A Day In The Life Of A Software Recruiter

03 June 2009 by Stuart Cam

I have recently returned from a fairly long stay and tour around Australia and New Zealand. Since returning to sunny England my original plans have changed, I am now looking for contract web-based C# work in Bristol (drop me a line if you have a problem that needs solving).

I've updated my LinkedIn profile and uploaded my CV onto a couple of job boards on the off chance that some work might materialise through that channel. I am starting to wish I hadn't bothered.

Cut to a recent phone call.


Recruiter: So I see in your CV that you can program in jQuery?

Me: Sure, I have experience in using jQuery to write AJAX-enabled web pages and...

Recruiter (interrupting): AJAX?

Me: Asynchronous JavaScript And XML, it's a building block for creating rich internet applications...


Recruiter: OK... go on...

Me: I have used jQuery for a little over a year. I have read a couple of books including jQuery In Action which was written by one of the framework contributors. I understand the CSS-selector syntax, the intentions of the framework and common use-cases. I have commercial experience using jQuery but I am no means a guru. As an aside, I wrote a similar intentioned framework for an e-commerce website around 8 years ago, but since then things have moved on and frameworks like jQuery have filled this space.

Recruiter: So... jQuery... it's a yes?

Me (sighing): Yes.


Recruiter: HTML experience?


I'm afraid to say that this scenario has played out over and over again for the last few weeks in different guises with many different recruiters. A tip to recruiters out there - if my CV states a particular technology and you ask me about it don't be surprised if I elaborate! Otherwise why even bother asking the question?

This brings me onto an imagined day in the life of a software professional recruiter:

  1. Wake up. Drink at least a dozen espressos in order to increase the number of words vocalised per minute. You'll need this for #7
  2. Trawl various job sites for CVs
  3. Copy CVs into the company system, why pay to access up-to-date CVs when you can copy and keep them forever? Quantity is everything, work the numbers!
  4. Receive word that Employer-X is looking for candidates, or more likely glean this information from other candidates
  5. Filter suitable keywords from the job specification. A useful tip here is to pick words where all the letters are capitalised. C#, .NET, C#, XML and ASP are such keywords
  6. Search the local pool of CVs using said keywords
  7. Call matching candidates
  8. Match keywords to candidate responses using a checklist
  9. Attempt to gain additional information from the candidate through such questions as:
    • Where else are they interviewing? (See #4)
    • Their theoretical lowest possible rate?
    • How are they finding the market? (what sort of question is this, do they not know their own market?!)
  10. Repeat #6 until candidate list is empty. Remember, volume and turnover is king
  11. Assemble all matching CVs into a big fire-and-forget e-mail to Employer-X
  12. Repeat #2 until 5PM
  13. Retreat to the cave for another nights sleep

Is it any wonder why the success rate of finding work through a job board has such a poor track record?

The problem is that the majority of recruiters finding and screening candidates for software development roles have little, if any, understanding of software development.

Think about that for a minute. Would you be happy if your local NHS service entrusted the hiring of staff to an agency with no experience in the industry? Would you hire a wedding planner to find you a reliable plumber? Probably not, it doesn't make sense, yet this is the reality today.

These fly-by-night recruiters are adding zero value in the employment chain. At best they are simply getting in the way and getting paid rather handsomely in the process. The situation is even more ridiculous when you consider that some companies sign exclusivity agreements with these clowns, forcing all potential candidates through the gauntlet. How does restricting your available talent pool in a knowledge-worker industry ever make sense for a business? It doesn't.

I take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone in thinking this way. Miguel Castro, a well respected member of the programming community rates sub-standard recruiters as one of the second biggest things which annoy him.

The financial climate today is such that recruiters themselves have resorted to sending their own CV's to other recruiters. A room full of recruiters schmoozing and interviewing each other for their own jobs, how cannibalistic!

I must point out that not all recruiters are like this. Some are actually very good and even generate work for candidates through their existing client relationships. I also appreciate that there is a time and a place where an external recruitment agency makes sense. In any industry you have the high-flyers and the bottom-feeders - how unfortunate for us professionals that our recruitment industry has so many of the latter.

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