What do you think of recruitment agencies in the software development industry?

Updated on : December 6, 2021 by Heath Snow



What do you think of recruitment agencies in the software development industry?

It is long. Sorry. I also had some thoughts on the subject in my previous post - Alex Rogachevsky's answer to Where Did the Programming Job Market Go?

When I came to the United States in 1996, I was impressed with the system. Not with a particular aspect like recruitment. I was immensely impressed with the system as a whole - the safe and fair environment that allowed smart people to compete and grow. He supported the pursuit of happiness by the middle class. You could go to college, study hard, and be rewarded for that effort and all the inventions you made on the job, rising through the ranks as fast as you deserve.

Compared to no system, the 1991-1997 "Wild West" of post-Soviet Russia without any labor market. You were at the mercy of some distant friend / relative, who was lucky to meet another distant acquaintance, and so on, and so on, ultimately connected to someone who did a favor for a mob lieutenant or even the boss who owned the old state property. : a plant / factory or mining / drilling facility; or the newly formed channels for exchanging goods / services, for example, grains for diesel, which are paid for through obscure transactions abroad to avoid a 99% tax, as in the arms or drug trade. That's how "robust" that "economy" was. Putting things in perspective.

I was able to find a programming job even under those conditions: no resumes, recruiters, or even the Internet, which didn't exist in 1992. Neither Dice nor Monster. It was the ad page of the local newspaper. Mind you, there are no "help needed" ads at all, for the entire city's two million. Just a modest advertisement from the company offering software development. One of three in the "oblast" (vaguely comparable to a US county), as I later found out. Hey, I thought, if they have "software" in their title, they probably do programming instead of the usual under the sugar / coal trading table. In fact, they developed banking software. I called them, asked for an internship (what did they have to lose?), Met the founder / CEO, and,

Be it the exact opposite effect of Soviet propaganda or the upbeat yuppie movies of the 90s, where everyone lived on 3,000 square feet of land. Home and driving a Series 3 convertible, he was idealistic about the place of the middle class in Western civilization. I wanted to adopt the American way of life, work hard, and have my own home and a Bimmer. I came here and I did it. The system worked in 1996. No connections, no MIT or CalTech credentials, no American work experience. Just my brain. It was in demand. The recruiters helped me sell it. A couple of years before the dot-com boom.

Sure, I started low. Everyone is optimistic until they reach the limit of their career. What I did after my first two years in the United States; And he was still happy, enjoying a good six-figure middle-class income.

The dot-com and Y2K rush arrived, turning half of the employees at cosmetics counters and real estate agents into Oracle DBA and COBOL programmers. The other half became technical recruiters. Then "outsourcing" occurred, followed by the invasion of the Indian "workshops". They may not accurately represent the population of recruiters. There could be a few generating the massive amount of spam. But that's 99% of the recruiter emails I get, long after I deactivate my job search profiles from Dice and LinkedIn.

During the darkest times of 2002, seeing millions of IT jobs being shipped to India and trying to cope with the longest unemployment of my life (two months), I got serious about job hunting. I know how stupid that sounds to any running coach. Being a "good guy" still believing in the system and approaching the problem like an engineer, I wrote a tracker and unleashed it on Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder to look up the employer and recruiter contact information. I know, I could have founded something like Indeed. Read above on how to be a "good boy".

The data collected, on any posted technology positions, not just my specialty (Java), gave me insight into the employer / recruiter relationship. No disclosures there: the few direct jobs posters were the cheapest of the cheap and most dysfunctional “midsize” software shops to be found. The recruiters came out on top. They were still the "good guys." Automatically filter Indian agencies. Not telling you how to keep the subject politically correct. I don't work with them, it's a matter of principle.

Overall, I diligently gathered and cataloged over 300 local (Southern California) recruiters and about 40 employers. I sent my resume to all of them, not manually of course. Hey, hey ... I mean spam by spam. The typical commotion occurred and I was able to get a five-figure job. I have never done the same data collection effort again, but I do count and classify my emails. Those 300, half of which no longer exist, were crushed by thousands of Indian companies operating somewhere in New Jersey, if not directly from India. They don't even bother to route your calls through American phone numbers anymore. What did you expect? The volume gained.

I don't work with Indian recruiters so I won't beat them up too hard. The most entertaining case I had a few months ago - "working" with one against my will, was getting to know my resume (I wonder which one) sent to the "direct client" after several emails that reached me. The last email asked me when was the best time to interview the "client" who liked my resume. I immediately agreed, to find out what's going on. The "client" turned out to be another, albeit reputable, intermediary: a local solution provider, whose CIO he knew personally. It was fun.

The "legitimate" American recruiters? Even ignoring their direct collaboration with the "workshops", they absorbed all the shady practices of the third world. And honestly ... look for the LinkedIn profile of someone who just called you - proudly displaying all of the recruiters' past occupations. Sure, some of those girls are awesome, but still ... They'll probably delete their LinkedIn work history after reading this. By the way, I dated one of them. He told me all about his job: call and email fees.

It is not about eliminating the middle man. Many people wisely buy used cars from private sellers rather than dealerships, and sell their homes without realtors. But those two are still qualified enough to sell their products. Can you say the same for a recruiter? A trusted personal trainer to evaluate PhDs in technologies you have no idea about?

Sure, those are just minimum wage "sources" to collect the "years of experience" and pass your resume to the next circle: the "account manager." I will not speak about the experience of the latter. Only the two-tier arrangement shows who the six-figure professionals are for recruiters: the cattle. So how do Americans differ from third world cattle "wholesalers"?

I don't want to write 20 pages about the recruiting atrocities that I have witnessed during my 20 years in American IT. I'll give you the first two: altering resumes and the first wave of toxic jobs you get hit with when announcing your availability.

Don't take the time to fill out / answer the "years of experience" questionnaire for a recruiter. Politely state that you intend to write your own cover letter and pass it on to the employer as is. You write and the recruiter reviews it, not the other way around. It is helpful to have someone else review your letter.

The resume is even more important. Ask here, seek the advice of family and friends, diligently modify it for each position you apply for, but never let the recruiter "improve" your resume. Not a single character. Ask for feedback - what to remove: your contact information; Sure, no one can find you on LinkedIn, and what to add: your logo / tagline, featuring you as a long-term employee of your well-established “engineering company”. .

It's amazing how similar auto body shop resumes look. Are they copied / pasted by one person, writing resumes for their friends, who barely speak English? Or is it the centuries-old mindset to obey the elders, follow the path, and protect your clan? No creativity at all. How do you hope to get noticed? I get it. Strength in numbers. Roll the dice, close your eyes and point your finger: you would choose one of "his". Or don't choose. I can go through those resumes all day: cheater, liar, cheater, cheater, wtf - he's a real person, liar, wait a sec ...

I still remember that resume. It was legit. The candidate was not in H1B, graduated from a reputable American university, had an excellent work history, and all acronyms were verified as technologies commonly used together on a single project (spotting liars is easy for a "technical hiring manager"). "). Why was his resume virtually indistinguishable from thousands of "discount resources"? Didn't you know better than to write several pages of bulleted lines of acronyms without the slightest attempt to explain how two of them were "integrated" and what business problem they solved?

Fortunately, my client also provided me with a Dice account. Lo and behold, the resume seemed absolutely normal there. The LinkedIn profile too. I feel really stupid for struggling to write a good resume during my job search / skip days, only to be reversed by some door-to-door salesperson. Writing your resume to stand out in the sea of ​​cookie-cutter "discount resources" is useless, unless it reaches the hiring manager's desk intact.

If the recruiter refuses to do so, continue. Don't take a call from the big hiring manager who would try to "manage" it by "explaining how things work." Move on. Chances are, there are already ten emails in your inbox from other recruiters, all about the same position. And, if you haven't done it first, choose the most unique (usually the stupidest) job description phrase and Google (quoted). You will find the direct publication of the company on its official website. This is why "smart" recruiters prefer to call rather than reveal the full JD in their email. It is not that accepting the sending of your resume by phone forces you to accept an exclusivity contract.

The recruiting chief who calls you to "explain things" will surely tell you that only they have the keys to the kingdom. The HR department would block your resume, etc. For whatever reason, the hiring manager will not see you. It is quite scary if they are able to block it through personal connections. If the "wholesale broker" logic (car, mortgage, etc.) applies to jobs by blocking access to the hiring manager, rather than providing something - a lower priced car or a low mortgage rate, I can't explain what's stopping our environment The class taxpayer chose the government to ban such a job-blocking occupation.

I always gave recruiters the benefit of the doubt before engaging in the customer discovery war. What other option did I have, when they clearly blocked me: request the resume and then disappear, ignoring calls and emails for a week? Enough time to conclude that they are not interested in me? I have had a couple of cases like this. I sent the employer a nice cover letter explaining who I was and what I could do for them. No mention of recruiters. Interviewed the next day with the entire C-level team. I received an offer, which I finally did not accept, but I maintained good relations with those people. The recruiter's regional boss backed off and desperately tried to make the connection between the three parties through probing questions.

Toxic jobs. If all my startup projects fail, and for some reason I burn bridges with my paying clients, and everyone I know in the industry forgets me, then I have to prepare and announce my availability on Dice again, I would just relax for the first two. weeks. Go to the beach, browse porn sites, and ride a bike. I will not answer a single recruiter's call or read a single email. They always throw toxic jobs at the new candidate, even if they have good positions to fill. Low-end sellers will never change.

There's only one reason a job can go unfilled for months. No, it is not the vague excuse that the recruiter "is difficult to find qualified candidates." It is the incompetence of the hiring manager, manifested in different ways: requirements versus pay, poor interview process: letting junior engineers "interrogate" someone who comes as a supervisor on textbook questions, simple cronyism / tribalism , but more commonly the complete disorientation about the status and needs of the project, evident from the inconsistent list of multi-page acronyms that are never used together, much less spelled correctly. Do not go there. There will be no reward for suffering. The “intense” (that is, hostile) interviews never succeeded in hiring anyone.

We are in 2016. Good companies / projects / teams do not hire through external recruiters. Whether it's a seemingly respectable software company or a mind-blowing startup, something is wrong if they turn to recruiters for help. Low pay with no equity capital, pressure from investors to show how their money is being applied to "growth," bad work environment, and high staff turnover… You don't want to be there. Because if the project can afford hiring mistakes, it is not mission critical and can fail "safely." Which is the typical 90% IT failure rate. What does it mean to you? In 6 to 18 months, you will need to deal with the recruiters again. Great for them, they can make money from you again.

Recruiters have adapted to their main customer: stagnating corporate IT with its failure rate. Which means that all of them, not just the infamous Indian-run "workshops," supply bodies for projects that fail eternally. Nobody cares if the best man wins. The selection became statistical. Or through connections. Exactly how it is in the third world, I hoped never to see again after moving to the US in 1996.

It hurts companies and teams that want to succeed and need capable engineers. They can't find any. Recruiters send them the cheapest “toxic” jobless candidates first, just as they dump “toxic” jobs at new candidates. After that, it's just a matter of beating mediocrity and shooting darts in the dark. Whatever "touch" recruiters had 15 years ago, they missed it for more than a decade and a half in supplying bodies to indiscriminate bottom-feeding IT. 17 Java positions to fill, 20 UI designers to hire, 15 business analysts needed tomorrow ... typical "requisitions". How do you think the prospect of being one of those 17, 20 or 15 sound like an ambitious and capable professional? Instead of being the one. Everyone knows who hires in bulk.

It's the same pain for both the hiring manager and the candidate. Managers go through thousands of "bodies" in hopes of finding the right person. Candidates get frustrated with cheap and dysfunctional IT employers and begin to think that there is nowhere you need their expertise, where you can make a difference, with the right reward. Who would match them? Boutique recruiting companies that specialize in such a precise placement? The so-called "executive" search? Please.

The pairing process barely worked before annexing India to the US IT task force. With fewer candidates, the manager had a (weak) chance to evaluate everyone to find the "best man" to win. Did recruiters care even back then? They make money anyway. In fact, they make more money placing someone mediocre. Charging the highest margin first, as the billing fee remains the same, while the least qualified candidate is likely to ask for less. And second, of the rotation: when the manager fires someone who cannot do his job. Either at the end of the failed project or after all efforts to train the employee,

The hiring system has always been designed to exploit the desperation of the unemployed rather than "poaching" ambitious professionals willing to move on and grow. Everyone knows the current demand. There is a matching pool of candidates of the highest quality. Obviously employed, stuck in their dysfunctional teams and ready to move on. Everyone is afraid to advertise their availability on Dice and LinkedIn, risking current employer relationships for absolutely nothing.

Of course, recruiters can "communicate" with employed candidates. Offer what? The same BS that they offer to the unemployed? Every person I've talked to told me that recruiters never offered anything better: in terms of money or the environment. I ignored that truth for years. Recruiters don't help you climb higher. Even at the beginning of his career, he paid almost nothing. They would always try to force you to accept a pay cut. It's a telemarketing job - tricking you into making a money-losing decision.

A few years ago I interviewed at a “mid-size” SaaS company. They found me directly. One red flag after another: outsourcing, spaghetti code and nightly server failures, leadership changes ... but thankfully ready to change - the perfect opportunity to get it right and take the pain away. Interviewed directly with the CTO. Everything was great until I put in my price. A couple of weeks later they told me that they had hired someone with more experience in the (medical) industry. No hard feelings, especially after all the red flags I saw.

A year passed. A recruiter, who I worked with on the hiring side, called me. They wanted to see me again. He kept emphasizing the compensation part. He knew what it was about. However, curiosity won. I wanted to see how bad it got, help them with advice, and maybe get more involved. Maybe that software was really critical and they needed to redesign it to finally work rather than milk investors. I suspect it's Obama money, but anyway. I've been to a few of those SaaS medical billing companies and to this day I don't understand what kind of automation / analytics they offer. Never mind. I could fix whatever they had.

In fact, the situation was worse. The CTO and the "industry insider" guy spent two hours with me validating their plan for the complete re-architecture of the system. I felt the urgency. I knew they loved me more than a year ago. So we shook hands and I moved on to the final conversation: with the CFO. How many hired technicians can speak to the CFO? That should tell you something.

The life and death negotiation resulted in nothing. Your best offer came in below the $ 10K you were making at the time. The CFO was notably frustrated. The recruiter called me. How dare I negotiate after we "agree"? I disappointed him, as he probably assured them they would bring in someone broken and desperate to swallow a $ 25k pay cut with nothing to make up for: bonuses or equity. And it wasn't exactly Google that powered someone's resume.

Why was I blatantly approached with that BS? Take a second to absorb what I just described. They found me directly the first time. Then after a year they hired a recruiter to bring me in. Why would they offer commissions to place someone they already knew and interviewed? There is only one logical explanation: the recruiter was promised a percentage of the amount of my pay cut. Keep that in mind the next time you hear, “Hey, I'm on your side. The more you do, the more I do ”.

As much as I hate counting money in someone's pocket, do recruiters deserve their profit margins of 50% or more? I only speak of the American direct ones. Don't you hate other pricing schemes that you have to deal with on a daily basis? Speculation about the "Middle East conflict" instantly adds $ 2 to the price of gas, which slowly returns to normal in the coming weeks.

Why does the supply and demand rule, posed by losers who envy the programmer's six-figure income, only work one way: reduce someone's salary? IT hiring demand isn't a red-hot event, it's red hot right now. Where are the fees and wages? Soaked up by much higher recruiting profit margins. Pricing at its finest. They milk you because they can: be closer to the source of money: the employer.

Don't accept your place in the food chain and play that game, let alone abiding by the rules. Recruiters are obviously less helpful to seasoned professionals. The system has stopped working for everyone in the industry: from interns to veterans in their 30s. Recruiters don't help you in the "good economy" or during recessions. Wait a couple of years and see for yourself.

It's easy to tell a job seeker to learn to "network." So easy, as to point out, that companies and teams that use recruiters always have problems. Both statements are true. They do little to help connect qualified job seekers and good employers. “Networking” is a facilitated activity, but still very statistical. There has to be a simpler process with predictable results, on par with the IT hiring system, when it worked 20 years ago. The system that impressed me so much when immigrating to the United States. It stopped working and we need something to replace it. Traditional recruiting will never recover.

I am not convinced that the “academic” competition: hackathons, algorithmic puzzles, Data Science contests, etc. be the future. But there are definitely more channels to get noticed and hire today than there were 20 years ago, during the golden age of IT recruiting.

Yes, it is completely broken. It is mainly a symptom that the industry is breaking down, but I will try to explain it.

The problem is easy to see. Too often recruiters, managers, and executives don't understand technology or the history of technology. This is unfortunate because it is these shoulders that they lean on.

  1. Well, I get it. You don't need to give a shit about functional programming or distributed systems, these are tricky technical stuff. But unless you are willing to commission an engineer to be a recruiter, you will need to learn a few things.
  2. Yes, actually that sen
Keep reading

Yes, it is completely broken. It is mainly a symptom that the industry is breaking down, but I will try to explain it.

The problem is easy to see. Too often recruiters, managers, and executives don't understand technology or the history of technology. This is unfortunate because it is these shoulders that they lean on.

  1. Well, I get it. You don't need to give a shit about functional programming or distributed systems, these are tricky technical stuff. But unless you are willing to commission an engineer to be a recruiter, you will need to learn a few things.
  2. Yeah, actually that senior engineer who's got 20 years of low-level C programming is probably brilliant and you want him on board. Yes. Although he doesn't say Java anywhere on his resume. Yes . Even though your millennial CTO or technical co-founder never wrote a C line in his life.
  3. Yes, CS degrees (or math or physics) are important ...
  4. You're looking for smart engineers, not a long list of whack-a-mole frameworks and technologies.
  5. Without this basic understanding, recruiters turn to keyword matching in their bag of words: job posting versus candidate resumes. You must understand that this is not finding talent. You are not concentrating on smart engineers who have found innovative solutions to difficult problems. All you are doing is finding others who have made or been subject to the same silly choices in the tech stack as you! It is completely irrelevant except in the ultra short term!

I was recently in an interview where I explained how I rewrote a piece from my personal Haskell project in C. The interviewer, the CTO of a 30 million-funded company, didn't seem to give a shit. Completely out of date for what I thought was a cool combination of high and low level programming. It soon becomes apparent that you don't even know what a 64-bit integer is! Then he asks me if I know how to use the classes ???

Now look, be sure to bring in the engineers to do a little technical challenge or another, but by then it's too late. You haven't screened the right candidates. Furthermore, you have not created any incentive for your engineers to be objective in their interviews. Most of them like to turn it into a kind of pissing contest and only seek to select those from the same tribe. He went to a similar school, he studied a similar approach, he went to graduate school, he did not go to graduate school, he went to the Ivy League, East Coast, Seattle, has a beard, studied compilers, loves FP, hates FP, frat boy, worked in a high-tech company, I worked in the early start-up stage, etc., etc.

Besides, I really don't understand this recent trend of asking engineer candidates to share and review their personal projects. Sure you want people who are enthusiastic but, for example, can you imagine asking someone who worked with Steve Jobs on the iPhone to see and review their personal projects? Not because? Because all his life, every red penny is dedicated to the iPhone. They don't have time to make a flikr clone for "fun" when they're trying to change the world by creating the iPhone! At the same time, you're indicating that you don't expect your engineers to be so challenged by their work. That means it probably won't have much of an impact working for you.

Okay, so they want you to complete some "challenge project". LOL. I am continually amazed by these places that ask for large amounts of your personal time to go out and complete a project. It is so unprofessional and downright disrespectful. I tend to cancel all interviews if they get to this stage. It means that the company does not have a high level ability to evaluate an engineer in a reasonable amount of time and if they cannot evaluate an engineer then they cannot create great software (few places can by the way). You think I want to spend my weekend on a silly project that seems completely trivial but will definitely take hours and then I'll send it to you for critique? My time is valuable, something valuable to my employer,

Other Guides:


GET SPECIAL OFFER FROM OUR PARTNER.