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.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: .NET | General | Web


03 June 2009 11:34 #

Odd, it seems this same recruiter has been pestering Portland as well.


03 June 2009 11:43 #

Are you sure not all recruiters are like that? You've probably got more experience than me, but of the ones I've dealt with, the very best were at the 'trained chimp' level. The worst were amoebas.

I really wanted to find a new job about 18 months ago, but called off the search after a couple of weeks of recruiters who can only apparently communicate by phone, calling repeatedly while I'm at work (so I have to keep slipping out of the office) and asking me the same questions over and over again. Questions that could have been answered either by email  or by reading the documents I'd already sent them. Oh, and proposing jobs, none of which meet the criteria I specified (Croydon is NOT in central London!).

The thought of talking to these oxygen thieves leaves me so depressed that I'm still in the same soul-crushing job 18 months later.


03 June 2009 11:48 #

A random recruiter cold-called me and after the usual boiler plate, asked me if I knew anything about Mule. Me, boiling: "Dude, I am writing Mule in Action, what do you think?".

It seems recruiters don't even Google.

David Dossot

04 June 2009 01:42 #

Pingback from

Codebrain Blog | A Day In The Life Of A Software Recruiter « Carpe Cocoa!

04 June 2009 03:22 #

Agents call me at work out of the blue to ask if I'm looking for a new job. They'll look me up on LinkedIn, Google the company I work for, ring reception and ask for me by name. Then all of a sudden I'm sitting in our office having to explain that I'm 'really happy with my current job thank you'. Which is a white lie and if they didn't call me AT WORK I could tell them the truth. I can't exactly say 'call me back on my mobile, here's my number' because everyone knows those are the only calls I get!


04 June 2009 10:15 #

Best call I had about 2-3 years ago from an agency in London, second comment made after introductions: "Don't hangup, I'm a head hunter from London looking for web people".

Needless to say I was happy being my own boss and that my head was fine and dandy attached to my neck in Cardiff.


04 June 2009 10:22 #

Oh, it gets even better. A phone call from today:

Recruiter: Hi Stuart, it's Blah from Blah Recruitment company... I was calling to find out what your daily rate is?

Me: Erm, well that depends entirely on what I'd be doing doesn't it?

It went downhill from there...

Stuart Cam

04 June 2009 06:19 #

Stuart, how have you found it compared to Sydney?

I am from NZ and lived in Sydney for a year myself before arriving in the UK last year. My experience has been depressingly similar.

I've heard that the UK the recruitment market is so fragmented that you can't ignore the many less than competent agents. I have found sometimes it is helpful to request they email job descriptions instead of phoning--asynchronous communication can be useful!

I'll be re-entering the .NET contracting market myself at the end of the summer and dread the thought of going back through it all again...


05 June 2009 04:28 #

Here is my favourite:

Recruiter: Do you know C#?

Me: Erm, yes.

Recruiter: How about .NET? Any .NET?

Me: ...

Jack Ukleja

05 June 2009 04:35 #

In Australia recruiters are affectionately known as "rec-rooters" ... I will leave the audience to work out what that means...

Jack Ukleja

11 June 2009 03:28 #

Pingback from

Codebrain Blog | A Day In The Life Of A Software Recruiter  : resources

22 June 2009 09:16 #


Unfortunately, my experience in Sydney was rather similar. The problem was compounded by the fact I didn't have any contacts and only had a basic working holiday visa. I had dozens of calls where the first question was 'Would you consider a permanent role?', my response of 'No' ended many conversations quite quickly.

That said, I did get quite a lot of calls and it eventually paid off in an interesting role at Razorfish. I was in the market at the tail end of the upswing; I have no idea what it is like now.

I met a fair number of contacts through the ALT.NET user group. I'd highly recommend attending and networking through these type of engagements, perhaps offering to give a presentation?

Best of luck in finding a role, I'm about to start working my UK contacts to see what happens.

Stuart Cam

Leave A Comment

  • Comment
  • Preview

© Codebrain 2021. All Rights Reserved. Registered in England: 07744920. VAT: GB 119 4078 13