Are IT Recruiters Worthless (Part 1)

This is a very timely topic for me for a couple reasons. First, since I changed jobs this year, I dealt with recruiters a lot, and second, there was a comment posted today that responded to another comment where the guy said recruiters were worthless. In truth, they both have a point… HAH. On one hand recruiters perform more or less a necessary function. I say more or less because you could really do without the

This is a very timely topic for me for a couple reasons. First, since I changed jobs this year, I dealt with recruiters a lot, and second, there was a comment posted today that responded to another comment where the guy said recruiters were worthless. In truth, they both have a point… HAH.

On one hand recruiters perform more or less a necessary function. I say more or less because you could really do without them quite easily, but they can make things easier under our current system. I’ve dealt with recruiters from both sides of the desk many many times, and I will admit that if you get a good one, they can take a lot of work off your hands. The problem is that the really good ones are about 1 out of every 500 or so. Most of them simply don’t have any IT background and they do nothing but get in the way. It’s not like there’s any kind of licensing procedure, or recruiting class they have to go through. Pretty much any Tom, Dick, or Moron can be a recruiter. So when you’ve got a good one, you’ll know it, and you can rely on them to really simplify your search.

Again though, the trouble is that most of them are pretty worthless. I’ve been in IT for over 10yrs, which means I’ve had several jobs throughout the years. That also means that I’ve interviewed more times than I can count… from both sides of the desk. And in my experiences, I’ve met 2 recruiters that I can think of who were worth their salt. So what does an excellent recruiter do? Well, there are really 2 main functions of a good recruiter.

The first is to really dig into the company’s needs and know enough about the topic to pull in the most qualified people. The perfect technical recruiter in my field would be an ex database professional who just decided to play for the other team… you know, someone who really knows DBs and can ferret out the good SQL guys from the bad ones.

The second, and this is probably more important the first… is to shut up and get out of the way when he knows absolutely nothing about IT or DBs. His job at this point is to be the keeper of the company’s phone number and pass it along to you and setup the interview… then get out of the way. Don’t try to pretend you know what you’re doing, and don’t try to teach me anything. So basically, know your limitations. If you know you don’t know anything about it, then just pass on the number and let the pros take this one.

I’ll tell ya though… now we’re getting into one of my big diatribes. Like I said above, I’ve been in this business for quite a while, and nothing gets me madder than having to deal with a recruiter who’s been at it for 3-6mos who all of a sudden knows everything about interviewing, and is going to force me to sit down and listen to his ‘pointers’. There’s a recruiter here in Dallas who goes above and beyond the call of annoying. He actually attaches 2 docs to his email when he confirms an interview. The first one is a list of really really stupid questions you should ask the interviewer. I’ll get back to those in a minute. The second one is a pre-configured thank you note template you are to send the interviewer when you get home. I don’t know if I even have the strength to talk about this one, but I’ll try to muster it in a minute.

OK, first, I just looked into my brain and started organizing these things, and I’m actually going to break this discussion up into a small series of posts because it’s just going to be too long for me to expect any of you to just sit down and listed to my entire rant… back to the post…

I had this girl earlier this year who really took herself seriously. First of all, when I went to her office for my meeting, she tried to chastise me for wearing sweats. Here’s basically how the conversation went.

“Are those sweats?”

“No, they’re a new form of loose-fitting business suit.”

“How can you wear sweats to an interview?”

“I was under the impression you were the recruiter, not the hiring manager.”

“I am, but you won’t get to the hiring manager if you don’t impress me first”

“You’re kidding me right? You really expect me to believe you’re going to give up a commission because you think I should dress up for you at 8am? You haven’t done this very long have you?”

“Well, the fact still remains that you have to get past me first.”

“OK, whatever. So you can either tell me about the position, or we can part ways now, but I’m not going to dress up for a recruiter.”

That’s basically how it went. She decided that she wanted to just forget it for now, but that I’d better be dressed more business-like for the interview. Ok, now I’m getting mad all over again. This girl was like in her early 20s, and I wasn’t even sure if she still lived with her parents or not. Not to mention, that’s just an insult. Because I don’t dress up for you, you assume I don’t know how to dress for an interview? Anyway…

So right before I went on the interview, she sent me an email and said to be sure to dress in a suit and tie because I represented her and she didn’t want to look bad. I immediately cancelled the interview. She called me right away and was just shocked. She couldn’t understand why I’d pass on such an excellent opportunity. I told her it was because I wasn’t going to have her baby me like I was in grade school. I can find a job pretty much anywhere around here and I certainly didn’t need hers. She said she was sorry, and I said I didn’t care. I wouldn’t work with her anymore. I had someone else at that company call me later that day and said he was my new recruiter and did I still want to go on that interview. I said, sure.

Now, I did get a chance to talk to the original girl a couple weeks later, and we had a nice long talk about our respective careers, and as it turns out, she was in clothing retail 3mos ago, and started doing this when she lost her last job. So, she’s been doing this for 3mos, and all of a sudden she knows more about IT interviewing and recruiting than I do. Most of us in IT have seen it 100 times. Those kids who come in as recruiters and start bossing us around like we’re children. All of a sudden, we’re stupid and they know everything about getting a job in IT.

That’s really what I want to say in this first part of the series. Recruiters just don’t realize that by the time you’ve been in the business as long as I have, we’ve seen recruiters come and go. And come and go. And come and go. Yet, even without all these brainiacs we still manage to get one job after another… go figure.

And for the record, that girl is no longer a recruiter. She moved out of state and went back into retail.

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