If you’ve ever posted a technology-related resume on Monster, Dice, LinkedIn, or any number of job board sites, you know that tech recruiters/headhunters can be a huge time sink. We spend time building an online reputation and sometimes it seems that our only reward is to be bombarded by calls and emails from people who barely grasp computer basics let alone the complex work that we do.
My take on recruiters varies. Some are spambots (or just as annoying) and many don’t understand our industry very well having only memorized a few buzzwords so they can “sound” knowledgeable. These are the emails and calls we get regarding positions for project management, that esoteric language we had 6 months of experience with 8 years ago, or some other equally random position.
The trouble is, when you’re looking for work (or worse, out of work), recruiters can be something of a necessary evil. Also, in the current job market, I’ve had the occasion to point several unemployed friends to specific jobs that had been forwarded to me by recruiters.
There are also an elite few technical recruiters who have worked in the tech industry and ACTUALLY GET IT. These recruiters can be valuable allies and will only work with quality positions/professionals/companies. Having a few in your email and LinkedIn contact lists is highly recommended. They can advise you on preparing for your interviews and help negotiate acceptable salaries. Most importantly, they point you to positions that are exactly what you are looking for in every respect.
My advice is to start building a list of recruiters you feel comfortable working with now and filtering out those who spam you or merely fail to stand out from the crowd. I know that networking is distasteful to many technical people, but it is worth the time it takes in terms of finding interesting, meaningful, and lucrative work with people and companies that you like.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Unsubscribe from automated emails. This will save many hours of headaches reading job descriptions that are barely related to your skills. If this does not have the desired effect, filter them to spam.
- Be direct with recruiters. Tell them exactly the kind of positions you are interested in. Include background, preferred companies, technologies, and locations. See Example 1.
- Don’t be a complete jerk. Like everyone else in the world, technical recruiters are trying to earn their paychecks… Also, if you make a name for yourself as being difficult to work with, the best recruiters will avoid you.
- Proactively manage your recruiting contacts. Let recruiters know your policy of not working with them if they aren’t useful and nuke the ones that have been ineffective. See Example 2.
- Follow through. This probably goes without saying, but stick to your guns! There are plenty of recruiters out there, choose to work only with the best!
EXAMPLE 1: An approach I took when looking for work (but not too urgently).
Subject: Opportunity Search and New Resume/CV
As may you know, my current employer has recently performed layoffs. I still work for the company but I’m seriously entertaining other options at this time.
Management has always interested me and my experience has grown in this area so I will be focusing my search on leadership roles (Software Development Manager and equivalent). I am willing to relocate to make this career jump and am searching far and wide but I am particularly interested in opportunities in the states of Utah, Texas, Oregon, and Washington. I am mainly interested in permanent positions but contract-to-hire could be acceptable as well.
I’m attaching two recently updated copies of my resume for your review. Please note that one is management focused and the other is software engineering focused. All of the differences between the two resumes are on the first page. As always, I welcome any and all feedback: positive or negative.
EXAMPLE 2: Clearing out ineffective recruiters now that I am settled in my new position.
Subject: Recruiters/Talent Sourcers
You may not have noticed, but I’ve recently trimmed my LinkedIn contacts to remove people I have little connection with and that includes about half of the recruiters who were connections. I’m trying to keep the list more clean and will continue to blow the cobwebs out of the corners occasionally.
The point of this email: If you and I have ever worked together and it resulted in my being offered an opportunity with a company, GOOD NEWS! I probably won’t be removing you… ever (but don’t let that stop you from writing a recommendation for me) Those of you who haven’t, you should consider this notice that you might want to find a good reason to stand out in my mind from time to time or I will likely drop you as a connection in the next 6 to 12 months. This will be even more difficult because I’m happy with my job and not currently looking for a change of any kind. Most of you have already done this to an extent or I would have cleaned you out with the recruiters who made no impression on me at all. You are the cream of the crop. The best of the best. Insert more Top Gun references here!
I know this is very blunt and probably a bit brash as well but I feel it needs to be done. Remember, I’m still more than happy to stay in contact with professionals who I feel can bring something to the table that might be interesting to myself or my large pool of talented former/current work colleagues. I know I’ve alternated the tone of this message between serious and lighthearted but I assure you I am very committed to working with people who have something serious to offer. Just keep in mind that this is an ongoing initiative for me and my memory is short!
All the best!
Please email or tweet me your comments and suggestions on how you manage recruiters and I will update this post with the best of them. My contact details are available on my profile website http://www.dubmun.com
P.S. Special thanks to my proofreaders: Dwayne, Kelly, and Jeff!