Let's talk about recruiters

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Most software developers have had bad experiences with recruiters: spammy emails and LinkedIn messages, completely unfitting job offers, little technical knowledge, etc.

The situation looks almost as dire from the hiring perspective too: since commissions can be quite high, recruiters open their funnels wide because it increases their chances of getting paid. Also they often lack the technical knowledge to properly assess candidates (I've worked with a few notable exceptions, but they seem to be few and far between).

This leads me to the question: what do people want/expect from recruiters? Which skills does your ideal recruiter possess? What do they do/not do? I'm interested in the perspective of both candidates and people hiring.

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You know what I hate? A recruiter finds me and tells me that I am the perfect fit for a role at some company. So, I accept the invite to be interviewed, and I am immediately asked, "SO WHY DO YOU WANNA WORK FOR US? WHY YOU LEAVING YOUR CURRENT JOB?"

Um. I don't wanna leave. I'm happy at my current job. You told me I was a perfect candidate for this job. Convince me to work here instead.

 

As a candidate, notably one without full-fledged production experience, my experience has been that external recruiters are completely useless, particularly to newer devs. I have two main problems with them:

1) As Michael says above, recruiters lack the technical expertise to evaluate candidates. The most forthcoming recruiters I talked to in the past said "We think companies will see you as a junior, so we can't do anything for you." John Sonmez said in The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide that the best argument for recruiters is that they can do a better job than you can making an argument to employers as to why you're an attractive candidate. I have seen nothing in reality that supports this.

2) This problem goes all the way from juniors to seniors: That commission cuts into YOUR bottom line, making you arbitrarily more expensive. Devs have to be good at so many things now, it's not really that much more work to brush up on your inbound marketing skills.

 

I have just got a new job through a recruiter so I like them at the moment. I was surprised to find however that when I went to interviews, the company did not have my CV but a rewritten summary done by the recruiter. After finding that out I always took a copy of my CV to give to interviwers.

 

I've had good luck with those one recruiting company in Boston when I've gone to them and set up appointments with their systems/DevOps specialists.

They make it a point to never do anything without your permission, never touched my resume after I've submitted it to them, do the leg work on talking to you references so you don't have to have it on your resume.

Other than that, my LinkedIn inbox is full of unsolicited shit from recruiters. The worst is when they figure out my work email and message that.

 

The one thing I have found that is a hinderance on some recruiters behalf is not knowing when enough is enough. I have had recruiters help me find jobs to interview for and some of those have turned into an offer. But if I decline an offer, then I declined. Don't harass me with phone calls and emails for weeks to reconsider. One phone call to discuss the opportunity and why I declined is enough, and then it is time to move on to find the next opportunity that better fits what I am looking for or the next candidate that is better fit for the job.

With that, I do enjoy recruiters who are dedicated to the job, the ones who are interested to learn as much about you as they can, they take the time to get to know you. Those ones are the ones who truly want to help you find the next best opportunity in the area you are looking for. One recruiters I had recently spent spare time in our conversation giving career advice and truly trying to get to know me. It is great to know that some of them are just trying to help you find what works best.

 

I am currently a recruiter while Im in school for web design/development. Not only does this help me understand what exactly the candidate is doing, and helps me know if that candidate fits the job description. And as a student, it is helping me understand which direction I want to go in development.

 

Personally, I have had really bad experiences with recruiters, once, I was even rejected without even applying to a position from a large global corporation. This situation put me to think if they are really trained in their fields. What would I expect from a good recruiter, especially from the most experience ones?

  1. To be trained in the field they're recruiting. Someone who recruits developers for C# or Java can barely know who is a good Tech Lead or ITSM expert since these topics are out of his/her own expertise.
  2. To notify in advance if they are not interested. It can be done almost immediately as the one who rejected me without applying did, you don't waste the time of the candidate and he/she can start searching for another job.
  3. To provide feedback. Is it so hard to provide the reasons why a person is not a good fit for this position? You don't need to go so deep, but if you say well, the hiring manager says you are missing theses X skills that we need in this moment, you're doing a massive favor that might help the person redirect his/her efforts to achieve the next level and in the future he/she can apply if the opportunity arises, but if they say nothing, how the person can know how to become better? Or understand his/her weaknesses?
  4. To stop discriminating people for being "overqualified". Have you ever wondered why an overqualified person is applying for X position? Maybe he/she has some health issues and needs to be closer to his family, maybe this person is a need and needs this, this is basic human psychology, there is a reason behind, why someone might accept less money or do something like this. You can ask and don't say just NEXT. I even persuaded someone to give a person an opportunity because this person was "overqualified", what was the reason? The person was having some health issues and needed a less stressful job.
  5. To give opportunities to "talented people". Many times they blocked themselves like this person might fit, but it's not what we want. We complain of how people cannot get opportunities or no one wants to give us a chance, but we do exactly the same when we have the power in our hands.
  6. To be honest with the position. I have got offers from totally different topics that are unrelated to my profile. I was confused when they offered me to be a Consultant of RPAs and when I had the interview with the potential client, I was a RPA developer that wasn't connected.
  7. To update their knowledge to the current trends to understand as they expect from us.
  8. To stop asking unnecessary questions like why do you want to move to another company? Or country? If you're applying let's say from Paraguay to Canada or certain European Country; it's quite obvious the possible reason, money, opportunities, family, etc. It's not necessary connected to: I hate my job. Also, is it really necessary? Not because I have a good career in certain place, it means I don't want to level up and grow in my profession, I got even these kind of questions for PhD applications (where obviously an important reason is the degree and the personal development more than money). I could understand that question if you're applying to something unrelated to his or her field of expertise; let's say, you want to become a pizza baker (no offense, we need awesome πŸ•πŸ•πŸ• bakers!).
  9. To avoid questions about your current salary. This question could make sense if you're living in the same country, if you're relocating to a totally different country, the salary might not have even any connection.
  10. To focus on the position and the potential the person can bring to your company. Not everyone has the experience that you expect and might never get it, but there are proves like his/her achievements or promotions that can guide you if the person is ready for the next challenge and bring benefits to your company. We understand companies focus on the ROI as we do.

I believe this is a work of both recruiter and potential employee, but I noticed that developers must keep updated to current trends and recruiters rarely leave their comfort zone and if someone tells them, I need a RPA developer in UiPath, but I don't know what UiPath is, I start searching when I don't understand well what I'm looking for.

My fellow recruiters I believe you can level up too and change our point of view.

 

I want recruiters to help sell me. My professional experience is pretty odd. I started out as a copywriter then joined the development community. I've worked as a web developer, then worked on games for awhile, then came back to web. And in my personal life I contribute to robotics tools and other fun projects. So I need someone who can kind of cut through all the chaos that is my experience. What I don't need is someone who wants to shove me into some Senior Java role at a huge company, despite my lack of any Java experience and experience in general (relative to a senior dev).

But by far the BIGGEST thing I don't need, recruiters who ghost me. I've had several that were supposed to be coordinating an interview within the next, but then never get back me, regardless of whether I follow up. It's a huge waste of time and doesn't make anyone feel good.

 

TL;DR: Communicate with me. Even if you have nothing to report or you have bad news, at least let me know the process is moving forward or definitely dead-ended.

My biggest pet peeve, by FAR, is being ghosted by recruiters. Whether external or internal, this happens to me ALL THE TIME. Many times I'm dealing with 3-5 interview processes at a time when I'm looking to make a move. What drives me crazy is when I've been through 4-5 rounds of interviews and whiteboard challenges, have the call with the recruiter where they tell me "you'll hear from me with a yes or no in a week or so", then NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN. Is it so hard to shoot me an email saying "they passed on you this time. I'll let you know if anything else opens up."? It drives me totally crazy. Just tell me I didn't get the job so I can move on. Is that so difficult?

The only thing worse than that is when I finish round 4-5 of the process, then don't hear from the recruiter for 4-6 weeks. At that point, I've moved on and am doing different things. Then, after more than a month, I get the "okay, so the director of engineering wants to sit down and talk with you this week. When are you available?" phone call. "Are you serious? You're just gonna call me and act like you haven't been ducking my calls for six weeks? And then you're gonna ask me to rearrange my schedule with a days' notice? Is this a thing? Okay I guess...let's do this again like you haven't been ignoring me for over a month....".

 

when i was looking for a new job a bit over two years ago, i got a call from a lady in my old home town. spoke a bit and it seemed like she had some things that fit my "expertise" (in quotes, because when i look back to the wernich from 2017, then i'm surprised at how little he knew), so i agreed that she can send me a couple places to check out.

before she sent me any jobs to look at, she sent me some paperwork to fill out. reading through that, i saw this bit:

"Consent to undergo a polygraph test, on request, in order to verify adherence to the terms and conditions set-out in this agreement."

i realised that there are tons of dev jobs in south africa (in case anyone is ever interested in moving here) and i don't have to jump through hoops to satisfy recruiters. if they end up placing me somewhere, they make a ton of money, so they should be jumping through hoops for me. ended up not communicating further with that place.

the company i work for now is awesome and i'm very happy, but i feel like the recruiters that placed me are now keen to get me moving to a new place, so after the fourth call this year i blocked their number. it makes for super awkward conversations in the office after the phonecall.

recruiters here tend to push the idea of "if you change jobs after 2 or 3 years, it looks good on your cv with all the experience you gained", but the general idea at our office is that it looks kind of terrible, because it takes you a good few months to learn the system you're working on and even more months to be comfortable with the code base. the company invests time and money in training you to do your job and after a bit of productivity, you run away. i wouldn't want to hire someone who will only be around for 2 years.

 

Annoyance #1: Trying to add me as contact on social-media.
Annoyance #2: Not saying which company they are hiring for.
Annoyance #3: Is this LinkedIn or Tinder?

(Translation: "I just HAD to write you")

The only acceptable recruiting effort I may respond to comes directly from the company hiring.

 

As a technical person please allow me to break down the recruiter architype:

1) headhunter - to me this is as described above. wide but shallow net.
2) recruiter - typically works for the organization in need of personnel. Mid-mid net. Knows the company, not the tech.
3) talent agent - recruiter that works for YOU first, the company second. small but deep net. Knows YOUR talents, looks for and qualifies companies.

That being said the personal quality increases as skills and talent increase... and so does the number of emails and phones calls. On average, right now, is 2 to 3 correspondances a day.

Let's look on the other side of the coin, as a blue collar miner (coal/ore/et al) the demand is not there. Let's take a moment to appreciate the demand in our industry. Plus, recruiters are people just trying to do a job.

 

Recruiting, I believe, is fairly new where I live. Only startups with serious funding (AKA governmental) have recruiters.

A few of them reached out to me on LinkedIn where I have the looking for a job flag. Most of them disappear after finding out my nationality, and some keep delaying interviews then eventually canceling. Nothing good ever came from them in my case.

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Michael Kohl profile image
Your friendly neighborhood anarcho-cynicalist. Taming bits and herding developers (aka engineering lead). Β―\_(ツ)_/Β― and (β•―Β°β–‘Β°οΌ‰β•―οΈ΅ ┻━┻) are my two natural states.