Sam says you should read this
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Recruit this

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.

Comments have been locked for this post.

I don't see any other comments on here, hopefully that's not because you keep rejecting them.

I understand your POV about the recruiter wasting your time, emailing you about a job, without much details of the company and position, ignoring your salary requirements, and setting up an interview that you didn't ask for, however, it seems that you may have lead her on by, answering her email, getting on the phone with her, showing interest in the job, and going to an interview to a job you didn't intend to take. Seems you are to blame just as much. Recruiters have a job to do, most do it pretty poorly, but it doesn't help when people lead them on and then put them down. When you mentioned you were a "freelancer" that was doing well, I read that as, "I am unemployed, but don't want to sound desperate. What is this job about? I'm interested but I won't say that to you because I don't want to show the cards I am holding."

Don't be a douche to the company by showing up for an interview when you don't intend to take the position. You made it clear that you didn't like the offered pay, the location, the position, then why go to the interview? I think you are the one to blame here, more than the recruiter.


Agree, given your story I am mystified by how you proceeded to show up the interview instead of politely saying "no thanks" to the recruiter.

Samuel Levy

Not rejecting comments, no - the post is new, so it always takes awhile for people to start commenting.

In that anecdote (which I cut down for the sake of brevity), it may have been unclear, but after I had told her that I wasn't really interested, and that my salary requirements were far above what the company was offering, she still kept trying to pursue the offer.

Should I have called off the interview? Perhaps, but there's always a possibility that a company would be open to bringing me on as a contractor, so I decided to go to the (very short notice) interview, be upfront with them, and see if there was a way to get a mutually beneficial arrangement out of it. The way it was presented was "I have an interview for you tomorrow. You have to meet XXXX at this address."

Of course, this is just one anecdote which happened recently. It's not the only time that a recruiter has kept attempting to pursue me for a job which I've told them I'm not interested in. I have also met a number of good recruiters who understand that if the company isn't offering anything that would interest me, then they should move on.


You made a significant mistake that will encourage this behavior instead of curtail it. Once you said you weren't interested, the response to "I have an interview for you tomorrow" is quite simple: "No, thank you, I said I wasn't interested." I know this is difficult, but if you let them bully you around, it gives them the idea that this behavior is OK.

Recruiters are just sales people, and sales people will do anything to get a sale until you rub their nose in their unethical behavior.

If you were genuinely interested in this possibility of contracting for this client, you should've gotten the name of the company from the recruiter, declined the interview, and then contacted the company directly. I do this all the time for my freelance consulting (PHP, etc) and it works great, and allows me to charge a much higher rate ($100/hr+).

The most important thing to realize: you don't owe them a damn thing. Just be clear that you do not consent to being submitted for any role at that company.


As a developer myself I see your side of it however recruiters get credit with the client for bringing in qualified candidates even if they know there is a seemingly unbridgeable gap between the bid and ask price. Also recruiters need to be pushy like salespeople - comes with the territory.
As it turned out you were slightly interested - chance of converting to a contract. I speak as someone who has turned down several interview chances, some with powerhouse companies.


At a certain point, as you get more and more experienced, recruiters become more and more worthless. Mostly because they don't have the senior jobs, they have the interchangable-cogs type jobs. This is in part because they can't be relied on to understand the details about a job and find a good fit, so they're mostly recruiting generic positions and finding junior people for them.

That said, companies do a poor job of hiring for the more senior jobs as well, as they tend to have HR departments staffed with people who aren't any better.

At some point, it becomes all about networking.


Going to the interview served a good purpose-- it put the company on notice as to how incompetent that recruiter is.

But there is no chance you could have gotten a contract there, because the deal the recruiters make them sign means the recruiter gets paid if you get hired in any capacity, so they likely weren't going to hire you at your contract rate and then send %20-%30 of the annual value of that contract rate to the recruiter for a contract that might be 3-6 months.

In the case of 3 months for a contract that earns you $25,000, they would have had to pay $20k-$30k to the recruiter!

Alan Hannan

The irony here is awesome. Author said he wanted job that met certain criteria. They said we don't have, but scheduled interview. So he offered them a consulting opportunity that met his criteria. The Bait and Switch got Bait and Switched!


Recruiters are the used car salesmen of the tech industry.


The next time I get bullied by a recruiter I'm blaming you and people like you. You wouldn't take your own 'no' seriously, why should they? At that rate, what did the recruiter have to lose? You might have taken the job! You probably made the recruiter look GOOD, having raised the count of people they 'brought in'.


I don't think you are a douche for going on the interview. You offered to help them by consulting on their projects. That could have been good for them and you ($$$).

I like doing interviews, although I'm employed full-time at a company I can't imagine leaving right now, just to meet new people, network and learn more about other companies. Doesn't hurt that you practice your interview skills either. Also, you never know, they might offer more money and the opportunity might be right. Interviewing never hurts you.


I'm a full time client-side engineer but I have a recruiting startup that I'm building on the side. It basically solves this problem by circumventing the "dumb" recruiter and utilizes a small network of engineers that moonlight as recruiters to subsidize income. It's amazing what some companies are willing to pay for good recuits.


Once you knew the name of the person you were meeting you should have called, cancelled and explained that the recruiter had overstepped their authority, and with the best possible resolution to a bad situation behind you, introduced yourself as a consultant.

You can't tell the recruiter to cancel because they will lie about why you're not coming to make themselves look good. They will lie about you to other people in the future.

You can't proceed with the interview because you are wasting someone's time.

As for the guy who finds out the name of the company and then sidesteps the recruiter, you're just as bad as they are.

Don't ever trust a recruiter who hasn't earned it!

Samuel Levy

It would be good to hear from someone on the other end of recruiters, too - someone who has used them to find "talent".


As a freelancer, it's almost always in your interest to meet new clients. Even if they don't have something for you right now, maybe something comes up. Maybe they don't find the right person for their current role. Maybe during the interview you find something else in common and they create a role for you.

Wait the six month recruiter-cooling-off period and get in contact again. You're not nearly as expensive to the company if they don't have to pay the 30% recruiter fee.


Wow. A lot of victim blaming in the comments. One small correction - the recruiter will not negotiate the best rate for you. They will negotiate the lowest rate with you and the highest rate with their client. Ie the largest margin possible. For this reason it is common for them to submit only the developer who leaves them the most profit. Thus the hirer gets cheated too.


wow, you must really find it hard to say "no" clearly to people, (especially recruiters) to have gone through more than 1 phone call and to the interview.

and that recruiter must have no idea about doing their job. why on earth would anyone try and send a candidate that doesnt want the job to a position that is paying half the price. its hard enough getting people who want a job a job, let along spending more than a second on time wasting like this.

I hear a lot about IT people saying that recruiters should learn a bit about programming. It probably needs to go the other way too.


Ahoy to another Brisbane developer! Good post mate - enjoyed it!


As I'm not terribly good at 'networking', and kept ending up doing fairly unchallenging, generic work at companies that advertise and hire in bulk, I decided to get a recruiter to help me find something more interesting. I was pretty pleased with the job he got me at first, but changed my mind over time. First of all there is that giant fee, up to a quarter of your annual wage, that you have to live up to. You always remain 'that guy who came in via a recruiter', which seems to be the professional equivalent of 'that guy with his mail order bride', and every time someone in management emphatically states they'll never work with recruiters again, you can't help wondering if you should take that as indirect criticism of yourself. I kept getting temporary contracts, which I assume means that even after so many years, they're still not sure if they want to keep this mail order employee. Despite the fact that I like the work and the colleagues, it's clear that it's time to move on. This time without a recruiter.


As a recruiter I'd have to agree with pretty much everything that you've written; the only thing I'd be uncomfortable with is that you went to an interview through a recruiter to attempt to go around the recruiter and turn the client into your client. That said, the recruiter should have told you everything he/she could about the company and the job. I used to work for a company whose salesperson would toss me a job TITLE - not even description! - and expect me to recruit on said title. This may have happened with this particular recruiter but that's no excuse for them not doing some research on the company for you. And, honestly, I have no time to "talk people into" jobs they don't want or need. If you're happy doing what you're doing, maybe you'll need my services as a paying client some day, who knows. Best of luck to all. (ducking all the beer bottles going to be thrown my way now)