Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Getting around the technical recruiter

Here's advice for everyone that I have used to get around the evil technical recruiting empire.

I'm sure you're already aware, but just in case:

1) Be Smart: At a minimum, the job posting will state we're looking for X,Y,Z and located at City, State . . . google for "software city, state" . . . tweak your googling by adding technologies X,Y,Z or those related. Yes, you'll return a great deal of listings, but it's WORTH the work to work around them and I guarantee you'll be able to narrow down to the company (if not, you'll definitely narrow down other opportunties as well).
2) If the job posting contains industrial relations (ie, "medical software" or "financial industry"), obviously tweak your googling appropriately.
3) Go to the technical recruiters website ... many times, the scum will advertise they have worked with firms X,Y,Z . . . couldn't get any easier than that, eh?  :)
4) Please, add to this thread your own advice!

Do your best to NOT contribute to this blood sucking industry any longer . . . if you're currently employed, recommend they do NOT hire the services of recruiting firms. Volunteer your time to screen candidates. . . anything other than dealing w/ the scum.  ;)

And, if you are a technical recruiter, please do flame this thread . . . I'm ready for a fight!

Steve
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Alternative approach:

Start a recruiting type company, but instead, focus on the programmer as the client, rather than the employers.

In other words, like a talent agency, it would be for helping the software guys manage their career. Only top-notch, hard-core developers would be accepted as clients of the firm.

To the software guys, the value added is that the firm keeps in touch with them and stays well acquainted with their specific goals, skills, etc - and works with them to help them keep their careers on track, build goals, provide professional advice etc. At the same time, they are there for them when they feel like a change. The firm also acts as an advocate for the client.

Companies wanting to hire affiliated software developers would contact the firm and IFF a suitable match exists, that fits with a client's career goals, then perhaps some discussion might take place.

Hiring developers this way would be very expensive compared to normal recuriting shops and I'm not convinced the hypothetical firm would do enough volume to stay in business... but we can all dream, right?

PS: And yes, I know this is isn't a particularly original idea, since such concepts were discussed at the height of the .con boom. But I never really saw any serious focus on the top talent.

Burninator
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

> Start a recruiting type company, but instead, focus on the programmer as the client, rather than the employers.

So the programmer, not the employer, would pay the recruiter?

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Burninator, I have only one response to your idea:


SHOW ME THE MONEY!

I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!

pds
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

> start a recruiting company ... around the client.


This has already been done, about five years ago. Can't remember the name of the firm.

Tell you something?

Karl Perry
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

> Only top-notch, hard-core developers would be accepted as clients of the firm.

You'll have to qualify this (which I guess if you are a business man--this would be easy). Unfortunately chances are current recruitment firms already do this. They probably won't take your files seriously unless you look really good on paper, they can afford to take equal care of all clients on file.

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Middlemen almost always make as their clients whomever has the money in a transaction. Trying to create a business around a supply of a commodity that has only a weak salability is not realistic.

The idea of a "boutique consultancy run fairly by actual technical people, not shallow marketing droids" is VERY old. Every programmer who gets resentful about the fact that sales people control the playing field gets this idea. It takes a while to grow out of.

And you do have to get out and sell something. A bunch of programmers saying "yeah! down with recruiters, they're arrogant pricks" sounds real good (and is pretty much true). But it is basically a bunch of programmers waiting for someone to pay for something.

Ain't gonna happen.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Yeah - I figured it had been done before and couldn't make any money.

But we can all dream, right?!

Burninator
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Burninator, one thing I've experienced is that recruiters fill the role of "outsourced HR manager" for many companies. The following may read like a ramble, but stay with it. It also addresses the original poster's question, how to get around the recruiter.

Basically, instead of the client sticking the cattle prod up your ass during the selection and hiring process, it's the agency recruiter. I've seen marketing blurbs for recruiters (the audience being the client company) that point out that a particular recruiter excels at "controlling candidates". Now, what is "control"? Basically, it's any means that can be used to make sure that the candidate does what the client and the recruiter deems necessary. Basically, manipulation.

Every recruiter I've dealt with, bar none, enforces a tenuous grasp on a three party relationship that they add absolutely no lasting value to. So how do they do this? Primarily by downing the self esteem and the self confidence of the candidate.

A recruiter's schtick is generally something along the lines of:

--------

Be grateful I am honoring you by considering you for this job.

Your skills in PQZ are rusty. You do not deserve the salary/rate you thought you would get.

You only have coursework in ABX, and not real life experience. Even though you used YPJ before and I know it is similar, I will not submit you for ABX.

You will fail if you try to look for work on your own. Me and people like me set the playing field, and we have special relationships with our clients to look past people like you.

------

See the pattern? They ALL do this. Even the ones posturing to be the knight on the white horse. And if you were a middleman attempting to make some money off of placing someone far smarter than you, you would manipulate their ego too.

My conclusion: your best "ally" in the job search is a healthy and appropriate self esteem. Period. If you know you "deserve" the job for objective reasons, everything else will fall into place.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Recruiters are like real estate agents. They prey on fear. They know that people need a job to pay the bills, a house to live in. So they feel they can be arseholes because you need them.

People say the recruiter is working for the business as their client, and you're just the necessary evil. I think that's rubbish. The recruiter doesn't care about the company any more than they care about you. All they care about is getting paid. The fact the compnay is paying them means that they act like they're working for them, but really, they don't care if the company gets the right candidate. Any candidate that gets them paid does the trick, doesn't it?

So I think the key to dealing with these people is one of attitude. Don't let them bother you. I know it's hard when there is your livelihood at stake, but you really have to try. After all, it's they who are acting with selfish intentions, so it will be them who have their own karma they've created come back to bite them in the future. Don't envy them. :)

Besides, if you live sensibly, saving a good chunk of the larger than needed to live wage that you most likely earn in the IT industry, you take away their power. You no longer have to have a job to pay the bills tomorrow. You can get one when it comes along. Perhaps that's the real key to dealing with recruiters: to actually plan ahead while you do have a job so that you're not so vulnerable. I see a lot of people who could easily save half or more of their income constantly living from paycheque to paycheque, down to only they money they have in their wallet on payday.

Is it any wonder recruiters have such an easy time generating fear under such circumstances?

Sum Dum Gai
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sum Dum Gai, you explained the situation perfectly in a different way.

What I have against recruiters is that they use negative tactics to control a business relationship, and *all* of them believe their own arrogant condescending bullshit. As they are talking down to you they try to convince you that they are your solution, and if they can't help you, then you are a loser and it is not their problem.

A recruiter is to your self-esteem as a magnet is to a floppy disk. Incompatible. Avoid.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I've been reading the comments on the thread with some interest. I wondered what you guys might think of the other extreme:

I've recruiters more than once tell me that 'you're just perfect for this' and suggest that I might *just* be the second coming... but then never get back to me and pretend I was never born.

I would guess this is manipulation too, to make one focus on the position being offered at the expense of other recruiters' possibilities.

Joel Goodwin
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

>>  this is manipulation too, to make one focus on the position being offered at the expense of other recruiters' possibilities.

Recruiters that are describing positions to the candidate can run the gamut from indifferent to "excited" and "proactive" as you describe. So, when a recruiter has gotten unduly "positive" with me, I figure that something is not right.

Again, I have found that this is a deliberate manipulation - it's the recruiter "control" of the candidate. Sidelining you with a distraction and a supposed sure thing. I've wasted weeks as a result of this gambit.

In return, a candidate needs to practice "fire and motion" and keep moving and ignore the flattery.

Money (a real offer) talks and bullshit (anything a recruiter says) walks.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I'm between jobs, having just gotten my PhD and currently searching for a proper postdoctoral position, and all I want is to work some temporary post in the meantime.  I don't live very large, and although I live in an expensive college town I could quite easily pay my bills off of a $10/hour fulltime job, although I would be happy to work at something ambitious.  Naturally I figured that a temp agency would be the best thing, but all I've gotten is rudeness, arrogance, insults, and manipulation of the sort you guys are describing.  So far I've applied to three temp agencies in town.  Results have been disappointing - it's been 6 weeks so far, and not so much as a day's work scrubbing toilets has come out of it. 

The first agent was pleased to spend half an hour with me discussing possible job openings he would submit me for - and that was the last time he's condescended to spend working with me since.  We've had phone conversations which are like pulling teeth to get a word out of him - see, he's a busy man working with other applicants all day - and he keeps throwing up my own words in my face with a smug tone in his voice, seemingly proud to not be able to find me work.  Oh, I've got a PhD, and I'm not planning to be in town for more than a year, and that screws everything up.  See, his clients MIGHT want to take an employee permanent and he can't even take the slight risk of giving them anyone who isn't fully committed - now if I'd said I'd be in town for a couple years, he might be able to get me a 2 month position somewhere, but now he can't trust me to be reliable enough for that.  His tone of voice carries a sneer, an ugly undertone of someone who doesn't like stuck-up college boys and considers me to be one of them, implying that he'd sooner leave a job shoveling turds unfilled than risk his reputation by submitting me for it.  And he certainly can't waste his time or his confidentiality (it's all secret, the clients insist, don't I know?) by letting me come and look through job postings with him again.

More crap at another agency the first time I showed up - despite that I had a prior appointment, the recruiter refused to even speak to me unless I spent the next 90 minutes (as estimated by the desk girl) filling out an inch-thick pile of stupid forms I'd been previously given.  He shouted at me rudely for about 20 seconds, crumpled my resume up and shoved it back into my hands, and strode off proudly ignoring me as I asked him to wait.  This left me alone with his receptionist who cringed as if I was about to start smashing up the office or rushing after Mr. Suit ready to slug the fucker.  I think she has to deal with that a lot - riled clients who are ready to deck Mr. Suit, and then this girl gets to try to soothe them down.  Couldn't they just get a less assholey recruiter?  I managed to leave without making a scene, though, I'm a gentleman after all, not like the smug bastard who has a job while I don't and gets to treat me like dirt because of it.

Another temp office - really part of my former University - treated me with a bit more courtesy, and after three weeks somehow managed to call me in for interview and typing tests (on which I did well, how strange) and told me I'd be interviewing for a $11/hour fulltime position that would basically be the answer to all my immediate problems.  That was two weeks ago, the position was "withdrawn" or so I'm told now, after playing phone tag extensively just to get a word back.

Yeah, these recruiters must think that it's good business to deliberately humiliate their candidates and to be assholes. 

The sick part is that my friend is a trucker, between jobs now, and his agency finds him usually 35-50 hours of work a week and doesn't treat him like this. I guess you don't fuck with truckers, but it's alright to treat techies like dogshit.  Less risk of a tire iron knocking out teeth, right?  Maybe we just need a less wimpy reputation, maybe that's the only answer.  I mean, starting a programmer or techie or science-centric agency is a good idea in principle - but sales folk will have to be hired, they'll realize just what they can get away with, and it'll become just like all the other agencies.  The "competancy tests" suggested above will just become yet another ritual humiliation - failure on any small segment will be rubbed in gleefully, while success will be followed by promises of immediate interviews and weeks of stony silence.  And every time unemployement goes up a little, the recruiters will realize that they can abuse most of their inoming programmers without adversely affecting their business at all - will do this with the hope that those who take it with a smile will work for the cheapest price - will build up a backlog of long-term unemployed techies who will work for starvation wages just to feel productive - and, being salesdroids, will happily lie to their supposed 'programmer' bosses without any guilt or difficulty about what they're doing.  If this agency does succeed, it will either become just like the existing agencies - or be bought out by one.

Trollumination
Thursday, March 11, 2004

You're a better man than I am, Trollumination. I would have yelled blue goddamn murder if someone treated me the way that recruiter treated you (shoving the resume back into your hands). It's very hard to get me riled up, but that would have been seriously, seriously provocative; behaviour like that isn't acceptable and in my view, it's perfectly reasonable to take immediate steps to ensure that such behaviour is never, ever repeated.

burninator
Thursday, March 11, 2004

burninator,

your "top-notch programmers agency" idea won't work simply because a happy programmer-star doesn't change jobs as often as good companies hire people. In addition, companies as clients have greater spending power.

Lets say you expect a $85 000 revenue per recruiter per year. Lets say a good company hires 2 candidates per year and you get 20% (something like $12 000 in $$$ equivalent) of first yearly salary for every successfully placed candidate. You will need only 7-8 such companies per recruiter.

Then lets assume a happy programmer would change a job once in three years (if not much less often) and is willing to pay at most $2000 for his successful placement. It makes more than 128 programmers per recruiter to meet the revenue requirements, moreover administration costs are much higher.

Vlad Gudim
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I've made the mistake of being more than a little bit naive and letting a recruiter do some looking for me for positions at Lilly.  Big shock, it hasn't panned out.  She tells me that she thinks I'd be a good match for a position and could she just get a little more information so they can decide soon...then nothing - I don't hear from her for way too long, so I call or email, and "Oh, that went to another candidate."  So I search the recruiter's website, and amazingly, the position is still listed - in fact, there are three openings for the same position listed.  There's even another position listed that I would be a better fit for than the one she presented to me.  I apply to them online and send her an email about it.  I get back a pretty panicked email from her the next day asking if I could call her to make sure she can present me for the positions properly.

Man, what a total waste of time.  Recruiters seem to be yet another buffer layer between the person wanting the job and the person doing the hiring - along with receptionists, HR, and personal assistants.  I don't want to slam receptionists, because for god's sake don't you dare replace them with yet another frickin machine that makes me run through a maze of buttons that you can't back up in, but HR people are useless when it comes to figuring out who should be doing what job, in my experience.  Personal assistants only serve to keep people out of their boss' office, so from the boss' perspective they are worth their cash, but to someone looking for a job they are just a pain in the ass.

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, March 11, 2004

> Recruiters seem to be yet another buffer layer between the person wanting the job and the person doing the hiring

Actually I think you mean "bluffer layer". The number I have encountered who have anything vaguely resembling a clue is very small.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

The best way to get jobs in our industry is through our peers. Period. Exclamation point!

What we need is a site, ala this one, where people like us can say "I'm a java guy avail in Central NJ", and someone can say "We've got a java opening".  Etc.

Problem is, no one will participate in it until THEY need a job. 

If you're a technical employee and you refer a hire you might get a referral fee of $1K to $3K, hardly worth your time.  But if you're a vacuous sub-human recruiter and you place a $90K/year developer, you might walk away with $20K-$45K. 

Ken Klose
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Not so much an IJustHeard.com as a ICanDoThatGizzaJob.com, you mean?

Though it seems IJH is also taking please for jobs...
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Damn, some of you guys hate recruiters even more than I do. Which I have no problem with.

Trollumination, you said:

>> The sick part is that my friend is a trucker, between jobs now, and his agency finds him usually 35-50 hours of work a week and doesn't treat him like this. I guess you don't fuck with truckers, but it's alright to treat techies like dogshit.

This got me thinking. Maybe part of the problem is that recruiters mirror the elitist tendencies of our industry. The attitude being that if you're not "in" or not k3wl, you're sh*t.

The snotty, passive-aggressive, condescending treatment you guys are describing comes sometimes from some techies and managers who work in IT or IT related job roles who are vetting candidates.

I recall calling a small company advertising for programmers back in the early 90s. The guy that I talked with was some head geek there. He was dripping with condescension. It was like I was the lowliest of the low, he would say or promise nothing, I was ooooobbbviously untalented because I did not have his job. The guy deserved a longneck beer bottle smashed in the middle of his face, followed by a really good asskicking.

So, while technical recruiters (and most of the temporary staffing industry) do tend to be scum, don't ignore the field they're working with. We - our culture as programmers and IT people - may be partially to blame.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Recruiters seem ruder and ruder the less and less jobs they have available.

I've always had more success by finding companies that I want to work for and approaching them direct.  I've moved three times, and each time this has been successful.

I also know a recruiter (for another industry).  Nice person, she never intended to be a recruiter, it was just a position she applied for.

Standard procedure beginning the 'relationship' with a agency: ask you about all your current applications.  Will question whose side you think they are on if you hold back anything.  But basically, if you go get those jobs without them they won't get any commission; so they will follow up the jobs you are applying for by approaching those companies with their 'services' and portfolio.  That way they hope to get the commission for those jobs, whilst stopping you getting a job so that the job you do get is through them and they get commissions then too...

i like i
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Here are 3 classic moves from the recruiter's playbook.  Can be used seperately but usually combined.

1. The Pump Up
"An associate of yours that I'm currently representing told me I should contact you about this opening."  This person got your name either off the web or milked it from someone you barely know.  When you ask who, he/she declines due to company privacy policies.  Most times this person doesn't actually exist but makes you feel like a rock star and that people are whispering great things about you behind your back.  Every human wants that.

2. The Correction
After you tell him/her a few places you've worked, the recruiter picks your last place of employment and tosses out the bait as, "Ahhh... XYZ Corp.  Is Paul Smith still the Dev Mgr there?"  There is no such person as Paul Smith.  You feel it's your duty to correct him and say, "Uhh, no actually it is Jack Jones."  As he scribbles down this info he apologizes for confusing it with another place.  The next day he calls Jack Jones and repeats step #1 above.

3. The 2-for-1 Special
Once he determines that you're serious about leaving your current place, he finds out who your manager is.  Typically through using #2 above on someone else.  Then the next day he calls your manager for a simple introduction and explains if he can ever be of service, etc.  While he is trying to find you a new position, he is also priming the pump with 3-4 other folks that he'll pitch to the manager once you have left.  Typically it will be another "just checking in" call when he learns from the manager that there is now an opening.  He acts surprised and quickly offers his 3-4 candidates to make a quick replacement.

Gator
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Here's an example of the 2-for-1 Special. In advertising agencies, people typically work in pairs of writer and art director. One day a writer contacted a recruiter looking a new art director to work with him.

The recruiter said she would get straight onto it.

Then she rang the writer's boss and said she didn't have an art director, but did have a writer/art director team that was available. So the ad agency sacked the writer and hired the team.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Well ! Well ! talk about piss and vinegar.
It seems to me that all you folks who respond here have had bad experiences w/ recruiters. And that is unfortunate, but that does not mean we are all bad.
You have a bad exp. at a restaurant, does that equate to all restaurants being bad.
You folks need to shake your heads. Yes MY industry is full of bad folks, but how about yours. I have seen plenty of people who claim to be the next coming of Christ and don't have a clue. They think that by throwing shit against the wall it MIGHT stick. I have dealt w/ candidates who lie about their past. Are not forthcoming into telling the truth, "why did you leave your last job?", response " I was on contract and finished" . I turn around and do reference checks and find out the person was an idiot who has no people skills, or lied about his true abilities, was fired/terminated for one reason or another. How about the people who embelish resumes. Seen lots of those. Did the recruiter do wrong. I think not. I will not be made to look like an idiot because I put my name, and integrity on the line, and am not going to lose credibility for anyones sake but my own.
I agree there are things wrong with the recruitment industry, but you folks are the minority, thank GOD not the majority.
I get paid to provide my clients,(both client and candidate), with the best possible fit. To me I do not do this just for the money. I get my satisfaction from doing a good job, from hearing a candidate thank me for assisting them finding this opp., a client thanking me for finding them this person. Yes I get paid. Don't you?
Maybe some of you folks need to get a reality check, and look at yourselves, instead of pointing fingers at others. I think it is a crock if you blame someone else for your deficiencies and inability to find something.
As well, companies do not just hire you because your resume is pretty. With such a large surplus of "qualified " individuals available, the enduser has the right to be as selective as they choose. Again, something you blame recruiters for. Just for your FYI, recruiters get paid using one of three models, 1) contingency: we get pd only if client hires candidate, we put hours of work into the process and then cross our fingers hoping our person is best. 2) Exclusive: clients give us the opp. to fill exclusively for a limited time, they sometimes pay a portion of the fee up front and balance upon completion of "your probation", but most times follow the same model as "contingency". If  3) Retainer:The client and the recruiter come to a fixed price for finding the right person. The client does not want dozens of resumes, they expect 1 maybe 2 at most. they expect you to do the best job. They pay a portion of the fee upfront and again one waits until the "candidates" provbation is done to be paid the balance.
I don't get paid thousands of dollars to submit "unqualified" people. If a client says they want "X", they expect "X". Do not cry when after an initial review you are not chosen. Suck it up ! You are not the only one. I sometimes review and speak with dozens of people in order to find the one.
Last but not least, all you naysayers, did you find a job? Maybe instead of pissing and moaning about how bad the recruiters are you should use that energy and get a job.
Just because you think you can do a job, does not automatically get you a job. Get used to it.
In this age, it is more than just your "technical skills, or education" that gets you the job. Cultural fit, behavioral expectations, and numerous other requirements come into play. All put forward by HR departments. Wanna piss and moan, maybe you should complain about them.

A DAMN GOOD RECRUITER and PROUD of it.

the recruiter !!!!
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home