Can I Speak with You for a few Minutes?

nightmare-recruiterI won’t call it a mistake, but it wasn’t exactly what I intended. I updated my resume on Dice the other day in an effort to uncover midwest firms looking for information security help. To some extent, that effort has been successful. However, I also seemed to “poke the beehive” in the online-job market.

Within hours my phone’s been ringing with recruiters wanting “just a few minutes of my time.” Now before you accuse me of a humble-brag, hear me out.

1. None of these callers have bothered to look at my resume, work history, or even managed to figure out that I run a consulting company (a real one).

2. The majority seem to be Indian or at least sound like they are Indian and primarily use VoIP phone systems. In short, I can barely hear some of these callers and even when I can hear them, there are language barriers. Most do follow up by email, but the messages are clearly hacked together (cut/paste) and unprofessional.

3. Those that are not Indian, are attractive women. These usually attempt to connect on LinkedIn first. I understand social engineering when I see it and knowing the I/T field is primarily geeky men means this probably works.

So, it is with some self-admitted bias I’ll claim there is something very wrong in this business. The linked article at provides a hint. Their embedded link to Nick Corcodilos does a better job (“Why do recruiters suck so bad?”).

My guess is simple, there are too many people chasing commissions and they’ve essentially broken the recruiting business for real employers.

It’s the only explanation I have for the influx of unqualified buck-chasers. It reminds me of pharmaceutical sales or mortgage lending a few years back. It seemed like everywhere I turned, a friend or connection was suddenly in that business (having no prior background). The difference here is that I/T recruiting offers something for both the attractive and social as well as the back-office database miner. You can do this job from half way around the world.

Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mind people making a living, but I am particularly sensitive to any that don’t add economic value or that rely on deception.

As of right now, this system reeks of anti-competitive practices, including but not limited to recruiters padding candidate resumes and bringing in over/under qualified candidates just to appear like there’s a choice.

From that I can see, they essentially make money in two ways:

1. If they “place” you somewhere, they get an immediate or delayed payout of 20-25% of your annual salary. This seems to be the big draw as this can mean a five-figure payday. If they are a cog in a recruiting machine, I’m sure they get less, but if they are independent it only takes a few good candidates a year to cover the rent.

2. Many act as a ‘shell company’ that will hire you directly and then sell your time to another business with anywhere from 30-50% mark-up. Not the big payday up front, but they take a huge margin on your time for what is essentially general business admin work (that many just outsource).

My experience over the last two weeks:

1. They claim to be in the “consulting business” but are clearly lying. They are in the labor sourcing business.

2. Most know little about technology other than the minimum necessary to identify candidates and talk to clients.

3. They know most people are looking for a full time job with some stability. That’s why they describe every opportunity as ‘contact to hire.’ They want you to believe it may convert to full time.

4. Since their service doesn’t actually add any significant or differentiated value, they operate with a higher than normal level of secrecy, rely on asymmetric information, and a employ subtle forms of intimidation and bullying. Watch out for fine print with unenforceable non-competes and intellectual property ownership claims. Even those that claim to do this well seem to be the “best of the worst” although they’d not say it that way.

5. Unless the need is so specific and the candidate pool is so small, they really don’t care if you get the job or not as long as “they place the final candidate.” It’s like the realtor that doesn’t really care if you get that extra $10 for your house. It just doesn’t change their commission as long as they get the sale.

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