In the DC area, tech recruiters seem to be a fact of life. Late January into February always seems to be a very active season. The manner in which jobs are presented by recruiters makes me wonder about the state of the industry. Maybe it’s a DC thing, but I get calls offering 3- or 4-month contract work a couple times a month, offering really low rates. I don’t mean low for my experience level but low compared to cost of living. I’m trying to understand who is offering or taking these contracts.
There is the old adage that everyone hires the top 1% or 0.5% of programmers. Does that mean that 99% of programmers are no good? Not at all, the same people who are not employed currently are out there sending out resumes and staying in the market. It means that there are all the same people out there spamming any job opening. If you think about the inverse there are those jobs out there that everyone passes on, the job equivalent of those programmers who nobody is interested in. These jobs nobody is interested would be these odd contracts.
The different kinds of jobs are for different kinds of people. But sometimes it seems like the recruiters forget that there is a symbiotic relationship between the developers and the recruiters. For example today I got two calls from the same agency about the same job I wasn’t interested in hearing about. The second knew I had talked to the first recruiter and seemed intent on trying to address the reasons I told the first recruiter I wasn’t interested rather than extolling the benefits of the job.
The relationship between developers and recruiters needs a better defined rulebook. The current rules seem to be defined by the low end of the spectrum, where there is enough money to be made moving people around and putting butts in seats. I ran across a blog post about what recruiters should know about reaching out to software developers, and it resonated with me. It described the issues I had seen where the recruiters just seemed to be offering the same job over and over. Do you have 10+ years of experience with Java EE, spring, bootstrap and jquery? Nothing about what you would be building, nothing about why you should want this job. Just that it’s there and you should want it since it is something.
The recruiters need to sell the job, and understand the uniqueness of that job compared to the other jobs in their current portfolio. This requires a lot more effort on the recruiter’s end to start with, but the longer-term payoff would be much more valuable. You develop a longer-term relationship with the clients and I know I would appreciate that sort of interest in what I wanted as opposed to a person calling me on a keyword match on a resume. My realtor has a stronger relationship with me than most of these recruiters are interested in. Expect better and you might just get it. I’ve had a recruiter send a handwritten card to try and stand out from the pack, and it worked. I read that card and thought to myself ‘This is a unique opportunity thought out for me.’
It will take a long time to get rid of recruiter season due to how it ties into budget cycles. But it would be nice to be respected as a person, rather than placed as a resource. I’ve asked some recruiters that called recently and given a weak pitch of a job, and I told them as much. The best thing you can do is to put direct feedback into the system. If they consistently hear that people want more than a three sentence description of the technical needs they’ll hopefully have something more valuable than that.