Don’t Attract Second-Rate Tech Recruiters – Hire Experts

Thursday morning 10am last week, I get a call from my Recruiter at Drake Recruiting, asking me, “Are we still on for 6 pm?”  My heart sank for a moment as I thought I might have missed an uber important interview but as it turns out it was a reminder for a networking event at 6pm in the Sydney CBD. Phew, lucky me. I am keen to attend so I confirmed, not mentioning that I had actually forgotten to enter his invitation in my calendar. I assure you this sort of glitch usually does not happen to me as I tend to be organised.

So, I left a bit early to join the networking event and arrived to meet an impressive line-up of Sydney Start-Up companies. 

The subject was ‘Recruiting Tips & Insights for Tech Start-Ups’. The audience was a mixed bag of hungry, gutsy and obviously busy entrepreneurs who are not easily impressed with snazzy PowerPoint presentations or industry speak. You could not pick a tougher crowd, if you asked me. The questions were flying right, left and centre from the start of the first slide and the presenters were doing a pretty good job answering it all.  But, I had a few déjà vu moments during the event when I compared the presentations with the Q&A and my own experiences. I should mention that I have occasionally been contacted by obviously inexperienced tech recruiters before and the session brought some of those moments back for me.

It would seem that most in the tech community view almost all tech recruiters as a collective nuisance more than anything else.  Knowing what I have experienced myself and after hearing countless anecdotes via my blog (read: horror stories), I can’t help but agree. Unless, of course, you attend a good presentation and are reminded that there are some very experienced guys out there. So, here is my summary of ‘How to avoid second-rate tech recruiters and find a real expert’.

From a Hiring Managers Point of View

Using an IT recruiter isn’t for everyone. Let me tell you, the guys from Drake had not even talked through the first slide when two of the Start-Up Entrepreneurs fired away with their concerns about the “IT-Recruiter ROI”.  It’s not cheap to engage with a good search firm and with the pervasive nature of social media including sites like LinkedIn, Facebook’s BranchOut, GitHub and others, employers have a greater ability to network with talent than ever before. That said, going it alone comes at a price too. How much does it cost you to find someone to fill a position yourself? How much time is involved and how deep is your network of professionals? How much do delays in production and development cost you? Can you afford to do all these things yourself?

The questions from the audience that followed were a little more difficult to answer, but these were essentially the key points. So, when you engage with a recruiter see how he or she checks up against these points.  Are they asking the right questions?

  • Are you clear about the position you plan to fill? What are the top requirements – the technology being used? … the skillset needed?  You should ensure that your tech recruiter knows what you want. What is the sense of urgency?  Are you serious about hiring or are you just kicking tires?  I know this sounds harsh, but I would hate to be a Recruiter BDM who walks away from another client meeting where they just provided free counselling. I am sure you know what I am referring to… Why is this position open? Do you have an immediate timeframe that the tech recruiter needs to work to? You know… what is the sense of urgency, the timeline and a walkthrough of the hiring process?  This part is particularly hard for Start-Ups and small/medium businesses but I got the sense from the presentation that the Drake guys had some good solutions to assist with that process as well.
  • Is your recruiter willing to dedicate as much time at the front end of the search as you?  The search firm really needs to understand the job, the company, the culture and the team, so it can understand what the company really needs in order to identify the right candidates, and then sell the job/jobs to the candidate(s) in a competitive job market. Check for their commitment and dedication. Don’t just follow your gut feeling.
  • Check your tech recruiters’ ability to work directly with the hiring manager as this is paramount, according to Christian Grande from DRAKE. This person is the contact who really needs the candidate and will likely have the most insight into the skills necessary for the candidate to be successful in the job. The ones [IT recruiters] that are good spend some time with you and actually learn about the company to figure out what you’re actually doing, where your business or department is headed and what the culture is like. Culture is very important and there are plenty of tech recruiters who still don’t understand the importance of sussing out the creative techies from the programming tigers.  So make sure you’re engaging a recruiter who understands the importance of ‘cultural fit’.

Common Errors or Oversights Between Recruiter and Hiring Manager

The most common errors employers make when dealing with tech recruiters:

  • Not being expedient enough. If someone fits your criteria and you think they are a good fit for your company culture, hire them. Some recruiters and often employers still feel like its 2009. The tech job market especially within certain IT skill sets is hot.
  • Recruiters, many times, don’t understand the market and think they have time to get back to resumes with a critical or hot skillset, or they sit on a candidate and continue to interview even though they found someone that they really like.
  • The bottom-line is if you’re sitting on a resume or candidate that you see as a ‘fit” or waiting because you want to be sure you’re not making a mistake and you want to interview 20 more candidates, you’ll most likely lose that candidate. So, both the recruiter and hiring manager need to work fast.
  • Another common error is that some recruiters or even employers feel like they don’t need to sufficiently pitch & sell their company to the candidates, but when you are dealing with top talent in a competitive market that is exactly what you have to do. Employers need to be a part of selling the candidate and speaking about the advantages of working for the company. “Clients lose good candidates and then come back a month later and say where is this candidate?” said Chris Maher during the event.  He went on to note that this is part of qualifying the client and helping to educate them on the state of the IT job market.

From a Candidates Point of View

Most tech candidates assume the recruiter is working with them if one of the following scenarios take place:

  1. The recruiter accepted their resume;
  2. The recruiter called  back on the phone and interviewed;
  3. The recruiter asked the candidate into their office for a formal interview; or
  4. The recruiter sent you out to interview with one of their clients.

Sound cool, but the reality is all too often that you are nothing more than a piece of paper at this point. Perhaps, you’re ‘filler’ because their client needed to see two other candidates before making a decision on the real candidate they wanted to hire.

There is no relationship – no chemistry – no mutual support.

And the worst thing is that the recruiter you’ve called or sent a resume to could be the WRONG recruiter right from the start. This is THE primary reason most candidate-recruiter relationships never develop – you’re engaging with the WRONG recruiter. So, …. how do you find the right recruiter?

The right recruiter is someone who consistently makes placements of candidates just like you – frequently – successfully – consistently – regularly. NOT occasionally – infrequently – sometimes – maybe – once in a while.

Honestly, have you ever asked your recruiter how many times in the last year, quarter, month (take your pick) did they place someone in a job just like the one you’re seeking? You would probably be shocked by the answer you hear. You have to be tough, straight forward and honest and ask these questions or you may end up wasting your time.

Ask yourself, can you claim to have this type of ‘tight and straight forward’ relationship with just any recruiter? Probably NOT! Perhaps the reason is that you’re spending your time trying to develop a relationship with the wrong recruiters.

The STEPS to Recruiter Nirvana:

  1. Ask your peers which recruiters they are working with (use your Github –  StackOverflowLikedInPlaxoFacebook) the list goes on…..
  2. Ask hiring managers/executives which recruiters they use to fill jobs like the one you want.
  3. Look in recruiter directories on the internet for which recruiters specialise in your function, industry, or geography – and most important, check their current job ads.
  4. Check the job ads and evaluate if they actually know what they are talking about.  There are way too many copy paste job ads advertising silly stuff.  Experienced tech recruiters get straight to the point and leave the fluff out.
  5. Read the blogs of the very best recruiters.
  6. Which recruiters are ranked in the top 50/100 on twitter and other lists?

Lastly and my very personal recommendation to Recruiters & Hiring Managers:

Don’t burn bridges!

If you are set up with a professional system in your selection process then have the courtesy to write a thank you note to your top 20 candidates who did not make it to the selected interviews. Tech guys are usually savvy and organised and communicate in the blink of an eye with their peers. Good recruiting practices travels fast and bad ones tend to spread like wildfires and then stay on their hard-drives FOREVER.

So, no matter which side of the table you are situated on, keep some or all of these insights in mind and you will find each other. If you have other useful insights share them with us here in the comments or via e-mail. Until then,

Hunt wisely