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Dealing with Recruiters

Agency Do's And Don'ts

In your resume, never disclose BOTH the agency through which you had an assignment AND the client company together - pick one or the other - other agencies may be calling you only to ask about openings the client company has where you are assigned (commonly experienced when you list a telecom company job or assignment on your resume). The recruiter may ask you, in a friendly, chatty sort of way, all about your job, who your manager is, what the department does, its structure, if any of your co-workers are looking... Guess what? If they now know your manager's name, and they know you are looking to leave, what prevents them finding out your manager's number and finding a replacement for you much sooner than you'd anticipated? Moreover, other agencies do not need to know what their competition is (who actually gets to place clients at a particular company), unless they're making it worth your while. For instance, if they want a phone list from your current client company, make sure you have asked for and OBTAINED a favor from them before you hand over the list. Once they have it, you're forgotten.

Dealing With Recruiters And Hiring Managers
Recruiters will call because they saw your resume or because you responded to a specific job posting.

They should start out their conversation with you by talking about a specific job or jobs for which they thought you might be a good fit. If they don't bring this up right away, then you should cut straight to the point (albeit politely) and enquire as to which position they are referring. Otherwise, they are conducting what I call a salary survey/database stuffing session AKA "turd hunt".

They will ask you what you currently make; remember to state this according to guidelines (see Salary Negotiations). They do not ask this in order to help you obtain such a figure; they do this in order to see how much profit they can make on a particular position (if you have been grossly underpaid and are nave enough to tell them so) or to weed you out (if you make too much already for them to rent you out at a profit). The more unscrupulous among them will ask you what companies you interviewed with, who you talked to, what the position was. Be vague and waffle. Generalities and amnesia are in order. They will simply be using this information in order to ferret out who is hiring and for what; they'll depth charge you by placing a more qualified (or less qualified, as the case may be) candidate up for the position if they can.

Remember, they already have your resume, and according to what you said (position description, you wanted too much money, etc.) it is easy work for HR professionals such as they to learn from your blunders and put another better-suited candidate in your place. An employer may just decide to wrap it up and pick from the choice of candidates they've already seen - and since you're in that group, it could well be you. Your chances decrease considerably the farther back in the pack you become. You always want to be the last to interview with an employer.

Don't let the recruiters know much in the way of salary details. Believe me, they know exactly what a person with your qualifications should be getting for a position in this geographical area. Overstate it too much and they won't believe you. Understate it too much and you might as well paint a target on the front of your shirt. If you didn't get one of the positions in question because you wanted too much money, it is entirely possible that they will get a less qualified candidate who is barely "enough" for the job and present them at the lower price the employer would prefer. Keep this in mind when providing "feedback" after the interview to the recruiter who has put you up for a position. They don't have your best interest in mind, only theirs. So only help those who are helping you.

Even if they really do have a position available, try to do all your screening and interviewing over the phone. Set up a phone conference, claiming you have a busy schedule and can't leave the office during the day. Try not to waste time interviewing with a recruiter agency face to face. Save such time-consuming maneuvers for face-to-face interviews with hiring managers at actual companies, unless you need the practice. This is especially true if you are a contractor, or bill by the hour or job. If you absolutely can't get out of it, insist on a 7:30 AM or 5:30 PM slot. They're making their money off you, anyway. While still at your old job, don't tip your hand by billing much less than 40 hours/week consistently. HR people are on the lookout for such behavior.

On dealing with recruiters and HR personnel:
Keyword matchers

98% of the time, these people have little in the way of technical backgrounds. They won't understand the technology of the position for which they are trying to place you. They're keyword matchers. If you don't have a particular word or phrase on your resume, never mind that if you can use a GUI front end to HTML like Dreamweaver then you can certainly manage one like Front Page. They will disqualify you because you might not have exactly what they are looking for. Consider it to be like a game of "Post Office". The technical manager (who may or may not be technical themselves) has a list of qualifications (which may or may not really be needed) in order to get the job done. This is passed onto Human Resources. Then this is passed onto a recruiter. It's a surprise that it isn't more garbled by the time it comes to you! Common mistakes include job descriptions that focus on lots of acronyms that stand for proprietary systems only used within the company itself, instead of asking for "mainframe background, Oracle database experience, and WAN-based architectures".

Price collusion

Watch out for collusion between the agency and the hiring company on price. Often they will submit you at one price and then tell you that they submitted you at another, higher one. Then when you get there, you find out the hourly rate is something different altogether. Especially when it is time to go permanent. Another practice is to reveal their hourly rate to the client, or to state that they have. If you are making $30 per hour for your services, the agency is billing you out at $75 - 90 per hour to the client. The client should not know what cut you are getting of that hourly fee. That way, when it comes time to negotiate permanent wages, the employer does not have the advantage of you and cannot limit your wage to below market rates. Many agencies are very dishonest in this regard. If an agency does anything like this, it's a huge red flag. Look elsewhere for another position as soon as possible.

Another one is that the agency promises you one price to get you in the door, and once you start salary negotiations with the hiring company, they say there must be some mistake - the price they can "afford" to bring you on at permanently is much less than the agency said it would be. When you offer to call the agency to resolve the issue, the client company would so much rather you did not. Take the offer if you want, but they'll treat you like crap because they knew they could get you for cheap. Keep looking for another job; as soon as you find a suitable one, give notice and leave. Resist any attempt at counter offers.

Common ploys to get information

You get a call at work and the recruiter says, "I got your name from a friend of yours." Then the recruiter tries to talk you into sending them your resume, or the names and numbers of colleagues or managers who "might be interested". This is a fishing expedition. It's OK if you're looking for a position, and you're a contractor there and coming up on the end of your time at the client site, but be wary. When pressed for the name of who referred you to them, the recruiter will waffle. Alternatively, it will be a name you've never heard of, but it will sound plausibly common. If they can't be up front about needing you for a job, which is not that big a deal (isn't that what they're in business for?), then what else will they be dishonest about in the future? In addition, they called you at work. Your friends are bright enough to only give them your home or pager number. What if a recruiter calls you, your boss is standing right there, and they want to know who it is? No friend of yours would put you in that position. Likewise, if you are going to refer a friend of yours to a recruiter with whom you are working, you would give them their home or pager number, and when the recruiter called them, they would say, "The Green Fairy referred you to me, because you are looking for work as a senior systems engineer and he says you walk on water". This is also true for references. Home numbers only please... this buys you time to give your friends a heads-up first that someone will be calling.

Having to pay a deposit towards a job:

The Shocking Pink Fairy: "There is a recruiting agency out there with a name that sounds like a law firm. Very impressive sounding. And they had many job ads out on one of the decent sized job boards (but not the biggest). They were offering ridiculously low prices for some of these jobs, but were somewhat reasonable on others. So, I sent in a couple of resumes. I got an e-mail about two weeks later saying that they were holding interviews in Paris. They would pay you a per diem when you arrived at the airport, but in order to ensure that you did take the flight that they had reserved for you, you would have to put down a $200 deposit. All I got was the e-mail. There was no call from a recruiter, no phone screen, no request for a Word copy of my resume. They said that the screening would be on the first day, and if you made the cut, the offer would be presented to you on the second day. Now, I have been recruited by a major software company that was not located in my home state. They did a lot of chatting with me on the phone, and e-mails back and forth before they booked me on a flight to their office. They did not charge me a deposit, and they offered to reimburse my expenses that I incurred during the trip (which they did)."

This smells like a scam to me, and this is why. The protocol is that the recruiter finds your resume in the database or you send it in towards a position. Then they call you or e-mail you back. They take the time to screen you over the phone and then they invite you down to their office to chat. They ask for your references. (The software company in question checked out Shocking's references before she even flew out to meet them.) After this, if you are qualified, then they present you to their client. There are no payments, deposits, anything like that - even if you do have to fly out to somewhere else to meet the hiring manager. The Teal Fairy went through something like this years ago, only they wanted her to fly out to England. It's OK to deal with out of state recruiters, but you should never have to pay to get a job.

See for yourself. Their e-mail, and the e-mail in response from the job board.

Follow up: What their website currently reads, contact information from, another contact information screen shot from Whois, and another database lookup on their domain name, a database lookup on a variant spelling of the name, and their latest enabler in the next scam. The Job Fairies don't share in the domain owner's sense of "humor". When people need work badly enough, there is always the opportunity to get hurt. People like them are why there are sites like this.

Recruiter Excuses

"The job's on hold".
"They're not offering your range".
"They filled the position".
"We haven't heard back from the client".

Trust me, if the employer wants you for the position, the recruiting agency will turn back flips to get in touch with you. Any other answer than "yes, they want to extend you an offer," means no. Don't call, don't pursue, and don't bother. Expend your energy producing leads.

Responding To Postings

A quick way to respond to postings with a cover letter is to create a short one in Word. Spell check it, proof it carefully. Make sure it opens with a non-specific "Hi" or something along those lines. Then save it as text format and either copy it into your e-mail program as your "signature", or have the program refer to your text file as your signature file. This way, when you click on a link and have the e-mail program open up a new window, your cover letter will already be there; just attach resume and send. You can insert a name in the greeting if the information is available.

Sending Resume To Recruiters

They will reformat it in their style. Often they do not know the difference between hardware and software. You may wish to create a resume that categorizes this for them, but they should really know enough to do this themselves. It depends on how much effort you wish to make for a particular position. Most technical recruiters are shockingly non-technical themselves. It would be hilarious except that they play a pivotal role in connecting you with new and/or better employment...

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