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How Do I Know If a Recruitment Agency is Legit?

by | Oct 3, 2022 | Top Echelon Blog

The staffing and recruiting industry is like any other industry: there are “good apples” and there are “bad apples.” In other words, some recruiting agencies are reputable . . . and some are not. The challenge is in being able to tell if a recruitment agency is legitimate or not.

Believe it or not, there is a downside to a good economy and a candidates’ market. That downside involves the fact that since conditions are so favorable, there are some people who jump into the recruiting profession who really should not be in it. These individuals fall into a couple of different categories:

They are serious about becoming a recruiter and running a recruiting agency, but they lack the background, training, and experience.
They are serious about making a lot of money in a short period of time more than anything else, and they view the recruiting profession as a “get rich scheme” more than anything else.

However, regardless of intention, the people in both of these categories can turn out to be “bad apples” within the profession. They give recruiters a bad name and contribute to the lackluster reputation that recruiters have in the first place.

Clues for knowing if a recruitment agency is legit

If you’re not sure if a recruitment agency is legit, do not fret. There are clues involved that will point you in the right direction. Most of the time, job seekers and candidates are the ones who fall prey to agencies that are not legit. However, hiring managers and company officials have also been fooled, so they are not exempt from recruiting scams.

For the purposes of this blog post, though, we’re going to focus on the job seeker side of the equation, since they are the ones who typically ask this question. Below are 10 clues for knowing if a recruitment agency is legit:

#1—They ask you for money.

A recruiter should never ask you for money. It doesn’t matter if it’s an agency recruiter or a HR recruiter. If it’s an agency recruiter, they should definitely not ask you for money. That’s because they’re paid by their client company to help recruit and hire people. So if you’re hired by an organization and a recruiter was involved, the organization is going to pay the recruiter. You are not going to pay the recruiter. So if a recruiter asks you for money, especially early in the process, run the other way! (Or hang up the phone. Whatever is appropriate for the situation.)

#2—They ask you for unnecessary personal information.

This basically falls into the same category as #1 on our list. A legit recruiter is not going to ask to see your driver’s license. Or ask for your full social security number. Or want your bank account number or voided check.

It is true that a legitimate recruiter working for a legitimate organization may eventually ask for the last four digits of your social security number. But this would be late in the process, after you’ve already interviewed and it looks as though the company is going to make an offer. So never give a recruiter your full social security number, and never give them the last four digits of your social security number until the end of the process, when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the recruiter, the job, and the company are all real.

#3—The job seems too good to be true.

While it may be tempting to ignore the old adage, it’s usually true. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Think back throughout your career. How many times have you come across a 100% perfect job? Probably not that many times, if ever. And while working with a recruiter can increase your chances of finding your “dream job,” that’s only after you’ve worked with the recruiter for a while and they know a lot about you.

So what seems too good to be true? For example, it doesn’t require as much experience as it should. The work hours are shorter than they should be. And the starting salary is astronomical, far more than what you would expect.

#4—They don’t have a lot of details about the job.

Legitimate recruiters rarely work in vague generalities. That’s because legitimate recruiters have an actual business relationship with the organization in question and the hiring manager who represents it. Now, it is possible that the recruiter is working on a confidential basis for their client. This means they can’t give you the name of the organization immediately. However, if you become a serious candidate, you will learn the name.

In fact, recruiters can be a wealth of information about a lot of things, including:

  • The job
  • The company culture of the organization
  • The hiring manager and other company officials
  • Perhaps even why the last person in the position is no longer there

But even if the recruiter can’t give you the name of the organization up front, they should still have plenty of information about the position. At the very least, they should have enough information to let you know that they’re legitimate.

#5—They offer you the job without even interviewing you.

How many times does this legitimately happen? That’s right, almost never. (We have to leave the door open for that one time that one company did this with that one candidate.)

Of, even if this doesn’t happen, if the recruiter is not legit, they will “fake interview” you over the phone. With as many virtual interviews that are now happening because of the pandemic, this might give it an air of legitimacy. But don’t be fooled.

Also be careful about participating in an online interview using an unfamiliar software or platform. We all know Google, Microsoft, and Zoom. Those are safe. Be sure to research any platforms that you do not recognize in advance. An illegitimate recruiter would be trying to steal whatever information they can get from you.

#6—You get an offer for a job to which you never applied.

This is even sketchier and should serve as a giant “red flag.” A recruiter with whom you’ve never spoken before calls you out of nowhere to offer you a job. This is a job that you’ve never seen before, much less for which you’ve applied.

Keep in mind that a legitimate recruiter will call you to let you know about an opportunity that you don’t know about. In fact, legit recruiters do this all the time, especially with passive candidates who are not actively looking for a new job. Although they will let you know about a job, they’re not going to make an offer of employment on the spot. Not a legitimate recruiter, anyway.

#7—They seem to have a small network.

Legit recruiters do not have small networks. Quite the contrary. They typically have huge networks, and that includes on LinkedIn.

In fact, LinkedIn is a good place to start if you want to verify that a recruiter or a recruitment agency is legit. Just about all recruiters are on LinkedIn. Well, just about all legitimate recruiters are. A word of caution, though: just because a recruiter is on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily mean that they are legitimate. Their presence on LinkedIn could be part of their scheme.

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