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Mini rant about recruiters

I feel I should probably preface this with a #notallrecruiters or something, but I’ve just had an interaction with a recruiter via LinkedIN which has left a bad taste in my mouth.

It started off innocently enough with me accepting a connection from her, which was quickly followed up by a message:

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for accepting my connection here on LinkedIn. Just came across your profile and I am very interested to know if you are currently on the market looking for a new work opportunity?

If yes, would you consider a position in London? I am currently looking for a Ruby on Rails developer to join a satrt up in London and you skill set is a great match.

Please let me know if you would be interested to know a bit more about this role.

Kind Regards
[redacted]

So far so good, she’s polite but professional, and with the minimum of fuss has stated her position and the opportunity that she’s offering - great. So I reply:

Hi, thanks for getting in touch. I am looking for work for now, although I hadn’t planned on going quite that far - but if the job is right I might consider it.

Do you have a specification for it?

I’m no poet or anything, but I think I’ve been succinct in my request for a specification for the role.

I got a reply this morning:

Hi, Thanks for your reply.

This is an opportunity for a Ruby on Rails developer to join an opportunity in a start up in London.

I can’t really see on your profile for how long have you been using Ruby and if you know Ruby on Rails?

Hope to hear from you soon,

Kind Regards
[redacted]

Does anyone else see the problem with this? I’ll let my reply fill in the gaps:

Hi, sorry but you’ve not really told me anything that I didn’t already know. Who are the company? Where are they based? What are they working on? What salary are they offering? Is it a junior or senior position? What other skills are desirable?

OK, so I’ll admit I’ve been less that polite here, but I hope you at least understand my reasoning for such a reply. I’ve already said that a job in London is not top of my list, but if it’s the right job I’d consider it, so if she was interested in having a conversation with me, she’d honour my request for a spec (which I’m sure she must have), rather than just repeating herself and asking more questions.

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I’m not sure #notallrecruiters is necessary to be honest. Because they are all like that.

Their business is funded entirely by referral fees so by giving you information about the company, they think that you’d go and find the company yourself and then they’d be out of a referral fee. You could even negotiate with the company and say “I found you myself, I’ve saved you £xxxx in referral fees, so add that to my salary.” during negotiations with the company. (Obviously not ethical, but definitely possible!)

From the experiences I’ve had, I would suggest that you probably don’t want to work for a startup that uses a recruitment agency to find their development staff. You want direct contact with the founders, since they’re the people you’re going to be working with (probably very closely).

Just my 2c.

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Quick update, I’ve had a reply:

They are a start up based in London. Looking for a very good full stack (ruby on rails and javascript). salary is according to experience. They are looking for someone Senior.

Some of the requirements are:

  • Experience dealing with business stakeholders and product owners
  • Able to apply your expertise to many technical challenges
  • The candidate must work well in a team
  • Solid understanding of Restful JSON API’s
  • Dedication and ownership of the product

Thats all I can tell you for now. Let me know if you would be interested

OK, we’re doing better, but even this feels like a boilerplate reply - I can’t think of a job spec I’ve seen in recent years that didn’t include each and every one of those bullet points. Not to mention that London is a large place, and even if the salary is based on experience, what is the range?

I’m not going to reply.

‘According to experience’ means ‘As low as we can get away with’.

You don’t even know what industry they’re in? It could be sheep shearing as a service for all you know!

Walk away, recruiters need to learn that they’ve got to be less cryptic or their industry will disappear.

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Heh, you beat me to it. I have a recruiter-rant as well, was going to post it today.

I often like to say I’m not against recruiters per se - but my experience recently has made me wonder. I spoke to a very pushy and buzzwordy recruiter a couple of weeks ago regarding a PHP role in the Midlands. I’m an 80% skills fit so I agreed the CV could go to the client, but did not chase all that hard as I had some doubts about the 20% gap.

The recruiter assured me the CV was going to be sent, and now two weeks on an I’ve heard nothing. I’ve started calling every day - day three today - and every day I get assurances my contact will call me back. By coincidence I have another, much nicer, recruiter wanting to represent me for the same role - but having agreed exclusivity I can’t (easily) do that, and I don’t know if I have even been represented. (Since it is contract it has probably now gone - they tend to move faster than perms - lesson learned).

Naturally, yesterday I was pondering a design for a “recruiter review” website, a proposal for which I’ll probably pop in the projects section at some point! :smiley:

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They, most, are a load of crap. Fair that they won’t tell you the company, which I hate.

Salary should be displayed such as £20k - £80k and a proper description along with any benefits.

It sucks because what if you found out that the company is PayPal when they have banned you from using their system?

I’d like for recruiters to shape up, but unfortunately employers keep on using them. It’s the candidates, outside of a limited charmed circle, who get the bad service.

That’s not just to sod people up, though. If you want applicants for a job, you basically have two choices: employ a recruitment agency, or put yourself down as contact. If you employ an agency then they are terrible, as discussed, and they charge you 15% of first year salary for the successful applicant. But if you put yourself down as contact then (a) you’ll have less reach so fewer potentially good people will see your job advert, but more importantly (b) you’ll get a zillion applicants. So if you’re, say, head of the dev team, now you’ve gotta read 500 CVs from people, almost all of whom are not right for the job, and you’re spending days filtering them down rather than doing your actual job. That’s why people use an agency; because otherwise you’re paying your head of the dev team to be an agency and they’re not very good at it. Admittedly agencies aren’t very good at it either, but for different reasons.

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Oh yes, completely agree - I understand that as a filtering device, they have their purpose. But I’ve been moaning for years about recruiters who need to be chased every single day for a week just to return one call, and my experience doesn’t seem to be changing much.

I think I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that recruitment is like insurance, in that it’s vulnerable to the cameramen and the lion problem.

There are two cameramen filming a lion in the Serengeti. The lion raises its head from the zebra carcass it’s eating and looks at the cameramen and growls. The men keep filming the lion, and it again raises its head from its grisly meal and roars at them. One of the men reaches down, still filming, and takes off his desert boots, replacing them with a pair of Nike running shoes. The other looks at him in disbelief. “You’ll never outrun a lion in those,” he says.

“Screw the lion,” replies the first chap. “As long as I outrun you, I’m OK.”

And this is the problem. It is certainly possible to imagine a really good recruitment agency. And the gap between this theoretical really good recruitment agency and the actual agencies we have is quite wide. But being really good takes a lot of work, and – and this is the important conclusion, reluctantly arrived at – being really good is not lucrative enough to pay for the extra work. That is, the amount of extra money you earn by being really good (so candidates love you and employers use you by choice) is not as much as the amount of money it costs you to be really good. So everyone sets up a recruitment agency thinking “we’ll be really good” and over time they are beaten down into just trying to be one millimetre better than the rivals. Insurance companies are the same. And banks. And people who make TVs. And, well, pretty much everything, really.

To add a few malpractices I’ve experienced in the past …

Posting a non existent and very attractive role as a honey pot to help build a contacts database.

Posting £large + car when what exists is £decidedlyaverage and no car.

Phoning to give you details of an interview that’s been arranged for you when you’re not even aware of the role and definitely haven’t applied for it.

I’ve had a reasonable amount of experience with recruiters and while you will often have completely incompetent ones message you on linked in as yours has @LimeBlast some of the ones I’ve had have been great.

I recommend:
Hayley @ Big Red Recruitment - https://uk.linkedin.com/in/hayleyr
Hannah @ IQ Tech (now) but was at another firm when I used her. - https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/hannah-rhind/51/427/258

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I’ve had something very similar to this - the recruiter was very cagey about how much they were offering, and outright ignored my requests for the information. I’ve mentioned this before.

I’ve never had this one - seems very forward of them, not to mention risky - it isn’t going to look good on the recruiter to arrange an interview if there is any chance that it might be a no show.

I’m not convinced this is so bad, if you employ someone at £30k and they stay for 5 years, that’s a £150k investment + whatever office/computer/training costs and employer’s NI you have to pay. It would seem pretty normal to at least spend a few days (if not a lot longer) when deciding to spend that much, if you were buying some servers for example.

I’m not convinced I want to work somewhere that outsources recruiting, when people are surely company’s most valuable asset.

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Sure. But is it a worthwhile investment to pay your HR director to look through server details for three days to work out which servers to buy? The person making the decision is supposed to be, by virtue of being the manager, good at working out whether a given person is right for the job. That is, I think, quite a different skill to narrowing down a list of 500 to be a list of 5 without getting bored, overlooking good candidates, or believing the hype on a CV. In the same way, you wouldn’t pay the HR director to pick servers because it’s not their job.

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I’m not sure of your point, I don’t think HR should look at the CVs at all. I’m pretty sure that at my work they just pass them all on, unfiltered. Surely as a manager, part of your job is to find people for your team.

I’m not sure we’ve cracked internet-based recruitment, or have even got to first base.

Pre-internet, recruitment was a different game; ads in trade mags, mostly. If you freelanced, then you hooked up with one or two agents; it was far more personal than today.

Initially, on the internet, a lot of tech recruitment was done on usenet. Thinking back, those were good days. Newsgroups allowed ads to be highly focussed, and some agents worked that extremely well.

To say that we are currently in a state of transition seems to me to understate the mess that recruitment is in.

In many ways, the problem is simple: associate a job with interested, qualified candidates. Perhaps the solution is to go back to the fundamentals and build from there. It certainly won’t come from trying to sustain the existing %-age fee structure.

I’ve added a malpractice story already, elsewhere on this forum.

I’ve also suspected - but been unable to prove - that my CV has been hoovered up for the purposes of applying for a role, only for it to “have already gone” (i.e. the recruiter knew it was already filled, or it did not exist in the first place).

I don’t think so. Part of your job as a manager is certainly, given a person, to work out whether that person is right for your team. But winnowing down 500 people to 5 is a different skill, and I don’t think that you should be obliged as a manager to be able to do that; that’s what agencies are for. They’re related skills, but they’re not the same.

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I’m very doubtful of this 500 number, I’ve never heard of that many applicants for a tech job.

Also, HR and recruitment agencies are really bad at filtering applicants for tech jobs, they don’t even understand the basic terminology used, and how could they be expected to? since they don’t work in tech. Recruiters will see CodeIgniter and Laravel on your CV and then ask you if you know MVC because it’s not listed. You get people that say that they are specialist systems or network recruiters and then when you talk them, it’s clear they know nothing about their specialism, it’s not like they are ex-sysadmins that went into recruitment, the just know some buzz words.

Additionally, it’s not clear that recruiters do any real filtering (or that’s in their interest to do so), they just pass on everyone they can that vaguely fits the job description they can find.

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