Let's get one thing straight first: I'm not always an easy person to work with or work for. This comes from an expectation of dedication, effort, intelligence, and aptitude from both myself and those whom I interact with. I don't tap dance around issues, I don't pull my punches, and I certainly don't mince my words.
If you're bad at your job, I'll let you know. I don't have a three strikes rule, I have an "I told you once" rule. It's simple: I will tell you something once, in clear, concise terms. I'll tell you second time as a reminder, and refer to the first time. Beyond that, you're on your own.
Many times, this makes me the bad guy. Which is kind of true - in that I don't believe in participation awards. I don't think that everyone should get a chance to bat at least once. I don't think that "a good effort" should always be rewarded. That doesn't mean that I won't thank someone for trying, or congratulate someone on that same good effort, but as I hit my early 30s I realized that skating by on some amount of good luck and minimal effort got me no more than it got anybody that bought a lottery ticket and didn't win.
Now with that out of the way, let's talk about recruiters: In my adult life, I've met maybe five or six good recruiters that have worked with me - and I qualify good as "made effort to understand me, the roles that would best fit me, and did the slow play to find me the best job at the best company possible." Also, since age 22 or so, I've been contacted by, on average, 2 new recruiters a week. 52 weeks, 16 years, that makes well over 1600 recruiters.
If being a recruiter is a commentary on society, then it's no wonder that the US is in the state it's in, because the number of half-assed "I did a keyword search" efforts I get would easily top 1550 of those contacts. And let's be honest: LinkedIn makes it even worse. The number of people who are part of this trade that make even less effort now because of a 3rd degree connection to someone they met this one time at band camp in high school could not be higher. I like LinkedIn for professional connections - I think there's real value in some of the professional networking aspects of the site - but the sheer lack of quality of recruiting efforts because someone can type "Java Developer" into a search box borders on short bus special.
Enough about me, however. For those recruiters that can read English at a sixth grade level and haven't quit at this point, I wonder how many juxtapose themselves upon the list below?
Two more things to clarify before we get started - "client" means the company that is being recruited for and "candidate" means the person being recruited. With that out of the way, let's get in to how to be a bad recruiter in five easy steps:
1) Lack of desire or inability to understand the industry you're recruiting for
This is a huge one. I've worked in the IT industry my entire adult life, but I've had this conversation across the board with people in other industries: calls from recruiters who 100% don't understand the words that are coming out of their mouths. I can't give specific examples for other industries, but two weeks ago I got asked if I had used (quoted from memory to the best of my ability) "puppetry for management configurations" Go on, think that through. IT people - especially sysadmins, SREs, and people who unfortunately got slapped with the title DevOps engineer should all understand what the recruiter didn't: the words might be close to right, but the way they were being used showed a clear lack of understanding.
2) Lack of knowledge about the skill sets required for a successful candidate
3) Failure to research a client or a candidate
This one's so easy, especially with job boards, LinkedIn, and the ability to ask questions. They're even basically the same for both client and candidate: "What are you working on right now?" "What some big projects you or your team have completed recently?" "What is your focus industry?" If you can't use your eyes, at least use your words - and listen to the answers!
4) Misrepresenting yourself or your client to your candidate
I love this one: Telling a candidate "I'm recruiting for a position" when you haven't been approved to recruit for the position OR telling a client "I have the perfect candidate and they're ready to start RIGHT NOW" when in reality, there's no candidate. Just don't. Build your pool, understand the industry, learn what the skills mean even if you don't understand the skills themselves, and figure out both your client and your candidates wants and needs - then when that opportunity comes along, crush it like a boss.
5) Asking your candidate to lie to fill a position
I don't even know what to say about this one, other than if a recruiter does this, they should be fired. I've fired recruiters from representing me for asking me to lie and I've fired recruiters from working with me after I've discovered they've asked a candidate to lie. If the relationship with a client is so poor that a recruiter can't get a candidate in front of them without having the candidate lie to the potential employer, the recruiter needs to find another job. For reference, too, if I discover a recruiter I am working with has had a candidate lie, I will make every effort to blackball not just the recruiter, but the company the recruiter works for, and I will have both the individual and the company pulled off the approved list - as will many of my peers.
Who are the best recruiters? The ones that avoid all five of the above behaviors. It really is that simple.