how to vet recruiters

How to Vet Recruiters Before Sharing Your Resume

Recruiters are taking a sad trashing in some of the comments on a post I wrote the other day. Most recruiters deport themselves well, but some step over ethical boundaries. Thus, it’s good to learn how to vet recruiters to protect yourself. 

Once you’ve found a recruiter of interest, here are useful actions you can take:

Read the Recruiter’s LinkedIn Profile

1. How long have they been in the business? Unethical recruiters don’t last long. They cause too many problems.

2. Do they have any recommendations? Who are they from? Do their recommenders look like solid citizens or robots (yes, bots write LinkedIn recommendations)? What do the recommendations say?

3. Do you have any common connections? If you do, call them and ask about the recruiter.

Talk to the Recruiter

1. Ask if they’ve been retained or if they’re on a contingent fee. A contingent fee means the recruiter only gets paid if they place someone. Those arrangements are common. They can create incentives for recruiters to behave badly.

2. If the recruiter is on a contingent fee, ask if they have an exclusive or if other recruiters are working the search too. Lack of exclusivity can also produce incentives for recruiters to behave badly.

3. Be especially alert if the recruiter is working on a non-exclusive, contingent fee search. This is the mix where the recruiter has the most competition to earn a commission. Thus, it’s where most of the bad behavior happens.

Consider the Function & the Industry

Recruiting for some job functions and industries is more rough and tumble than others. If you worry that you might be a “prey animal,” then pay attention.


As a job seeker, it’s important for you to do your due diligence on recruiters before you share your resume. No one else is going to do it for you.

A little investigation will help you avoid most of the egregiously unethical recruiters in operation.

Don’t set yourself up to be treated badly (see examples in the comments here). An ethical recruiter won’t mind your caution.

If you have more tips for vetting recruiters, please share them below.

Image: Fotolia/tashatuvango
Updated May 2019

© 2013 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 2

  1. Donna,

    As a recruiter, most of the jobs that I fill are nonexclusive with a contingent fee. Where I live in Columbus, Ohio (the 14th largest city in the U.S.), there are hundreds of 3rd party recruiting firms. I would say that maybe 25 – 50% of external (3rd party) recruiting would fall under that category (nonexclusive with a contingent fee).

    One way that a person in a job search can protect themselves is by setting up boundaries at the beginning of the relationship. This could be as simple as, “If you want to make any changes to my resume, please let me know about them”. Or, “Don’t send my resume out without asking me first.” I do these things without being asked, but there are other well-meaning recruiters that don’t. And my only caution would be that you don’t want to be to hard to work with.

    Hopefully, once you have met this person and begin to get to know him or her, you can begin to develop a relationship built on what all good relationships are built on, mutual trust.

    A recruiter can be a great, FREE, resource for you in your job search both now and in the future.


    Beautifully said Drew. Thank you. Donna

  2. 1) If a recruiter does not conduct in-person interviews, do not allow him to send your CV anywhere. It is a sign of a major lack of professionalism and might burn your bridges with potential employers.

    2) ask the recruiter specific questions about the client she is representing; if she did not visit the client’s offices and cannot answer questions outside the job description, don’t waste your time

    Ps: why is our industry so full of charlatans?

    Hi Marina,

    Thank you for your comments.

    On #1, sometimes the recruiter isn’t in the same city as the candidate. That makes it tough to meet in person.

    On #2, BINGO!

    On your PS, low cost of entry.

    Best regards,


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