March 8, 2024

How To Spot An Ethical Recruiter

Elise Gay just received the 2023 Ralph Mosley Award, ThinkingAhead’s highest honor given to one recruiter who truly exemplifies integrity (check out our core values for how we define integrity in recruiting). A 6-year veteran in our Life Sciences Practice, Elise represents our shared commitment to the highest standard of ethics in recruiting.  

But as a jobseeker or hirer, how do you know if the recruiter on the phone is going to treat you the way Elise treats her clients and candidates? Here are a few things to look for: 

They want to talk, even if they don’t have a job for you. 

An ethical recruiter has a genuine interest in your career. Even if you are not ready to make a move or they don’t have an opportunity that matches your wish list, the ethical recruiter will still seek out a conversation with you, as it is equally important to them to hear how you are doing professionally.  

Elise considers this the leading indication of an ethics-driven recruiter. “If they genuinely want to know about you as a client or as a candidate, they will take the time to give you general marketplace conditions, review your resume, give you interview tips, even if you are in a process somewhere else. Simply put, an ethics-first recruiter takes the time to help you.” 

Rather than being resume brokers, ethical recruiters are relationship builders who have a genuine interest in the advancement of your career and your industry. 

They understand the weight of what they are asking, and therefore are never overly persuasive. 

A career change is a life change for the candidate and often their family or close friends. An ethics-first recruiter will never convince you to make a move that is not right for you: they encourage you to listen to your gut. “Where you see people get hurt is when you have a recruiter who is only in this to make a placement or to make a ‘sale,’ and they push hires to be made for their own benefit. That leads to clients and candidates having false impressions about the match,” Elise says. 

A recruiter who understands the weight of the change they are asking their candidate to consider will leave plenty of room for personal considerations and will take your needs very seriously. Elise put it this way: “We must always remember that people are people, and they need our empathy, understanding, and truth. They need space to be honest and open. They also need grace.” 

There are thousands of reasons why people consider a job change. Taking the time to understand and prioritize their candidates’ motivations is the responsibility and requirement of an ethical recruiter.

They are interested in making a match, not just filling a slot. 

Like puzzle pieces have their perfect fit, Elise and recruiters like her want to find the client who is uniquely equipped to fulfill their candidate’s needs and wants. On the flipside, they want to find a candidate whose specific strengths and styles match the culture and opportunities of their clients. This is much different than presenting a handful of resumes with the right bullet points.  

“No employee relationship is perfect, nor is it going to be a perfect utopian thing. But when you can bring the right employer and the right candidate together, a real magic happens.” 

In summary, recruiters like Elise are always going to lead with honesty, empathy, and integrity, even if it means their bottom line takes a temporary hit. They are not interested in a transactional relationship, but instead want to advance your personal career and your industry. Next time you are considering working with a recruiter, ask yourself if they seem to align with the characteristics listed here. If so, you have a great opportunity to begin a longstanding relationship that benefits your career or your organization. 

Jessie Miller

Jessie Miller

Jessie Miller is the Marketing & Media Specialist at ThinkingAhead. She supports the recruiting team in a variety of ways including managing social media, generating...

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