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Ryan Latta
Ryan Latta

Posted on • Originally published at ryanlatta.com on

What Recruiters Don’t Tell You

At some point, you’ll get a message from an external recruiter. Maybe it’ll be clever and have some Star Wars reference because all technical folk love Star Wars apparently. It might also be full of misspellings and so off-mark that you wonder why they even bothered.

No matter what, you’ll wind up working with a recruiter, and there’re a few things they aren’t going to tell you that will absolutely impact how easily you get a job.

So here’re things they won’t tell you.

I don’t know anything about development

That’s right! Recruiters don’t know anything about the field of software development. A quick search for them on LinkedIn will point this out.

So when they’re telling you about all the positions, how on earth are they deciding which ones you’re good for and not? Well, they can’t. That is something you have to tell them. They don’t know what React is, or why Javascript and Python are different.

This is also why they can’t ever give you real advice about interviewing. They have no idea what kinds of questions you’ll get asked or what the question even means.

I’ve never worked at these companies

Kind of hand-in-hand here, but recruiters don’t spend any significant time with the companies they represent. They bring clients in, have conversations with their clients, and get feedback when they take people out to lunch.

Beyond that, they have no idea what it’s like in that company. So when they tell you that it’s a great place to work, keep some skepticism in place and see for yourself.

They’ve never dealt with the stress of being there, the camaraderie that exists or doesn’t. They don’t know how the managers actually manage or lead. They’re an outsider and taking what they say on face value about the culture of a place can be disastrous.

I’m going to use your resume and salary information the way I think is best

Recruiters are going to change your resume. The types of changes they make vary, but minimally they’ll reformat it to their stationary. Maximally they’ll re-do it entirely.

I’ve seen recruiters add technologies, re-write experience sections, and more.

Ask to see the resume they’re sending out! You want to know how you’re represented.

One simple mistake recruiters make pretty regularly is when they drop your content into their stationary, they forget to check if they changed the name consistently. So the first page has your name, but the second page doesn’t.

A hiring manager who sees a resume with different names must assume they’re being lied to and will likely throw it in the trash.

Almost every recruiter will also ask about your salary history or goals. They will use this to help filter positions and sometimes use this to “Negotiate” for you.

I wish I could say that recruiters are highly skilled salary negotiators, but I can’t. Since you won’t be in the room when they tell your future company what you made or what you want to make, you have no idea what leverage you have to negotiate at all anymore.

My goal is to get you an offer

They might tell you this, but why I’m calling it out is to make it crystal clear who they work for and what success looks like.

Recruiters are paid by companies to help them fill positions. On average, a recruiter’s fee is 20-30% of the first year’s salary.

So while they are talking to you, they’re looking at a series of positions to fill. If push came to shove about finding an ideal role for you vs. filling a position, they’ll do their job and fill a position. If that is more idea for you, so much the better!

That isn’t to say there’s maliciousness here, but it’s also why you don’t go through lengthy getting-to-know-you steps with recruiters. If you think a position is good, they are going to see it through.

Recruiters’ intent to get you through interviews to an offer is really helpful! I don’t care who you are, but as soon as you want to apply to a company, everyone will go on vacation. Recruiters won’t wait for them to come back and will get everything re-scheduled. When most people’s interview process might take months, a recruiter will get it done in weeks.

That’s awesome.

Should you work with recruiters?

Yes! Absolutely you should. They have access to positions nobody else can get. They will get you through the process better than anyone. They can get feedback along the way. They are worth it!

Just know what they’re good at and what they aren’t. It’s fine to set expectations with recruiters upfront. It’s interesting how both sides of developers and recruiters seem to be unaware of what each other knows and doesn’t.

So talk to them.


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Discussion (2)

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canro91 profile image
Cesar Aguirre

I wish I'd known this before...Totally agree on your first point: during the interview process we have to communicate to different people who speak different languages: recruiters, then managers, etc. Great post!

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta Author

Yeah, after you go through things a few times you figure it out, but going in thinking they truly know the field and all that can cause some big problems. And getting a job is a big event!