Hey Recruiters! Resumes are people too…

Recruiter misconduct increases when recruiting quotas are not met.

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Apr 29, 2024
Yikes, yikes, and double yikes! The Department of Defense (DOD) says military services missed recruiting goals by 41,000 during the 2023 fiscal year.  This shortfall impacted the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The Army has fallen 10,000 short of its 65,000 recruit goal for 2023. The active duty Army is on track to reach only 68.15% of its accessions goal for fiscal 2023, while the Army Reserve is on pace for 61.59% of its recruiting mission. Okay, once again, yikes!

The reasons behind this shortfall are numerous. Let me count off a few of them.
  1. The pool of eligible young Americans to serve is shrinking, with only 23% of 17-24 year olds qualified to serve without a waiver, down from 29% in recent years.
  2. Fewer young people have family members who served, decreasing the propensity to serve.
  3. Generation Z generally has a lower trust in institutions and is less likely to follow traditional career paths.
  4. Obesity and other disqualifying medical conditions are also affecting the eligible pool of recruits.
Not only does this trend have a direct impact on the safety of our country, it also has an extreme effect on recruitment practices, and not always for the best. For example, a group of military recruiters were allegedly offering information on how to get around drug tests, physical fitness requirements, and even providing fake diplomas. The recruiters were facing disciplinary actions for these actions. In April 2022, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) reopened its “Military Recruiter Abuse Hotline” amid an uptick in calls from young people experiencing military recruiter misconduct. Two notable quotes I feel compelled to share…

The second most common complaint received, with 19 reports, is that recruiters are providing  misleading and incorrect information to potential recruits. They are told by recruiters that they will be  sent to a specific location, be given a particular job, or qualify for certain benefits – and ultimately are  not given those things. In several cases, the misinformation was intended to pressure a quick signing.  Recruiters claimed that if the person did not sign then and there, and with that particular recruiter, they  could never join the military.

The third largest category, with 12 reports, is that recruiters encouraged individuals to cheat, lie, or misrepresent themselves in the recruitment process. This is overwhelmingly done in relation to medical  records: In one case, a young man was told to stop taking medication by a Marine recruiter, to hide his medical history. He then took the man to a sauna to sweat out the medication, and to a pharmacy to sign papers hiding his medical records.

And as early as January 2024, an Army recruiter, Sgt. Glenn Marquette, threatened a young recruit named Irving Gonzalez with being sent to jail if he decided to go to college instead of joining the military. The recruiter’s actions were considered misconduct and he was suspended as a result. These stories are reminiscent of an earlier time when military recruiters became unscrupulous in order to meet their quotas. Back in 2008, I wrote about it and was incentivized to become an advocate for job seekers, beyond the military. Why? Although some military recruiters certainly took things too far with their efforts, horror stories involving contingency recruiters and retained search firms are spoken of in hushed whispers throughout the industry as well.

I am sharing my original article below because (unfortunately) it is still relevant, even in this age where candidate experience is trumpeted. Although it is directed towards jobseekers, I really would like to hear what recruiters think of it, especially when so many recruiters are on the market these days.

Recently, I have read several disturbing articles about unscrupulous Recruiters.

One particular story focused on a Military Recruiter who threatened to have a wavering would-be recruit arrested if he backed out of his decision to join the military. Deeper into the article, it was also reported how a group of military recruiters were allegedly offering information on fake diplomas and ways to get around drug tests and physical fitness requirements. In both instances, said recruiters were facing disciplinary actions. Furthermore, the article goes on to say how a mandatory retraining will be instituted to guard against such happening again; at least in the near future.

When I read that article, I was struck by the notion that these deplorable tactics were not exclusive to military recruiters.

At its core, recruiting is a sales position with a very visible quota.

  • The recruiter must sell to a candidate the notion that the company and job he (or she) represents is the best possible fit for said candidate.
  • Secondly, the recruiter must convince his client that the candidate she (or he) has found is the best fit for the client’s role.
  • Finally, the recruiter must resolve issues that would keep either party from signing an offer letter.

As a former recruiter I have to tell you, it is a tight wire act and all too often the job seeker is regarded as expendable.

This is especially true when dealing with search firms who do not get paid until a hire is made (Contingency recruiters), or searchfirms who have been paid a fee up front and are pressured to produce within a reasonable amount of time (Retained recruiters). When quotas are unmet and the clients start barking, recruiters tend to go into survival mode. Some of these “survivalist recruiters” may log into Monster, grab all the emails of candidates they can find and spam a proposition until they get lucky. In these cases, recruiters are focusing on keywords in your resume more so than your entire work history. (Just in case you ever wondered why you were approached about jobs you were obviously unqualified for.)

Survivalist recruiters might also hound you by telephone, get a message from their client that the position is now closed (or changed) and neglect to call you back.

Additionally, they might contact you and basically tell you what you want to hear. For example, you might clearly state on your resume that you are not open to relocation for any reason. The survivalist recruiter would ignore that entirely hoping that a conversation with their client might persuade you otherwise; thus, wasting everyone’s time. In some cases, unscrupulous recruiters have called into a candidate’s company with the purpose of divulging to your present boss of your intention to seek outside employment. Why? Well, if you are no longer working, perhaps then you will be more attentive to their opportunity.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

I tell you, the job seeker, this because I want you to be informed of what goes on at the other end of the “submit resume” button. I also tell you this as a means of explaining why I have written a manifesto addressing these issues. Recruiters are not faceless robots for unfeeling corporations, nor are they ruthless used car salesmen seeking their own ends. In my 10 years of working within the recruiting industry, I have seen recruiters good and bad; as it is with any profession. My feeling is that the vast majority of recruiters (of every discipline) are good people trying to do their job and on occasion they need help. They need to be reminded that you, the job seeker, are just as human and deserving of the same amount of respect.

Towards that end, I have written a manifesto calling recruiters to accountability.

The next time a recruiter requests your resume, try adding this as a cover letter:

Dear Recruiter,

I grant you permission to review my resume and contact me concerning pending and / or present opportunities if you promise to abide by the following code of ethics.

  1. Contact me for positions of which I am reasonably capable of performing. Please take a moment to insure that my entire work history is compelling and not just certain keywords within my resume.
  2. If you decide not to contact me after reviewing my resume but instead, elect to keep a copy of my resume; please advise me of this via email. I like to keep track of who has access to my resume.
  3. Do not forward my resume to your clients without my consent. I would not want my present/future chances of joining a company hampered by multiple recruiters shopping my work history to the same company over and over again.
  4. Should you decide to contact me, do not lie about the job, or the client you represent. I understand that at times, recruiters are under pressure to meet certain numbers. Please be advised that deceiving me about a job only impedes your progress.
  5. Of the utmost importance to me is the status of my candidacy. More often than not, closure is elusive to job seekers after a resume has been submitted. If the possibility of my working for your client is good, slim or non-existent; simply put, I want to know.
  6. Recruiter, I understand that you read a lot of resumes daily and that you are in the business of getting people hired. However, I want you to remember that I am a real person and not a commodity to be bartered.

Thank you for the ethical treatment of my resume.


A. Job Seeker

Hey recruiters, what do you think of this? Post your comments on social media and tag @SourceCon. Let’s get this conversation started. It is needed.
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