Typically you get a vague recruiter spam type message on email/LinkedIn which seems to deliberately avoid saying anything about the position. Based on this they want a phone call.
why do they write the messages in a way they must surely understand does not make any employed developer eager to change jobs?
Usually I answer that without more information up front I’m not interested in having a phone call, and I add some questions like “what in particular did you mean when you said I seemed like a good fit for this role?” or “what’s the role/seniority more exactly?”
Invariably the answer to that is: ”I can’t disclose this other than over the phone”
The recruiter now has to be 100% aware that they risk losing this candidate because they couldn’t reveal basic information about the position in an email. So why is that?
Are these some kind of low level minion recruiters who work on a commission based on how many phone calls they do, rather than by commission for the actual recruiting? That’s the only reason I can think of!
What actually is stopping recruiters from writing
- you’ll work language Z mainly. The team uses tools X and Y.
- The person they are looking for is a Senior back end developer
- the work is product based, not contracting
- the team is 40 people
- The position is in northern City X with occasional travel
WHY is it never like that? Why is it always some mumbling about “growth opportunities” and how I’m a “good match” and so on?
1. They want to learn something they are not legally allowed to ask. Most likely your salary (not legal in California), but also citizenship (required for export license jobs but still illegal to ask in the US) , guess your age, gender, race etc.
2. They think they are very good at persuasion and will manage to sell you their crappy job if only they can get your ear.
3. As you said, some agencies have metrics they need to meet every month and those include number of calls. I learned this is from reading recruiters rants on Linkedin.
It is legally ill-advised to ask about it when it is not legal to discriminate based on it, because you have no lawful use of the information and asking about it is an action from which discrimination can be inferred.
There is a persistent myth that it is unconditionally illegal to ask about things that are usually illegal to discriminate on, but this mistakes both what is illegal and when.
Citizenship status discrimination, outside of situations where there is a legal requirement, is generally prohibited. This is actually a firmer line than
applies to usual
OTOH, national origin is also a protected class, and it is very hard to do citizenship discrimination without also doing indirect national origin discrimination, so it's problematic even if you only considered normal protected classes.
Assuming the person is allowed to work, you're not supposed to discriminate based on how they got that right: native-born, refugee, whatever. However, I can't imagine that you'd be forced to help someone keep or obtain that authorization.
This is good enough. Citizenship is sufficient but not necessary. And of course, you can ask for citizenship if it is a bona fide job qualification (e.g. ITAR).
Surely it cannot be illegal to ask about citizenship if it's a requirement for the job?
And maybe you respond and tell them to remove you from whatever list they have you on because they clearly haven't done their research on you. Or maybe you figure "one phone call hurt just to see", and you chat with them. Well now you're in their database, only slightly more targeted for the next time around.
They don't want to tell you about the position details because they don't want you bypassing them and applying directly to the position yourself. They don't get paid that way.
It's no different than salespeople. They span the spectrum. Some salespeople are slimeballs who will tell you anything to make a sale. Some are actually good and will make sure you get a quality product and are happy. The vast majority are somewhere in between. It's just like any other type of business, frankly. These guys, though, are just playing a numbers game. They are basically the telemarketers of the recruiting business business. Or the shady car salesman. Or whatever parallel you prefer.
There ARE good recruiters. Particularly those that specialize in more higher-level positions. But unfortunately these crappy recruiters tend to drown everyone out, so it becomes hard to separate the good from the bad.
Lots of recruiter I met are kind of these people, talking to them are pretty much waste of time. The best approach is to talk to them just by phone in a very short time, which won't cost too much if you eventually found it's waste of time.
Another reason is that more often, the recruiters don't add any value except connecting the client and the candidate (and take 30-50% cut for that service !!). Also, often there are multiple layers of sub-contractors (sub-vendors), who supply candidates and take their cut. There is nothing stopping candidate from walking directly to the client or the prime vendor and talk to them, and that's one of the reasons the smaller vendors hide as much info as possible and force you to sign various agreements before revealing the client name. I have seen this happening for 20 years and nothing much has changed. Smart guys learn to escape this in couple of years of contracting, but unfortunately, even some very tech savvy people may not be aware of all these shoddy business practices of recruiting industry. Many years ago, I helped a fellow programmer to raise his pay from around $75k to $160k (literally.. not exaggerating).
Often, I think about creating a service/product that changes this business model upside down. The reduced margins can be balanced by attracting more candidates who prefer simple, straight forward pricing for contract jobs.
Recruiters tell me what they know, but most of the time there isn't much to say, it's just some boring standard 9-5 stuff
This doesn’t explain why someone would use these recruiters though. As an employer I’d insist that even for a $1k recruitment fee, the contacts weren’t actively scaring off any reasonable devs. Remember I’m not asking for “personalized” - I’m just asking for “minimum job parameters up front”. To recruit a decent dev, this shouldn’t be a cost at all.
2) Crooters are afraid that if they tell you the company name in their initial contact email, you will attempt to snipe them by applying for the job yourself without their help. Once they have you on the horn, they can instruct you to only deal with the company through them. Most (especially young) developers will be good little do-bees and do just that.
> Why is it always some mumbling about “growth opportunities” and how I’m a “good match” and so on?
3) You think a crooter actually reads your résumé? Bahahahahaha... Oh, you sweet summer child. Crooters only ever come across your résumé. Translation: Their ATS snarfed it up while crawling the big tech job sites (Indeed, Dice, LinkedIn, etc.) and returned your name when they did a keyword search. When the crooter says "I think you might be a good fit for the role" that's all it means -- your name came up when they plugged keywords in for that role.
As others have pointed out, it's spam-o-nomics: do this enough times, and eventually there'll be a candidate who'll bite, be a match, and go on to work for the client netting a sweet fat commission for the crooter. All they have to do is keep farming the system.
So there has to be more to it than that.
A theory of mine is that companies usually don't go to these firms, but other recruiters do.
My company goes to a good recruiter and offers $X to fill a role. They have a good track record and demonstrate a good network and good practices. We sign a contract. But what this HR firm does is start off by hedging their bets: they subcontract the recruitment to a lesser HR firm by offering $X/2 to fill the role.
The firm below has less info about the position (because the top firm doesn't want or need to say, they just want leads) and because they get less pay, all they can do is spend a minimum of effort on candidates.
This theory is at least plausible in the sense that it explains what we observe: that someone pays these firms money to do this.
Then I'll set up a chat with either an internal recruiter for that company or a hiring manager. The chat is to discover if the company would be a good fit for me, and on their side to see if I'd be a good fit for the company. If both of those things are true then interviews come very quickly afterward.
Having someone who works there means that you already have someone internally who can vouch for you. If it's already determined that you'd be a good fit from internal discussions then you generally have a leg up in the hiring process. And again it's also really great to figure out where you definitely don't want to be working.
> Dear PERSON. Thanks for reaching out. I'm happy where I am but for $Y base salary with SOME_OTHER_BENEFITS I would consider a move. Let me know if that sounds reasonable for your team otherwise I will be in touch if anything changes. Feel free to reach out again in 6-12 months either way.
This is a bit cold and focused on the money, but recruiters are usually sending the same emails anyway - as the article points out. Ultimately why waste everyone's time if you wouldn't really consider a move anyway? In the 4 months since I've been doing this, almost every recruiter that has responded has responded with "thanks for responding and thanks for being up front."
To be "honest" with this approach, put a number in $Y that would really really make you consider changing jobs. 1.5x your current salary? Double if you're super happy where you are? Maybe SOME_OTHER_BENEFITS becomes "really high equity percentage" or "fully remote" or "work 3 days a week"?
I put my $Y pretty high so most companies can't afford me, but I've got 1 or 2 companies that may be able to pay it in the pipe. Win-win.
"Hey, I saw your profile on LinkedIn and I felt you'd be perfect for a position I have for BLAH, a very established BLAHBITY BLAH, looking for someone like yourself who can do BLAH and BLAH. When are you available for a call?"
Hi, <Recruiter>. Thanks for reaching out! It sounds interesting but I'm going to need more info, can you kindly provide a salary range and location? Also, <additional question here>?
The Recruiter will answer one of two ways:
a) with the raw data
b) with an additional request for a phone conversation.
Folks, I can tell you one thing - b usually means the pay is below what I'm looking for, almost every time. So b I ignore and let them come begging (at least in this current climate where the market is strong).
They’d rather lose sale than talk over email to customer.
I was on the market for brand new luxury sedan and certain dealership was insisting of me coming in rather then disclosing their price.
I took my business elsewhere.
With that said, you can tell pretty early on that some folks prefer talking over email to phone -- and that's OK too!
To me the sale is a matter of clear equation: success=min(price).
If I have extra questions - i'll call or schedule appointment and come to talk.
Otherwise I am not interested to listen to the other guy's sales pitch and his life stories. If dealer is unwilling or incapable of answering simple question over email - this leaves a perception of some sort shady character and I move on.
And likely so others too.
Basically, I agree with you. If you don’t want to talk with me, I don’t want to waste your time and mine. Generally, I’ll try to supply whatever I can to you via email and propose a phone call or f2f if there are some things which need clarification. If my product (semiconductor manufacturing equipment) isn’t a fit, it is usually apparent pretty quickly and everyone can move on with their lives.
Hence, the reason dealers are unwilling to give a price in writing is because they know they're asking too much and will likely be beaten by the other dealers.
Clear sign to move on to other local dealers.
I can accept it's a thing that could happen and be true. vOv
1. The answer depends on how well your interview goes. The salary range would have to include everything from a borderline beginner to a highly experienced person with all sorts of extra skills. You might focus on the end of that range which doesn't apply to you. The difference could be a factor of 5 or more.
2. They legitimately haven't been told.
3. They have been told, but they can't tell you. This is sensitive information that can be used by competitors.
Suppose it isn't yet decided if you will be a "Junior Tester" or a "Senior Fellow Distinguished Engineer". The decision will be made after the interview. What does California law say about such a situation, where there isn't just one neatly limited slot into which you must exactly fit?
When recruiters do respond to these types of messages, my usual experience is that it’s an even more aggressive hard-sell on positions based on some poorly copy / pasted sections of a job description, incoherent lists of buzzwords or technologies that make no sense as skills belonging to one single person (e.g. years of machine learning experience as well as expert in rails), and various all caps or bolded promises that they are paying a lot of money.
This comes from every type of recruiter too, from giant big box headhunting looking for contractors to the latest and greatest stuff like cybercoders to boutiques like phaidon / huxley / other finance crap, on down to lone individual recruiters who have been doing it for 20 years and only got my email because a friend highly recommended them as a legit recruiter.
Truly, in over a decade of working with all types of recruiters, I have never seen a recruiter add value for any party at any time. It’s pure loss to engage with recruiters.
Good recruiters work for employers by maintaining a strong network of candidates across a number of fields, and also by finding candidates for roles that are cheaper/better than others because they come from recruitment pools outside those traditionally used for the role. Example: a company might be looking for a Sales Engineering role - typically pretty difficult positions to recruit because there's a small pool of candidates. But, if you can find someone in consulting or traditional development/engineering that has the right skills, they can be brought on relatively cheaply. Good recruiters know this, and they know how to find and evaluate those candidates so the company doesn't have to.
By the same token, recruiters that I maintain a relationship with have made my last three job searches significantly quicker and easier - I know them, they know me and they know who is looking for what. They've added significant value for me, and for the employers that I work with.
It’s frankly crazy to hear this, just knowing how incompetent even the most prestige-dripping boutique recruitment firms are, how many totally inappropriate candidates they foist onto firms (I used to run all recruitment for my team at an asset management company and know very well how unhelpful recruiting pipelines are).
The other thing is that these types of recruiting pipelines are exactly the well-worn, used-by-everyone pipelines. You mention various times that this approach somehow draws up unusual or untapped recruits, but it’s exactly the opposite. You’re just playing musical chairs with the same pipe of recruits that everyone else is looking at.
As a final note, I appreciate how you blow right past the idea that recruiters are supposed to be negotiating in good faith on behalf of the candidate, even going as far as to suggest the recruiter would disingenuously represent a job to someone who shades outside that skill area just for the sake of “getting them cheaply” and not getting them a salary that would more fairly reflect the actual labor value they would be adding.
You’ve pretty much made a great case for exactly why nobody should be working with these recruiters.
The employer’s going to end up with a wrong-skills / wrong-experience candidate who is sold on one job but walks into the real job and quickly sees they didn’t want it, while earning below market compensation, and everyone’s unhappy in a year.
> I have never seen a recruiter add value for any party at any time
I don't agree with that at all. I've worked with a handful of really great recruiters over the years who have really treated me like a human being with a career path. One placed me at my last gig by asking the company to create a special role for me. I recognize that's a bit rare but I don't see recruiters as being a waste of time. It's fair to treat them the way they treat you but I don't put them all in the same bucket.
I know the game sucks either way, but I'd rephrase your answer a little and use it as a second e-mail, not first.
Extra points for the recruiter if they write something indicating why I would be a good fit - only happens rarely.
Also, checking back later (a year or two) to see if I am open to a change, even if I wasn't before, is OK by me. Sometimes you don't want to change, no matter what the offer is.
We developers should not complain too much about recruiters though - we are extremely lucky to work in a field where there is such high demand. Most people aren't so lucky.
I also think being contacted by a recruiter puts you in a great bargaining position: You are in a much better position to negotiate salary and benefits than if you applied directly. You already have a job, so if the offer isn’t interesting enough or good enough, you can just say no.
I wrote a post similar to this a few years ago, making the above points: https://henrikwarne.com/2015/11/22/recruiting-software-devel...
> We developers should not complain too much about recruiters though - we are extremely lucky to work in a field where there is such high demand.
Absolutely - That's something I wish I would have touched on in my post. I didn't want it to sound too "woe is me" that I have people reaching out to offer me a job.
> I also think being contacted by a recruiter puts you in a great bargaining position
I'll echo your points and salary and benefits, but also mentioned that sometimes recruiters will have an in with the hiring manager, versus going through HR when applying directly (which could get lost in a pile).
And some UK recruiters play very dirty. They post fake CVs and fake job ads to mine the market. They pose as candidates to get info from other agents; and ask real candidates what other jobs they have applied for.
All I'm asking is basic things like "what tech are they ussing" or "what type of role is it" etc.
Of all my theories for why they can't say up front I'm now leaning towards this one: they need to gather my info so that if the 5-10 minute phone call is fruitless, they'll have enough candidate info on ME to be able to pay for that call, when they say that info in bulk. If they gave away the big parameters first (location, pay range, tech, ..) they know that's when most conversations will end. I haven't tried, but I'm guessing that if I just tell them enough about me first, they'll eventually allow the call to contain details about the position. At that point I'll just say "no thanks, I can't move to city Y", but they are happy they got some good info.
You always get the best deals when you don't need that "something" right now.
I've personally gone both extremes:
1. Spamming linkedin, message boards, etc.
2. Seeking out specific candidates, emailing them, offering to grab coffee or do a call.
I've had more success hiring with #2, in which regard I agree with the article. But it comes with a perverse side-effect: I am ignoring 95% of potential candidates, likely a similar group everyone else is ignoring. I am mostly contacting people with years of experience at good companies with a decent web presence. Because if I didn't, I wouldn't have time to do my other job duties. When I (or our internal technical recruiters) spam out a job we are giving more people a chance at the job, and are introducing fewer personal biases.
I'm not saying either approach is right or wrong, I just think there's room for both. Maybe the ultimate solution is a single centralized marketplace for jobs, but it doesn't seem like there's been a clear winner in this space.
> When I (or our internal technical recruiters) spam out a job we are giving more people a chance at the job, and are introducing fewer personal biases.
That is something I didn't even consider, but you're absolutely right. You're naturally going to be more attracted to candidates who fit your profile (unless, of course, you're _really_ aware of your unconscious bias).
I think spamming LinkedIn can have success if you properly target and give ample information on who, what, and why. Something I didn't even consider until this was posted on Reddit was the fact that even though I have Java listed in "do not want", it's still going to be picked up as a keyword.
The problem is they get paid only when immediate needs are met. A placement is hard to do, but results in 25% of an annual salary when done. This results in two kinds of strategy:
1) Spammers. I get this all the time on both sides (as a hiring manager and as a potential hire). The worst is when I get forwarded someone's actual CV out of the blue. It's happened a couple of times recently: a guy who works at Google or Amazon at a high level has his CV sent to me by a recruiter who's never spoken to me. In both cases I found the person on LinkedIn and told them, much to their surprise. Of course there was never a conversation on the other side either. Normally it's not as egregious as this, but it's still not a way to do business.
2) Relationship people. These guys will actually take the time to meet with me and talk about what kind of stuff I do. Both as a hiring manager and a potential hire, there's no sense that they are bucketing me in either, we can potentially do either business. There's no sense of urgency either, just two people discussing the market. I've made business contacts through recruiters this way, nothing expected in return, no hard sell. I've told them we're not even using recruiters, and they still check in for a coffee now and again. I do try to throw something their way, esp when it comes to giving them candidates.
The big problem for the good guys is they somehow have to get paid while maintaining all these low probability relationships. Not only that, they actually need to speak intelligently about every technology and business in the market. They need to know what kind of thing c++ is, how it's different from JS, and what kind of function it might be useful for. This is no easy task.
You can easily see how someone needing to feed themselves could get desperate and go for some version of spamming.
Very good point. I have a few friends who are recruiters (with no technical experience before starting) and I had to give them the 101 on programming languages and how they differ ("No, C and C++ are not the same thing. There's also C#"). I can imagine a recruiter in today's landscape probably spends a decent amount of time learning about the tech industry just to keep up.
I'm not sure I have a solution for monetizing the good relationships, though.
You only need about 6-10 placements a year to make a decent income.
I worked with another guy in both sides, from getting a job and hired people through him. He was definitely under corporate pressure. He would routinely send job descriptions with salaries and they were well targeted.
Personal relationships do matter.
It's a) expensive for them b) they have a lot of legal things they must worry about and c) Engineers can be very very crappy to speak with when you are an recruiter. They will treat you like crap based on job title only.
If a recruiter tells you the name of the company up front and you are really interested, you might ignore their message and just apply to the company in which case they don’t get their referral fee.
I can imagine people going through the extra work of avoiding the recruiter if they think it will increase the odds of they getting the job (what means they think the recruiter is incompetent or dishonest), or if working with the recruiter is even more work than going without (what again means the recruiter is incompetent). But I can't imagine people doing that without a problem by the recruiter part.
I can also imagine many developers sending the emails directly to the trash, and latter finding out about the position and applying by themselves. That could give one the wrong impression.
So, not a legit reason not to share their client's name.
Most recruiting firms simply avoid publishing the companies name publicly. Companies are very protective of their branding.
For all of those people who say it's about money are only going off of what they think. If these people tried to do recruiting they would learn the following:
1. Companies won't just accept candidates from any firm. In fact, there are legal contracts in place between the agency and company.
2. Agencies know that submitting your resume to the company isn't very productive. Recruiters have direct access to hiring managers and it's one of the "perks" of using a recruiter.
I know recruiters come off pretty "disrespectful" or "uncaring", but there's another side to the story. I'm an engineer and I decided to do recruiting for a year and learned a great deal about it. I thought my engineering experience would play a huge factor in finding the right people, but what I come to learn was people are very difficult to work with; especially us engineers.
This is not true at all
I've spoken with many more generalist recruiters, none of whom ever indicated this sort of system. I don't think it's overly common, but it was an arrangement that 2 recruiters indicated they had. Perhaps they were extreme one-offs?
Clearly they didn't really hide anything, because you now know. Perhaps they wanted to hear your reaction on the phone to see if you'd be enthusiastic about the mission.
If there are say 500 Node.js developers with the right amount of experience & CS degrees in a given metro area, the amount of time it would take to research each individual and craft a personalized message based on their Github or Medium posts or Stack Overflow answers or Twitter is literally 10,000x what it takes to just shoot each of then an InMail or e-mail. Again, a recruiter should read each profile to make sure they're on the right track, but the messages are likely going to be mass-produced
The information we need is how many interested people responded with a generic message vs. how many responded to the personalized message, and the amount of time spent on each approach. Note that 'responded' here is defined as 'I'd like to pursue this opportunity' or 'I'd like to learn more' which then leads to them pursing the opportunity. Not social niceties like 'I'm not looking but it's wonderful that you took the time to read my Medium posts, you're so different from the other recruiters', etc.
I am so tired of the mono directional process where you have no idea really, what you are getting into before you have been working somewhere for at least 3 months.
Recruiting is about personality and knowing how people thrive in a certain environment.
They are so low in the food chain, IMO, that I find it really difficult to take any of them serious.
Exactly. The people they're trying to recruit already have a job. So they're going to need to sell us on the position. _Especially_ if I've never heard of the company.
I’m simply trying to challenge that status quo. There has to be a better way. I’ll admit I don’t have the answer, largely because I’ve never worked as a recruiter, but it seems like the process is broken for recruitees.
If such a message actually leads to a phone call, then it’s bound to be with the most desperte candidates and not with the best match candidates.
If they send out a more detailed message to 1000 people, and get responses from 25, then there should be time to research these candidates further to build a personal connection, including having a phone call.
- in what city is the position?
- what job would I do in this role? Developer? Project owner?
Details like these are deliberately left out, so I'm wondering why that is. Theories I have seen that don't quite fly are:
- They think they are so good they can convince me if they get my ear in a phone interview (Phone interviews are expensive if 99 of 100 calls end with the person realizing after 5 minutes that the job is for a skill they don't have, or in a city they can't move to).
Theories that are more plausible, still don't seem likely:
- There is a 419-scam element where the emails are crafted to attract the most desperate candidates, and actually repel any qualified ones which would likely reject the offer anyway. (This seems like bad economics even at scale since no one will do good business recruiting bad candidates, but together with the above theory it might work)
- The recruiters are incompetent. They actually do waste time in phone interviews with peoplethat could have been filtered away because of e.g. the wrong skills or location. They actually thought that being vague and talking about "great opportunity for personal development" would attract devs more than "Backend Go gig in Boston". This is plausible (explains what is observed) but it seems far fetched that a large fraction of the industry would be this incompetent.
Curiously, even when the first contact is a phone call the details are hidden!
"Hi this is Bob from X recruiting, I want to talk do you about vague vague thing, when is a good time to talk?"
If they already have my ear what makes them reluctant to use the info then? They have to spill these details at some point so why not open with "Hi, I'm Bob from X recruiting. A client of mine is looking to fill a position as a Go Backend dev in Boston. Not sure what your status is right now, would you be willing to discuss this?"
The most plausible theories if you ask me:
- There is recruiter subcontracting going on, where a top level "good" recruiter uses spam-recruiters for leads, and don't give them more than a minimum information and compensation to get those leads. Possibly even with multiple levels so that the top level firm doesn't even realize what goes on at the bottom.
- There is no position at all, or there is a position but filling the position isn't what drives the recruiters business since these are low-level recruiters (see above). Instead they want a 5 minute chat where they can ask me questions and build a profile with info they can't find in e.g. LinkedIn. This info they can then aggregate sell to other recruiters for good money, way more for a good money than the cost of a 5-10 minute phone call.
Of course that doesn’t scratch that get rich quick “scaling” itch that spamming my inbox with an automagic template does.
This is basically the terminal point of engineering recruiting, though.
This is exactly the focus of the startup we're launching in London this summer. I'd love to chat to people from HN about their experiences with this. Contact details on my profile.
For related reasons I no longer mention on my resume that I have Magento experience. :)
Edit: It does depend on the "class" of large company though. I get truly shit-tier spam from C-list companies like GE, Boeing, or Panasonic ("Hey, interested in relocating to Missouri for a $18.27 hourly Java contract!?") Tier A companies like FB, Google, etc. always send great recruiting messages that suggest they read my profile and did at least some due diligence matching it to an appropriate position.
Isn't that kind of a high bar to jump over for this?
- 1-2 phone screen interviews
- 1-2 remote coding exercises/interviews
- 4-5 45-60min round of interviews, on site
- Optionally, and extra interview day for culture fit
Is asking the recruiter to actually look at your profile and take an interest too much to ask, given what they're asking you for, and given how the market, at least in SV-like areas, is today?
It's great to work in this industry, don't get me wrong. But if some candidates don't want to even acknowledge automated requests, that's just how the market works.
It's the product of time and experience, but I can smell a "quota" recruiter a mile away. I do not want to work with them.
I often receive 'Hey David, I was impressed with your marketing & sales skills'.
Yeah, I know that's an absurd idea, and I don't know any way we could really do that. But we are always going to have problems if we continue to insist on having non-technical people serve as the initial point of contact for technical positions.
You can try to automate the whole process, which various companies are doing, but keeping the spam out is difficult. And bad automation is also even worse to deal with than a human recruiter.
You have a distinct, concrete facet of recruiting that you're talking about -- which is great! -- and the current HN title accurately reflects that.