It seems like most of the recruiters who call me do not speak English natively. This leads to a lot of discussions where I'm asking them to repeat or rephrase. As mentioned in this answer, that can lead to resentment in the conversation even when both parties are people of good will.

In addition, it is really hard to give nuanced answers to questions or ask your own follow-up questions, because they may not understand what you said. I worry that this could lead to misunderstandings with the hiring company where my actual experience is distorted due to poor communication with the recruiter.

Finally, I feel that after a conversation of "can you repeat that" I am already considered a difficult candidate, so when I work really hard to evade the "what rate do you want" question, recruiters get audibly testy.

So, in summary, what I'd like to accomplish is

  • keeping the conversation friendly
  • ensure information they convey is accurate
  • avoid going into negotiation phase without strikes against me (the same as first bullet, but more specific)

I'm talking about third-party recruiting firms, not someone who is a part of the team I would be working on. In most cases, it's not simply a matter of a strong accent, but really broken English.

  • 1
    I'm hearing impaired, I can't deal with it. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 19:10
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    I've heard a significant uptick in this in IT recently. I'm not even looking and I get several calls every week from IT recruiters with very thick, difficult accents and broken english. I work with a very international company and am very patient and do well, though these recruiters are impossible to understand.
    – MikeP
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:16
  • 1
    As you mentioned, I also get a lot of recruiters who immediately want to talk salary/pay. I'm experienced and not going to go with a recruiter who just wants to low-ball me and get to the cheapest rate they can.
    – MikeP
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:19

6 Answers 6


As soon as I figure out the conversation's going south, I cut it short by saying that I have to get moving on another (unrelated) task, and then I ask the recruiter to e-mail me the requisition, location, and start date. Often, it's an account manager (with better English skills) who will be handling things after the recruiter, so I ask for the account manager's contact information. The spoken English coming my way is broken, but the recruiter hears just fine!

This cuts out more unnecessary frustration on both sides, AND since recruiters seem to often call at awkward moments, I'm spared until I'm interested in reviewing the opportunity.

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    Exactly what I do, I just tell them I'm busy and give them my email address, I prefer things in writing anyway.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 22:02

The main problem is, these people are not here in the US. Hence their language skills can not get any better just by trying to talk to someone on the phone. Most of them are in India, using a VoIP number provided by the only one or two person(s) who are actually here to collect commissions.

Since I am not actively seeking new employment, I can be selective about answering my phone. Hence, I never have to talk to them. The ones, who are desperate, start sending emails. At that point, if I anything catches my attention, I usually copy the first couple of sentences from the technical portion of job requirements and perform a google search. If I am unlucky, I will see the same job description posted by tons of "consulting" companies (read as commission based head hunters from India) and I really have to sift through the chaff to get the real wheat. Most of the time though, you will find in the first page of results, which company is actually hiring. If you are really interested, you should go around the so called consulting companies and directly deal with the employer.

Sometimes, employer is not the actual company but an outsourcing firm, usually from India. Likes of Wipro, Tata, etc. In which case I immediately lose interest, knowing how these sweatshops operate. If you end up with a prominent consulting company, based in US, such as Robert Half, Experis/Manpower, KPMG etc, you can contact these companies. Usually, the search result you find, will have some sort of initial contact information.

To warn you about the worst part of this scam, these people make you accept something to the sense of they are the sole submitter of your name for the position. If you agree to that, you will be giving them a portion of your paycheck, without them doing nothing but finding the job listing you can easily find and finding your resume at the same time. In most of these cases, they are making unsolicited submissions. And if you accepted it (and to be submitted to these positions you have to accept that offer), it puts the actual hiring company into a bad situation. They can not extend you an offer easily. There are ways around these scam artists, but if the company has enough talent to pick and choose from, your candidacy will not be considered to avoid such hassle.

So, all in all, talking to these people with thick accents is mostly a losing battle from the start. But if you are going to do it anyway, my advice is, never give them an expected salary or hourly rate and never accept the first offer they are going to make. If you do, you are handing them undeserved amount of money from your hard work.

I know I went a bit off tangent here but having to deal with these people for the good part of last two decades,gave me a different perspective and thought you might benefit from that. If not, my apologies.

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    I am giving you a +1 for the warning about Wipro and cohorts. I've only experienced the sweatshop tactics second-hand but I've seen some colleagues be put in some really terrible situations.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:47
  • upvoting for the same reason
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 22:03
  • Also upvoting for that reason, except that the "prominent consulting companies" can also be scummy
    – Bernard Dy
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 14:11
  • I think this is a great answer, but doesn't necessarily answer the question asked, so I'm not accepting it. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 14:57

Nobody is forcing you to take their calls.

You're in one of three situations; you have a job, or you don't have a job, or you're looking to move. If you have a job, you don't have to answer (or talk) to any recruiter that calls.

In the other two cases, YOU should be choosing the recruiters that you work with. Select a local recruiter or two, and build a relationship with them. That'll get you the best opportunities in the areas and at the rates you want.

Why are the foreign recruiters calling you? Because they are getting the scrag-ends of the recruiting process. The positions that the prime retained recruiters don't want, or can't fill. The foreign companies get these positions, and then trawl through their lists looking for potential candidates. No need to play their game.

  • I don't agree with this analysis. I have a job, but I'm looking to move on. I feel I have more power in the negotiations if they came to me rather than the other way around. The impression I get is that the first round of calls is done by a low-level person so the higher-level person doesn't waste time cold-calling someone who's not interested. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 14:54
  • How can the local recruiters come to you, if they don't know you are looking? They're not going to wade through a mailing list of (say) PHP Developers that was purchased three years ago. You can call the locals, and tell them exactly what you're looking for. Companies like Robert Half etc are completely professional, and won't waste your time.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 15:15
  • A very important part of the recruiter's job is to communicate with the prospective employee. Even if it's a lower level person, being able to have that conversation with you is supposed to be a core competency of theirs. Also, there is no shortage of I.T. and software development recruiters. Why not save yourself some time and eliminate the ones that you personally have difficulty having a conversation with?
    – catfood
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 17:30

I presume the implied question behind this statement is whether there is any good way to handle difficulty with an accent other than simply saying "I'm sorry, but...".

Unfortunately, short of convincing them to let you try again with another interviewer, or in writing, I don't think there is a better answer.

To some extent this is the company's failure in selecting the interviewer; to some extent, if this really is the person you'd be working with, it reflects a genuine case of your not having a skill (listening past that accent) which might be useful in that specific assignment. Of course like most skills this one improves with practice, but if they really need someone who will be up to speed first day this might not be the ideal position for you.

(I can adapt to many accents given some time and patience ... But every now and thenI do meet someone whose diction is so far from what I've been exposed to that I have to simply admit I'm not getting it.)

Addendum: If your problem is someone at the recruiting firm, there is absolutely no reason not to say "I'm sorry, I'm having trouble understanding your accent -- is there someone else in the office I could work with?".

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    I'm talking about third-party recruiting firms, not someone who is a part of the team I would be working on. In most cases, it's not simply a matter of a strong accent, but really broken English. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 20:09

First--all recruiters need to ask about your rate, because so many conversations with so many employers start off with either a budget, or the rate question. They look unprepared if they don't know, so it's here to stay. The recruiters have to deal with it, so we have to deal with it too. It's good to know your market value and work on improving it, rather than trying to over-leverage it.

Second--we're all somewhere on the curve of tolerance to different accents. As you work with people with great diversity in this area, your brain will adapt. It is notably more difficult over mobile phones and VoIP because of the voice coding, so use a plain-old landline if possible. Having more trouble than others advertises lack of experience or hearing problem, valid or not.

It's always important to follow-up with an email, tersely capturing the bullet points with the recruiter. Try to guess the proverbial checklist they have on the other side and match the answers they should have.

____, I just wanted to follow-up on our discussion: - Available with 2 weeks notice. - Expected salary is $x, but flexibility. - Experienced in ____. - Willing to commute. - Not willing to take 24/7 calls.

And a final point--you have a strong accent to the recruiter. Speak slowly and clearly. Most people respond in kind.

  • I have found that yes, some mobile phones or VOIP are bad, though some support the new hi-quality voice protocol and sound really good.
    – MikeP
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:17

I'll start with saying that I have a very strong accent myself.

That being said, the barrier to entry to become a recruiter is so low, there are tens of thousands of bad 3rd party recruiters out there spamming and calling everyone, and you need to weed out those recruiters as soon as you can.

For instance, since I only want to work within the San Francisco Bay Area, I'll reject any third party recruiter who is not local to the San Francisco Bay Area or to Silicon Valley. This is actually pretty easy to do. Their web site will usually have an address(es) or a phone number. And if I don't recognize the area code, I can usually tell they're not local (and yes, I do realize that with phone number portability, area codes mean less and less, but a good recruiter should know better, either that or he should have a good reputation to make up for that fact).

Another way I can tell that they're not local is when they start suggesting jobs that are four hours away driving time from where I live (when I clearly told them that I am not willing to move and that I am not willing to work remotely).

  • I care if the job is close to San Jose, but I don't care if the recruiter is. I have been successfully recruited a couple of times by recruiters that were not in the same state as the job, so I don't think that matters. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 14:56

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