How to Evaluate Tech Recruiters
By: Ben Weiss
There’s no denying that, by-and-large, recruiters of all shapes and sizes are among the body of professionals often perceived in a negative light by the general public. And as a representative of a technical staffing firm, I would be the first to say that I share many of the same pejorative connotations of the industry as anyone else.
However, it is important to remember that, of course, not all recruiting firms are created equal. While some recruiters are indeed the stereotypical pushy salesman types, there are countless others who actually love helping job candidates develop, grow and thrive.
Consequently, if candidates develop the tools to evaluate the utility of a particular recruiting agency that crosses their path, they can quickly decide whether the firm can actually help them effectively pursue their professional goals or whether the recruiters are motivated entirely by self-interest.
Asking the right questions
In order to begin the evaluation, it is first important to recognize that a major pain point with many recruiting agencies is that recruiters sometimes set expectations unrealistically high and can’t deliver on their promises.
But, candidates have to remember that by grilling recruiters with the right questions, they can better determine whether it is worthwhile to get excited about the job opening at hand. In other words, a naïve candidate will hear a recruiter’s pitch about a great new job with a superb work/life balance, immediately assume trust in the recruiter and get their hopes up. By contrast, the veteran candidate will have a series of questions to ask before assuming that the recruiter’s enthusiasm will actually translate into a placement.
Here’s a checklist of things a good recruiter should be able to answer:
What’s your relationship like with the hiring company? How long have you been working together?
What is the trajectory of their interview process?
Have you ever placed a candidate at this company? How many?
What’s the hiring manager’s personality like? Can you provide any personal touch points that would help me develop rapport?
Will the interview questions be more technically or behaviorally oriented?
When the recruiter has a solid grasp of these concepts, the candidate can adopt greater confidence that the recruiter can leverage his/her experience and relationship with the client to increase the likelihood of a placement.
When the red flag should go up
Naturally, there will be plenty of recruiters who present job opportunities with unwarranted machismo. Consequently, when a recruiter starts to stutter on the above-mentioned questions, it might be time to move on with your day because it is likely that that person is either a novice or a liar.
However, it is also crucial to remember that there will be occasions in which experienced and valuable recruiters are working a job with a new client and will thus be unable to effectively answer many of those core questions. The key difference will be that if these professionals are legitimate, they will be honest and forthcoming about their knowledge gaps as it relates to a particular job spec right off the bat rather than trying to promote the idea that a placement is imminent.
In any case, in either of these situations, candidates should approach that job with caution and keep their excitement levels low so as not to be let down.
What level of technical/industry knowledge should recruiters have?
For us, we cater to the Microsoft technology community, which brings up the question of how technologically proficient recruiters should be with regard to the industry they serve. A good recruiter will be able to digest the core competencies required for a particular position and match those requirements to the skills and background of the candidate to determine if the candidate would thrive in that role.
The poor recruiter will simply toss up jobs willy nilly (the kinds of people giving our industry such a bad name that we were compelled to address them in our blog post “Why (some) tech recruiters don’t suck”) without considering whether the candidate would be qualified or even interested in pursuing that opportunity at all.
But, candidates also need to remember that while recruiters should have a solid understanding of whether a candidate could or would want to take a specific job, they shouldn’t be expected to rap about how dope the latest iteration of your favorite software is.
The bottom line.
Ok let’s just say it. YES, THERE ARE LOTS OF RECRUITERS OUT THERE WHO SUCK COMPLETELY. But, there are just as many that don’t, and candidates can’t begin grousing about an entire industry until they’ve put some of the onus on themselves and asked a couple of the hard questions.
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