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Why do so many technical recruiters suck?

It’s Tuesday, I get a call from an unknown number.  There is a little hesitation, but I finally pick it up.  My number is listed on my business card and I feel like I should get these calls unless I am in a meeting.

- Hi, is this Mike?
- Yes, speaking….
- Hi Mike!  How are you today?
- Fine…
- I am calling from XYZ Co, and we deal with recruiting and staff augmentation.  I was wondering if you are looking for software developers.

We are in San Francisco and it’s late 2011.  Every tech company is looking for developers.  If they were not looking… just wait till one of their devs gets recruited away. Now guess what?  You are looking!

Yes, I am on the market for some developers and this guy bought himself a few minutes…

- Have you looked at the website?
- Honestly I have not had a chance to yet, but I have a couple of Ruby candidates that are really good.

Hmm…. so you don’t know what we are looking for. You didn’t care to open up our website and look at the career page, and I have a feeling that it doesn’t even matter what we want.  You have a couple of people you are trying to pitch to every company you can.

- I can’t really source candidates from agencies that are not on the vendor list.  You have to go to HR first.
- Okay…  in that case why don’t we have coffee or lunch next week?

I am thinking – does this guy not want to hear me? I am detecting a pattern: not only he doesn’t want to listen, he actually doesn’t care to consume any information at all.

I know that type! He probably refers to himself as a “people person”.  On Friday in the Marina when drinking with his buddies he probably talks about people he barely knows using their first name only. I bet he claims to have known people from LinkedIn for a long time and reiterates the values of connections.

This is why on a very basic level we can’t work together: I am at my core an engineer and a scientist.  He is at his core a connector.  I want facts, due diligence and real value.  He thinks that as long as he is nice and interesting we can do business.  One of us is going to have to adjust and since he will, eventually, want $15,000 - $20,000 for his services - it ain’t going to be me.

I do value having an agent out there who can source and screen candidates, but somehow this industry has fallen to some amazing lows.  People who don’t know what they are looking for, what they are looking at, and why they are looking, believe that pounding the pavement and setting up a boiler room is the path to make some money.

So what do good tech recruiters do? They get into the details! They figured out that they are dealing with some detailed folks.  We (other software engineers) want you to do what we could do if we had more time.  As it stands right now a lot of these “people persons” can’t compete with the most connected person of all – Craig from Craigslist.


PS: by the way I am hiring web and iOS devs, Tech PMs and QA. Apply here: 


Anonymous said…
I was a tech recruiter for a while. Unfortunately, these people make lots and lots of money from the exact methodology you described: being nice, connecting people, and setting up boiler rooms. We were required to be in our desks making calls, meetings, schmooze from 8am to 7pm. We had a tremendously high turnover rate of - at least half the candidates lasted less than 90 days. But you'd make so many calls and get so many turn downs, it was virtually impossible to check out everyone's company and know their website and their needs. Though the most successful ones could at least have it up while they are dialing...

Anyway - you are right and insightful and your logic is the exact reasoning I got out as quick as I could.

Glad to be free....

TL;DR I was a tech recruiter. The firm I worked for sucked because they were dumb assholes who got a rush for manipulating folks and earned tons of money doing so.
Unknown said…

Great writeup on what's wrong and why. I run my own creative services studio, and I experience this every day. Mainly recruitment contacting me regarding programming/engineer needs even though our site, profile, etc., is VERY clear that we only provide creative and technical support asit relates to art. Due diligence & qualify; why is it so hard for recruitment to divine that these are their responsibility, not the clients they hope to represent. Face-palm + Epic-sigh...

we are not hiring, but would love to talk to anyone in need of our services-

Company Bio:
Company Site:


kEvIn wRiGhT
LiMiTeD sLiP sTuDiOs, LLC

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