politely turned down invitations for a date; and, yet early in my career didn’t realize I didn’t have to accept every invitation for a job. It’s good to identify patterns when it comes to our job searches so that we can identify what’s working and what isn’t and adapt to make the necessary changes. For me, it as looking at my career as an important relationship in my life; and, asking the right questions to the right people at the right times throughout the entire interview process.