The Five Basic Rules of Technical Recruiting (From a Customer’s Perspective)

I don’t want this to be an indictment of all recruiters – only the bad ones.

There has to be a better way.

In the past 9 months I’ve had more awful experiences with technical recruiters than with any other category of professionals in my entire working life. Being badgered on the phone, given the hard-sell, and being provided with un-screened candidates I could have found for free on Craigslist or Dice is not my idea of good customer service – nor my idea of a sustainable business model.

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that recruiters have become a joke around our office. Whenever someone receives a call from a pushy recruiter our ears perk up to hear how our comrade will be badgered, abused, and finally hang up the phone angrily because the person on the other end won’t stop talking long enough to listen to what we have to say. You’d think we were buying timeshares.

With commissions hovering around $20,000 a pop, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along who’s respectful, listens to our needs, and does a reasonable job of screening candidates. When they do they’ll quickly wind up with more business than they can handle.

Here are the absolute basics of technical recruiting:

  1. Don’t Have 19-year olds Making Cold-Calls. It wastes my time and gives your firm a bad name. The only thing worse than cold-calls is cold-calls by someone who doesn’t listen, interrupts you, and has no idea what they’re talking about.
  2. No Means No. Let’s face it; the hard-sell went out with junk bonds and hula hoops. I hate it, you hate it, so why do we have to deal with it? Stop reading crappy sales manuals from 1988 and get with the times. If I say “no” and you don’t treat me with respect you’re going to be on the receiving end of a dial-tone.
  3. Learn the Technology. You don’t have to become an expert, but be able to discuss it intelligently. Know the difference between Java and JavaScript, ASP and ASP.NET, UML and XML.
  4. Listen. Has anyone else encountered the Micro-Machines guy? I’ve talked to several recruiters who rattle things off like auctioneers. I realize you’re busy…hey, we’ve all got things to do. But slow down, act like you care, and realize that just because you talk fast doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to listen.
  5. Screen Your Candidates. Does this really need to be on a list? I’ve received resumes with grammar so poor I could barely read them. I’ve done phone interviews with people who couldn’t tell SOAP from shampoo . Time and time again we’ve been asked for screening questions for common programmer skill sets. We’re paying upwards of $20k per placement…shouldn’t this be the recruiter’s job? If you have to hire a developer on an hourly basis to perform resume or phone screenings for you, do it. Just please stop passing the buck to us.

We’ve only found two recruiters in Los Angeles that are consistently respectful, never give us the hard-sell, and actually review resumes. Even though they don’t perform thorough technical screenings we give them our business because they are the best we’ve found.

How long before someone comes along and really starts servicing this big-money niche?

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