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The Tenacity of Tech Recruiters (mattfriz.com)
132 points by smnplk on Mar 9, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments

The tenacity of blog posts about tech recruiters


Dear hackernews/reddit/socialmediathatsslightlyoffthemainstreamsoicanappearedgybutstillconnectwithmytargetdemographic

My name is Person McPerson. Here in MajorTechHubCity where there's so many work opportunities, i get so many work opportunities that it actually annoys me so much that I'll spend all of 30 seconds to write a blog post about getting so many work opportunity emails. Once, I was offered a job in a programming language that hasn't been mainstream for at least 4 months! That language was ruby for all those interested. Ruby! Don't make me spit out my own coffee in indignation. I obviously tracked down the person that wrote the email and gave them whatfor. Well, actually I just pressed the "I don't know this person" button.

It's a difficult life, and i hope you empathize with my plight. It really is, as the beatles put it, a hard day's night answering all these linkedin messages. I don't actually answer them though. That's for suckers. You're not some kind of ruby using sucker are you?

Sincerely yours, Person McPerson. (available for remote work, 3 days a week due to my digital nomad lifestyle, please email me)

Thank you.

(disclaimer: not a recruiter)

I like HN, but the attitude towards recruiters here is so ugly and smug and superior. We get it. You are so annoyed by all these companies who want to hire you. You have the power to merely pick up the phone and work at Google tomorrow if it pleased you. You drive a Tesla and have a supermodel girlfriend too. Great. Congratulations. You're awesome.

For the rest of us mortals, it's nice to have someone reach out and offer to put us in touch with someone looking to hire us. This is a LUXURY not available to the vast majority of workers in the world. Be a little grateful for a change. Sure, a lot of the jobs might be "bottom of the barrel" type jobs but you never know, and it never hurts to be civil and treat these folks with a little empathy.

I do understand your sentiment, I was flattered when I first moved the to bay area, with all the recruiters sending me emails, and I would politely reply telling them that I'm not available (because of my immigration status).

But, the problem is that it's the same template, and most of the recruiters haven't even bothered to check the message that they sent (I think they are using some software to send these emails).

My name has an apostrophe in it, when the email starts with

    Hi Ala',
I know that he didn't check anything, and he is not interested in me, but in anyone.

When the email contains a lot of false statements, like

    Your experience in Python is impressive.
given that I don't use python, and my knowledge in it is very limited.

When you are receiving these emails 10 times a week, it becomes annoying.

Yes, I had my university project on my CV - which was comparing Perl, PHP and Java for a task. I didn't do any of the PHP code, yet I was constantly sent jobs for PHP because it obviously hits their keyword search.

You've had better luck with tech recruiters than I have. I once spent eight months looking for a job in Boston, dealing with large numbers of tech recruiters who wanted interviews and long discussions, only for them to reveal at the end that they didn't have any jobs available but they'd be sure to contact me when they did.

And then there were the cases where someone posted a new opening relevant to my skills, and I was immediately flooded with phone calls from indistinguishable recruiters, all of whom had sent me an e-mail literally seconds before and were calling "to follow up". Fortunately, these people normally revealed enough about the job that I could find the original listing -- and apply to it -- on my own.

I hate to say it, and seem all superior, but as recruiters, they're supposed to contact highly desirable candidates, and they are supposed to make them good offers. That's their job, they are not potted plants.

As such, their job is to not produce lousy come-ons, or, as has been frequently the case, attempt to recruit people several grades too senior for a post. It's a matter of context, and what might be an intriguing come-on for some (the "rest of us mortals"), is essentially a thinly concealed insult to others. If they took a little less of a cookie cutter approach to their jobs, they might stumble into fewer situations where people are tempted to be uncivil or lose their empathy (that being said, there's no cause to be rude in these situations).

> For the rest of us mortals, it's nice to have someone reach out and offer to put us in touch with someone looking to hire us.

And I have at least once taken the job, too. Once is enough that it's worthwhile to let them call me.

That said, if you try to repeatedly pester me, I'm going to try my best to lose you, whether you're a recruiter or not. You want to let me know you have something that I might be interested in? Fine. I'll listen. I'll tell you if I'm interested. If not, don't ask me about that one again. If I say I'm not willing to look around right now, don't ask me again for six months.

That is, I'll be civil and have empathy until I quit getting civility and empathy back.

Shouldn't you have a Lamborghini instead​ of a Tesla?

Any self-respecting person should have 47 Lamborghinis in one's Lamborghini account.

Who would want to work for google (excepting 20 somethings)?

Here's the other end, recruiters hoping to sell you candidates:


I emailed you about your opening last week. I'm just checking to see if you are still searching for great candidates.

If so, I can help! I have a great candidate who you may want to interview.

If not, let me know what positions you are looking to fill and I will get to work.

CyberCoders is a pay for performance, nationwide recruiting firm that focuses on exceptional local candidates who meet your needs.

Best part? We stand behind all of our candidates and will replace them if for any reason they do not work out.


That sounds nice, doesn't it? Except that I don't have a position open at the moment, nor did I last week, and how exactly are they representing "a great candidate" when they don't even know what we're looking for?

Naturally I wrote back saying that this was great and they should send me the resume immediately. They haven't responded...

We stand behind all of our candidates and will replace them if for any reason they do not work out.

This sounds hilarious if you try reading it from the candidate's perspective. Imagine them sending the translated version to the candidate:

"We will replace you if for whatever reason the company doesn't like you"

I'm generally much more pro-recruiter than the crowd here at HN, but I filter anything from Cybercoders directly to the trash, both as a candidate and a hiring manager.

CyberCoders and their overposting siblings is why I don't bother with LinkedIn job ads anymore.

i recently had an exchange with 'Bill' from Cybercoders.

'found your resume, looks fantastic, check out this job posting' - oh, i think i know the company, would love to work with them, let me know

two weeks later - 'found your resume, looks fantastic, check out this job posting' - don't you remember me? there was a similar posting, and you didn't get back to me, ok, no matter. 'can i call you on friday'

didn't bother calling. a week later starts leaving daily voice mails. i mistakenly answer, lie, and told him i just started at another job

a week later 'found your resume, looks fantastic...'

Recruiters get put on my autoresponder list. The automatic response says "This is an automated response. Your message was caught by a filter and automatically archived" right at the top, followed by an explanation that I don't work with third-party recruiters. About once a year I check what messages were caught by the recruiter filter and I always discover a few recruiters who have responded (apparently manually) multiple times to my autoresponder, receiving the same response every time. Their messages are usually something like "I understand why you feel that way but we're not like other recruiters, we think you'd be a really good match for X company working with a decaying technology you haven't worked in for 10 years". It's "tenacity", but I can't imagine conversing with autoresponders is very effective.

> It's "tenacity", but I can't imagine conversing with autoresponders is very effective.

Particularly at the bottom end recruitment can be a scummy industry (just like anywhere that's sales and commission led, I suppose).

Back when I worked at a ~100 person company as a hiring manager I had recruiters pull all kinds of crazy. Recruiters submitting fake resumes to find out what positions are open, waiting for me outside the office to shove resumes into my hands, get genuine resumes from candidates not working with them, send them to me, and then claim to represent them...and that's before you get onto the black market for leads and the like.

It's shameful. I had to make my Instagram private, because I had a recruiter texting me and noting I was at Disneyland, suggesting I could get in touch while in line for rides.

That's hilarious.

That is simultaneously both awesome and creepy.

I'm struggling to find the "awesome" part.

I've been harassed on Instagram by people asking me to update an open source project I let go of five years ago. While it may seem neat and flattering, the reality is that it's incredibly disturbing.

I think awesome depends on the sensibilities of the person being stalked, and the sweetness of the opportunity. I concur that the creep factor likely trumps the awesome factor. Still, if a recruiter popped out of my closet with a million dollar opportunity, there's nothing to say that I can't take the opportunity, and then call the cops.

It's a reality of the data vacuum cleaner era, the house that adtech and social media built.

I once raised a support ticket for a public SaaS printer that wasn't printing a resume. Not too long after, the tech on the other end tried to recruit me. Lesson learned to never use public printers.

I don't know, if they're managing your private life this well (I mean what they wrote is pretty credible: perhaps getting a better job while you're on vacation is a great use of your time standing in line at disneyland) I would give them the benefit of the doubt and see how they are at managing my career for me.

I mean, what -- after all that work, are they going to get back to me with bad offers? (worse than the place I'm staying)? Doesn't make much sense to me. . . .

Vacation is a time to stop thinking about work.

My impression is that those on the bottom of the recruiter rung do the really desperate stuff like hounding you with several weeks of emails every few days, calling you at your office, etc. If you're so unlucky to be a dead ringer for a position and have a rookie recruiter thinking they can wrangle you in, hold on to your seats.

I'd highly recommend folks read "Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy", great perspectives given from all three parties involved in this land of recruitment. Also covers some history that may no longer be well known why the state of affairs is as such.

Boo hoo, you have people knocking on your door to give you a comfortable job. I wish I had that problem.

Tech recruiters at cold-call end of the Talent Acquisition Funnel aren't offering you a comfortable job, though.

They're searching on LinkedIn and offering you to throw at a company with Similarly Aligned Keywords to see if you stick.

I want to believe that there are higher-quality recruiters out there, ones who understand employee fit from both sides, but I haven't had the privilege of meeting one.

If there where, they would understand the underlying tech and would be drafted to run some department or code/architect on some system. The good recruiters get there time wasted by the bad recruiters, just like everyone else.

> I want to believe that there are higher-quality recruiters out there, ones who understand employee fit from both sides, but I haven't had the privilege of meeting one.

There are the internal recruiters from companies spamming on LinkedIn too.

And the recruiters who have good roles and state the companies and salaries upfront.

Any job with a paycheck on a regular basis is a high quality job, for me at least.

With the tech job market right now, most tech workers can find jobs that pay the bills easily, so they'll tend to raise their level of discrimination a little. So they look for the one that pays a little more, is working with some neat technology, and basically works with their schedule (Or whichever other list of nice-to-haves).

When you can afford to be picky, "high quality" takes on a different meaning.

Exactly. But the point is that is a luxury for most people. Having recruiters chase you and being irritated by it lacks some awareness of how hard it is for some people to earn a living. It is hard to sympathize with people for having to ignore a few emails every day.

That part of it isn't lost on me. Although, I think being irritated by people (recruiters) harassing you is natural, but complaining about it to someone vying in a less-lively job market is insensitive, and I wouldn't expect that person to sympathize in the least.

I think the point the parent was trying to make is that responding to a recruiter isn't likely to get you ANY job, because they don't understand the job reqs they're recruiting for nor the people they're trying to place.

There are, but they're virtually reserved for ex-military.

Though that can actually be an interesting problem for all three parties.

There are. They are called headhunters. They'll meet with you and give first.

It's not very helpful when they're trying to give you a job you aren't qualified for; it's just a waste of everyone's time: mine, the recruiter's, and if I were to actually work with the recruiter, the hiring manager's. The problem is most recruiters have no idea what they're doing.

Just because some 3rd-party recruiter wants to "give you a comfortable job" doesn't mean he's actually capable of it.

IME, most 3rd-party recruiters are barely competent if that, and are trying to get me to apply for jobs I either am not qualified for, have zero interest in (some dead-end technology that'll mean I won't have a career before long if I go that route), or is some short-term contract in the middle of nowhere (meaning I'd be losing money to take the job, unless I want to live in my car).

The short-term contracts are the ones that really make my head spin, because those requisitions are coming directly from companies and the recruiters are just looking for heads for those positions. Do these companies in places like Erie, PA really think they're going to find someone with highly specialized skills who's willing to come work for them for only 6 months at an unremarkable pay rate? The cost to relocate there would be substantial, not many places will let you have a 6-month lease, and then there's the cost to relocate somewhere else after 6 months because there's no other similar jobs there. What are these companies thinking?

The ideal is that people genuinely are knocking on your door with a nice job for you.

The reality is that most are just in it for commissions - which in some cases comes out of the salary you're promised - and you get thrown into a job where the company cared too little to actually look for quality candidates.

The secret ia that 90% of them are garbage. When someone boasts how they are getting courted left and right I have a chuckle and put them in my "very impressionable" bin.

Ok, I'll bite.

How can I find you online? Do you have a blog with even a modicum of activity? Do you have a linkedin that says "I'm good with X"? Some github activity? At least a twitter account where you post sometimes?

Software engineers have a NEGATIVE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. Negative. If you're not getting recruiterspam, you're not findable. And that's totally on you, not on anyone else. It's 2017, it has never been easier to be findable. Do something, anything, and put it out there.

If recruiters can find you with "Software engineer with a pulse", you will get emails. Maybe not every day, but at least once in a while.

This advice [probably] does not work for many other professions.

Do you even read this forum? "Negative unemployment rate" couldn't be further from the truth. There are tons of qualified programmers who get rejected left and right. I'm experiencing this at the moment myself. If there were really negative unemployment rate, then I should get 10 offers for sending out 10 resumes. In reality I'm getting 0 offers for every 10 resumes sent out.

Have you considered that you might not be a fit for companies where you are applying? For example, I would bomb at any enterprisey company, and I do really well in small early stage startups.

I could apply to hundreds of corporate jobs and I'm pretty sure I'd get none of them. Whereas for small startups I have historically rejected more offers than I've taken.

In fact, I have never gotten an offer from any company bigger than 30 or so employees. And yet my inbox gets at least 1 recruiter spam per week.

But that's besides the point. If there are very many engineers out there who aren't getting jobs within, say, 1 year of actively starting to look. And if there are very many companies out there that can't hire engineers within, say, 1 year of actively starting to look. Then there's something wrong with market fluidity in one way or another.

That said, I don't think I've ever heard of a competent engineer who can't land a job within a year of actively seeking.

Then again, I've heard that if you aren't doing anything useful for over a year, your prospects start to dwindle because people wonder what's your deal and see it as a red flag.

> Software engineers have a NEGATIVE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE.

> land a job within a year of actively seeking

A year lead time is what a negative rate looks like?

If you keep applying for jobs you're not a fit for? Yes.

I'd say 1 year is a high upper bound though. Specifics really depend.

But here's some general stats: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-biggest-predictor-o...

That link says that with a bachelor's degree or more, 17% are unemployed for 6 months or less, and 19% for a year or more. That gives a really big percent for people between 6 months and a year.

The reason I brought up the 1 year number was more to point out that there's a big difference between "I can't get a job [at all]" and "I can't get a job I really love as quickly as I want".

I mean, it doesn't matter what the unemployment rate for software engineers is, if you want a job as an AI expert at Google and all you've ever done is building simple Wordpress sites for your buddies.

Well that's not necessarily true. From one of your other submissions, you stated "...I am very bad at interviewing..."

So the problem seems more of, "Hiring Mangers think I'm unqualified" rather than "There aren't enough jobs for qualified developers"

Hiring an unqualified developer is MUCH worse than not hiring a developer at all. It's wasted time and money for the company. I've been on both sides of the table so if you want some feedback on your resume/interviewing skills feel free to shoot me an email.

Shoot you an email where exactly?

You should check your HN profile visibility from a browser where you're not logged in. You don't have email in your profile.

The email address field in your profile is only shown to mods so they can contact you if there's a problem.

HN users who want to be contacted should put their email address in the "about" box.

If you're looking for work, you should put contact info in your profile here. If you're in Seattle, email me.

> If you're not getting recruiterspam, you're not findable. And that's totally on you, not on anyone else.

Which is, to say the least, awesome? Nothing better in the world than not being found, in this day and age.

the desperation/amount of the recruiters is inversely proportional to the available housing surrounding the hiring company. Hence, most recruiters are all working for companies in or near SF, or Palo Alto: of which we've heard from 100s!

Despite there being ample software companies in the east bay/tri-valley area, I haven't heard from a single recruiter, recruiting for a position in the tri-valley area - I imagine their doing just fine with their hiring.

If companies are serious about hiring talent, they're going to need to start relocating to areas that candidates can get to/live in.

This is so true. I live in an affordable area two hours from a minor tech hub. I get plenty offers for that hub, but next to nothing nearby. I have a good enough job so I have no interest in moving. Maybe 1/10 are interested in remote work, so I tend to at least hear them out.

My favorite recruiting emails are the ones where their name-replace code broke and left in {{first_name}} or something similar.

Ah, yes, I must be the perfect fit for your role!

Why thank you {{recruiter_name}}, I realize that {{spammy_recruiting_company}} is great and that you really go the extra mile for your prospects, I'd love to hear more, but I'm really happy where I am, and as I just started am not actively looking.

It's missing a bit about how the job is in a city that you last lived in three employers ago.

I'm continually having to tell cold-contact recruiters that I don't live in Austin anymore, having moved to Houston twelve years ago.

Yeah... getting called from a resume/profile over a decade old isn't much fun.

I'd write these emails all day every day for the money recruiters make.

Do they make a lot? How comparable is it to engineer salary?

Their fee is typically a percentage of the first year's salary for the role their candidate fills. I've seen them request up to 30%, but in my experience they settle for 10-15% depending on the situation.

For a skilled recruiter, this can accrue pretty quickly; at the rate of one role filled per month, they're bringing in equivalent to an average engineer's salary. Of course I'm ignoring overheads there, and if they're working for a recruitment firm they'll be personally receiving commission rather than an individual fee. But my experience in the UK was that there were a few powerful and well-connected independent recruiters who had most of the good candidates and interesting companies on their books - I imagine it could add up pretty quickly!

It's much like the real estate business (in the US, at least). There are a handful of people who can do extremely well, and then a long tail who think it looks like easy money but end up making very little.

> But my experience in the UK was that there were a few powerful and well-connected independent recruiters who had most of the good candidates and interesting companies on their books

Care to share names?

10-20% for the usual recruiters. 30-35% for the good ones.

Needs to mention that they were 'looking through my GitHub'

Oh, look! A couple of stolen Javascript (it's always Javascript) frameworks, as well as a fork of TensorFlow!

I've starred the FB's fastText on Github. This was enough to start getting emails from recruiters looking for AI developers in my area.


And they read your thesis- and all the papers you released. They know what you where a expert in!

Yup this happened to me too ! Fortunately, they have been blacklisted for phishing (google safebrowsing) just a couple of days later. Have they exaggerated ?

Today I got an email sent to my work email (which they must have guessed, it's not public) that asked how I liked working at a company I left years ago. That was a fun one.

Judging from my experience, the next one will be to place you at the company you already are.

I had a funny one where during the AWS S3 outage a recruiter reached out to me saying that I most likely had free time due to the outage and i should use it talking to him...

A recruiter contacted me a while back with a similar act, just completely clueless. I put out ridiculous terms and informed him of a handbook I've written to help him improve. He responded by saying he was interested but only if it had data driven facts (which it doesn't). I created a coupon code to give him a free copy of the book, he never cashed it in. Recruiters are all bullshit, assume everything they say is a lie.

It's too easy to bash recruiters on HN. They exist because people want jobs and employers give them money to find people.

I appreciate the value in theory, but practically tech recruitment seems to be a bit silly. Recruiters have a habit of cornering the market; if they have all the best candidates on their books, employers are almost obliged to indulge what's effectively rent-seeking behaviour. Ideally it would be much better if qualified candidates speak directly to employers and lose the go-between, who doesn't add a huge amount of value (though they can to some extent take a bit of the work out for the candidate, and possible negotiate salary and benefits more forcefully).

To me the much bigger problem in tech recruitment is the difficulty of finding permanent staff rather than contractors. I don't know what the state of the market is in the US, but in London good permanent staff are becoming as rare as hens' teeth. The natural outcome of a seller's market, I suppose.

They have potential to add huge value for candidates. I.e., if I looked for a job, I'd appreciate somebody to take the annoying part - scheduling, initial talking/pitching, resume sending, introductions, filtering out obvious mismatches, negotiating good terms, etc. - and only do the actual interviewing and deciding. But from what I hear, most recruiters are underqualified to do that, and/or prefer to play simple numbers game - spam enough people and you may get lucky.

There are many companies that you cannot enter without going through a recruiters or an employee referring you.

> They exist because people want jobs and employers give them money to find people

Sure. Some recruiters are great. But third party recruitment is a sales led industry. You're under constant pressure to close the deal and make the sale. Salespeople do not always behave honestly or ethically.

I have worked with some great third party recruiters who sourced me good candidates. But I also have come across a large number of, for want of a better word, scumbags and hustlers.

Exactly. When I used to be looking for work, I never liked being the one trying to hound companies begging for work. Some people are suited to that kind of work and some aren't. It makes perfect sense for people to specialize so programmers do programming and recruiters do job matching.

Obviously, there is a vital function to be performed here. No one's disputing that a recruiter can add value, only that in practice, the tech recruiters are horrible at their job and accomplish nothing other than nebulous keyword matching, and overhyping some other party's qualifications. They produce very bad matches and just add an extra level of annoyance.

Pro tip: Annoying me is not the most effective way to get me to do what you want.

shit, if there were an actual company with real use for Merovingian numismatics, i would work there in a heartbeat

My LinkedIn is completely blank - no bio, no picture, no skills, no education info, nothing about where I work, about four connections to former coworkers. I get emails almost every day from recruiters nonetheless. It's like the epitome of r-selection.

I have a picture, my education listed (CS B.S. degree from top 30 university), prior internship (with short description), and my current position at a huge company in Silicon Valley (also with a short description). On average 1-2 recruiters look at my profile without contact. What the hell am I doing wrong?

You'll get better quality lead with a filled profile.

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