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Frustrating Experiences with Tech Recruiters

Today was a very frustrating day for me as I learned that the job I was applying for ended up getting cancelled and that I was passed over. Now, normally this situation wouldn’t have been so sensitive to me except for the circumstances involving a particular recruiter and agency that I had been using. I want to delve into this experience as well as other issues I’ve had with tech recruiters in the past in the hope that other tech job seekers may find my dealings useful.

For the past three weeks, I had been waiting upon a job I really wanted that I felt I did a reasonable interview. I handled my part faithfully, showing up early, being positive, even finding the interviewer as someone I really wanted to work with. However, I allowed myself to wait a few days before checking back for the results. The interviewer had previously told me that he would be deciding the following week. So once the following week hit around the middle, I called my recruiter back up. Unfortunately, she was going to be out of town in heading to NY for a corporate party, which I would assume last only for the weekend. Naturally, she promised to be checking her emails the entire time so I kept low.

Around that time, another solid sounding opportunity came up but I (stupidly) did not contact the other agency back in time as I had been waiting for this job. With the holidays coming up, I figured that there wouldn’t be much of a point of pursuing the main job I was targeting as the hiring manager did mention he would be in NYC at that time. There was a few more phone calls along the way, but I kept my hopes up on this one job.

Sometime in between the main recruiting agency contacted me about another position that was setup with another recruiter within the organization. This one was for a spot with a shall we say less than stellar public reputation. I kinda knew going in about what the company did because of their infamy. Usually, that doesn’t matter as at the end of the day for a tech worker. The real bottom line is what we get to work on.

The morning prior to the interview, I consulted some friends in chat to see their thoughts on this company. Everyone mutually agreed that the company was run by douchebags. In turn, I decided to do a bit of research on this company using Glassdoor. Low and behold, it turns out that the company internally has a poor reputation and that the management overworks their employees and is filled with backstabbing and typical corporate BS politics. Immediately, I regretted my decision but decided to move forward at least with the phone conversation.

I kept my phone near me the entire time but had accidentally turned off the ringer. Nonetheless, I was pretty faithful in essentially wasting an hour for this phone call. I kept looking on the dot for the phone call but did not see nor feel anything. Of course, at some in between moment, I had completely missed the call. Instantly, I tried calling the company back only to receive a disconnected number. So my image for this particular company did not improve and these guys never tried dialing me back.

Instead, I emailed my recruiter to inform her of the situation. She told that this company, due to the nature of its business, handles all its calls in this manner. At this point, I pretty much lost all interest in this company and politely told her that I had zero desire to move forward. Instead, she did everything to try and convince me that Glassdoor is irrelevant and basically put a huge guilt trip upon me since after all it was her client. But in reality the situation was handled poorly and I had been growing extremely discontent with this group.

So in between that point and today, I had been waiting for my main recruiter to contact me back. Instead, another agency phoned me and wanted to place me at a company, who did not sound familiar in name at first. I tried to investigate this company and found something that sounded similar to what the recruiter had mentioned. Just to be sure though, I asked him to spell out the name so I could look them up online. Lo and behold I had actually spoken with them back in August. It turns out the same recruiter who tried placing me at the company I was gunning for this entire time was the same person who sent me over there.

At first, I wasn’t 100% certain so I had to backtrack through my emails. Yup, right there. I have the dates and after the phone screening with their internal recruiter, I heard nothing back either with that company nor the recruiter.

Frustrated, I decided to resolve the current position and phoned my main recruiter up. She greeted me politely as always but revealed to me when I prodded her that the company I wanted had “passed me up”. She said she had tried sending various emails to the hiring manager but didn’t get any response. Yet she did tell me they “passed me up” along with “they closed the position due to the budget not being approved.” WTF?!?!?!?!?

If this scenario sounds fishy, then let me say you’re right. Her rhetoric alone reveals that she wasn’t telling me anything. Now, I don’t know if the situation with the company the other internal agent had tried sending me to had any impact on this situation, but I’ve never had any positive luck with these people. Of course, they’re perfectly willing to send your resume all over town, have you fill out their little forms and even ask for referrals. Most sound like standard practice in the world of recruiting.

And that’s the core issue.

Even before today, I had done a little research to see if I could find any dirt on this agency. One of my coworkers revealed that this agency was formed through the merging of two other agencies. I recognized one of the agencies as someone I had used in the past but never received any results. That agency was so shady that after a while I simply avoided them. Also, I tried looking this agency up on Glassdoor and another website or two and found numerous negative reviews both internally and from prospective candidates.

Also, I found an article a few weeks ago that talked about some really shady practices recruiters do. Part of the reason was because a similar agency that I had used before had asked me to drive to their office. The thing is that I already had met with one of their head recruiters in person so why would I need to revisit them? Shouldn’t they have something like that on file? Also, because I don’t have a lot of spare cash these days, I was hesitant about going.

So I did a little research on this company (which turned up on Yelp) and people just floored them to death. There wasn’t a single positive comment outside of the head recruiter who apologized to death about previous employees and how they had done a massive internal clean up. Well, I don’t think their internal practices improved any as they seemed to be doing the same thing with me.

Regardless, one of the comments really struck me where the person talked about how agencies that want people to show up and pay for parking probably are the lowest scum of the earth. It’s not a real requirement in using a recruiter. However, the idea supposedly is that these agencies do a pre-screening of candidates. I suppose if the only requirement is whether or not a candidate would show up at all then that would be fine. However, this agency is a dime a dozen and they never provided me with any useful information to prepare for an interview. They never had anything useful, even parking information that they would only provide the day of the interview. So what good is a pre-screening for employers if these clueless recruiters do what a good online form can do in less than an hour?

The other major disturbing thing that probably is the kicker in all of this is how many recruiters have no interest in getting you hired. Sure, if they can sell you, they will. But most are what people call “churn-n-burn” types. That is, their real business lies behind shipping your resume to as many companies around town as possible because they get a commission from that.

See where I’m going with how I’m being used here?

The bigger wrongful trend is that everything becomes mass pollution and your real interest have zero meaning to these soulless half wits who, like lawyers, politicians, upper management, accountants, stock brokers, marketing people and sales agents, all should be placed into an active volcano (on a side note, judging by how my list of types keep growing, this volcano will probably end up being the size of Olympus Mons).

What you want from a job has nothing to do with most recruiters’ agendas. The recruiters’ job at the end of the day is to make a commission. So they’ll try to sell you to whatever they believe they can get the highest bid. There is some small level of skill matching that these people do but most do such a piss poor job at understanding how skills and technology match up. I personally believe that part of the sell involves the number of skill matches to what an employer wants. Unfortunately, these days to get perfect matches is virtually impossible.

Going back a bit, you might say, “Well, it really is your fault in all of this. You should’ve followed up with both interviews.” In most cases, I would agree and admit to everything as being my fault (at least with the telecommute job there’s no question). However, I’ve been “working with” recruiters for years now and have come to learn how these cockroaches operate.

One of the people in the comment section emphatically stated that you should never let a recruiter handle your career. I think if I had known and understood this advice back in 2000, most of my headaches would not exist today. A good portion of my career has been heavily influenced through recruiters. Not all produced any results and some I would argue had a massively negative impact on my career and thus my life.

Back when I was living in Tokyo, I had a friend who was a recruiter (actually he was a friend of a friend and we initially got along but that dissolved later on). He revealed some of their techniques like cold calling companies to build org charts, using first names in attempts to trick receptionists in revealing other people and their positions, swapping people between companies, etc.  Sometimes this guy would go out to expensive restaurants and bill the tab to the company in calling it a business expense.

It is a really shady business, so if you do plan to use a recruiter, I want to provide some tips that hopefully help you avoid jams like the ones I’ve encountered:

  • Research the agency before agreeing to use them.
  • Keep an out-of-date linkedin profile to avoid agencies from phoning your receptionist and harassing you at work
  • Avoid agencies that make you pay for parking
  • Insist on Skype calls if they require some face-to-face meetings (more agencies are doing this these days)
  • Don’t agree on allowing them to send your resume every where. Always ask about a company’s name so you can do more research on your own. If they refuse to allow you to do the research, don’t free since most recruiters around town more than likely will have the same company on profile
  • Make sure you keep a record of all the companies you send your resume to in order to avoid duplicates. The main reason is that the employer will get charged each time your resume is received by them.
  • Tell recruiters to fuck off unless you’re absolutely intent on quitting a company. You probably will do more damage switching jobs in the long term unless your company has major issues.
  • Make sure you never appear desperate. Recruiters have you by the balls once you agree for something less than what you’re worth. They’re nothing more than used cars sales people trying to get that extra percentage from your salary, which can be huge. Don’t compromise here unless you really have nothing else.
  • Never let an agency or recruiter EVER manage your career. A recruiter years ago stated to me, “Allow me to manage your career.” This is your life, not theirs. Remind them of it and put your foot down at all times.
  • Make sure you get as much information about the interview process and company as possible. Recruiters usually don’t give a shit because they’ll always have something else lined up for you, which they’ll still receive their commission from. Make them help you succeed in providing as much information as possible so that you can beat the interview and ensure it’s the proper environment for you to be content at.
  • Don’t let skill qualifications impede you. One of the biggest problems these days is the intimidating number of requirements for jobs. With all the new technologies emerging, it’s virtually impossible to hit every single mark. Start training recruiters to move away from skill based keyword searches and focus on your career goals and overall abilities. Solid programmers can pick up new frameworks, languages and systems if we’re given a fair amount of time. As technologists, we need to take back these elements from recruiters and companies and make them realize that we have a good enough foundation to grow.
  • Whenever a recruiting agency contacts you, you should, believe it or not, add them to your contact list. The reason is that you don’t know when they’ll inconveniently call you at work and disrupt you. Also, if you continue to pester you, you can block them.
  • Force recruiters to give you feedback after an interview process no matter what. Negative feedback also is good here because you can at least learn from your mistakes. Recruiters who give you inadequate replies like, “They passed on you” or “I didn’t hear back from them” are lying. There’s a good chance that they might’ve sent other candidates to the hiring manager whom they might make a healthy commission.
  • If you find that your recruiter is not providing feedback or following up with you, black list them. Apparently, many recruiters carry a black list. You should too (and share it with others to rid ourselves of these pests)
  • If you do find a solid recruiter, keep that person around and maintain a very good relationship with them. For technologists, these people should know more than the buzzwords but be familiar with at least the core ideas of the areas they hire into. If you can help these people out with their business, then we can also weed out the bad ones.

I may be sounding negative towards recruiters and in truth for the most part I detest them. On the other hand, I have worked with a few very respectable recruiters, some of whom knew more than a lot of developers. On average though, those recruiters are few and far in between and you have to contend with the vast majority of the “churn-n-burn” industry. The only way we can fix this problem is to become more aware of how they operate, share lists of good and bad recruiters/agencies and take control of them rather than the other way around.

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