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What One Recruiter Really Thinks of Techies...

This is a posting by a self described agency technical recruiter to a message board that is used by IT contractors.


This post is in response to a thread that was begun about ways to 'disintermediate', that is, to find contract work or jobs directly with clients instead of using agencies.


http://pub21.ezboard.com/fopenitforumfrm9.showMessage?topicID=392.topic&index=24


I'm not advising joining in the flame war. But the next time you get a call from a headhunter, be advised that SOME of them really do feel this way.

Fly on the wall
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Sounds like a guy who's tired of the abuse.  Wrote a little post to get it out of his system, no harm done.  There's a few good recruiters and a whole lotta bad ones.  Same with programmers -- a whole lot of bad ones, and allah forbid you work with them.  Ever been on Slashdot and get tired of those bullshitters who repeat the same dogma?  They don't represent opensource, and it's a catharsis to tell them off.

anon
Saturday, March 22, 2003

That rant was directed at the open IT forum.

I think he's right on the money about those guys.


Saturday, March 22, 2003

So Bella's got a brother!

The guy might be a troll, but he's got a fair point. Programmers should code and recruiters recruit; nobody ever worked out why all writers, film stars and sportsmen have agents?

And as for people being embittered, well, when I'm depressed I go over and have a look at Netslaves; there's nothing guaranteed to cheer me up more than others' misery, particularly when the types who are miserable seem so thoroughly to deserve it.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, March 22, 2003

The poster sounds smart and observant to me. I think he nailed it.

Troy King
Saturday, March 22, 2003

I really, really hate people who stereotype and are successful nonetheless.

"You guys have no business sense." Uh-huh. I'm assuming "you guys" means techies? So was he referring to Michael Dell or Bill Gates? Maybe he meant Jeff Bezos?

Each person is a shopping bag of skills and talents. Often times having one strong talent indicates a lack in other areas because of the effort required to maintain that talent (I'm sure the average Olympic gymnast isn't a "business person" either). But you cannot categorically say the presence of one talent indicates the complete absence of another. After all, the term "renaissance man" exists for a reason.

Also be careful of the lawnmower handle effect...
A boy was riding in his father's car when he asked "Dad, how come they don't make lawnmowers with folding handles?"
"What makes you think they don't, son?"
"I keep seeing cars drive by with lawnmower handles sticking out"
"Ah. And how many cars have you seen drive by with lawnmowers folded in the trunk?"

The moral: When one type of attribute is visible while the other isn't, we tend to overestimate the prevelance of the visible attribute.

In the current case our beloved recruiter is laughing about techies being business morons based on the ones that come to him for jobs.

But how does he know how many techies *with* business acumen are ignoring him because they're working?

My final observation - he sounds like a snot-nosed college boy (even if he's in his 30's) that simply wants to believe himself superior and does so by putting down those he envies.

He has not lost sight of the fact that he is brokering the talent people *really* want. And he doesn't like it.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, March 22, 2003

The guy is as ignorant of some business basics as those he condemns. I'm not in a position to elaborate at the moment.

While complaints about recruiters are often poorly presented, they do have a solid basis.

Recruiters are just middle men; they don't create jobs; they just insert themselves into the job availability / job application process so as to extract a commission.  They do add some value, but nowhere near as much as what they charge.

To sustain their artificially high commission, they need to and insist on rigorous control of the process, particularly relating to information.

On the comparison with agents for actors and sportsmen, there is a big difference. Those agents generate very large end payments for the actors and sportsmen - much larger than the actor or sportsman would obtain otherwise - so the actor or agent is happy to pay a significant commission.

However for programmers, the pay is no greater than would be obtained by working directly for the employer, and in fact is less. For programmers, the game is a win-lose.

Note also that sportsmen and actors know exactly how much they're paying the agent, and make that decision.


Saturday, March 22, 2003

Im an IT chappie, but frankly I think I preferred what mike had to say over the response of the childish bums who responded to him.

never needed to use a recruiter
Saturday, March 22, 2003

I think Philo explained this person better than anyone here, except that this guy is not really the picture of entrepreneurial success.

On the response this guy garnered with his posting, I wish someone here would give give the Open IT participants some credit for having a constructive discussion on ways to market directly to companies ... that was diverted by a loudmouthed and egotistical a-hole 'setting everyone straight'.

Really pretty damned dense of some of you  to not support your own kind and to not take into account just who was intruding and who was having a 'meeting'...  I think if someone elbowed their way into your house and invited themselves to your party and then started telling off color jokes, they would deserve a bad reaction too.

I think it's an accurate generalization that recruiters are often untrustworthy, status grubbing materialists.  A tech writer friend worked for one of these "solution providers" a few years ago (in '99) and was getting a LOT of grief (pressure and snide comments from sales borks that worked in the place) over his declasse' mid 90s domestic sedan...

Fly on the Wall
Saturday, March 22, 2003

I'll take the conversation a step further in the wrong direction and say that any recruiter i've ever dealt with has been a guido from long island who went to nassau county community college and is now cold calling in an attempt to make it big without having to learn a useful skill. Think of the movie "Boiler Room" but shift contexts a bit. In silicon valley, the recruiters were all dizzy girls with psych degrees from Cal State Hayward.  In either case we are talking about people who make $50,000 a year and also drive $50,000 cars. These aren't people who care about your career, and don't really care about their own careers, either...they just care about making easy money and spending it as quickly as possible.

chunks
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Recruiters do have a usefull skill, they are willing to make those 300 cold calls a day to find somone a job, something most programmers are not willing to do themselves, if they did recruiters would not exist.

Now as far as their commissions, I think the market dictates that also, I bet they have come down a lot (20% was normal) since the dotcom days.

Also don't forget that the reason salaries got so high in the first place is recruiters would constanly move people around, driving up salaries

Daniel Shchyokin
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Mr. LasVegas' post is very interesting, but he never tells us why recruiters do the job they do. In this poor economy do recruiters really do that well?

Mark B.
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Daniel, you've got it wrong. Recruiters don't make 300 calls a day to "find someone a job." They do it to STOP programmers finding a job directly, and ensure THEY intercept the job and can then market it, collecting their commission on the way.

If there were no recruiters, the jobs would still be there, and programmers would still get them.

As to commissions, 20 percent is low. Recruiters were able to pocket much higher commissions, sometimes far exceeding the amounts paid to programmers. This was one reason H1-B's were so attractive, by the way, for certain classes of recruiter. This also is why recruiters earned salaries of $300,000 and above during the dot com days.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

"Really pretty damned dense of some of you  to not support your own kind"
my own kind?  call me a fuckwit but I dont consider spoilt, childish IT people 'my own kind'.  I like to pretend I belong to a group composed of at least vaguely well-behaved and polite individuals who behave politely right up until it becomes necessary to not behave politely.

"and to not take into account just who was intruding and who was having a 'meeting'...  I think if someone elbowed their way into your house and invited themselves to your party and then started telling off color jokes, they would deserve a bad reaction too."

<g> Im not entirely convinced that a public forum can be compared to my personal place of rest....but if so then I refer you to my first point.

never needed to use a recruiter
Sunday, March 23, 2003

Philo, the "you guys" are the people who are posting to that forum, in particular the main thread. I didn't see Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos there; perhaps they're using a handle.

What is the difference between the attitude of the guys in the thread

"We'll start a recruitment agency. We don't have any customers but we've got a load of programmers so we'll get a web site going and then we'll hire some sales-monkeys to do the job."

and the attitude people on this forum are always complaining about

"We'll start a software company. We don't have any customers but we've got a load of salesmen so we'll get a web site going and then we'll hire some code-monkeys to do the job."

Stephen Jones
Sunday, March 23, 2003

I'm not convinced of the intelligence of that recruiter after he posted his own cell phone number in "retaliation" a few posts down...

ODN
Sunday, March 23, 2003

The recruiter in that thread seems to be an independent broker (owns his own company). I tend to have more respect for these type of individuals than I do for the ones who work for someone else.

My experience is that most companies that call themselves consulting firms are nothing more than body shops. They don't seem to offer much in terms of service to either their clients or the technical workers they employ.

I noticed that EDS canned their CEO Dick Brown the other day. Supposedly he earned close to 50 million dollars last year and was given a 37 million dollar severance pay package.  Anyone who believes that most staffing firms only take 20% of the billing rate, must be on crack.

One Programmer's Opinion
Sunday, March 23, 2003

Stephen, I agree it is naive for programmers seeking to stop getting screwed to expect to do this by starting their own recruitment firm. That's not how it works.

However the basis for their anger is valid. It's just they need to reconsider how to be independent, and also consider much deeper issues about the structure of this industry.

Your point about their approach being the same as dumb business guys is valid. However their expression of the solution is not a valid one. If they expressed the solution properly, it would not fall foul of the problem you raise.

In a way, the point you make actually supports their case and their anger. To a greater extent than, I think, any other professional occupation, programming is one where many other people profit by screwing the professional people. That is, by screwing the people who have the talent and have made the investment in training.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

I have never consulted through an agency.  Do they basically try to get the highest bill rate from the client, and. in turn,  pay the lowest rate to the contractor, in essence maximinzing the "spread"?

I expect there to be some level of optimizing of the grey areas.  ie: Agency needs pay as little as possible, while still maximizing the quality of staff they send the client, so as not to jeopardize other potential placements.  ie: Collect $100/hr from client, but rather send over a $75/hr guru, as opposed to a $65 neophyte.  Trying to save that extra $10/hr would be "penny wise", as you may ruin the relationship with the client, if they sense the agency is trying to pocket as much as possible, at the expense of sending over decent talent. 

What kind of business/economic/MBA term/phenomena am I trying to describe in the above scenario?  "Maximizing"?  "Optimizing"?  "Trade off"?  "2 variable optimizing"?   

Bella
Sunday, March 23, 2003

To anyone who is angry about recruiter "gouging", I say don't use them.  Problem solved.  No one says you need to use them.  They provide a service, perhaps overpriced in your eyes..  If you choose to do the work they find for you, you are agreeing to PAY them a cut.  Like an agent.  If you think their "fee" is too high, then don't use their services, and find work on your own.    You can pay $6 for a cup of Starbucks coffee, or you can brew your own cup for 25c.  It's all up to you. 

In a free market, there is no "right" fee or cut or "too high" or gouging.  They can charge whatever they feel like it.  If 20% or 50% or whatever is unfair or too high, then market forces will force them to adjust.  As long as there is someone who agrees to the terms, then that is what the market forces dictate as "fair market value"..  If they are able to operate at the rates they have set, then it is YOU who is out of line with market forces and rates, b/c someone out there is willing to work under their terms.  That really is the bottom line.

Bella
Sunday, March 23, 2003

I once met with a very good recruiter (Thinknicity, nee Trilogy IT in SF) and their business model was clear.  The fee was absurd for someone who didn't need them, but for the double-coincidence of clueless job seeker + clueless business, it seemed vaguely useful.

The point that recuiters serve as gatekeepers, was not well made.  Only an idiot company would sign an exclusive hiring deal with these guys.  And if a company is completely unwilling to do the work of grepping through resumes when there's a job opening, then what's wrong when there's extra weight given to a recruiter's candidate?  These companies aren't rational hirers anyway.

Mike was flaming a bunch of guys who thought nothing of calling him bin Laden.  Seemed evenhanded and fair, from where I stand.

Tj
Sunday, March 23, 2003

Programmers are anything but the most exploited professionals around.

Go to any maids agency in the States and they'll probably charge you about $25 an hour for the maid's time. The maid will be lucky to get $7 an hour. The States is not the worst place in the world for this.

Go to Berlitz or Wall Street, or Inlingua to learn a foreign language and you'll find that the organization is probably paying 30% of income to your teacher.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, March 23, 2003

As one recruiter friend of mine said- "you get paid what you negotiate not what you are worth".  I am not saying that is they way it should be, but that is the way it is.

Incidently, someone mentioned "dizzy psyche majors" in either this or the other board threads, there is good reason for this (think hall-kinion in SF). Attractive women are intimidating to a lot of techies to begin with, and if they can find a woman that is bad at math to begin with (or more commonly can pretend to be), it is that much harder to negotiate a fair price

Daniel Shchyokin
Sunday, March 23, 2003

No, it is not just a matter of "negotiating your worth." Recruiters actively work to control the market, placing candidates at significant disadvantage in negotiating.

If real estate agents tried to charge 30 or 70 percent for selling your house, they would be locked up. Even better, no-one would use them.

Recruiters are able to charge these rates partly because they insist on hiding the rate of pay from the worker. The financial sums involved are equivalent over the course of a few years.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

Bella, yes, you're correct. Recruiting is a business where recruiters try to maximise the rate paid by the employer and actively minimise the amount they pay to the worker, including lying through their teeth.

Standard business, really, but so many candidates don't understand how it works.

A professional person might think the recruiter would be careful about putting forward the "$75" guy instead of the cheaper guy, but it actually works the other way around. The cheaper guy delivers higher profits. Most managements can't tell the difference anyway.

One reason the H1-B program attracted a lot of angst is that there were firms who were essentially recruiters, but maintained they were "consulting" firms, and hired Indian guys on $40,000 per year, yet farmed them out in the general contracting market. Needless to say, those recruiters made a killing.

Also, there are many large companies now that do exclusuive deals with large recruiters with strict lock-down prices. The recruiting firm gets all the work, but to make any profit, they have to place really cheap people.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

the clients (usually big companies) choose recruiters because it's easier to bill to one place, and have the recruiter schedule interviews. For the most part techies are a commoditiy because companies are not doing anything new or involving thought. Once the economy turns around smart people will have the upper hand.

Fredrik Washington
Sunday, March 23, 2003

I'm amazed at the number of blanket comments made here by anonymous posters about entire industries.  Some of you are painting with incredibly broad brushes.  While we're at it, do you want to make any sweeping generalizations about women?

Sure, lots of recruiters are just trying to maximize the amount of money they take home, without regard to the people they're recruiting.  But they're not all that way.  I've had positive experiences, too.

Getting back to the point:  I can understand the recruiter's frustration with programmers who aren't acting in a professional manner.  If I had to deal with people whose response to the economic downturn is to complain about recruiters and launch a programming website without getting any business, I'd be fed up too.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, March 24, 2003

Yes Brent I would like to make a sweeping comment on Women. I love them all.

trollbooth
Monday, March 24, 2003

"Getting back to the point:  I can understand the recruiter's frustration with programmers who aren't acting in a professional manner.  If I had to deal with people whose response to the economic downturn is to complain about recruiters and launch a programming website without getting any business, I'd be fed up too."

Brent - I wouldn't. Because I know that I offer concrete value for a reasonable price my motto is "I defy you to compete with me"

If he thinks programmers are inept and unable to raise business on their own then a polite "if you need any help let me know" will do far more for his reputation and business than laughing and mockery (which is the epitome of unprofessionalism)

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 24, 2003

Lots of speculation here, but then we can't really expect recruiters to come forth with their figures on fees received vs. salaries paid to their recruits.  I'd propose that we appoint a spy to infiltrate their industry.

Trouble is, if the spy is inept, he'll never succeed in stealing their information; whereas if he turns out to be a capable recruiter, he may find out the salary vs. actual work ratio is so great that he'll never come back to us.

Kyralessa
Monday, March 24, 2003

One reason I liked Thinknicity was that they were fine about telling me their percentage.  I would never, never like to do business with suppliers/intermediaries who hide financial data from me.  Fine if they NDA me.  Because I will find out eventually.  (Not that I'm financially minded, but because I'm too curious.)  Business relationships are all about trust, and I like to reward trustworthy people longterm, even if that means giving them a lot.  If nothing else, that builds up my support group.

Tj
Monday, March 24, 2003

I worked in Las Vegas for a summer at a tech firm. Man talk about a dried up town to recruit in. I only knew of two tech companies hiring in that town: purchase pro, and Westwood studios (now closed down and sold to EA games). I feel for anyone working IT in that town, even a recruiter. Maybe he recruits for other areas like LA ... who knows.


I have been treated like a bag of meat by some recruiters and worse by others but that is rare. My current employer/recruiter is the most professional group I have ever worked with (AeroTek/TekSystems). People are individuals and some are just jerks so I wont make a broad swipe against all recruiters. Some are good people just trying to make a living like us.

Ian Stallings
Monday, March 24, 2003

Personally, I've found the best way to deal with recruiters is to find a couple of decent ones and regard them as an outsourced sales department.

That is for as long as they stay in the industry. The good ones seem to get dispair and leave with alarming frequency. The crap ones, of course, never ever go away.

The good agents tend to recognise the good techies and are happy to work with us again. I'm just trying to think of some sensible way to get the 1% of that industry together with the 1% of the other industry and try and eliminate some of the crap that comes from doing the filtering.[1]

Somehow I'm sure agents would like to wander over and find a decent candidate that can get a role without posting it on Jobserve and spending the next two days reading CVs from hopeless wannabes.

I know as sure as hell I'd like to wander over and deal with three agents who I know aren't wankers and will actually do some work.[2]


[1] The mythical agents, the fictional job postings, the lied-on CVs etc.

[2] There's this annoying tendency for agents to take a CV, send 9 of them to a client and then... sort of get bored. They're not really value-adding in doing any matching from the client's point of view and from mine they're not closing the sale...

Katie Lucas
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Stephen,

I think your nuts on political issues <g>, but your quote of:

"there's nothing guaranteed to cheer me up more than others' misery, particularly when the types who are miserable seem so thoroughly to deserve it."

brought a big smile to my face. That's sig worthy!

Mark Hoffman
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Brent, how do you know you've had positive experiences? Many people claim special relationships with favourite recruiters, and sometimes to know how much the recruiter is screwing them for, but funnily enough they've never seen the recruiter's contract with the employer, and thus do not really know at all.

Anyone will be nice to you and your best friend if you're earning a fortune for them.


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

>> Anyone will be nice to you and your best friend if you're earning a fortune for them.


The converse is true too. When you are experienced enough to know how the game is played, you have a general idea of bill rates, and you expect to be treated as a business partner and not as an employee surrogate, you can pretty much expect most recruiters to do anything from treating you like dirt to not returning your calls. You aren't as valuable to them and they usually see no value in a relationship with an experienced consultant who will hold out for a good rate. Brokers make the best coin off of newbie contractors who are technologists with entry level negotiation skills.


That's this recruiter's agenda in a nutshell.  Turn EVERYTHING this guy says around if you want the real truth. He wants techies to kiss his ass in gratitude in exchange for finding contracts. This is his multi year pattern and his attitiude.


And he's not alone. If you want more than the default crappy rate and you want to know how the broker adds value, you are pegged as the "bad guy".

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

IMHO the healthy approach to recruiter profits is to Not Care.

If you're getting $50/hr, does it make sense that if the recruiter is billing $55/hr you're happy but if they're billing $150/hr you're not happy? Either way you've got $100k a year in your pocket - all that changes is the mental state.

Know what you're making, be happy with it. If you're not happy with it, seek more. If the recruiter won't renegotiate, look for other employment.

I think this obsession with "how much is the recruiter making" is like the obsession with "how much does the auto dealer make?" Who cares? Are you happy with your purchase? Then be happy and don't worry about it.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Philo wrote, "I think this obsession with "how much is the recruiter making" is like the obsession with "how much does the auto dealer make?" Who cares? Are you happy with your purchase? Then be happy and don't worry about it."

Dude you are naive.

One of the biggest reasons contractors fret about how much a recruiter is making is because client expectations tend to go up when the hourly rate they are paying for a contractor's services is higher than it should be!

When the contractor cannot live up to the unrealistic expectations that have been placed on him he typically gets replaced and blackballed. That is, the client won't consider using him on future projects irregardless of how well suited he might be for the open position!

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, March 26, 2003

>> contractors fret about how much a recruiter is making is because client expectations tend to go up when the hourly rate they are paying for a contractor's services is higher than it should be!

Preach it, brother. This is SO TRUE. But don't expect more than 10% or so of the techies in attendance to get it. And recruiters have the standard party line that states that they add so much special sauce and intangible value that the contractor should absolutely not think about the bill rate to the client. To be taken in by this is to be childishly naive.

For some reason, common sense and blatantly obvious dynamics of power in economic transactions seem to elude most programmers. The average auto plant factory rat has a far more accurate notion of economic exploitation than the average coder ever will.

Nasty Curmudgeon
Wednesday, March 26, 2003

"One of the biggest reasons contractors fret about how much a recruiter is making is because client expectations tend to go up when the hourly rate they are paying for a contractor's services is higher than it should be!"

LOL.

Who's naive here?
What you say should, indeed, be a valid concern. In my experience it absolutely is not. The ONLY concern I hear when looking at the hourly rate delta is "I should be getting more of that." I spend a LOT of time on boards, talking to coworkers, networking, etc. This is the first - the FIRST time I have ever heard the comment "but if the recruiter is charging too much then the client might expect too much of me"

And having just said it that way, I know why - because the average highly-paid programmer will never think they can be billed for more than they're worth. Generally they think that no matter what the client is paying, they're getting a bargain. [grin]

I maintain the concern is the standard human nature "hey, now that I know all the numbers, the salesman made more than I thought he did, and I resent that." And I still say it's healthier to not care what deal the other guy got once the deal is done. If you pay $30k for an Audi, that's a good deal no matter whether the dealer's invoice was $29k or $10k.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, March 27, 2003

A sweeping comment about recruitment agencies: they are scum. Useless, expensive leeches who perform nothing a simple noticeboard couldn't do for 100% less. Let's hope this recession drives them all to the wall.

optimistic coder
Saturday, March 29, 2003

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