Haters gonna Hate – Recruiter bashin’ and how best to work with an agency

David McConaghy

David McConaghy

There’s a trend within the digital community that seems to have acquired the catchy name of ‘recruiter bashing’. Anyone with a LinkedIn account will have seen something in their feed pop up to this effect. Read a moan, a groan or some kind of negative memoir regarding the recruitment industry recently? That’s recruiter bashin’.  

It’s true some recruitment agents out there are missing some scruples - candidates are not seen as people, and so the recruiters don’t take time to understand the emotion behind a candidate’s job move or try to build true rapport with them or the clients. Ultimately, the candidates are the pawns in the recruiters’ game of earning money. But this could be true of any sales-based business.

I regularly hear stories from designers who have worked in an in-house position where one or multiple parties has felt let down by another party/the project/the content agency etc. You get my point – every industry has good and bad eggs. But is it right to expose this information on social media? It’s worth stopping to think about the perception – not of the person/company that’s taking the bashing – but the perception of the author.

I am happy in my skin, proud of doing what I do and where I work. I am honest and transparent with everyone I work with, whether that’s clients, candidates or colleagues. For me, it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism at all times that befits the digital space.  These posts don’t bother me in terms of what I do. However I find they don’t shine a positive light on the person writing them and the socially acceptable online-mob-mentality it creates.

A few points/subjects I wanted to share with you so that you can have a better understanding from a recruiter’s perspective:

Why do companies use recruiters?

There are numerous reasons why, but most come down to time efficiency. They want to see a select amount of candidates who are great for that particular role and the company, using as little amount of their own time as possible, and making the hire with ease.

For permanent hires, clients mostly buy more into culture fit, investing in someone who will be a good fit for that company, with strong experience, which they can mould/develop into the person they need.

For freelance/contract, a company generally reaches out to a recruitment agency because they need candidates with proven experience in terms of skill set or relevant project experience.  It is important to remember, you will usually only be hired for what you’ve done not what you could potentially do.  So when we are submitting candidates, we are sending our clients the top 3-6 profiles who have that exact experience, or very similar.

Our networks

I can’t talk for all recruitment agencies but here at the Design desk at Futureheads, I can confidently say we are regularly working with 80-100 active permanent candidates, and are in contact with many more (in the 1000s).

When it comes to freelance/contract, we are likely to be working with 60-80 who we know are actively looking and a further few hundred who are currently in-contract.  We then each have our large networks which we reach out to via multiple social media platforms.

One of the reasons I love working in the design market is how diverse people’s portfolios are, and I find it fascinating how subjective design is.  Understanding what our clients’ wants and needs are, and also knowing how likely it is to find that person within time and money budgets is one of our biggest challenges. 


With my previous point in mind, it’s key for us to send candidate profiles to our clients who have a design aesthetic that suits their own, as well as having relevant project experience. As we get to know our clients over time, we can find out what they like/dislike in a portfolio and ultimately what they’re looking for. Building this trust is crucial – clients will respect our judgement on rejecting or submitting a candidate.

Historically, precisely relevant experience was key for contract bookings only, but this trend is moving into the perm market now too, especially in the development of the product space. Clients want their new staff to have previously worked on a digital product, as opposed to on responsive sites or digital campaigns.

At Futureheads we are firm believers of honesty and transparency; giving as much feedback as we have been given, delivering this to our candidates in the hope they can take something positive away.  As I am sure you can appreciate at times this is difficult, and the easiest thing to do would just say ‘you weren’t right’.

At times when a client has asked us for a particular style in a designer’s portfolio, we will advertise, and we have to let some know that they are not right for that position, and give them the reasons why.  We are not saying you are a bad designer, just that your style is not right for this project.

Working with a recruitment agency

First of all, take time to find the right recruiter/agency for you; knowing what areas of the market each deals with most, heightening your opportunity of finding relevant positions for your skill set and experience. 

Talk with colleagues, see who they recommend, search through recruitment agency websites looking at jobs and individual’s blog pieces to see what insight/information these recruiters can share with you to help you secure the position you want.

In terms of forging that relationship, it’s important to meet – we’re all people after all! Be human about things; make the relationship as personable as possible, know and understand them, and let them know you, and what will motivate/excite you in a position and/or company.  Keep in contact, keep them posted, push them for honest feedback, and understand that taking negative feedback can help you grow stronger as a designer and a person.

Phone. Emails are great but can easily be missed – and you don’t want to get missed! A quick call (scheduled or not) will help build that relationship and put you at the forefront of the recruiter’s mind. And it might just nudge you closer to getting your dream job.  


I don’t believe in negativity or hatin’, it doesn’t solve anything other than a short-term vent.  To prevent finding yourself in that situation, find an agency or two who you can work/partner with, build trust, and develop that relationship. 

You need someone or an agency who can help develop you in your career, who can feedback on your work and interviews.  You want to trust this person, and know they know what you want, but also be able to guide you from their industry insight to better your skill set and keep you well equipped for an ever-evolving industry. 

Find out what you could do differently, how you could present yourself/CV/portfolio better or what kind of work you could add to acquire the kind of position/company you want to achieve.  

If you have a bad experience with a recruiter, try and work out why that was. See if you can get a positive out of it and move on.  There are plenty of recruiters out there who can help you, who want more from their job than a bit of commission and who feel passionately about the industry they work in.

If someone is repetitively bad at their job, word will get round. So don’t waste your energy in writing a post about it – it’s not worth it. Instead, spend the time finding another recruitment agency or recruiter who is more in line with you, who gets your market and takes the time to get you too.