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I have been consistently encountering a pattern of recruiter interaction for several years on a regular basis, about 20 times in total.

It starts with a specific, detailed request, dispatched through a professional networking site:

R: Hi, your profile is very interesting, since you have experience with tech X. A client of mine, a large snake oil manufacturer in your city is looking for an X developer. They offer free backrubs, a complementary leguan and a competitive salary of up to 100 colored paper rectangles. What is your number, when can I call you?

Me: Hi, thank you but I am not interested in working with tech X, for the last 5 years I have been working with tech Y and Z and I am only interested in positions where I can continue working with either Y or Z.

R: No problem. I have also many open positions requiring Y and Z. What is your number, when can I call you?

Me: Sounds good, please send me the details of the most relevant positions requiring Y first, and if I am interested, I will gladly chat with you.

After this, they do not respond at all and I am puzzled.

If they do have relevant positions, sharing the details on the same level as the initial offer should be helpful for both of us.

If they do not have relevant positions, why do they lie to schedule a call and waste their time which I assume could be spent more efficiently?

It feels like a scam but I cannot figure out what the recruiters are supposed to gain from it? Do they intend to talk about the original role I have refused or do they intend to use my contact data somehow? But they already can contact me… It just does not compute. I assumed this was an aberration, but this pattern keeps reoccurring.

The recruiters are employed at different companies and the advertised roles are at different companies in different countries. I am based in Germany, the recruiters are based in Germany, UK and Switzerland.

  • vtc this is going to vary by company, by culture, there is no right answer, and I'm not even sure what the point of knowing the answer would be. also, why not just ask a recruiter this question yourself? – bharal Oct 13 '18 at 12:33
  • The point of knowing is to correct my assumptions in case they have been incorrect. If I had experienced varying behavior patterns, I would not assume a single consistent reason. I did not ask the recruiters because I do not assume that they are interested in providing a truthful answer and because I hope for a higher quality answer here. – kostja Oct 13 '18 at 14:02
  • Rather tangential, but if I may ask: why respond at all with "I'm interested in X, Y" instead of just a flat rejection / ignore? – Lilienthal Oct 18 '18 at 10:44
  • Because my shifted tech interest is the reason why I am not interested in the original offer. It is both an explanation of a 'soft' rejection and an invitation for eventual further collaboration. – kostja Oct 18 '18 at 14:00
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It feels like a scam but I cannot figure out what the recruiters are supposed to gain from it? Do they intend to talk about the original role I have refused or do they intend to use my contact data somehow? But they already can contact me...It just does not compute. I assumed this was an aberration, but this pattern keeps reoccurring.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

They are probably currently focusing on role X, but have heard a colleague has something in Y or Z. Or they want to convince a customer to use their services for roles in Y and Z too but don't manage to do so. Or they don't really understand different technologies and wanted to offer you something that was not in Y or Z at all. Etc. etc.

Basically, they oversell. Many years ago I applied for a job in recruitment and answered the question about motivation with "I would love to work in human resources". The answer was "it's more sales than HR". And that's true. Recruitment is sales. So think about them the way you think about salesmen, who want to sell as much as possible, sometimes by talking about things they have no idea about and promising product features that don't exist.

  • This makes sense - perhaps they still hope to sell me for the first position or a different one not related to Y or Z. I really wonder why the question gets so much flak, since it is genuine and I really try to figure it out :) – kostja Oct 13 '18 at 14:05
  • @kostja It's because the vast majority of genuine and substantial questions on this SE get flak. – Helen Feb 27 at 19:39
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I'm not sure why the previous answer got downvoted cause I think it is spot-on. The basic reason is indeed their job is more of a selling position. Selling is all about finding a good match between offer and supply, and this explains the will for an interview, because:

It's easier to sell an item you know well

By interviewing you, they get to know you better and deeper than just reading you CV. They can get valuable information: would you be trading a bit of salary to work in a certain geographical area or some specific industry (not asking it so bluntly though)? Are you ok with relocating? If yes, to where? Are you looking for a strict 9-5 job? etc... The better they know you the better they can find a match and sell you to one of their clients.

It's easier to sell an item to a client you know well

They want to sell themselves, their clients and the positions to you as much as they want to sell you and your profile to any of them clients. If you show interest in switching jobs anyhow, it means you could be interested in one of the position they have. Once again the previous paragraph applies: the better they know you the better they can find a match.

A good match is one step closer to a sell

The better the match, the bigger the chances that you'll get the job. If you get the job, they get the commission. If they can manage to find good matches quickly it means they'll get more money with less effort. It's in their own interest to find a good match.

An happy client is a client who comes back and can become an ambassador

If they manage to find a job for you and this is indeed a good match, their business clients will tend to come back to them next time they're hiring. If that happens often enough, the hiring managers might encourage colleagues or friends to do the same. You on your side, might be inclined to advise friends or whatever to go to this recruiter (I've done that myself with the ones I had the best feelings), enriching their catalog and raising their chances to find a good match.

Sometimes they're simply "forced" to

Some recruiters have an agreement/contract with their business clients that they have interviewed every people they present the profile for hiring. Interviews done only for that purpose and not the commercial ones are usually short and basically a reading of your CV in order to fill some cells in an excel.


Note that all this doesn't apply to all recruiters. My personal view on this though is that it applies to the good ones, the ones that seem to favor quality over quantity. I'm personally much more at ease with a recruiters that get to know me, cause even if they don't really "care" and probably store any bit of information in some digital profile together with hundreds of other profiles, at least they don't waste my time with non-relevant positions or worse, doomed-to-fail job interviews, making you (and their business clients) loose time.

The reason why they wouldn't follow up after such an answer from you is basically that you're not letting them the chance to do their sales pitch and to place you in their "catalog" of profiles to sell. Their time is then better used with somebody else.

  • 2
    Good answer, but I would add one element: plenty of bad interviewers do this as well, in an attempt to "lock in" your profile, so they can then start sending it out to companies they don't have a real relationship with. They're not interested in finding a good match or getting to know you here. Depending on sector and location a majority of cold calls from recruiters could be of this variety. – Lilienthal Oct 18 '18 at 10:43

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