I’m a recruiter. Now, before you do the digital equivalent of pelting me with rotting vegetables or show up at my doorstep with torches and pitchforks, know this: I hate the way the recruiting industry works as much as you do. Before becoming a recruiter, I worked as a software engineer for almost 5 years, so I’ve been on the other end of the incessant spamming and the cold calls. In fact, the reason I’m posting is that I am convinced that the tech recruiting industry, in its current incarnation, is completely broken. The fact that I have to apologize for being a recruiter and skulk about in the shadows isn’t right. But, I get why you guys don’t like us. It’s because a particularly loud faction of tech recruiters out there don’t treat you or your privacy or your goals with any modicum of genuine interest or respect. Of course, there are some truly great recruiters out there, and maybe they have some thoughts on this, too.
In any event, as I see it, here’s what’s broken, in general:
1. Wanton cold calling/LinkedIn/email spamming
In my engineering days of yore, I had nothing but a visceral disgust for LinkedIn and the contents of my LinkedIn inbox. I didn’t give 2 shits about which investors were backing which companies, or how I could get in on the ground floor, or listen to the empty praises mashed together from the 2 keywords available in my profile. Now that I’m on the other side of things, I don’t really feel too differently about it. I still refuse to spam people (or cold call them on the phone, which is even worse) — I think it makes me look bad (spamming is, to me, a tacit acknowledgement that you don’t have the industry-specific knowledge to craft something more personal), has low response rates, and doesn’t really engage the candidates that do respond. A lot of people say that this industry is a pure numbers game, and maybe it is, but there still has to be a better way to engage with people than sending them spam.
2. Keyword matching
I can’t harp on this one enough. What programming languages you know or what IDEs you have worked with in the past ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT. If you’re a good programmer and you’re interested in the work the company is doing, for the love of god, you’ll be able to learn the new languages/environments. I hate when, during interviews, I ask candidates to describe some project they’ve worked on, and they start prattling off keyword after keyword. Sometimes this prattling is an indication that the candidate sucks, but sometimes, they’ve been so conditioned by past HR calls to just list technologies that they can’t help it. I’ve had several conversations where I’ve told the candidate to back up, that I actually want to understand what you built and why you built it, and sometimes there’s this palpable sigh of relief on the other end of the phone. And for the trolls out there, yes, I realize that there are outliers — if you are a pure Java programmer, there is probably no way you can easily work on a 3D game api team writing C++ and shaders. And if you are a C++ programmer with no front-end experience, you can’t just walk on to the Sencha (née ExtJS) team. I’d hazard to say that these are the exceptions more than the rule, however.
3. Communication breakdown between the recruiter & hiring manager
You get pulled in by a perfect-sounding job and ultimately realize that the company isn’t doing what you were told and that the job description itself has nothing to do with what you were promised.
I’ve been lucky enough to have enough of an eng background for keyword matching to not be an issue, and I have a great working relationship with the hiring manager at my company (I work in-house), so I’d like to focus on the issue of spamming. Without spamming, what am I left with? I still have to find people. There are some good options out there that have been working for me (job boards, InterviewStreet/CodeEval, StackOverflow, HN), but these options have not proven to be enough. My favorite thing to do is to have enough info about someone to write them a personal and relevant message. I like taking some time to craft these messages, and whenever I’ve been able to hit on a few personal subjects and match the tone to the recipient, I’ve always gotten a response. Recently, I reached out to a guy who had his own startup but was starting to look around for a job. I took the time to figure out what his startup did and thought it was really cool. When I sent him an email, I asked him about some implementation specifics and made a suggestion about an existing, somewhat similar product that his product could integrate with. It turned out that they were already doing what I suggested, which was cool because it means I’m not completely out of touch, yet, and also cool because he responded… and ended up being a really excellent candidate.
Anyway, I want more interactions like this — interactions where you’re not annoyed/full of rage/violated and where I get to help you.
I’ll end this post with an open question. What’s the best way to reach you in a compelling way without pissing you off and without exposing you to the drooling masses who don’t know big O from a big ass? How do we bridge this gap between (hopefully) good tech recruiters and engineers? Is there a good way I (and others like me) can find you when you want to be found without compromising your privacy and our souls?
TL;DR: I’m a recruiter, but I used to be an engineer. This industry is broken, specifically with the communication breakdown between recruiters and engineers (spam, cold calling, keyword matching, etc). Help me fix it by making suggestions on how I (and others like me) can find you without compromising your privacy or flooding you with irrelevant content.
Note: This content was adapted from a Hacker News post I wrote.