Engineering Talent Expert Mike Gourley lays out 2 easy decision trees to help you rule out bad recruiters:

  • Less than 95% of the intro conversation is about YOU → It’s a pass. Don’t work with them.
  • Your go-to recruiter has never told you NO → Hard pass. Don’t work with them anymore.

Gourley identifies more recruiter red flags…


If more than 5% of your first conversation with a recruiter is about the JOB, that’s a very bad sign.

That first call should not be about the job. It should be about you.

This is what it looks like when recruiters do their job right:

1.   They know you. Ex: They understand what makes you different from the next engineer who has similar experience and skills.

2.   They know the opportunity. Ex: They understand what makes one automotive supplier different than another, even if they look the same on paper.

3.   They are honest (and considerate) enough to tell you “no” if it’s a bad fit.

Why Good Recruiters Sometimes Say “No”


“I think it’s a huge red flag if you’re working with a recruiter that doesn’t tell you ‘no.’

I was speaking with a candidate recently that had seen a job that we had posted. Really interesting, very high-level technical role. He obviously really wanted to learn a lot about this opportunity. I provided a lot of information for him.

But I also got to know him quite a bit during that time. And it was very, very clear to me that while he was out there exploring, learning about other opportunities, his real motivation was about accomplishment.

And his pursuit of that in his current team, building his team. He’s already on his way. He’s already doubled the size of it. There’s still a lot of work to be done there, and it doesn’t look like anything’s going to be slowing that down.

I think it was also really important to push back on that and tell him: As much as I think this is a fantastic opportunity for the right person, I don’t think that this is the right time for him. Because his company is going to keep going. And the sense of accomplishment that he’s going to feel after two or three years when they launch their product is going to be so much greater.

So I took that back to him, and I think he was really surprised to hear that and to not move that forward. But I do think he really respected that. And he was able to tell me that by the end of the conversation.

We left on good terms. We’ll keep in touch. And certainly if something fantastic pops up, we’ll talk with him about that.

There’s many people (recruiters) out there that would rather just see the deal go through.

And I think I’ve often created much better relationships by being able to push back and tell people no at times. And give them a strong explanation as to why that is.”

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