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Dodgy recruiters and how to spot them: advice from an ex-BlackRock director

The next time that a friendly recruiter asks where else you're interviewing, you may want to be slightly circumspect with your answer. Some recruiters are nice and have your best interests at heart. Others are not and are out for themselves. 

Dan Whitehead knows. As the former head of talent acquisition for EMEA at BlackRock and a one time recruitment consultant himself, he has seen all the tricks. Now, though, he is a career coach and he wants to warn unsuspecting candidates what they may be getting themselves into. 

When a recruiter asks whether you're interviewing elsewhere, it might be because he or she wants to pitch some other candidates for the other jobs you've applied to, says Whitehead. - Recruiters usually earn a fee 20%-25% of the salaries of the candidate they place; they don't work for you personally and if they think they have someone better for the job you're lining up, they may put someone else forward. For this reason, it's best to stay vague. 

Similarly, if you send your CV to a recruiter in application for a particular job, it can make sense to specify in writing that you want to be informed before the recruiter sends it in for other jobs too. If you don't, Whitehead says you're in danger of losing control of its distribution. "Recruiters who think they have a good CV will often send it to as many clients as possible," says Whitehead. This is because if you, as a candidate, register with another recruitment firm and that firm then sends in your CV subsequently, the original recruiter will still get the fee if they sent your CV first.

There can be a panicked sending of CVs to as many places as possible as a result. This can be bad for you as a candidate - not only because your CV might end up on your boss's desk (Whitehead says it happens, particularly in situations where firms have bolt-on acquisitions with different names), but because if you subsequently apply directly to a job at a firm which received your CV through a recruiter, the firm may need to pay the recruiter before it hires you. And this may dissuade them from hiring you when there are other candidates without that cost. 

Whitehead also cautions against applying for vague jobs that sound too good to be true: they may be a form of catfishing concocted by nefarious recruiters fishing for CVs. Equally, it's worth checking that your recruiter hasn't embellished your CV (it apparently happens) simply to get you an interview and to get themselves one step closer to a commission.

Finally, Whitehead says you must take no notice when recruiters attempt to insist that you work with them exclusively. While this may make sense for senior roles, he says there's nothing wrong with working with three or four different recruiters when you're junior. "Unless you're very niche, there are very few recruiters that have coverage of the whole market."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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