Dirty Rotten Recruiter Tricks


Elaine Delanna Priestly




Author’s Commentary



Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary


Elaine’s Diary



Elaine’s Diary



Elaine’s Diary




Elaine’s Diary



Author’s Commentary

This book is an exposé of unscrupulous recruiters, those who deceive job seekers and cheat client companies. It is a fictive memoir of my early years in the recruiting business. And I know what I’m talking about. I’m a woman who rose to the top of my profession and learned every deceptive practice and dirty recruiter trick imaginable along the way. Dirty Rotten Recruiter Tricks, dramatized through embellished dialogue, gives you a peek inside the grubby end of the business where recruiting charlatans practice their wily crafts. Honest recruiters who provide genuine services to job seekers and client companies alike find their reputations tarnished by such frauds.

At the conclusion of each chapter, you will find Elaine’s Diary, a summary of salient points that provide solid advice to help both job candidates and hiring executives avoid the kind of recruiter scams described so graphically in the book. In essence you’re getting both an entertaining story along with some valuable advice.

Obviously, the name Elaine Delanna Priestly is fictitious since I’m still engaged in my profession. And there are no such companies as Lahrs, Phibbers & Cheetz, Breckinpell Industries, or Porter, Morrison, and Swan. Nor does this book contain portrayals of specific organizations or actual people who work for them other than occasional reference to a nationally recognized company like Men’s Warehouse. Places in Atlanta, with the exception of well-known landmarks such as Northlake Mall are fictional.


I’ll bet not a damn one of you, guys in particular, would ever have believed a woman could rise to the top of the world’s second oldest profession.  The difference between the first and second being that in my profession, the second oldest, we sell other people’s bodies, not our own (although some cynics would claim otherwise).

Anyway, I made you look like a bunch of thumb-sucking idiots, didn’t I? Because guess where yours truly, Elaine Delanna Priestly1, is perched right now, today? In the rarified upper ranks of Lahrs, Phibbers & Cheetz, arguably one of the world’s largest and most powerful headhunting companies in the country and the world. Our company is headquartered on Park Avenue in the Big Apple, with offices in every one of the fifty states as well as thirty-six countries around the globe. That’s where I work. Me. Elaine. Chairman and chief executive officer. Top dog. In the building’s posh penthouse suite. Took twenty years to get here, but it was well worth the trip.

And just to demonstrate my power, I had the board change my title from chairman to chairwoman. Not a whimper from that starched collar bunch. Not as long as I suck in the bucks, produce more income and profits every quarter. The name of the game in business. Better fucking believe it.

Not bad for a simple country girl from the hills of Georgia, uneducated, formerly barefoot and pregnant as the saying goes, and once as unsophisticated as a hog slopping in a trough. But no longer. No siree, no longer. Just like the old saying goes, “I may be Polish but that doesn’t make me stupid,” well, I’m country but that doesn’t mean I can’t change.  I put my 160 IQ to work and studied hard at nights, reading high-toned books such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Plato’s The Republic (whew, was that tough sledding), as well as other books on culture and history. That tattered ten-year-old Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary I own (three bucks from a used bookstore) took one hell of a pounding. Hell, I even watched old Cary Grant drawing room comedies on Turner Classic Movies to learn how to talk proper and behave in social situations. This country girl learns fast.

A characteristic, I might add, that disarmed everybody, made them vulnerable to my numerous charms and machinations. My fresh-scrubbed innocent look fooled a whole bunch of smug men, not to mention a whole lot of otherwise sharp women. Gave me a leg up in the business, if you’ll excuse the expression.

The business: Recruiting. Headhunting. Body snatching. The words connoting an industry widely regarded by the public as peppered with unethical practices. An opinion supported by legions of job candidates and company executives who used headhunters or, more correctly, were used by headhunters.  According to these victims, an industry of cutthroats, thieves, back stabbers, and players so hungry for money they’d pimp out their own mothers to get a job order2. An industry where many view the term honest recruiter as a flagrant, laughable dichotomy.

Look, I’m not saying every recruiter is a crook. But it’s a fair enough description of enough of them I’ve worked with over the years. From managing a recruiting desk to managing an office to managing a region to managing an entire company, I found dirty rotten recruiter tricks as commonplace as a Starbucks coffee break. Particularly at the bottom of the organization where the rubber hits the road, as the clichéd saying goes. Where deception is too often the name of the game. Where glib recruiters (today’s version of the slick fast-talking snake oil salesmen of old) sell questionable job candidates to company executives. Where hapless job candidates are disposable commodities, to be used by unprincipled recruiters and discarded at will. Where many recruiting agency managers don’t ask enough pointed questions about ethical behavior as long as their recruiters are making money for them. Where recruiters who don’t produce find themselves hot-footing it to the unemployment office in record time. This is not an occupation that tolerates failure. My world. That’s been my experience, and I’m about to reveal all.

Neither is this a book for innocents. What you’re going to read is not Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but more in the order of American Psycho. Stark portrayals showing luckless victims of recruiting dirty tricks: company executives who hired recruiters to fill slots and job candidates seeking meaningful work. Both who got screwed without being kissed.

Hey, you counter, let’s keep things in perspective. How about the success stories? I agree, there are many recruiting stories with happy endings, those where recruiters behave ethically and fill job vacancies with the best of all available candidates. Stories where all parties to the transaction make out: recruiter, job candidate, hiring company. Yes, most job assignments do have happy endings.

But tell that happy horseshit to the company that was cheated by a recruiter or a job candidate who was screwed over. They know that every experience is a personal one. Get cheated once by a recruiter and all recruiters are corrupt. That’s the way it goes. Just as one sour pickle spoils the barrel, enough sour pickles spoil the appeal of the rest of the pickles. And there are lots of sour pickles out there.

My purpose here is not to discuss the pickle barrel. My purpose is to tell you about the sour pickles. To expose the unethical recruiter’s bag of dirty tricks, so both company hiring authorities and job applicants can avoid traps. I’ll do so by telling you about my early experiences at Lahrs, Phibbers & Cheetz, when I was a young woman on the make, busy absorbing lessons on how to become a headhunter and moving ahead fast.

Most important for you, I’ll show you how to counter dirty rotten recruiter tricks. These lessons follow most chapters of the book under the title Elaine’s Diary, where I reflect on and record what I learned about the business. Insights and lessons to help you avoid recruiter scams, whether you’re a job applicant searching for a position or a manager inside a company seeking to fill a job opening.

Hop aboard; the journey is about to begin.


“There’s one inviolate rule in this business, Elaine,” Charley Morgan said. “Our guiding principle. Can you guess what it is?”

In an interview it’s always best to fess up instead of faking it and look like an absolute jerk. “No, Mr. Morgan, I don’t.”

“Call me Charley,” Morgan said and smiled.

“Charley.” I had difficulty using his first name. He was an experienced sixtyish manager of a recruiting firm branch office and I was an unpolished twenty-year-old candidate who had answered an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a job as a recruiter. I wasn’t sure exactly what the job entailed but I knew you could make tons of money at it. And I was desperate for the security money could buy.

“You can throw so much shit at a screen and eventually some of it filters through.”

I nodded my head wisely as if I knew what he was talking about, not having the faintest idea what slinging shit at a screen meant.

“In other words, the more candidates you send out to interview for a job, the greater the chance that eventually one of them will stick.” He leaned back in his worn leather executive chair and grinned. “Recruiting 101.”

We were sitting in his tiny, cramped office with a solitary window in a rundown office building near Northlake Mall, overlooking a community composed of small businesses, retail shops, and snarled traffic twelve hours a day.

I took the opportunity to examine Charley. Medium build, slightly stooped, dressed in a blazer and ascot, wavy white hair that looked as if it he set it with a curling iron, trimmed white mustache. Warm, pleasant smile. The picture of a doting grandpa, albeit a vain one.

“Oh, I get it. The job of a recruiter is to find as many candidates as possible and keep sending them to clients until the sale is made.”

“The candidates have to be qualified of course.” He winked at me and made quote signs with his hands when saying the word “qualified.”

Well, Mrs. Priestly hadn’t reared a complete dummy. In other words, if a candidate could walk, talk, and resist the urge to scratch his ass in public, send the dummy in. I smiled to indicate I had heard Charley loud and clear.

“Let me take a few seconds to look over your resume.”

While he did, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window’s reflection. Slender, 5’ 10” (in business tall is better than short), corn silk blonde hair cropped at fashionably shoulder length and held back in a bun, movie star nose, nice set of knockers, curves all in the right places. The curves toned down by midnight-blue jacket and slacks: standard business dress code. In preparation for this interview I had studied lots of women entering and leaving office buildings in the downtown Atlanta business district and modeled myself accordingly with clothes direct from the high couture section of Wal-Mart.

Charley set the resume on his desk. “Why do you want to be a recruiter, Elaine?”

That question might have startled me if I hadn’t been prepared. “I like selling things to people. Started when I was ten, selling lemonade in front of my house, then at fourteen sold subscriptions for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution door to door—”

“Says here on your resume you lived not that far from Lake Lanier. Sounds upscale.”

Mention Lake Lanier and people automatically picture summer cottages set in the morning mist, wooden boat docks creaking under your feet, expensive speedboats tethered to piers. That kind of nonsense. Where I came from back in the hills of Northeast Georgia outhouses were not uncommon, and electricity and indoor plumbing were a treat for many. I mean to tell you I lived way back in the woods. If you ever saw the movie Deliverance with Burt Reynolds you know what I mean. Portions of that movie were shot not five miles from my home.

“I was brought up in a nice community of Christian folks, Mr.—I mean—Charley.”

Morgan frowned. Shouldn’t have thrown that Christian folks line at him. My mistake. Hell, give me a break, I was learning.

I hurried on. “Soon as I got out of high school, I went to work at Rowling’s Poultry Processing Company.” I didn’t tell him that I never graduated from high school, that Leroy T. Grimes, the football team’s star running back got me with child. I had to drop out without graduating after I suffered a miscarriage and developed blood poisoning, a combination knockout punch that left me in the hospital for a month. Nor did I tell him that at Rowling’s, a large chicken processing plant, I mopped floors in the plant and offices. Some things are better left unsaid.

“For a young lady you have an impressive resume.”

Most of it as phony as a politician’s smile. “Thanks, Charley. I’ve accomplished a few small things, but I’ve got a long way to go and I’m always open to suggestions for improvement.” Fancy words said in a fancy way, the kind of chatter that pours out of the mouths of astute job applicants trying to act modest. The drivel interviewers love to hear. Like I said, Mrs. Priestly hadn’t raised a complete ninny. The library’s full of books like What Color Is Your Parachute? telling you how to behave on an interview and what to say.

Charley beamed at me. The crinkly lines in his face brought to mind Santa Claus. “Got to admit, I really like working with younger people. They’re not set in their ways like some of us old fogies.”

“Gee, Charley, you’re not old. I’ll bet you’re not a day over…let’s see…forty-eight?” Yeah, sure.

Charley’s smile broadened and he chuckled. “Oh, you’re going to be a hand full, all right. But let’s get back to business. Do you have any idea the kind of money a good recruiter makes?”

“No, I don’t.”

“It starts at twenty percent of billing during an orientation period, and climbs to thirty percent as a recruiter proves herself.”

I noticed he used the word herself not himself. A good sign. I made a silent prayer to the god of interviewing. Wherever she was.

“It works this way. Lahrs, Phibbers & Cheetz bills the client company, say twenty percent of the gross income of the job applicant placed. Assume the applicant is hired at fifty grand total compensation for the year. So our firm bills the client ten grand. An experienced recruiter gets thirty percent of that, which amounts to $3000. That’s assuming once you get your feet on the ground you place two job candidates per month. Incidentally, two placements a month are a minimum requirement for our recruiters if they want to remain with this firm. After a break-in period, of course.”

I didn’t tell him that I’d move the fucking earth to crack that nut.

“It’s a big nut,” Charley said as if reading my mind, “but one that separates performers from fakers. In any case, assume you average a thirty percent commission rate and you’re placing job candidates in the fifty grand range, you’d pull in $6000 per month.”

I almost jumped out of my chair. Six grand was more money than I’d possessed in a lifetime. Twelve times that, seventy-two grand, was a number so far in the stratosphere it was difficult, if not impossible, to visualize. Dollar signs floated merrily by as I gazed adoringly at Charley.

He must have read the look of surprise and delight on my face. “Take my word for it. That’s standard pay for somebody who can sell to client companies and place top quality job candidates. Multiply $6000 by twelve months and we’re talking serious money, $72,000. Of course that further assumes the company charges the client at the standard rate, which doesn’t always happen. And that the average placing of job candidates is at the $50,000 bracket. And that doesn’t always happen. Depends on the job you’re trying to fill.”

Big ifs. But the numbers staggered me, took my breath away. Not bad for a dirt-poor country girl who never had two dimes to rub together. Assuming I could handle the job, of course. I had a big set of balls but this was the big league and I had been playing class A ball until now—the lowest place in the farm team hierarchy.

In terms of material well-being, I was living as low as a snake’s belly, so the only way to go was up. Before coming to Atlanta I had squirreled away enough cash to last a year, provided I lived like a monk. I was paying $200 a month for a cramped room the size of a prison cell at the back of a decrepit frame house. The owners, a kindly old couple, wanted to supplement their retirement income and I fit their needs perfectly. I paid in cash on time, had no visitors, and was in bed every night by 10:00 p.m. Alone. The life of a monk: no booze, no drugs, no sex.

My food bill was slight since I could afford to eat only twice a day, and I ate like a bird anyway. My one treat was the fifteen-year-old Honda Civic a rich classmate had generously given me when she traded up to a five-year-old Chevy. The car had no trade-in value anyway. In fact it was a pile of junk and a safety hazard, but I was still gladder then glad to get it. It was dented on the outside with torn cushions on the inside, but the engine and drive train were reliable and the car was cheap to run. Other than rent, food, car insurance, and gas I had no real expenses.

My evenings were spent studying. Thankfully, the nearest county library was a half-mile away so I was able to spend a lot of time there, cramming information in my skull, learning all sorts of wonderful things about the business world, in lieu of a formal education.

Charley said, “Not that you’ll make seventy-two grand your first year in the business, Elaine. There’s a learning curve.”

“What’s that?”

“How long it takes you to pick up the ins and outs of recruiting. You’ll hear our staff jokingly refer to those ins and outs as dirty tricks.” Charley winked at me, again. I was beginning to catch on.

“Tricks of the trade?”

Charley grinned. “You could call it that.”

“I’m a fast learner, Charley.”

“I’m sure you are. How does it sound so far, Elaine?”

“I’m speechless.”

Charley smiled again and picked up my resume. He read it and paused. His expression turned serious. “You were a supervisor at Rowling’s. That’s impressive for somebody so young. I would have thought most of their supervisors were older and had more experience.”

“Well, most of them do.”

“Your resume is a touch vague here. It says you were a supervisor, but doesn’t say a supervisor of what.”

Uh oh. “You know, cleanup work. I supervised a small crew.”

“Do you know Dutch Martin?”

I tried to suppress a gasp. Dutch Martin was administrative manager for the plant, the guy in charge of human resources, the guy who hired me to clean toilets and mop floors. I should have figured it was odds on that Charley would know him, being in the recruiting business. The last thing I wanted was Charley talking to Martin and finding out my supervisory duties were confined to cleaning out the plant’s filthy, stink-ridden bathrooms.

“Oh yeah, sure. Nice guy,” I answered to Charley’s question. That toad-face bastard Dutch Martin was a real meany, but I knew instinctively it never pays to badmouth anybody in an interview. The interviewer might think, “If she’s badmouthing her former employer, will she someday badmouth me?”

“Tell you what, Elaine. I’ll call Dutch and fill in the blanks if you like, save you the time on your employment application.”

I felt the blood rush out of my face. “What employment application?”

“Most companies nowadays have new employees fill out employment applications. Things like you have in your resume: dates of employment, salaries, duties, job titles, education, those sort of facts."

“Oh, that won’t be necessary, Charley. I’ll fill out the application myself.”

Charley leaned forward and his eyes bored into mine. “One thing a recruiter needs to know, Elaine, is employment law. Recruiting 101. Lying on an employment application is automatic grounds for dismissal. Under some circumstances, even jail time.”

The back of my neck started to sweat.

“Anybody who lies on a resume better be pretty damned slick. Nowadays most companies take the time and trouble to check a person’s background. Some even hire firms that specialize in detecting resume fraud. They’re called pre-employment checkers.”

My heart jumped from third gear to overdrive, zoomed down the track fast enough to compete in the Indy 500. I tried to conceal the slight tremble developing in my lips.

“Sometimes it’s easy to fool a young human resources interviewer because he’s inexperienced, naive. But not often.”

“I see what you mean.”

“It’s pretty darn difficult to slip something by an old codger, somebody who’s been around a few years and has seen all the tricks…somebody like myself.”

Like I said, there’s a time to bullshit and a time to fess up. This was one of those times. “Mr. Morgan, I’ve got something to—”

Charley put up his hand in a stop gesture. “Don’t bother. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I already know.”

What else could I say? It was too late. I reluctantly stood, preparing to leave his office. Already my mind was racing ahead: fix the resume so the bullshit wasn’t so apparent, check the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for job openings, get a list of other recruiting firms…

“Where you going?” Charley asked, looking surprised.

“You caught me with my britches down. Guess it’s time to go.”

“Did I say go?”

“In so many words. I’m embarrassed.”

“As you should be. Do you know why?”

“Sure. You caught me trying to slip one past you. Flat out, I lied and got caught.”

Charley smiled. “C’mon back and sit down.” He waved his arms in a welcoming gesture.

I hesitated, then sat down.

“Getting back to why you should be embarrassed. It’s got nothing to do with lying and everything to do with getting caught.”

“I guess one follows the other.”

“Do you have any idea how many people lie on their resumes?”

“No, but I imagine it’s a lot.”

“The latest recruiter news estimates something like sixty percent.”

“I didn’t realize it was that high.”

“The most frequent lie is about education, people stretching their credentials. Claiming college degrees that don’t exist. The next biggest lie is about money. Exaggerating salaries, bonuses. The third is exaggerating accomplishments. The fourth’s adding job titles that never existed. The fifth is covering up short stays at companies, pretending they never existed.”

“And they all got caught.”

Charley leaned forward again and pierced me with his eyes, this time without their customary twinkle. On such a nice old guy the gesture was startling…and revealing. Charley was maybe a lot smarter than his aw shucks manner had let on. “Wrong.”


“Not all of them got caught.”

“But you said—”

“I know what I said. But the fact remains that clever liars know how to lie and cheat without getting caught. And you know something, Elaine?”


“No, what?”

“I’m going to teach you how they do it. That and every other dirty recruiting trick in the book.”

I was floored, absolutely floored. “You are?”

“You bet. Under ordinary circumstances I would have kicked you out of this office, but I won’t. Know why?”

By now I could see Charley used the Socratic method of asking questions to drive to the heart of a matter and expose its core truth. “No, that one I can’t quite figure out.”

Charley chuckled. “Because I see in you the making of a great recruiter. You’re hungry for money and success. By lying on your resume you’re showing me you’ll do anything to make it happen, and I’m guessing you’ve got the business scruples of a billy goat. Most of all, you’re bright. In this business a bright person stands out. The way I read you, Elaine, you’re a hundred watt bulb in a business populated by twenty-five and forty watt bulbs. You’ll go far with the proper coaching.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

Charley rose and reached across the desk. We shook hands. “I do. Say yes.”


“I’m your new coach. Welcome aboard.”


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