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Should Developers Even Bother Working With Recruiters?

Aaron Decker
December 11th, 2019 · 3 min read
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I hear developers complain about working with recruiters a lot.

Any post on Hacker News or r/cscareerquestions that mentions recruiters usually turns into an all out hate-fest and people start sharing horror stories about their interactions with recruiters.

I hear the term “used car salesman” thrown around a lot.

So what is the truth here?

Recruiters be like

Recruiters don’t work for you, they work for the hiring manager

You need to keep this in mind in every single interaction. The person who pays the recruiter is the hiring manager.

Good recruiters do care about maintaining good relationships, finding win-win situations and helping people. But, at the end of the day many recruiters are just trying to make placements.

Ultimately you need to understand this dynamic when you enter into a relationship with a recruiter. The recruiter is going to try hard to sell you on companies.

Recruiters have warm leads. Job postings are cold leads.

You may not realize this but a lot of job postings are fake. They are there to satisfy bureaucratic requirements, or worse, just make the company look like they are growing.

Even if it is a real job, applications to job postings often go into a black hole in the ATS (application tracking system) that a company is using.

A human is likely not even looking at your application when you apply to a job online.

So when a recruiter comes to you with a job well, that is a warm lead. This means you can usually go directly into interviewing and you can skip the the application process if the hiring manager likes your resume.

This is the benefit of working with recruiters first and foremost: you skip an entire step of the process.

The wash-out rate in recruiting is extremely high

There are 3 or 4 enormous national staffing companies (that I won’t name here) that hire tons of new grads straight out college with degrees in things like business, communication, and sports management.

What are they looking for? Somebody that can make phone calls all day every day and try to sell jobs to candidates in what often amounts to a boiler-room setting.

You either figure it out or you are gone within a year.

Do you think these new recruiters understand the technical jobs they are placing people into? Do they understand frontend vs backend or .NET vs Java? No they do not, absolutely not.

They often have no experience in tech or recruiting for that matter.

Should you work with a recruiter with 3 months of experience at a big agency? This is the reason for most of the complaints about recruiters from what I can see.

There are very good, very experienced recruiters that DO care about relationships.

Generally, there are many smaller search firms that can be great to work with. Recruiters that understand tech, the local market, and how much you should be getting paid are out there.

So do yourself a favor - check out the recruiter’s LinkedIn first. Have they been doing this for 5 years or more?

Or did they clearly demonstrate they actually read and understood your background before contacting you? These are the people you want to work with.

I hope I am painting a clearer picture about the industry here - you have a ton of very inexperienced recruiters washing out quickly, then you have a set of experienced recruiters who actually know tech and know recruiting.

Fresh out of a university or bootcamp? Generally, don’t bother.

I have talked to recent bootcamp grads and recent university grads and they almost universally tell me that recruiters completely ignore them.

So I have asked different recruiters why they ignore recent grads. Want to know why?

Hiring managers don’t want new grads, and they certainly don’t want to pay for somebody to find a new grad for them.

A hiring manager often pays between 20% to 30% of a new hire’s salary as a fee to a recruiter. Are they going to spend that much money on a new grad with no experience when they are getting hundreds of applications a month online? No they are not.

What is the answer?

At the end of the day working with recruiters short-cuts the hiring process and it is better than just applying blindly online.

But I think the thrust of what I’m trying to get across here is this: check out who you are working with, and then understand that they work for the hiring manager first and foremost.

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