I need some advice for working with tech recruiters in NYC
February 4, 2015 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I am a senior engineer looking for software development work in NYC. I'm attracting a lot of attention from recruiters, and I need some advice for how to work with them. I'm concerned that I've already made a huge mistake.

Right now, I feel like it's in my best interest to cast a wide net. I don't know a whole lot of people in the tech world in NYC, and I'd like to line up as many interviews as I can.

Typically, I don't talk to recruiters -- I get lots of mail from them over LinkedIn, but I almost never respond. However, since I'm new in town and need to find work, I've been talking to a bunch of them.

However, I've heard there are some problems involved with working with multiple recruiters. Right now, I'm kind of scared and I'm wondering if I've made a huge mistake.

Today, I spoke with a recruiter who says that he sent my resume in to a company, and that company already got my resume from two other places. He said this is really bad because it "makes me look cheap". He said that, when companies get your resume from a few different sources, they'll often choose not to interview you at all. Meanwhile, I searched through my email for the company he was talking about, and couldn't find any mention of them. Apparently, these recruiters must have sent in my resume without my knowledge.

Although I realize this guy may have been trying to hustle me, I am starting to panic. Have I sabotaged my chances of finding a job by working with multiple recruiters? How should I handle these recruiters? Is it a mistake to work with them at all? I really need to find a job, and I don't know a lot of people in the NYC tech world. Please help!

Also, bonus question : is it a bad idea to put my resume on Dice?
posted by evil otto to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This seems like pure FUD to me. Engineering roles are hard to fill in any major city and all companies are scrambling to do what they can to find great engineers and get them to accept offers. That kind of "makes you look cheap" language presumes that you as an engineer don't have market power at the moment and companies to afford to pick and choose and use silly quality signals like "trying too hard to get a job." But I really don't think that's the case and I wouldn't sweat it.

That said, a RECRUITER might look bad for sending someone in multiple times. The recruiter-hiring manager relationship can be sort of tenuous and if they deliver too many low quality leads they might get cut off. If a company saw your resume, decided not to screen you, and another recruiter shows up selling you hard that's not good for them. But I don't think(?) that reflects poorly on you. Also recruiters really want to each be the one who gets you a job, so if you're working with multiple that's bad for them. But I don't think working with a recruiter is a binding relationship and they should not be shocked that you're trying other avenues to get a job too.

Recruiters can be a good guide to the process in a new city and help you set expectations and point you in the right direction. They get paid when you get paid, so your interests are aligned most of the time. I don't think working with lots of them is a great idea, though, because they might be inclined to work less hard for you if they think you've got an army of recruiters looking for jobs for you. But this is entirely about your recruiter relationships, I don't think hiring managers care a whit. You haven't done anything wrong!

(Caveats: I'm in SF not NY and the engineering labor market is even more ludicrous here. I don't work with recruiters myself, but do hire for tech-related roles.)
posted by heresiarch at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Unfortunately, I've found recruiters kind of flaky and hard to work with. I've had better luck with hired.com (Memail me if you want an invite). Or, honestly, you could just make a list of companies that interest you and apply directly. I don't see why that wouldn't work.
posted by the_blizz at 8:33 AM on February 4, 2015

Make it clear it is unacceptable for them to submit a resume without your explicit permission. The problem is if a company hires you and two agencies have submitted both will sue for their fee. Perhaps call that companies HR and request the names of the submitting headhunters. Then a certified letter as legal looking as possible to cease and desist may get attention.
posted by sammyo at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Recruiters are salespeople. Treat them exactly as you would treat people trying to sell you a car. Cast the net wide and far, and work with only those that seem to ethical and treat you with respect.

And never forget, they are salespeople.

Ask if they are retained by the hiring company, and always favor those recruiters on a retainer. They are valuable enough to the company to get paid, so they have a decent relationship there. The others are essentially cold calling their way in with your resume.
posted by COD at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what kind of company you're looking to work for, but if it's startups, send your resume directly to them. The company sites have big "we're hiring!" links for this purpose.

If you're looking at larger, more traditional companies, you may need to go through a recruiter, either internal or external.

Recruiters are essentially transactional salesmen for whom the main concern is earning a commission on a successful placement. They are not your friend, they are generally not well-informed about either the position or the company, etc. Use them simply as a tool.
posted by dfriedman at 9:34 AM on February 4, 2015

Sent you MeFi Mail, but I'd be weary of which recruiters you speak to, especially in NYC. If you can get a referral to one, I'd give them a shot, but I wouldn't be interested in anyone who cold-called you, unless they were in-house at a company you were interested in working for.

Do you have any more details regarding your experience and expertise? I'd be happy to rattle off some of the shops my friends and I have worked with that could be a good fit.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2015

Consider only working with retained recruiters, who have exclusive mandates to fill positions.

ALWAYS understand the track record of your contingent (i.e., not retained) recruiters.

They should be able to quickly and easily quantify their placements into Big Internet (Google, Facebook, a few other usual suspects), Big Money (hedge funds and brokerage), and Big Hopes (VC-funded startups). Any recruiter worth his salt will have made at least a dozen placements, at six figure total comp packages (or high 5s plus great equity for startups), across those three categories in the past year.

DO NOT spend any meaningful time with the recruiters' assistants. ONLY work with the senior commissioned recruiter.
posted by MattD at 9:54 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

No experience in NYC, lots in London. Most IT recruiters are terrible people, don't trust anything they say (not you, dear Metafilter-reading exception).

That said, they are better negotiators than most people are and they may be able to get you more money than you'd get by negotiating yourself, even taking into account their massive cut.

I stick a note on the top of my CV (resume? portfolio? whatever), "not for unauthorized distrbution" and only ever give out a PDF version just because it's that much more hassle to edit. All sorts of crazy agent-editing happened when it was a Word doc.

Sometimes an agent won't want to disclose their client but will ask to send your CV anyway. Don't agree to that, always find out where it's going.

From the other side, if I was looking for candidates and I got your resume from three different agents that would seem to be a good sign; there's someone so good on the market that 3 different recruiters think he's a likely winner. What I would be able to do in that situation is pick whoever priced you lowest though, which may not be ideal.

Be very enthusiastic on the phone about anything that sounds good, but don't even bother writing down details until you get a call or an email with an interview date.
posted by dickasso at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The guy is hustling the hell out of you. No company will care if they get your resume more than once, especially in a hiring climate like this. He's just pissed cause it both cuts in to his fee and makes him look like he doesn't have a unique line in to talent, which is life-or-death for a recruiter. He's lying to you to further his interests, which is understandable but shitty. Drop the scumbag.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Senior software engineer, worked in NYC for ~15 years.

The recruiter made a mistake by submitting your resume without confirming with you first, and is now wearing egg on their face. In addition, they are using their mistake to try and convince you to effectively give them an "exclusive" - in an industry where it is not the norm, and where doing so would benefit them at your expense.

After years of working with recruiters (they do tend to have better jobs if your first priority is money), I consider them an invaluable job search tool, with these caveats:

1. Avoid recruiters who are not actually located where you want to work, or do not have specific jobs in hand and talk about these jobs in detail early in the process. They won't harm you but they will surely waste your time.

2. Ask the recruiter to confirm with you before submitting you for a job. This will avoid being submitted by multiple recruiters, and some other minor issues.

3. When they tell you about a job, confirm that they are specifically retained to fill the job. This one is important because it can actually harm you. For example, this may happen: you really, really want to work at BigCorp; a recruiter who is NOT retained by BigCorp submits your resume as bait to see if they can get a retainer; BigCorp rejects the submission (e.g. because they are not a "preferred vendor" and becoming one is a long certification process at BigCorp); the next recruiter who is actually retained by BigCorp submits your resume again but you are already in their HR system and BigCorp doesn't want to get involved in a potential referral fee dispute between two recruiting firms.

4. If you really want a particular job and the recruiter tells you it's not available, try to confirm independently. For example, a recruiter may tell you that BigCorp won't interview you because they already hired someone but you will later find out that they have not - what happened was, BigCorp refused to retain the recruiter based on your resume alone so they lied to you to keep you all to themselves.

5. Don't rely on recruiters to tell you what you are worth. You may think that your interests are aligned because their fees are a percentage of your salary but they would rather close a smaller deal than lose a bigger deal. In my experience, this is the single biggest misconception while working with recruiters.

(I am no longer in NYC but still keep in touch with my old recruiter, he was better then most. Email me if you'd like his number).
posted by rada at 10:27 AM on February 4, 2015

Tech manager at a very large company, here. If your resume was submitted by three different recruiters, it would still only hit my desk once, because someone in HR would have the responsibility of noticing. I don't care where your resume comes from originally, because it comes to me from HR. If HR isn't giving me solid resumes just because those resumes are being submitted multiple times from different sources, I would be livid. I need great candidates, not stupid rules. I'd have that HR person's boss on the phone immediately telling them to cut the bullshit and get me the resumes I need.

Now, the internal recruiter in HR who gets your resume from three different external recruiters might tell the second and third recruiters that the company already had your resume, but I almost guarantee you the HR person don't actually care.

Who DOES care, though, is the second and third recruiters, because they won't get paid if you get hired. Of COURSE a recruiter is going to try to get you to work with them exclusively. That's how they get paid. It's not necessarily how you get hired, though.
posted by erst at 10:50 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's simpler than you're making it. Companies have a contract to pay the recruiter if they choose to hire you. If they receive the same resume from multiple recruiters, they don't want to have to pay ALL the recruiters, or have to decide which one to pay and risk potential backlash (or even a lawsuit).

An HR person for one large firm around here said they will simply blacklist you for 90 days if they receive your resume through multiple channels. Of course after 90 days you can try again.

In general, I have had rotten luck dealing with recruiters, and I'd recommend just applying on your own.
posted by miyabo at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2015

If a recruiter wants exclusivity from you, tell them they will need to pay for it. You probably are on Linked in, you have old resumes floating around, the company might have kept you're name from an early search but could not speak to you for fear of having to pay someone a fee.

I'd tell you to stop taking their calls and tell them to remove their copy of your resume from their system.
posted by parmanparman at 11:09 AM on February 4, 2015

I'm working with a few recruiters. A good recruiter will ask you, "what jobs have you already applied for," this way he or she won't submit your resume for positions you've already applied for.

You need to approve every submission. The recruiter I'm working with requires me to send an email confirmation for every position. This is the kind of recruiter you want to work with.

I'm on LinkedIn, my profile is very descriptive and specific. I do NOT post my resume on all and sundry sites. If you want to get in touch with me through LinkedIn.

I'm finding this to be a good compromise for me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2015

While I also have my opinions about recruiters (some are outstanding, some are peddlers of human flesh. Most are somewhere in between), this line stood out for me:

I don't know a whole lot of people in the tech world in NYC

The best people to help you find a job are people who can refer you, and pass your resume to the hiring manager. But if you don't already have that network in-place, job searching becomes much harder.

Here is how I would start building a professional network:

1) Participate in forums on LinkedIn. Join the forums that apply to your career goals. Ask questions, answer questions, and make intelligent comments. You will connect with others who share common interests.

2) Go to meetup.com and join meetups that you find interesting. Attend the meetings and go to the networking parts of the meetings. When someone asks you what you do, you have a clear, concise, and very specific answer. Say "I am looking for a career doing XXX in YYY industry. I have a background in... I have ZZZ years of experience... I worked on ABC projects in the past..." DON'T say "Well, gee, I don't know. I want to get a job doing whatever, like being a rodeo clown or a cardiologist..."

3) Figure out where you want to work. Fill in this sentence: "I want to work as either a _____, a _____, or a _____. I want to work at one of these companies, _____, _____, _____, or _____. Then set out to meet people at those companies who might be able to pass along your resume. Sometimes the companies will have meetups that you can attend and find out what the company is currently up to.

4) If you are new to the area, what else are you doing to meet other people and stay sane? I have always found that volunteering was a good way to meet interesting people. Maybe they can help your job search, maybe not, but making friends in a new city will help you feel less lonely.

I hope this helps. MeMail me if I can be of any other assistance.

posted by dfm500 at 10:43 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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