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Dive 30: Recruiters are NOT on your side… if you’re a job seeker
Hey, it’s Alvin!
I’ve been working as a software developer for over a decade. Over the years, dozens of technical recruiters have contacted me about job opportunities. And if there’s one thing I wish I knew at the start of my career, it’s this: recruiters are NOT on your side if you are a job seeker.
This doesn’t mean they’re working against you. But you have to understand that they’re paid by companies to fill positions. So, they’re going to work much harder for those companies (the ones who pay them) than they will for you, if they put any effort into helping you at all.
Yes, I’m generalizing. There are always exceptions. But of the dozens who reached out to me over the years, the number of recruiters who were genuinely helpful to me is small enough to count on one hand.
Part of the problem is that recruiters don’t always understand or sympathize with the challenges facing a job seeker. To show you what I mean, let me share with you a LinkedIn post from senior technical recruiter, Jesse Zulak. We’ll look at how his ideas tie into challenges job seekers face, and how you can deal with those challenges to land the job you want:
“Can you just send me the job description.”
This is such a common response to candidate outreach…
Here’s why I recommend not doing this.
When a Recruiter reaches out to you, they have limited information on your experience. It is impossible to know what you are truly looking for until we have a conversation with you.
If we just send a job description and you deem it not a fit or something you are not interested in… the conversation ends there.
I get it, you do it to save time… but, honestly, the first point of contact with a Recruiter is often less than 15 minutes!
If you are an active or passive job seeker, I strongly encourage you take the call with the Recruiter. Give them an opportunity to know what your desired job would be.
That way, when another role comes up, we will be ablet to call you right away for a role that truly fits in YOUR requirements.
In a previous post, I made a comparison that Recruiters are like your Insurance Policy. In a market where layoffs seem to be forever looming, now is the time to have that policy in place.
Take the call.
1. Not all calls are worth taking
First, it seems like an increasing number of recruiters in recent years are giving, at least, a high-level summary of what the job entails. Fewer are taking Jesse’s approach of withholding job details until the first phone call. Like so many others, I just don’t feel the phone call is worth my time if I know nothing about the job at all.
Jesse said the first phone call is “often less than 15 minutes.” I disagree. If the call is that short, then the contents can usually be summarized in a résumé or an email exchange, which don’t require scheduling. In my experience, the first phone call is closer to 30 minutes, especially if there’s a decent match between the candidate and the job because diving into a person’s background takes time.
What’s 15 to 30 minutes for one phone call? Well, luckily, Jesse’s not the only recruiter in the entire world. When dozens of recruiters contact you and each one wants 30 minutes to go over the exact same things, that adds up to hours of your time.
When someone like Jesse says something like, “I get it, you do it to save time… but [it’s] often less than 15 minutes,” what I hear is, “hey, come on, I only want to waste 15 minutes of your time. Take the call.”
The fact is, if those hours a job seeker spends with recruiters don’t result in the job seeker landing a better job, then it wasn’t worth it.
What Jesse’s NOT telling you is that recruiters don’t call people randomly. If a recruiter calls you about a position, it’s because they think you might be a good fit based on information they already have on you. Recruiters are selective about who they call because they don’t want to waste their own time.
So why should you waste yours?
Be selective about which calls to take.
Take the call, only if you believe you’ll get something out of it.
2. Most recruiters won’t call you back
I know Jesse said that when another role comes up, he can call us right away.
That’s a salesman speaking.
In over a decade of work, that has almost NEVER happened to me. Of the dozens of recruiters I came across, I remember TWO who reached out to me only one more time, either months later or a year later. As grateful as I am that they reached out again, the jobs weren’t right for me.
That makes sense, especially in tech, where there are often hundreds or thousands of applicants for a handful of positions. Unless you’re an A+++ candidate, you won’t be on top of any recruiter’s mind or applicant tracking system.
Don’t count on a recruiter to call you back.
3. A recruiter is NOT your insurance policy
Jesse finishes the post by saying that recruiters are “like your insurance policy.”
No. They’re not.
An insurance policy is a promise by an insurer to pay for losses sustained by the insured for an initial payment (the premium).
If I lose my job tomorrow, the recruiter has NO obligation to pay for it, or to get me a new job right away. Which is fine. Because I didn’t pay the recruiter to do so.
You know who did?
The company that wants their position filled.
Remember: “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”
A job seeker and job poster are looking for each other to fulfill each other’s needs. In an ideal world, an intermediary’s job is to balance the interests of both parties. But in the REAL world, a recruiter is not a true, unbiased intermediary. Their own interests are tilted towards the party paying them.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for a job or having a backup plan. But you don’t need a recruiter for either of those things. For example, if you don’t like job hunting, consider hiring someone to do it for you.
Professional sports players have agents who advocate for them and help them negotiate contracts with prospective teams so they can focus on their sport. I don’t know if you can take it that far with your own career, but it’s an option. And since you’d be paying your agent, you know your agent must represent YOUR interests to the best of their abilities.
Some people asked, “what if you just develop a closer relationship with a handful of recruiters? Vet them, connect with them, and check in with them from time to time?”
You could do that.
But if you’re going to put that much effort into building relationships with recruiters, you may as well build relationships with people who are doing the job you want.
For example, if you’re a software developer who wants to become a technical manager, you could connect with technical managers. Start by looking for managers who are active on social media (like LinkedIn). Ask them questions about the job.
What is it like?
What does it take to get and keep the job?
How is it different from other jobs?
There are a few benefits to connecting with someone who’s doing the job you want:
Because they’re doing the job, they have the best understanding of what the job entails.
They might recommend you to colleagues, peers, mentors, and protégés who can extend your knowledge about the job AND your network.
They can keep their eyes open for openings you can apply for. Maybe another team will need a technical manager soon.
If you are recommended for an open position, you’re in a better position to get it because companies favour referrals from people who do the job over some random person a recruiter found online.
So, I’d focus on building relationships with people doing the job you want. Regardless, be kind to recruiters who reach out to you. Take their call if you think you’ll get value out of it. Don’t count on them calling you back. If anything, reach out to a few of your favourites from time to time. Because while they’re not insurance against you losing a job, they can still present valuable opportunities to you.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface of a recruiter’s relationship with job seekers. Reply to email@example.com if you have questions or comments. Let me know what experiences you’ve had with recruiters. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.