I have a problem with recruiters. Shocking, I know. If you ask around developers, recruiters quite often seem to be right near the top of the list for "things which tech would be far better without".
If you're a recruiter reading this, then please don't skip straight to posting angry diatribes in the comment section - I'm happy to explain where my problem comes from, and maybe even how to fix it. If you're not a recruiter, but have run into some of the same problems, then maybe you might even want to confirm that I'm not alone here.
Let's start with a short anecdote. I was recently contacted by a recruiter (through LinkedIn) who wanted to offer me a brilliant opportunity in "PHP Development" at a "prestigious company" in Brisbane. I appreciate people offering me money, but I'm also freelancing at the moment, so I sent a message asking for more details about the role, and stated outright that while I am very happy running my own business, I would, for the right offer, consider putting it aside. I also made it clear that I didn't believe "the right offer" was something that would come out of Brisbane (I love this city, but the tech scene here massively undervalues good developers).
The recruiter contacted me back, saying that their client are looking to hire a full-time employee, and again told me that it was a "prestigious company", but not what industry they were in. She told me nothing else about the role other than it was "PHP Development".
On the phone, I found out that there were actually two roles available, one for much less than I asked as a "base" for leaving freelancing, and one for about half of the figure I named. I named this figure before the first phone call, and explained that even taking that figure would be dependant on there being pretty spectacular working conditions and benefits.
At this point, I had named a price, been told that the jobs on offer were far lower than that price, and still hadn't been told which industry their client was in. The "PHP Development" line had eventually gotten more clarification - "About 20%-50% front-end, and 50%-80% back-end PHP development". Oh boy! It appears that the recruiter doesn't actually know what the role is. I was still trying to be polite, but really wasn't interested, and told her that.
Three days later (on a Monday), she calls me, and tells me that she has organised an interview for me for Tuesday afternoon.
I went to the interview, found out what the job was, spoke to their tech lead, and explained that I am currently freelancing; not really interested in the job as a full-time position, but would happily consult for them. I felt bad about wasting their time, but the whole thing could have been avoided if the recruiter had done her job properly.
So what did the recruiter do wrong?
- Offered me no real information about the company, the position, or the role.
- Ignored my conditions for considering the job.
- Set up an interview without asking me if I wanted one.
- Wasted her client's time by sending me to interview for a job that I clearly wasn't interested in.
This is bad for everyone involved - it wasted my time, it wasted the client's time, and it wasted the recruiters time. The recruiter kept acting as if I contacted her, asking her to find me a job, and insisted that I don't say a word about money to the client; she would do all the negotiation (I didn't speak money with the client, but largely that's because the person who interviewed me wasn't in a position to discuss it). The real problem, though, is that this type of experience is neither unique, nor uncommon.
I know that the job of an IT recruiter must be hard; you have to try to find and connect developers to businesses without knowing either well, and you often don't get paid except by commission. I know that a recruiter will try to get me the highest salary that they think they can, but that's because that means the largest commission for them. The problem with this, though, is that "the highest salary" is dependent on what their client will pay, and not what I'm asking for. It also means that all the benefits that I would want out of taking an office job again (flexible hours, good benefits, etc.) aren't included in negotiation because they won't reflect on the commission.
So here's what I propose. A way to make things better. Just a few steps that recruiters can take to make themselves less maligned.
- Learn a little about my job - You don't have to become a programmer yourself, but take a short-course - enough that you can recognise a couple of different programming languages. I can't expect you to give me information that I need to make a decision if you don't know what I do.
- Learn a little about your client - You should be able to tell me, at the very least, what industry they're in, and a basic outline of the role I would be expected to perform. Not asking for a full background, just "My client is in the insurance industry, and looking for someone to take lead on a new project", or "My client is in the mining sector, and is looking for more developers to help support their employee management system"
- Listen to my requirements - Some people may take any job that is dangled in front of them, but if you are contacting someone, then there's a good chance that they're happy where they are. If you don't meet their requirements, then they're not going to budge.
- Take "No" for an answer - If I'm not interested, move on. Wasting time trying to convince me (or setting up interviews for me) is not going to result in you getting a commision from me.
I could restate all of these points in many other ways, but I won't. That's what it really comes down to. I have met, and spoken to recruiters who actually follow those steps. They are great to work with, and I'm always happy to have a chat with them. It is possible, and it doesn't take that much more effort on their part.
So feel free to contact me, ask me questions, and offer me jobs. Just be prepared to answer my questions, listen to what I want, and accept "no" for an answer. After all, you contacted me.
Edit: while the anecdote is not the point of this post, I feel that I need to clarify. I am a freelancer, and I went to the interview with the intention of attempting to turn it into a contract client, instead of a full-time position.