Monday, September 19, 2005


Thoughts on Recruiters

Back in the glory days of the late 1990's, I got a couple of calls per day from headhunters trying to lure me to other jobs. I had a bunch of important buzzwords on my resumé, and demand for any warm body was high. I found most of the recruiters' calls annoying, particularly when they came while I was at work.

Those days are gone, and now that I actually would be interested in getting a better job, I miss the attention. I still get a few e-mails and phone calls from recruiters each week, but most clearly have no idea who I am or what skills I have—their search software just matched a few words on my resumé to a few words in a job description, so they want to talk to me.

I've noticed two distinct kinds of recruiters. One kind is the technically savvy recruiter: someone who has worked in the field of software development, who actually understands the work and the people. I don't mind dealing with these recruiters, as they tend to actually listen to me when I tell them what I want, and try to find a good fit for me.

The other kind of recruiter is just a hard-sell dealmaker. They sell employees to employers using the same techniques one uses to sell houses, cars, toothpaste, or any other commodity. A person is just a skill set, in their eyes. They talk to me like they are my best friends, even if it's our first conversation. If they see "C++" on my resumé and "C++" in the job description, then I'm a "perfect fit" for a "wonderful opportunity." When I tell them I'm not interested in the position they are describing, they try to convince me that I should be. I hate dealing with these people. Unfortunately, they don't care that I hate them; they keep calling me anyway.

I've dealt with both types of recruiters from the other side too: that of an employer trying to find good workers. In that role, the huckster recruiters are even more annoying, as they present candidate after candidate who are obviously unqualified for the position. Unfortunately, these slick people are good at forming relationships with corporate HR departments and high-level executives, so I'm forced to use them even when I find them useless.

Ideally, a recruiter is an assistant to both the employer and the would-be employee. Too many are willing to pound as many square pegs into round holes as they can, as long as there is a fee attached.

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