Questions about "recruitment agencies"...
October 2, 2010 12:22 AM   Subscribe

Tips for getting my resume to technical recruiters, optimizing it specifically for them and questions I can ask to weed out "sketchy" recruiters?

I've been in the IT industry for awhile now and I have noticed that allot of companies hire through recruitment agencies.

Are there techniques besides the obvious (IE: applying for jobs and sending the resume directly to a recruiter). I have heard that having your resume indexed in search engines (google, yahoo, bing ECT) with certain keywords helps recruiters find you. I have also heard that sites like are places to post your resume in the tech industry.

Also, I was wondering what kind of questions I can ask recruiters during the interview process to learn if they are a reputable agency and such.
posted by servix to Work & Money (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Monster and Dice get me freaking plenty of calls/emails.

"Optimization": for a recruiter, who is likely not technical, list everything, I had one ding me because I didn't like Eclipse (I'm thinking, some programmers use Eclipse as an app platform, I don't, so I'm not going to list using it as an IDE, it's an IDE, not a skill); recruiters will reject your resume if you don't take them by the hand and lead them.

(On the actual resume you submit, don't do this, or tone it down; I recently got turned off hiring a guy who listed every damn thing and a bunch of stupid buzzwords.)

Often you'll get multiple recruiters calling for the same job; don't agree to let one represent you until you've waited a day or too, as you'll get large discrepancies in money; the same job from one recruiter might pay $70/hr, from another $35/hr.

Large discrepancies are a sign the recruiter isn't prime, that is, he's selling you to another recruiter and taking $10/hr every hour you work just for making that one phone call. Always ask if they are prime. If they are not, or don't give a straight answer, say thanks but no thanks.

Which brings up another thing: you get lots of "recruiters" who are some guy in a Starbucks dialing for dollars. If he can get 10/hr that's 20K annually, and if he gets 10 people to fall for his shtick, he's making more than you for doing almost nothing. So for him, it's a good srategy just to get a list of names, and gfo down that list calling people, as all he's going to do is pass your name on to some other recruiter.

I had one dude call me, and I googled his address. It was some forlorn structure on a highway in Florida. But my friend when I complained about this, was smarter than me, and reverse looked-up the "recruiter's" phone number. Turn out he was actually in Mumbai with a google phone number. For this reason, I and many of my colleagues, including Indian colleagues, exercise extreme caution when talking to any "recruiter" with an Indian accent. There are many reputable Indian recruiters, but there are many more dudes just dialing for dollars from the subcontinent.

A typical tip-off is teh recruiter, Indian or American, who reads out a list of "qualifications" without knowing what he's asking about: "Do you have XML? Do you have RMI? Do you have Patterns?" Always answer this with "please email me the client requirement."

And never, ever, ever, answer when they ask you the rate. Always answer that you are looking for the marklt rate for someone of your qualifications and experience. Then ask what they are offering. They'll ask you for a rate again, or claim it's open (it never open). Ask them what they're offering. If they sound at all shady, tell them you don't want to waste their time or yours, and if they can;'t tell you the offered rate, then you have to get back to work. If they do tell you the rate, always ask for $10/hr more. They'll either say that's impossible (which means they were being hionest about the rate) or they'll accommodate you.

If they explain that they have ask their boss/manager/account manager, tell them you'd welcome a chance to talk to him/her, and to have him/her call you. Then end the call; the guy you're talking to isn't the real decision maker.

Basically, don't take shit from these guys. They're hoping to make $10, $20, or $50/hr off you. They'll try to con you and bully you to do that. But without you (or someone similar) they don't make bupkis. Play hard to get, and squeeze them for every dollar, as they'll happily squeeze you. Even making your best deal, they'll still be making (taking!) an obscene percentage of what the real client is paying every hour.

The only ones who count at all are the prime vendors who are recruiting for companies that only hire from a limited vendor pool. Ask how many people they have placed at the company, ask how many are currently there. If that's not a (relatively) large number, the recruiting company you're talking to isn't a real player, and they either want to make a crapload of money off your sweat, or they want to use you to get a foot in the door. Make sure you get your percentage.
posted by orthogonality at 1:03 AM on October 2, 2010 [19 favorites]

Another card up your sleeve is to check whether they're licensed. A search for registered employment agencies / recruiters in your area should turn-up a listing, which at the very least might provide names you didn't know of that you can potentially submit your resume to.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:21 AM on October 2, 2010

Recruiters that want to meet you are, in my experience, the most likely to be for real, although there are one or two that don't require this that are still okay. I have signed up with over 100 agencies in recent years, and only two have asked to meet me.

I strongly recommend that you avoid IT recruiters, although it is extremely difficult to do so. You're much better off going for the direct hire.
posted by tel3path at 2:35 AM on October 2, 2010

My view on what it looks like from the "buy" side. Our HR function handles the advertising/intake when we are hiring. Their approach depends on whether we are hiring someone as a contractor or an employee.

For hiring contractors, we exclusively use a local firm that in turn pushes the requisition out to about a hundred staff augmentation companies who in turn submit candidates back to us for screening. Effectively we are outsourcing the administrative hassle of dealing with background checks, contracts, and insurance with a hundred different entities that are turning over. There is a minimum bar for the staff aug companies to get in that game, but it could still be a guy in a Starbucks (he just needs to be well established), so I am using staff aug company interchangeably with recruiter. In this scenario, we certainly see some of the things that Orthogonality described -- a wide variance in the recruiters cut, or recruiters subcontracting for other recruiters, each taking a cut. Also, in our scenario, it is structured as a reverse auction, so anyone who bids at the posted "ceiling" hourly rate is going to get undercut. I posted a position last year for $70 an hour and got an email from a friend who had been pitched the position by a recruiter -- by the time it made it to him, it had eroded to $35 an hour. I think all of the advice that Orthogonality gives is good; I certainly learned a couple things reading that.

For hiring employees, the picture looks significantly different. Our HR folks know how to use Monster and Dice effectively and that will be their starting point. When you work through an IT recruiter to hire a permanent employee, the going rate in my area is typically 30% of the first year's salary, so we reserve that option for either (a) very specialized technical roles or (b) more senior managers, like director level and up. In both of these scenarios, our ideal candidate might be someone who is already employed and isn't actively searching. What we are getting from the recruiter is a deeper net, where they can fish up some candidates they have pre-existing relationships with that we could never reach through an advertisement. The HR folks have a short list of recruiters they like to work with, but unlike the contractor hires, it is much more informal and clubby about who they'll use, based on their relationship with the recruiter.

I can also tell you the the recruiters who are pushing the hourly folks are a completely different set of people from the recruiters we are using for the full time hires. For the first group of people, if they are averaging $10/hour per placement, and the placements are short term, they are hustling all of the time. For the second group, if you are making $35K to $50K for placing a senior level individual, you only need a couple of those a year to make a living; they are spending all of their time on their network, keeping their contacts warm.
posted by kovacs at 4:08 AM on October 2, 2010

I sent you a memail
posted by askmehow at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2010

I have been a contract worker for 12 of my 14 years in IT. The first thing I learned about contract work is, don't contract through anybody that doesn't work for a firm in an office with a staff. That one guy that's calling from Starbucks with a "great opportunity"? He's a troll.

What I would suggest is that you look up some of the firms in your area, and contact them directly. Send them your resume, and request a meeting - building a relationship with a recruiter is a great way to be "first in the door" when a good opportunity comes along. Any recruiting company worth its weight will happily spend 30 minutes talking with you about your career goals, preferred work environment, etc, and will then send you positions that are better fits than some random search engine would.

While I agree you should never talk rate to an early-stage recruiter, always, ALWAYS know both what the going rate is and what your rate is - they may be different. If the market rate for widget makers is $35 an hour, but Widgetronics is a company you've heard amazing things about and always wanted to work for, you might be willing to work at Widgetronics for $33. Or, conversely, if the widget maker rate is $35 but you've heard through your contacts in the IT world that Widgets Inc pays $45 an hour, don't ask for $35, ask for $45. But either way, know the rate and know what you're willing to accept.

Feel free to memail me if you have more questions, and good luck!
posted by pdb at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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