The Green Coder [Issue #5] - Recruiters and how to work with them
This is an archive version of issue 1 of The Green Coder, a short experiment which has since morphed into The Fresh Engineer Podcast. Check it out for a continuation of these thoughts!
If you've been in the industry for more than 5 minutes, you'll have probably had some recruiters tap you up on LinkedIn. But who are they, what do they do, who do they work for?
The job of a recruiter is simple, find a qualified person to fill an open position at a company.
In industries where there are more workers than jobs, it's easy to hire people. You put a sign on your door, or a page on the internet and wait for applications. In an industry where the number of jobs is greater than the number of workers, things get a little more complicated.
How does a company get their job ad seen by qualified people when there are more jobs than workers? This is where recruiters come in. The job of a recruiter is simple, find a qualified person to fill an open position at a company.
If you've not experienced it yet, you likely soon will. Within the world of tech recruiters first port of call is LinkedIn. They'll scour LinkedIn, GitHub, and other areas of the internet to find anyone who might fit the requirement of the job and will try to sell the company as a great place to work.
Because so much of recruitment is done online, getting your LinkedIn up to date is really important if you intend to engage with recruiters. They'll be using a lot of automated tools to search for candidates to get in touch with, so make sure the technologies you list are relevant to your job search. List the things you have experience with and want to work with, and consider removing those you're not interested in anymore.
It's also worth considering how you want to communicate with recruiters before you go out there. In my experience, every recruiter is desperate to get you on the phone. Why is this? Their as much sales folk as they are recruiters. They want to sell you a role and get a good read on you, this is much easier for them on the phone. They can gague your interest, pivot the conversation if needed, and figure quickly get a feel for what you would be like in an interview.
I would suggest you spend time thinking about how you want to manage communication with recruiters when you're on the job hunt. My approach to communicating with recruiters is to always start with LinkedIn. I've turned off all notifications, so it won't intrude on my day-to-day, and I can easily block someone if anything happens. My phone number and email address don't get given out until I've decided to move forward with an application.
Once they've found someone who fits the job profile and is interested in the company they then start sheparding the recruitment process. Recruiters will often want to own this process and be the single point of contact between you, the applicant, and the hiring company. As a result, they'll be responsible for sending over your CV, organising any interviews, and often some part of the compensation negotiation.
Why do they want to be in the middle of the conversations? It's all to do with how recruiters get paid. Lets take a look at the three ways a recruiter can usually get paid.
The first is the agency recruiter, these folks work for a recruitment company. The company contracts for firms looking to fill open positions. If the agency usually gets paid when a successful applicant is found, and sometimes there are caveats around the applicant passing a probationary period. In this case the individual recruiter you work with is usually getting paid a salary, however the majority of their pay will come from bonuses. Each candidate successfully placed in a job role will get them some sort of bonus. Sometimes this is commission based on final salaries, and sometimes it's a flat rate.
The second is the contract recruiters working inside the hiring company. In this case they'll tend to get paid a daily rate and usually some sort of bonus on a successful placement. Again, in this case the bonuses are often the majority of the final pay as this helps align the recruiter with companies goal. This is similar to lots of traditional sales jobs.
Finally, we have the freelance recruiter working outside the hiring company. In this case things can vary a lot, but on the whole the pay usually comes purely from a successful placement of a candidate.
The trend in the above models, is that recruiters make the majority of their income from getting a candidate through the recruitment process and into the job. This is why they want to control the entire process and act as the middleman.
A recruiter is only financially aligned with getting people into jobs, not getting people into the right jobs for them.
As a result, the interests of you, the person looking for a job, and the recruiter only line up partially. On the one hand, they want to sell you the job and, if you're successful, get you a good package so you'll accept the job. On the other hand, their insentive ends once you're in the job. The only insentive they have to ensure you're in the right job for you is their relationship with you.
This is not to say that recruiters don't care whether the job is good long term, their reputation and relationship with past applicants does mean a lot to them. However, a recruiter is only financially aligned with getting people into jobs, not getting people into the right jobs for them.
The crossover between your objective and a recruiters objective is similar to a realestate agent, they want you to feel comfortable with what you're buying. The best way to do that is with transparency and honesty about the property, but the financial alignment for them is ultimately with making the sale.
When working with recruiters it's important to understand where your interests line up with theirs, and where they depart. They want to get people into jobs, but figuring out if the job is right for you is your responsibility. Do your own research on companies you're applying to, checkout Glassdoor reviews, and ask probing questions during interviews. If the job does feel right for you then keep a good communication line with the recruiter, they're eager to get things moving quickly so they don't lose you to another job. You can also feel free to be open with recruiters and push them during negotation stages, they'll be just as eager as you are to sign on the dotted line.
Recruiters can be extremely useful if you're fortunate enough to work in an industry like tech, and if you're aware of their alignments you can make the relationship work well for both of you.