Sure, but not a lot. Most of the better ones end up working in the HR departments of big companies or head hunting more senior people, which is where the money is in this industry.
I usually apply the hollywood principle: "don't call me, I'll call you". A good way to filter out the trash is to discuss rates early on in the process. Good recruiters will figure this out by themselves and not bother you with poorly matched offers. A bad recruiter will insist on getting you on a rate that is 30-40% below what you are worth for a project that is a poor match to your profile. A good recruiter will know what you are worth and not bother you with the wrong projects. Reaching out with poorly matched offers and then wasting a lot of time on those is a sign of desperation and poor competence.
I've worked with contractors on many projects and they all consider recruiters a necessary evil. Some of these were genuinely good and some coming from the same recruiters were consistently good. So, these unicorn recruiters do exist but there are certainly a lot of bad recruiters out there and the worst ones are spamming linkedin continuously to "reach out" or whatever rubbish euphemism they use in the hope that you respond.
Figuring out what recruiters are used by companies you respect is a good way to cut through the BS. Seek them out and tell them what you are looking for in terms of project and rate and they will work for you effectively. Especially bigger companies tend to work with recruiters that deliver them what they need and you can judge a recruiter simply by the customers they work with. Many of these companies have exclusive relations with an agency or agencies and the only way in is via these agencies. A recruiter can only be as good as the companies they serve.
In any case, I prefer to find gigs via my network and this has yet to fail me. Most of the conversations with recruiters I've had never go anywhere and I tend to not put a lot of energy in them. The projects looking the hardest are exactly the ones I'm least eager to join and the most likely to engage with bad recruiters. A's hire A's and B's use recruiters to hire C's. I'm not a C and I hate working for B's.
That makes a lot of sense. I suspect that the top companies would just fire the recruiter/recruiting agency if they were wasting their time. Also if the recruiter is a direct employee of a company that probably also helps.
Other red flags:
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