A Good Technical Recruiter Is Worth Their Weight In Gold

By Caitlyn Martin
March 4, 2011 | Comments: 11

The economic news today was good: the U.S. unemployment rate is down to 8.9% and hiring is up in the private sector. For those who are looking for an IT position right now there is one thing the improving economy won't help: the sad state of technical recruiting today.

Once upon a time I was working a contract for a well known, large company in the IT field. We had an opening on the team. I was called into my boss' office and asked if I was unhappy. I said no and asked why. A recruiter, without my knowledge or permission, had sent my resume to my boss. Fortunately I had a good relationship with that manager and he believed me when I said I was not looking. I ended up working 15 months on what was originally a six month contract.

I've also run into recruiters who refuse to tell me who a position was with. When I then told the recruiter that I do not want to work with them some became arrogant, insisted that most reputable recruiters work that way (clearly a false statement) and, in general, acted like they were doing me the biggest favor in the world by even being willing to talk to little old me. Thanks but no thanks. I have never permitted my resume to be submitted blindly. If a company receives two resumes from different recruiters for the same candidate the usual result is that both end up in the waste basket. I certainly didn't want a resume sent where I was already in the interview process. How clueless would that have made me look?

Then there are cases like the one I wrote about back in 2007. I've also had recruiters call who are clearly overseas who do not know that Washington D.C. is not within commuting distance of Raleigh. There are countless resume mills who just pass things on without doing any work to present the candidate. There are way too many who simply do not understand the technology they are recruiting for, match some random keyword and call or write about positions that simply do not match what the candidate does at all.

A good recruiter, one who develops a personal relationship with both hiring managers and candidates, is worth their weight in gold. Why? Sadly such recruiters are increasingly few and far between. I am very happy that I am running and building a small business rather than hunting for employment.

The funny thing is that I wanted to write this when I was looking. I wanted to vent my very real frustrations at the time but I was afraid of insulting the recruiting community. Now, thankfully, I don't have to worry about that. Honestly, the only recruiters who should be insulted are the clueless ones who, sadly, seem to be the majority.

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with apologies to Steven Wright (re: attorneys), 95% of recruiters make the rest look bad.

Sadly, Al, I think you have that percentage about right. 95% of recruiters nowadays range from worthless to actually doing harm. The remaining 5%, those who have real contacts with hiring managers and who understand the technologies they recruit for, can be an invaluable resource for someone looking for a new job.

My advice today is to only deal with recruiters who are recommended. Use networking (i.e.: LinkedIn) to find the good ones. Use job boards like DICE to find positions and apply directly to companies, not through recruiters, whenever possible. I certainly would not post my resume to the boards and wait for recruiters to come to me. That worked in the mid '90s. Today I fear it would do more harm than good.

Well, my post is almost out of subject (I found French recruiters agressive, too, but it is one man's experience) as I notice :
* you changed your job, which is time consuming at the beginning
* you found time to blog again, and I was therefore glad you were in good health ...

I just wish you a very good year, and am very thankful for all the aspects of GNU linux (and of the US economy, which seem good) I (and many others, IMO) learnt from you.

You misunderstood me. I did not change my job. I am still running my consulting business which is doing quite well right now. What did change last fall is that I added new customers which took my business to the next level.

Anyway, yes, I am doing well and I appreciate your good wishes.

Sure, some recruiters are not at the level you might expect but then most candidates aren't either. As a recruiter you don't want to present anyone to your client that's going to tarnish your hard-earned reputation. Too often, the recruiter works diligently to schedule interviews and sell their candidate only to have the candidate fail to show for the interview either because they found something else and didn't bother to mention it or perhaps they're not as qualified as they pretend to be. Either way this is lost time for the recruiter. Sorry but the customer (candidate in this case) isn't always right. Am I a recruiter? No - but my wife is. If she wasn't so busy finding technical people jobs she might have time to comment on your blog.

Your comment is completely besides the point. Sure there are unqualified candidates and there are people in the job market who lack basic courtesy. What does that have to do with the unfortunate fact that, in recent years, the vast majority of recruiters are either incompetent or unethical? I finally wrote this after participating in a discussion on LinkedIn where job seekers are being advised not to post to job boards and not to trust just any recruiter with their resume precisely because there are so many unethical and/or incompetent recruiters out there. It isn't just me who sees this.

You assume I am writing from the candidate perspective. Right now I am a small business owner so I write from the business/hiring manager perspective as well. I also only touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg in this article. I could have mentioned recruiters who can't write a coherent sentence and try to sell candidates or companies using broken mangled English. I could have also mentioned those who cannot even pronounce the name of their "direct client" or "exclusive client". How can so many recruiters and headhunting companies all have the same "exclusive" client at the same time? Could it be that the client isn't exclusive at all? Could it be that they are simply lying?

As if on cue a recruiter wrote me shortly after I posted this. I'm not on the market, mind you, so he had to make some effort to go through LinkedIn profiles or websites to find me. He clearly did a keyword search on Linux and Linux appears on my resume so I got a nice e-mail looking for a kernel engineer, something I am utterly unqualified to do and which does not appear in any way, shape or form on any profile or resume of mine. You were saying...

If your wife is one of the relative handful of qualified, competent recruiters then she is probably worth her weight in gold and then some. We need more like that. A defense of recruiters on the whole made up of simply an attack on candidates won't fly here, sorry.

Personally, I'd just like to meet one recruiter who understands the seemingly obvious fact that a bachelor's degree in computer science is BETTER than a certification in IT. It would also be nice to find one that doesn't immediately assume you know absolutely nothing about Windows once you say anything about Linux.

I'm not sure how much a degree is worth to be honest. For certifications it depends entirely on which cert. Some are pretty easy to get and some really require a lot of experience and hands on knowledge. For someone like me who has been in the field for 30 years a degree is almost meaningless because the technology has changed so very much. IMHO the emphasis on a degree over real world experience is problematic and does not get an employer the best candidates.

This article is simply so true, and not just for technical recruiters. Recruiters in general.

I have always asked myself the same question: How can tens of recruiters advertize for the same role for the same company, and how can those job seekers makes sure that they are using a trusted recruiter?

I really don't know how employers are able to go through the selection process having so many recruiters working for them with, more than often, the same candidates.

I don't agree with your principal opinion.
I think we have not enough data to draw a statistic about good and bad recruiters.
Your perception is that there are more cows than bulls. Ok, have you thought that it may depends on the fact that you saw more cows than bulls?

Let's see the problem from another point of view: why are bad recruiters engaded? Because they are cheeper.
I'm with you when you say that sending cv blindly to customers is an awful, unprofessional practice.
In Italy this was used by "temping agencies", and nowadays it's less used (but in auge anyway).

Is there a possibility to stop this practice? No, because people searching for a job really don't care "how", but "how much". Companies doesn't care who, when, why they get profiles, but how much they pay for it. The cheeper is the better. So, it's an economic issue (in my vision).

I really agree with you reverting the argomentation: Why is wiser to hire qualified recruiters? Because a well done job save you time and money.
And this is true for everybody.
Is it frustrating to go throug a selection with a bad recruiter? Yes, it is. I think we all have stories about it. What we can do? I don't know. Last time it happened to me I explicity prohibited that company to use, handle, keed my personal data and warn them not to contact me anymore.

Overally I really appreciate your article, thank you.

By the way, i'm a recruiter :)

I wrote this post from a strictly American perspective. The situation in Italy or Europe in general may be entirely different. In the U.S. I can probably provide enough data to back up my article but I can't do that for anywhere else in the world.

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