Career: Recruitment

Understanding recruiters habits

The more candidates get solicited, the more they get cocky.

First contact

Depending on how you get in touch with recruiters, their behaviors will seem more or less bizarre:

  • if you’re looking for new opportunities, you will typically screen job offers, then apply to the selected ones. As we’ll see, the public nature of the job offers will imply some confidentiality restrictions.
  • if the recruiters are looking for you, you will receive direct messages (through mail, phone or job board messaging). The private conversations implied here should not follow the same restrictions.

Compensation

This the #1 in the least stated info. Most job offers (especially from European countries like France) were lacking salary info, or were just stating nothing but the obvious (the infamous DOE — “Depends on Experience” — or DOQ — “Depends on Qualifications”). Why?

  • Confidentiality: Companies don’t want salaries to be publicized. Typically because their own employees might dislike the comparison. In such a case compensation cannot not be stated, or DOE/DOQ will stand as a pretext to maintain that confidentiality.
  • Negotiation: Even if you provide a salary range, candidates will always ask for the max, and good profiles might think they won’t be able to get more than that. So not stating anything allow to offer less to poor profiles and more to good ones.
  • Romanticism: Some recruiters think that candidates care more about the job role or the technologies than the salary.
  • Confidentiality make sense for public posts, not private mails. Direct approaches involve a one-to-one private conversation between a candidate and a recruiter, and there is no problem discussing such a matter privately. Indeed, the only thing you need to do to get compensation info is to ask for it (or state your own expectations). So why not specifying it in the first message? This looks more like a lazy cut & paste of the public job post.
  • Negotiation can fail too early by 1) the recruiter that will exclude a candidate whose salary expectations are way too above the client budget, before any opportunity to evaluate him/her as a unicorn ; or 2) the candidate will exclude a job offer that is too vague (remember that can receive a lot).
  • Everybody cares about money, even in countries where it is a taboo topic: The idea that some candidate would say “I’m dying to work using React, so I will move to a smaller flat” seems kind of crazy to me, but I cannot prove they don’t exist. Neither can I for fairies.

Company

The hiring client is usually hidden as well in job offers, or vaguely described (“a big actor of the retail sector”, “a pure player”, etc.). Why?

  • candidates who might feel a better luck applying by themselves. Even if it sounds counter-productive to me, recruiters can testify that this happens, for example when the recruiter is actually an IT service companies that the candidate doesn’t want to work for.
  • recruitment competitors who could provide a matching profile to their client before themselves (I once thought clients and recruiters could agree on some exclusivity in their contract, but it appears this not the case).
  • For a few lost candidates, there is a lot more to be gained in terms of response rate (the more info in a job offer, the more answers it gets) and time saving for both parties: both recruiters and candidates wouldn’t have to enter a recruitment process that is deemed to fail because of client details.
  • competitors have little chance to get client info if stated in a private message. It would require sneaking into candidates emails (which is science-fiction) or getting the info from the candidate (which can be mitigated at worse by asking candidates to sign NDAs).

Location

Sometimes I receive job offers located in Berlin, Geneva, Luxembourg, etc. All these locations are wrong (i.e. not matching my preferences, as I don’t plan to move), but they are still better than the ones with no location at all.

Resume

This one is not missing but on contrary apparently weirdly superfluous: some recruiters who found you on a resume database (LinkedIn or whatever competitor) asks you about… your resume! They even used to be more specific: they want it in a Word format. Are they paid by Microsoft or what?

  • your approval for storing information about you: sending your resume is an implicit approval for recruiters to use it and put it in their professional databases.
  • a modifiable format, mostly for bad reasons such as IT services company showing you as a fake employee to win a contract or recruitment companies adding their logo as a watermark. Anonymization can be argued a good reason (to avoid discrimination) but is also a way for recruitment agencies to avoid their client calling the candidates directly.
  • up-to-date information: Usually you will be asked for an “up-to-date” resume, which is understandable.
  • your approval is implicit as you are the person that published the resume on the job board. Nobody can update it but you.
  • Modifying a resume is a bad practice as it provides false information to the client. It is also illegal, by the way.
  • Resume update is kind of implicit: updating your resume is the first thing you do when you start to be open to new opportunities. Even if you forgot to do it, the recruiter was interested by what’s already in it, not what you forgot to add.

Target

There are many criteria to match a candidate with a job offer: technologies, experience, job role, business domain. Though, most of developers complaints about recruiters are about offers not matching their skills or expectations.

The fact that you wrote a phonetic transcription of a product name shows that you don’t care about candidate skills and so no more about client satisfaction.
This job post was spotted in 2020, while Figma was released in 2016, and Adobe XD in 2019.
  • the past experience of a candidate seem an obvious set of skills to match, but does (s)he still want to do this? Some candidates voluntary delete some of their experience in order to avoid recruiters offering similar jobs, and this doesn’t make sense.
  • the candidate future expectations: this is less stated in resumes, and can be challenging: a candidate might want to work in a domain (s)he has no experience yet. For instance I had a hard time getting a job in the frontend/JS world after working 15+ years with Java.

Conclusion

Running a recruitment business became harder in the job board/LinkedIn years, as almost anybody can claim to be a recruiter. Competition became harder and harder, and most recruiters started to:

  • fear to loose clients or candidates (by stating client name). As a result, they started to retain some information as longer as possible.
  • spam (mass mail) people. As a result, candidates are overwhelmed by job offers that may not be complete (quick cut & paste of public offers) or not suited to them, and the reputation of recruiters as a whole gets degraded.
  • being warm and friendly: this should not be something new, as long as this does not get too familiar. It can we awkward to receive messages from unknown people talking to you like if you’re decade-years old pals.
  • being funny and original so you remember them and might want to reward that.
  • follow-up messages: even if you don’t answer, some recruiters will send you other kind messages to give you an opportunity to answer eventually. This can get quite effective, as the candidate can feel more and more uncomfortable to not reward such tenacity.
  • keep our resumes up to date to avoid questions about it ;
  • answer to good recruiters to let them know your preferences, even if you are not looking for a job. It is the same rationale as accepting cookies or not on websites: you can’t complain to receive non-personalized offers if you didn’t provide info about yourself.
  • mark bad recruiters as spam to discourage their bad habits by making them unsuccessful. This can be set on mail like Gmail, and even on job boards like LinkedIn.
  • keep in touch with good recruiters: If you had a good experience with a recruiter, it could be a wise idea to contact him/her again when you need to look for a new job. This will be a win-win situation where you benefit from a good service and the recruiter is rewarded for having performed a good job. Unfortunately if recruiters are working in agencies, it is likely they will have moved after a few years.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank both recruiters and candidates who helped to write this article by answering my questions: Manon Abaziou, Hélène LY, Mathieu Lebreton, Liam Seddaoui, Louis-Guillaume MORAND, Emmanuelle Colpin-Quérou, Maxime Ponsinet, Fabien Lemoine, Caroline Vega, Arnaud LAHY, Benjamin Gaillard, Yaëlle M., Alexandre Vovan, Daniel Desplaces, Arsene Kevin KOUOMEU, Baptiste Galéa, Thomas Haessle, Hammouda M., Sebastien Lorber, Chi-Fai WU, Bertrand MANGANO and Sylvain Lareyre (who also wrote the article “Les salaires dans les annonces sont-ils vraiment utiles ?”, in Les Déconfinés de l’IT, 2020–04–09). While being french, some had recruitment experience overseas.

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Software engineer for three decades, I would like to share my memory. https://javarome.com

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