How has your experience been with tech recruiters?

I recently posted resumes on monster, indeed, and some others. Now I have recruiters calling. Has anyone had experience with this approach to job hunting? How did it turn out?

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As someone who has done a lot of hiring, companies generally don’t like working with recruiters. If the recruiter brings you to the company’s attention, they generally get 20% or more of your first year’s salary. Considering they usually do nothing more than scrape your resume from a site like Monster, we resent that.

Also as someone who has done a lot of hiring, most of the resumes I get are not a good fit for the position, and I can see that right away. They’re just shotgunning as much e-mail at us as possible hoping to make a quick buck.

As someone who is considered a desirable employee (thanks to my experience and LinkedIn profile), I get contacted quite a bit by recruiters. Most of the time it’s clear that they’re just sending job descriptions to anyone without actually trying to match the experience with the requirements.

So unless you’re desperate, avoid them. Employers will definitely value a candidate they found directly over one from a recruiter, because you’re not costing them 20% extra. Or if the do hire you, expect the lowest offer they can get you to accept, for the same reason.

Also, as someone who was recently successfully recruited, I can definitely say that posting to GitHub and YouTube (if you make “teaching” videos) can get you hired. I was hired for a great job last year because the tech company searched GitHub for people pushing Go projects and found me. I was also contacted to create a screencast course for $300/hr thanks to a YouTube video I put out a while ago.


That’s kind of what I was thinking. Thanks for the insight.

As a technical recruiter by day (and aspiring developer by night), I don’t 100% disagree with what Shawn is saying, however I disagree with a lot of it. First of all, at the firm that I work at, we place A TON of developers, on A TON of different jobs, with A TON of different clients each year. And these are not small, no-name clients, these are massive enterprise scale companies (and smaller ones too). So it’s not like recruiters exist for no reason - they have their value at the right place and right time for you.

However, there are a lot of spam artists out there. But Shawn, I am not just trying to make a “quick buck” as a recruiter. In fact, I resent that. I am trying to make a living. I do not have the technical chops to be in your world just yet, and everyone has to make a living somehow.

But here are some tips I can offer in dealing with recruiters:

As Shawn said, there are many recruiters out there just spamming away, and not making a solid effort to match the candidate to the job. So… you should be qualifying the recruiter, just as the recruiter SHOULD be trying to adequately qualify you, the candidate. Some questions you should ask are:

  • Is the recruiter working directly with the client they are trying to place you with? Believe it or not, there are sometimes layers in between the recruiting firm, and the actual company doing the hiring. In most cases, if there are layers, the recruiter won’t have the right information, or the right relationship to actually get you the job. Moreover, more layers means more people to pay and take a cut off the top - if we are talking contract roles and not salaried, you may not end up getting a fair rate.
  • If the recruiter does work directly with the client, does the recruiters firm, or account manager, have a direct and REAL relationship with the manager doing the hiring? If so, they are much more likely to be able to influence the process, and get you the feedback you are looking for after you apply to a job through a recruiter.
  • Has the recruiter/firm made placements with this client before? Useful to know, if they are a new client to the firm, you might be wasting your time.
  • Has the recruiter made placements on that team? If so, the more info you can get the better.

Bottom line, some companies can be very hard to get into WITHOUT recruiters. Take New York Life for example, HUGE enterprise scale firm. I know from working with them, hundreds of people apply to their job openings every day directly on their website - so many, that it becomes a black hole. The manager’s experience is often that the applicants are not right as well. As good recruiters, who understand what the manager wants, we can expedite this process for him and bring him the quality that he needs.

Check out the recruiter you are working with on LinkedIn, and look into their firm. Make sure they’re legit. I would not say avoid recruiters at all costs, talk to a few, see if they can help you, but make sure you work with people you feel you can trust. If you’re going for a full-time job through a recruiter, they will also try to fight to get you as much money as possible, since like Shawn said, a 20% or more fee is involved, it is mutually beneficial. It’s not like their fee comes out of your salary.

Just as an example - my buddy has been coding for 2 and a half years now, about 9 months ago he finally felt he was job ready. However, he didn’t really know what he was worth. He began talking to recruiter who ended up helping him weigh his options, and ultimately got him his first ever programming job, PLUS 20K more than he was marketing himself for.

Always hear both sides of the story, Shawn’s experience with recruiters may not have been positive, but I know that we get jobs for people all the time, and just look at my buddy’s story above. It’s a very common practice, especially for contract jobs. I would not say that desperation is the only reason to look to recruiters.

Ugh… I wish I never checked out this forum - I knew I’d end up finding something here that would get me going. And I’d def rather be coding - felt I had to respond to this one though.


Thanks for replying. I’m just now sending out applications and resumes trying to see if I can land anything. I’m self taught, but am passionate and willing to put forth the effort to continue learning and growing. Its just a little scary, taking the step from building personal projects towards contributing to larger, team built projects.

I have received a ton of emails from recruiters, some seem legit, some not so much. I’m just wanting to take the “right” steps in finding my first programming job. I appreciate you taking the time to share your point of view. I will definitely take your advice in researching into what a recruiter can offer.

I live in Ohio, right in the middle of Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. You wouldn’t happen to have any suggestions for jobs or recruiters in this area? :slight_smile:

A firm that I know is legit that is just about everywhere is Tek Systems - they have clients of all sizes, but cater more towards massive companies. They may have something that could work for you in your area. Check out their website and see what they might have in your neck of the woods. Also, take some time to reply to the recruiters that have reached out if you have not already - even if you don’t proceed with them, talking to them about what they have available, rates, and salaries, can help you to gauge the market in your area.

If you have never had a programming job before, talking with firms that work full-time jobs for smaller companies, might have more entry level stuff available. Even if your development skills are above entry level, you will have to break in somewhere, perhaps by taking an entry or more junior level position.

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Thanks for the alternate view. The questions to “interview” recruiters to separate the good from the…“less good” are really valuable.

No prob… glad you found it helpful.

Not very good. I get lots of calls and “phone interviews” from “technical” recruiters whom clearly don’t truly understand what they’re asking. Most of the time, they will just go through the list of requirements (already listed on the job description) and ask you if you know anything about it. 9 out of 10 times they will not follow up nor provide any useful advice. They seem to work on volume rather than building relationships which could perhaps explain why I never hear from the actual company.

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I’ve been in the tech industry (mostly on the database side) for 10 years now, so I’ll give you some tips on tech recruiters and finding positions.

Firstly, you should get into the mindset of marketing yourself as a business. You are a business. You offer a service or product, and expect monetary compensation for such. With this point, it’s important to look at your employer as a client. You don’t owe your employer anything, other than the work that’s been prescribed to you based on the cost. Many new professionals in the industry struggle with this idea. Working for a smaller company can lead to some sort of exaggeration that they require loyalty or that you owe them something more, and can’t look for opportunities. Squash this notion, or you’ll never obtain the positions your skillset deserves.

You should be moving up in position/salary/responsibility at least every two years. If you haven’t gained responsibility that can go on your resume, a significant salary increase, or been promoted to a new position within the company - then one of three things are generally true: 1) the company isn’t recognizing your worth, 2) you’re complete crap at your job, or 3) there’s no room for growth at the company.

This is a huge indicator that says “I need to move on”. This will generally be true advice for the majority of your career, until you’ve reached that top level on the tech or management side.

For finding new job openings, one of the best ways I’ve found is browsing your local Chamber of Commerce’s business directory. Nearly all moderately sized businesses have technology positions open. Work down through the directory, visit each company’s website and career page, and start applying for positions that interest you.

An alternative to this, if you’re in a densely populated urban area, is using Google Maps to identify local businesses that may not have their business listed with the Chamber of Commerce.

While you can still browse Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, etc. - browsing through a catalog of businesses means that you can find positions that are otherwise unlisted on these sites (the current company I work for refuses to use job sites like these as the influx in shitty resumes drastically increases).

Use tech recruiters to your advantage!

Having a handful of good tech recruiters in your pocket may be one of the best things you can do for your career. There are a LOT of shitty tech recruiters out there that are more like two-bit car salesmen than knowledgeable placement specialists - so it will take some considerable time to weed through the roaches.

Setup a LinkedIn account and within a week or so you’ll have a half-dozen firms kicking down your door to recruit you. The important thing is knowing which recruitment firms are worth your time in your region. This only comes with experience. Do their interviews, see what their recruitment firm is about - and if anything seems fishy, run!

Within a few months, you should have a few tech recruiters from firms that you’ve built relationships with. Keeping these relationships is extremely important. Even after you’ve been placed in a position, you should still maintain your relationship with recruiters.

This does a number of things. It allows the recruiter to develop a knowledge of what your skill sets are and who you are as a person. Also, most recruiters will by you free lunch or send you gifts every few months, so there’s that.

Most importantly though, it allows you to set your demands for what you’re looking for in your NEXT position. Tell the recruiters you’ve developed relationships with that, for me to move onto another position - it needs to be X salary, with Y benefits, in Z area.

This will ensure that they’re not handing you bogus job positions, and will allow you to be one of the first to hear about positions that meet your demands that they come across.


This is precisely the reason I quit the industry: the constant pressure of “up or out”. I chose out.

I now need to get back in to pay the bills, but when they ask “where do you see yourself in five years?”, I’m going to answer honestly: “If I still like what I’m doing, then this. Otherwise, something else.” That attitude may cost me some jobs, but the tech field is a treadmill enough keeping up with tech without being chained to someone else’s career expectations laded onto you.