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The Recruitment Business Model is a Pyramid Scheme

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

First impressions really do last…

Reflections from a pro-job hunter -and observations from a fairly experienced but resigned recruiter

Lately I’ve been trying to understand why I get so frustrated with the world I see around me, and why things are the way they are. First I looked at economic inequality and root causes. Then I looked at privilege and power…that’s when I stumbled upon a framework for examining how systems of oppression are designed and rooted in society. These systems influence experiences as well as opportunities. I don’t have a solution for making things more inclusive, but one thing I do know is inclusion isn’t about making women stand out in the workplace by keeping them the minority. It isn’t about making “women only criteria” or “women of colour criteria” in programmes or initiatives. That just makes minority groups feel more like a minority. And it definitely isn’t about sounding more excited to meet candidates after asking their race. Stop asking us about our race, gender and whether or not we have kids, and don’t ask us for previous salary (We go by what we can do — look at the evidence in our work).. your questions are rude, and it shows us directly that you aren’t hiring us for our skills. But rather to meet a quota.

"If there is a hell, there is a special place inside there reserved for unethical recruiters — you’ll find them right next to the black hat marketing department, black hat ux (this means people who advocate for manipulation and dark patterns in design) and the ponzi or pyramid scheme “salesman”. " - Common Cents

Back in the day, (when I was a young one), I was a master job-hunter. When I wanted to be an employee, I would go all out, I’d actively search, prepare like crazy to understand that company and go through the disappointment of miscommunication, ill-defined job descriptions, hustling for a bus or taxi to the location, only to have my time wasted by being sent to the wrong role.

Generally this was because of the recruiter assumed that categories of my discipline were the same.. and obviously due to them not reading my cv correctly.. which I might add is a very detailed one… Ok, point is, recruiters can jump to conclusions when reading the job title or current role. They just don’t get what we do. It’s our job to educate them. Help them understand exactly what we’re looking for, what we can do, what we can’t do, what we’d love to do and most importantly what we won’t do.

Basic interview etiquette

Point of View: Interviewee

image source

the ABCs of Intersectionality

Some of you seem to forget what it’s like to job hunt… look, we aren’t all trust fund babies (Classism) who got a break being born male (Sexism) or that break from parents fancy friends to help us get their first job on a managers salary. (Nepotism) . Let me not even start on the (politics of appearance )— assuming that “good looking” people are good. Or just because their accents are “more acceptable or more model-c school” and not as “rough” (Language bias). Yes, we have heard of certain “allowances” or “perks of privilege” of colour or gender…Doesn't mean it's right just because it's legal. Maybe you’ve never had to hustle for a job… and go through the actual drudgery of putting yourself out there and being rejected because you’re too young or not old enough (Ageism) . Stereotyping/ Prejudice and ignorance). And yes, I have experienced the prejudice of being viewed as "less intelligent" as perceived by the developers. Who would’ve thought you’d meet developers who would think you are an idiot because we don’t have a software engineering degree. Yes, there are places where Engineering favours developers (especially male devs) over any female would be devs. We are simply scatterbrain fools to the “men of logic”. Apparently women brains aren’t logical. (yes, I am rolling my eyes right now — and yes I am being sarcastic if you haven’t figured that out).

Then I've heard of people being too qualified, or not qualified enough (Educationalism) or not belonging to some fancy-schmancy alumni coz we might’ve never had the opportunity to go to university. I have met many, who haven't even finished school let alone attended university, who can solve relevant problems a lot better, because they can easily identify them. Why, because they've been on the short end of this system and experienced what it's like to not be well-funded to buy your way through life. Just because someone hasn't attended university, doesn’t mean they can't work successfully in any field.

Maybe some of you have not had to hide your true side for fear of being judged. Trying hard not to “fit the stereotype of a particular group we've been boxed into” because we CAN control ourselves but we CAN’T control other peoples’ “biasor their refusal to change their ignorance. So we have to put in more effort to be “acceptable” in an “unacceptable” society. In order to be “taken seriously”, to “fit in” and be more “professional and acceptable” — because having a voice is already difficult enough when you’re an invisible woman in sexist world. The last thing you need is to be viewed as unprofessional on top it.

I am forever grateful for remote work — because now the playing fields are levelled. No more wasting time commuting, or wasting money on “work clothes”. Or wasting time and money in canteens. Wasting energy to "be corporate" in a suffocating, toxic environment. We all can simply be ourselves everyday of the week and just get on with what needs to be done without distraction. And best part, it's clear to see who works, who actually contributes to the team, vs who's job is purely redundant in it's unnecessary micro-management of talent.

Understanding privilege, power and oppression

For further research check out: “intersectionality” Coined by scholar Kimberlé W. Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is rooted in the research and activism of women of color, extending back to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in 1851. Observing the absence of women of color in feminist and race-based social movements, scholar activists like Crenshaw, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherríe Moraga have called for a deeper look at the interconnected factors that influence power, privilege and oppression / image source:

Did you know, that legally only job related tests are allowed, such as job interview/practical skills assessment (it’s actually unethical to request aptitude or personality tests — as it can be viewed as discrimination if the person is declined after a personality test

Employers have the right to use pre-employment tests to make hiring decisions — only if those tests are job-related. Just because personality and aptitude tests are legal, doesn’t mean it’s ethical. Aptitude tests only show that you have good memory skills, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can do the job at hand. Aptitude tests ignore the person’s learned/life/work experience, while personality tests put people in boxes. (I used to give people personality tests — just as an icebreaker to get to know them, before realising how dangerous it is to box people)…It’s not real science.. double check the origin of Myers-Briggs test — . Anyone can be any personality by answering questions in a light that makes you seem more positive. And depending on the phase of life they are currently in, or trauma currently experiencing, their answers would not be the same as on a “normal” day — even if answering based on “most preferred, most of the time” decisions.

"Personality tests are a waste of time. And for those who are naturally more “extroverted” — or better at communicating to “sell themselves” it doesn’t mean they’ll be better at their job, they’ll just be better at pretending to be working and taking credit from the silent introverts in the background who keep the real work moving." - Common Cents

Job seeker:Pass on the role if you don't want it, but Recruiter: candidates are not here to do your job


Today’s job hunting and recruitment process is a whole lot of bullsh*t… It’s designed to discriminate. If a company asks you any personal questions like religious views, payslip, disability, age, gender, race, number of kids, marriage status… all those items are ways of discriminating.

Change your hiring process to ensure equitability and prevent unfair discrimination in hiring.

Don’t ask me this, if I really liked the way you treated me during the process, I will offer to share with others, or introduce you to others. No need to ask. And people, if you can’t take the job, but know someone who can, pass it on. No need to hog it. There’s really enough jobs for us all. I’ve been passing on jobs for years, and it never meant I’d lose work, for some reason, work always finds me — even when I’m hiding from it.

Be transparent with the candidate- through every step, especially the end

When you’re not going to hire the person, the least you can do is let them know.. I mean come on.. I’ve watched it countless times, stop treating people like numbers.


Negotiate where you are or you go elsewhere to find what you want. It’s unethical to play employers up against each other

And to the job hunter, stop job hunting and looking for one company when you do this.. then going through their long-*ss recruitment process of 5 interviews to be short-listed. The rejection at the end will only be felt more if you invest in one company hoping they’ll hire you. Think of this as sales.. You need to meet with 10 people before you get 1 good sale. Sometimes you’re lucky and all 10 are good. (I have another article on the back burner about the soul destroying role of sales in the wrong kind of companies). But point is, don’t bank on 1 company definitely hiring you.. As they interview you, go “interview” other companies. Find the best ones and get the ball rolling with many. Then disappointment won’t be felt… because you don’t stop until you get a job offer from a company you actually want to work for. And the best way to ensure this, is to only seek out companies you actually want to work for. Then every offer is something you actually want. So you can easily stop at the first offer you get. Instead of playing dirty games like some people I’ve seen, who try to get their current employers to pay more just by job hunting. Either you negotiate where you are or you go elsewhere to find what you want. It’s unethical to play that game to get employers to pay you more. Do better work and you’ll get paid more without playing those “negotiation” games by putting your employer in a corner.

Interview tests are unethical where an updated portfolio already exists

And job hunters, top wasting interviewees time on a job assessment via a “interview project to test your skills” — That’s just companies way of getting free work out of an obviously skilled person. If you don’t have an existing online portfolio, then it’s understandable that they’ll need you to complete some work for them.

To the companies who have lost the ability to “come up with ideas” — and are unethically getting free ideas via the sweat and tears of recruitment interviews, entrepreneurial programmes, competitions and hackathons — shame on you. If you want to test someone’s skills, do it the right way — give them a paid brief to complete. Pay them for their time. Do you know how much time goes into interview tests? Damn waste of useful time.

Basic interview etiquette

P.O.V (Point of View): Recruiter/Interviewer


When I told you I sometimes use Linkedin to source talent, doesn’t mean that’s the only source — are you on drugs or really just that sheltered and privileged?

Actually, go back to the company and get a job description before wasting my time

If you don’t have a job description, then you don’t know what you’re doing. You should rather go back to your fancy estate, go sip some more gin and cucumber or whatever it is that you usually do.. and leave this to the people who actually do the work. Stop pretending your role is actually valid.

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Familiarity is unprofessional and off putting--we are here to work

I am here to be interviewed, no I don’t want to talk about my personal life and no I don’t want to hear about your divorce issues.. We just met… please, I don’t want to know, I’m not qualified to give you advice. Get a therapist — please.

Catch 22


Can you just stop asking for experienced candidates straight out of university? -It’s unrealistic, and shows you don’t know how to write a job description. And for the newbies, just because you are newly entering the job market, doesn’t mean that I owe you anything. I want to help because I didn’t have the same chance when I was your age. But that doesn’t mean I owe you. I’m helping because I want to. So don’t make it seem like you’re doing me any favours. Seriously.. didn’t your mother teach you manners? — I’ve interviewed some pompous spoilt brats over the last 2 years.. and really, I can understand why you don’t have a job yet.

Exploitation and Extraction of Intellectual Property


You don’t even know the hell I had to go through for you… and you postpone 5min before the interview — are you joking? Why am I even trying to help you? I don’t even get paid to put up with this nonsense. I can honestly say, that I have never financially profited from anyone I have hired. — Nope, I lie, I actually did in the beginning, I place 2 people where a company actually stuck to their agreement to cover my recruitment costs. Both of these placements in combination with my own projects which were running, caused my company more financial costs than any profit. Incoming sales increase was purely increased by employee costs. Not profit. The model is broken.. they should make companies VAT registered based on profit over a certain amount, not based on Total Sales. This type of formula keeps small business in cycle of just being the middle man for SARS. Causing more financial admin and costing stress in the long run. The system isn’t designed to benefit the recruiter (the main recruiter who's actually a direct link to all talent) or the person hired the actual talented person. It’s designed only to the benefit of those on the top with the direct link to the client. These links will make you do all the ground work for them, then when you bring a talented person, they say they already had this person on their list, therefore you forfeit any fees. They then go to the company and bring forth your candidate as if they did all the work to find them. Making their company reputation grow and making them appear as if they are doing so much. Basically it's a system of lazy people taking credit for those who actually do the ground work, while reaping any reputational or financial benefits. (FYI, according to fraud research, this top link is also the levels where most fraud, bribery and corruption take place).

This job as a recruiter never felt right, it doesn’t sit right with me. Did you know that some companies put a mark up of more than 500% on a candidate? That’s insane. That’s literally slavery. Where the company will ensure “cheap labour” where intellectual property, skills, time and life are extracted from the worker, while the company in charge profits in the form of finance, reputation, execution of deliverables at lowest cost and they end up with ownership of intellectual property (which they did nothing to contribute to).

Grow up, and respect time... not just your own time, but everyone around you


Look, life happens, we all get it. Especially with our hectic calendars and trying to balance home life and work life, on top of a pandemic, unrest and just general South African life. But listen, I sometimes can be 3–5min min late because of meetings running over… maybe more, but I always try my best to let people know. If you aren’t sure about attending a meeting at proposed times, just say so. It’s seriously not the end of the world. If you have a better time to connect, just say so. DON’T ACCEPT THE MEETING INVITE IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND IT… Just request the time that you KNOW you can attend. If you need to reschedule, do it the day before, not 5min prior. And please, don’t just ghost your recruiter by not attending and then not saying anything at all. Come on, this is business. Be professional and be straightforward. I can’t help you if you can’t even help yourself.

And then, after all that, you finally find a diamond in the rough.. someone with potential who never got that gap — -and now we reach the final cherry on top...



This one is for the recruitment industry in general, you can’t make someone who only knows recruitment hire for a job without a job description. I’ve met many gatekeepers who look at cv’s from a skimming-superficial surface level. They’re more bias than — I don’t know what to compare their bias with- point is, they aren’t qualified to hire for a role they’ve never been in. So let’s just assume they are ignorant. But overall, seriously… if you want talent to be hired, don’t let a bitter recruitment agent with underlying “bias” be the person to short list candidates. Duh! — and you wonder why your company is male dominated and lacking diversity?! — seriously are you on drugs? — it’s obvious.

I remember once I was in a school where the teachers were “teaching” us how to be ready for the real working world, and none of the teachers had worked in a real job before. They were all newly graduated and went straight into teaching. Same rule applies, how would you know how to teach me about the working world, when you’ve never had that job?

Likewise, how can you think you can hire for my role, when you’ve never worked in my industry before, especially without a job description? So far, there are a handful of good non-industry related recruiters I’ve met. People who follow a decent ethical process.

While there are others’ I’ve met, who completely ignore anything to the benefit of the job hunter/candidate and they skew everything to benefit of the company alone. That’s just not cool. And you wonder why you can’t retain talent? I’m not a rocket scientist, but if you want to fix your company, the first place to start is to hire new recruiters (and reeducate existing ones) — change your recruitment process and you’ll be able to hire talent and keep talent them.

There isn’t scarcity of talent, companies just have unnecessary gatekeepers and your criteria for hiring is flawed.

After horrible experiences with trying to help people in the way I was never helped.. To try give them better chances or experiences than I have ever had — I have decided that the recruitment model in general is flawed.The recruitment industry and it’s business model is cr*p. It is nothing more than legal slavery with 50 middle men and 100 gate keepers.. all putting a markup on a person as if they were nothing more than a product within a production line. A system of grading people and putting them in levels — just like the colour bar back in the 30’s. By default, requiring certain education automatically removes many from the opportunity to progress. Attaching certain jobs with specific privileged educational criteria by default leaves certain skilled jobs for specific groups. Having an internship programme with age limits and educational limits is backwards. And it’s the reason some systems will never change. Your criteria for hiring is just a covert way to ensure that your company only keeps hiring a specific group or “class”. Thus ensuring the progress of the same groups. Power will forever remain in the hands of those who set the criteria. And they’ll keep writing the script to make themselves the victors.

When job descriptions are based on education/credentials they equate the fees paid for education as an indication of skill. The two don’t always go hand in hand. To judge a candidate in this way, forces for career progression to be dependent on budget (or savings) for education. This business model is one big scam. It forces you to take out a loan to cover learning and be in debt or it ensures access is only reserved to those who can afford it. What a load of nonsense. Elitist credentialed able-bodied first world thinking.

No thank you, recruitment is not for me. What a k*k job. You have to be a special kind of evil to be that kind of middle man. I was almost blinded by this because it looked on the surface as if, “this is just the way things are”*.
"But from what I’ve seen… the way things are — need to change, I’d rather not be part of this system of slavery. " - Common Cents

*not all recruiters are unethical, some actually do things the right way. And not all people I've interviewed have been entitled and wasted my time. This post is just about the ones who are- if you're reading this, and think you might be an unethical recruiter reevaluate the way you treat people. Or if you're an entitled job hunter, check your privilege and learn to be grateful for the few good recruiters who are trying to help you succeed.

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