I am sick unto death of recruiters with titles like Director of Talent Acquisition or Executive in Intellectual Capital Development . . .
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Recruiters
Recruiters who write job descriptions with requirements like this:
- Great Communication – must be able to speak very clear
From an actual job ad:
Killer, Profitable, Stable and cutting edge technology company looking for genious!!!
It’s funny when someone misspells the word “genius”!
Why are random words like “Profitable” and “Stable” capitalized? Because the recruiter wanted to highlight the adjectives? Then why isn’t “cutting edge” capitalized?
Why isn’t “cutting edge” hyphenated?
I’ve worked with some great IT recruiters but they’re the exception, not the rule.
I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn recently as part of a job search, and it doesn’t make you feel good about IT as a serious profession when you see how many IT recruiters are former waitresses, bartenders, shoe salesmen . . . honorable professions, but not likely to give a person a good understanding of technology and the people who work with it.
Here’s a sample phone conversation I had with a recruiter:
“First question,” the recruiter says. “Do you have any experience with software development? Because that’s key for this position.”
“Uh, that’s all I’ve done for 25 years. Are you looking at my résumé?”
“Yes, but I don’t see anything about software development.”
“Are you sure it’s my résumé?”
“Yeah . . . I don’t see anything that specifically says software development.”
I’m speechless because this is clearly impossible.
“Hang on,” I say, ”I’m going to bring up a copy of my résumé here. Okay, let’s make sure we’re looking at the same thing.
“Developing and maintaining a portfolio of enterprise web applications on ASP.NET. That’s software development.
“Designing and implementing business-critical web services in .NET environment. That’s software development.
“Design and implementation of multiple concurrent ASP.NET projects on high-volume customer-facing websites. That’s software development.
“Granted, we haven’t seen the word ‘software’ followed by the word ‘development’ but that’s what all of this is, right?”
(I may as well stipulate here that IT practitioners are a pretty bad bunch themselves when it comes to lacking appropriate skills for their work.)
Because of the huge productivity differences between good programmers and bad programmers — 10x? 28x? More? — my biggest leverage point as a development manager is my ability to hire people.
At my last job, we had an HR Director named Lucy. In every one of our annual Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Lucy’s group had the lowest scores in the entire organization. Nobody liked or respected her.
She was, however, close with the CEO, which made that irrelevant.
Lucy’s friend Kathy Slauson runs the Slauson and Slauson recruiting agency, so that’s where we got our programming candidates, who were mostly terrible.
The Slauson agency doesn’t specialize in IT candidates, although they do have a “technical recruiter,” who unfortunately knows nothing about technology.
They don’t bring candidates in for in-person interviews. They take whatever candidates give them in the form of a résumé and they pass the résumés along to clients like me in hopes of being paid a fee.
- Candidates send résumés to Slauson.
- Slauson sends them to me.
What value does this add over candidates sending résumés directly to me? None.
Slauson doesn’t qualify candidates. They don’t map abilities and skills against the requirements of a position. They add no value to the process, and I had to screen all the résumés myself, the same as if I’d just bought them from a job board.
When I saw that Slauson was just going to throw résumés at me, I asked them to please add a short write-up, indicating why they thought each candidate was a good fit for the job.
What I got was write-ups like “Candidate is good with Technology X,” where Technology X is something I indicated as a job requirement.
When I asked “How did you assess that the candidate is good with Technology X?” they would tell me “We asked him.” Or “It’s on his résumé.”
In other words, “Candidate is good with Technology X” meant “Candidate states that he’s good with Technology X. Unverified.”
(If you’re wondering at this point why an HR department would funnel good money to a recruiting agency for doing nothing, go back and reread the part where I mention that Kathy Slauson is a personal friend of Lucy the HR Director.)
I said earlier that Slauson has a “technical recruiter.” She was in the office one afternoon and handed me a résumé.
“He doesn’t look like an ASP.NET programmer,” I said after looking it over, “which is what we’re looking for. For example, I don’t see any C# experience.”
“It’s right here,” she said, pointing at the résumé where it said this: C++.
If you’re not a programmer, you might say, well, easy mistake to make. C# (pronounced C-sharp, like a musical note) and C++ (pronounced C-plus-plus) are both programming languages containing the letter C followed by one or more symbols.
But whereas C# is the primary programming language for web development on the Microsoft platform, C++ is a lower-level language used for system development. Nobody does web development in C++.
Not surprisingly, a high percentage of Slauson’s candidates bit the dust in the initial phone screen with me, because the phone screen was their first encounter with someone whose programming knowledge was non-zero and could possibly tell a good programmer from a bad programmer.
According to Kathy Slauson, that was totally unacceptable. She thought that because she had an in with the HR department, we should be hiring every candidate she sent over, qualified or not, and paying her for the privilege, which is the way it worked before I arrived on the scene and screwed up the process.
She was always very polite to me in person, assuring me that she was doing her best to improve the quality of candidates, but behind the scenes, she was telling Lucy the HR Director that I shouldn’t be allowed to interview candidates anymore.
(That information was never supposed to reach me but it did.)
Think about that: we had a recruiter telling our HR Director that a manager shouldn’t be allowed to interview their candidates. (The fact that I no longer work there tells you which side of the issue Lucy came down on.)
Kathy also told Lucy that the candidates I was rejecting were perfectly good candidates because after I turned them down, they were being hired at other companies.
Of course they were being hired at other companies. They were being hired by companies with lower hiring standards for programmers. The best thing that could happen with some of those candidates is for them to be hired by competing organizations.
Do you think Amazon or Google worry that candidates they turn down get hired somewhere else?
(No, I wasn’t trying to match hiring standards with Amazon or Google. I’m just saying that it wasn’t my goal to be the employer of last resort, or to be able to say, “If we don’t hire ‘em, nobody’s gonna hire ‘em!”)
Everyone I hired was an order of magnitude improvement over the people they replaced.
I like to work with talented people. I’m not trying to get rich and I don’t have a career path. I’m trying to learn and get better and contribute to my profession.
If you give me a job where I’m responsible for hiring people, I’m going to hire the best people available, and decline to be force-fed unqualified candidates by a friend of the HR Director.
To be continued . . .
I recently concluded a 3-month job search. As part of my networking, I met a number of unemployed people in other fields who were having trouble not only getting jobs, but even getting interviews.
I talked to a lot of people and averaged about an interview a day, including phone interviews, mostly for development manager jobs. For every development manager job, there are multiple development jobs, so if you’re a developer, your situation is even better than mine was.
I live in Southern California, but the demand is not just local. I had multiple contacts from companies outside the SoCal area that can’t find qualified candidates.
I’ve been working again for over two months, I no longer have an active résumé on job boards, and I still get emails and calls every day from recruiters all over the country.
Agile and Scrum are in demand
The situation with Agile and Scrum right now seems to be that a lot of people are putting it on their résumé but most of them are bluffing.
One hiring manager told me that he’d talked to three dozen candidates who claimed to know Scrum and only one (me) who actually knew it.
Another hiring manager asked me to describe the Scrum process, beginning with a product owner with an idea through the end of the first sprint. It’s a basic question, and when I finished, he thanked me for my answer. “You’d be surprised how many people I ask that question and the answer is a yard sale.”
Actually, you’d be surprised how little I’d be surprised by that.
One recruiter contacted me about a 3-month Scrum Master contract in Toledo, Ohio. A glance at my résumé will tell you that I’ve never worked outside Southern California, so on a list of people likely to take a 3-month contract in Toledo, Ohio, my name would be far, far from the top, but the difficulty of finding a qualified candidate to fill that job is such that the recruiter contacted me anyway.
If you really know Agile and/or Scrum right now, it’s a seller’s market.
I got a job description via email from a recruiter named Nicholas Sparks.
Like most jobs I get from recruiters, 1) it was unrelated to my actual experience; and 2) it was nowhere near where I live.
I wrote back anyway to say, “I’ve never enjoyed you as a novelist and I’m glad to see you’ve gone into another line of work.”
I got a call at the office this week . . .
“Hi, Mr. Epps. This is Eric O’Neal. How are you doing today?”
“I’m okay. Who are you?”
“I’m with a company here in Newport Beach. My team specializes in placing highly competent technical personnel and . . .”
“What company is that?”
“I’m with Jobspring Partners and I understand that you’re looking to hire a C# ASP.NET contractor.”
Let me interrupt for a second to mention that all of these slimeballs seem to have the same quirk of introducing themselves in three parts: 1) Name. 2) I work for a placement company. 3) The name of the company.
It must be part of the training. No one ever says “This is Eric O’Neal with Jobspring Partners” all in one piece.
Major red flag when a recruiter doesn’t want to tell you who he or she is working for.
We now pick up the story where the recruiter says “I understand you’re looking to hire someone.”
“How do you know that?”
“In talking with some of my candidates . . .”
“You ask candidates who they’ve interviewed with?”
“I try to keep up with their interviewing activity, yes.”
“So then you call me up and try to send out more candidates to compete with them for the same job.”
“No, that’s not what I’m doing.” Translation: It is what he’s doing. “My team keeps a lookout for job postings . . .”
“There is no job posting.”
I didn’t catch what he said in response to that because I hung up in the middle of it.
If you’re working with a recruiter and they ask you who you’ve already interviewed with, just end the conversation right there. No reputable recruiter will ever ask you that.
If you ask them why they need to know who you’ve interviewed with, they’ll tell you that they don’t want to submit you to a company that you’ve already talked to.
While it’s true that recruiters don’t want to submit you to companies you’ve already talked to, the honest way of avoiding that is to say “I have a position at XYZ Co. that I want to submit you for. Have you been presented there already?”
Or if you want to have some fun, ask them to tell you which companies they have open job orders for and you’ll tell them if you’ve already been there.