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I don't care about your commission

makiten profile image Donald ・7 min read

Since DEV is working on my browser again, I can finally comment.

And I decided the best thing to talk about is our favorite thing in the whole word--(external) recruiters.

I'm not Jack Arnold... yet.

A lot has changed since I was 19 when faceless staffing agencies would spam my email and/or phone just because I made the mistake of using Monster or CareerBuilder (in 2006).

I got better at filtering out junk, so I don't get too many Java-when-I'm-doing-C#-or-Python jobs, or the persistent-yet-lazy recruiters who encourage me to indiscriminately carpet bomb applications.

I've gotten pretty good at spotting Sisyphus-caliber time wasters and consequently have become very picky. If a job doesn't cure cancer, bake cookies, and help me lose 30 lbs (or 14 kg if you're a communist, but round it to 15 since that sounds funnier), I'm out. I've been treated badly enough to not waste too much time on bad opportunities.

What could possibly go wrong?

Recently, a few recruiters contacted me. Vague description of client, I'm a great fit, etc.

Of those, I entertained 2, but one specifically is the subject of this post.

Their client is well-known where I live. Most of the time it feels like anyone who works in IT does or has worked there.

I've never really wanted to work at the client in question, but I had no real personal experience to go on. Plus, a colleague recently left to work there, so I figured it's worth looking into.

But the candidate experience in tech is more broken than Uber's business model, so adding a recruiter to this process had the potential for problems. Which is what happened.

Once I did the recruiter screen, I got a more detailed job description. There were already red flags off the bat.

In this company, senior, lead, and architect have very specific meanings. This was an "architect" role, but it suspiciously looked like what they'd consider a senior developer. On top of that, the job responsibilities didn't match the job requirements. Like, at all.

This company is also well-known for strictly adhering to a particular technology stack, and the only time I've seen deviations from this stack have been from recruiters' job descriptions.

The job requirements left more questions than answers. Why the different tech stack for a company notorious for sticking to one and one only? Why is the job emphasizing one technology, but there's fare less mention of it in the job requirements?

After some more investigation, the role was something I was iffy about. It was basically developing tools for internal developers, which I was uneasy about. (Early on in my career, I had a great reputation, but I was only known by other devs. Not very profitable.) But I thought I should verify that in an interview, so I didn't let that doubt dissuade me.

So, here was a job with some red flags and some things that I thought might not be right for me if true. I sent my resume to the recruiter anyway.

This was where I got irritated

Their client was interested, and the recruiter giddily called and messaged me a few times within the start of the business day to schedule a meeting. Tomorrow afternoon or two days from that time in the morning. I opted for the latter. Got an email confirmation some time later. (It also came with a tweaked job description that further highlighted the inconsistencies of the job duties and the job requirements.) The time was correct.

...But I didn't realize the day was wrong until later.

So when the (wrong) day came, I was confused when the recruiter asked me about the interview. Wasn't that tomorrow? I thought. So I asked the recruiter if it was supposed to be that day or the next day. I also checked the email to see they scheduled it for this day instead of the next day.

Er, but there was one problem.

I didn't get any calls at that time. In fact, no missed calls, and no calls from numbers I didn't recognize.

I replied saying I thought we scheduled that for another day, but even so, I did not get a call.

Nevertheless, the recruiter said he would confirm the times and get back to me.

He did the following day. 30 minutes before I was supposed to have my half-hour interview.

Spoilers: nobody called.

The ever-eager recruiter called almost immediately after the interview was supposed to end asking for feedback. I said, again, that nobody called.

Embarrassed and nonplussed, he tried to quash the awkwardness by asking me if I would have time in the afternoon.

But I had had enough.

In preparing for the interview and reading the new job description I got, I got that feeling that this job just doesn't add up. One bullet point in the job requirements that was relevant to the job duties (plus some added buzzwords in that bullet point), and the rest maybe could be relevant.

The job title and the most relevant bullet point of the job requirements raised some questions. The kind of questions that sounded like a bait and switch. Or maybe they decided they needed buzzword x, but haven't selected a tool to use for it and are throwing buzzwords in the job requirements after a quick overview said they might needs these skills if they implement buzzword x.

For example, say it was a CI/CD job, and there was only one bullet point about CI, and it wanted you to know one of the many CI tools available. In a 10,000-ish employee company on a team with heavy restrictions. (One team isn't using Team City while another uses Jenkins or CircleCI, here.)

Oh, and you should know Node.js, and maybe Express.

And npm.

And yarn.

And Typescript and ES6.

And do you know ML and AI, too?

That's what this read like.

This is the type of job like my first tech job. I was hired as a "web designer," interviewed and showed my portfolio, but day one I was managing keywords in Google AdWords. In other words: it sounded like they had no idea what they wanted.

Now couple that with just simply ghosting a phone interview. The hiring manager, of all people. Every excuse I could imagine for doing that (once or twice, depending on who made the mistake the first time.) tells me that the candidate isn't as important as whatever was happening to even deign to communicate the need to reschedule. And if, as a candidate, you aren't important enough to get a "Hey, I know we're supposed to talk, but would you be open to a new time?" surely they wouldn't treat you better as an employee.

Stating the obvious

So I politely said I'm not longer interested. But the recruiter pushed for a reason (apparently ghosting isn't sufficient) to give to the recruiting firm's salesperson.

I thought that would be obvious, but I thought it was a poor experience and a bad fit.

  1. The job description and requirements tell two different stories.
  2. The role didn't sound right for my career aspirations.
  3. They didn't bother to communicate. The expectation is I should be free whenever they decide and don't need to offer basic courtesy. That's dysfunctional.

So I gave more diplomatic versions of #1 and #3, thinking that would be enough, and, as most recruiters I've talked to do, would fade into obscurity.

But wait, that's not it

I didn't write this to complain about a bad recruiting experience. If it ended here, I wouldn't be writing this wondering how much of my loquaciousness I need to cut down so you'll read it.

No, some time later that day, the recruiter's salesperson (whom I've never talked to) text messages me asking if I had time for a "quick chat" later.

There's only one purpose for this, and it's an attempt to get me to reconsider. How do I know it wasn't something else? There was no apology, no explanation, no excuse. Just a rash attempt at trying to save this deal.

Besides the fact I still have a job to do, I said I'm not interested. Since they took a look at my resume and asked about my experience at the most recent places I've worked at, surely they saw the job where I was a Sales Engineer.

That means I'm pretty well aware of the tactics to try to "Save the Deal." I made it clear there's no saving this one. There's a lot of romanticism in sales about saving a customer or a deal that may get sunk because of dissatisfaction. (It's a lot of feel-good junk that makes for great storytelling during sales enablement, but it's not the norm.)

But when it comes to recruiting, I'm the product, not the customer. Any motivation to make me happy converges to just one motivation: the commission.

Why should I care about your commission?

If they submitted multiple candidates, and the client liked another one better, we wouldn't be going through this. They would pretend to care and then ghost.

The reason they were so persistent even after I turned it down was not because of the cute stories you read on LinkedIn. It was very simply self-serving.

That doesn't bother me. Everyone says the candidate experience is broken--especially in tech. I'm too jaded and cynical to believe there's a fix for it, so I tend to towards being pragmatic. If you're not demonstrating you care about my needs, I'm not going to obligate myself to help you make your numbers. Find another "product."

When a job opportunity looks like it's going to waste my time, I put a stop to it. Respect is a two-way street, and sorry, no amount of "innovative, cutting edge work," table tennis, and Remote Fridays will change that.

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