(Most) IT Recruiters suck. Here's how to fix it.

Luis Serrano
(Most) IT Recruiters suck. Here's how to fix it.


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Ask Techies: How’s Job Hunting Nowadays? The answer is: it’s HORRIBLE. I am sorry, but that’s the most accurate word to describe it. It’s utterly terrible, disappointing, and frustrating. Considering we developers and technical people are highly sought after, we’re treated poorly by both recruiters and companies. It’s not just my opinion; ask any developer you know. They will agree in less than two seconds, no need to think about the answer. But why? I am going to share my opinion. The fact that dealing with interviews and recruiters is terrible is not debatable. That is a fact. Now, the reasons for this situation are open to discussion, and what I am saying here is my point of view, purely personal, based on my own experience.

Where are the professional, trained recruiters?

It seems like nowadays anyone can call themselves “recruiters.” Not long ago, recruiters were people with specialized studies, even psychology degrees. People who were trained to understand people. What happened to that? There were proper formalities, and a candidate was informed of the status of the process. There was respect. Now, we are contacted by random people offering positions that may or may not fit our profile. We answer that message, telling them we’re interested, and we may or may not get a reply. If we get a reply, it’s like it was us who started begging for that job because we have to constantly check in with the recruiter to know what’s going on. That is, of course, if the conversation doesn’t abruptly die (from their side).

Secrecy about the company and job conditions

We might be offered an interview with a mysterious company because they don’t want to disclose the name or any details. We probably don’t know about the salary range either. Recruiters ask us, and we have to tell them about our expectations. That’s no guarantee that we’ll get anything close to that. I’ve been offered way less than expected AFTER all the interviews because, you know, “that’s the average for the position in my city.” How can we prepare for interviews or properly filter where we apply if we don’t know all the details? If a recruiter wants to know everything about me, I have to tell them or lose my chance. It should be reciprocal.

No, really, read my profile

If you want to understand my profile, the best way to do it is to read it in the first place. I’ve been told things like, “Oh, you seem to be a bit unstable; there are a lot of jobs on your CV.” No, sir, I have been freelancing and have had many customers. That, in my dictionary, is called success, not instability. Also, please, just because I did some Java a million years ago doesn’t mean I am a fit for that Java position you’re managing today. Context, my friend. Moreover, most of us evolve; we started doing something, and we ended up doing something else. Or we specialized in something, who knows. So yes, consider our past, but to see if we’re what you’re looking for, check what we’re doing now! Best clue ever, for free.

Technical interviews are nonsense

I’ve been in technical interviews with two managers and one engineer, and I’ve been asked questions that the engineer probably didn’t know either. It’s like they wanted to prove what I didn’t know, instead of what I know and what I can do for the team and the company. The funny thing is, the last time I was rejected for not answering something correctly, the engineer had to read the correct answer from the script to check if I was correct. He had some random “tricky JavaScript questions” in front of him. He asked me something he did not know, and they rejected me for not being “Senior enough.” Come on…! I am totally open to discussing technical things in interviews, but spending a day coding a full website to get a position, no thanks. Especially if I don’t know what I’m fighting for. Tell me what the reward is, the full conditions list, and I’ll decide if I want to do that long technical challenge you sent me. If each screening process has a long technical challenge, imagine being involved in two or three. I get that companies need to vet people - if a technical challenge is their way to do it, so be it, but be reasonable. And please, don’t expect people to know things by heart, especially if the engineer asking the questions doesn’t know the answer either. That gives a really poor impression to candidates.

No, developers should not be recruiters

It is important to ensure that the individuals involved in the recruitment process have the necessary interpersonal skills and empathy to effectively evaluate candidates. While developers may have valuable technical expertise, they may not always be the best fit for conducting interviews or making hiring decisions. Team leaders, who have demonstrated both technical and interpersonal skills, may be better suited for this role.

In some cases, developers may approach the interview as a competition or an opportunity to assert their own opinions and expertise. This can create an unproductive and confrontational dynamic that does not serve the interests of either the candidate or the company. To avoid this, it is important to carefully vet developers before involving them in the recruitment process and ensure that they are able to offer candidates a fair and unbiased evaluation.

To assist in this process, consider using the following checklist to evaluate whether a developer is fit to participate in recruiting. This can help ensure that the recruitment process is fair, effective, and focused on finding the best candidate for the position.

Think about the developer representing the company during the interview process:

  1. Can they do what they expect candidates to do?
  2. Do they know the answer to the questions they will ask?
  3. Are they good team players?
  4. Are they good with communication?
  5. Can they sell the company and the project?
  6. Are they positive?
  7. Are they happy in the company?

If you can answer “YES” to “ALL”, then go ahead and bring the developer into the process. Otherwise, restrict the scope of that participation to technical checking, away from the candidate. And if possible, ask for feedback from more than one developer to avoid personal bias over legitimate reasons to discard someone.

Respect & Professionalism

I get that recruiters have a job to do and that they’re only paid if they find the right people. Copying and pasting a job offer mindlessly & ruthlessly to everyone fitting your “search keywords” and not properly managing answers is not the way to go. Here are some steps I suggest you follow to be a professional & respectful recruiter:

  1. Collect a small number of profiles you’ve reviewed. A number of people you can manage.
  2. Shortlist the best ones.
  3. Send them a personalized message.
  4. If they reply positively, proceed with their candidacy. The ones who did not respond or showed no interest, save them for the next opportunity. You’ve shortlisted them for a reason. Don’t let that work go to waste.
  5. Do you expect full disclosure from candidates? Well, lead by example. Provide all the details about the job opportunity. If you don’t know all the details, why are you contacting candidates already? Get the answers first!
  6. Worried that candidates will bypass you and you won’t be paid? Hey… we’re not like that. Why would we do that anyway? What do we gain? That would make us look shady. Don’t worry, we’re not stealing from you.
  7. Job hunting is an emotional & energy-draining experience. And chances are we’re in more than one screening process at once. So keep in mind: it’s harder for us than it is for you.
  8. Try to watch any technical person on the company’s side involved in the process. If there are developers in the decision-making circle, that’s potentially bad news (for the reasons explained above).
  9. Team up with us! Look, we might hate interviewing, but we have to do it to get jobs. So let’s be friends, let’s walk the path to success together, because your success and our success mean basically the same. We get the position, you’re paid. Help us and you’ll be helping yourself.

I do not claim to have all the answers, nor do I wish to offend anyone. However, based on my experiences and those of my colleagues in both Europe and North America, the recruiting process has become increasingly challenging. If you, as a recruiter, recognize yourself in the practices I have described, please know that there is room for improvement. Just as candidates learn from rejection and strive to improve, recruiters can also learn and grow in their profession. I encourage you to reflect on your practices and consider how you can better serve both candidates and companies.


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