Advice for recruiters

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Like a lot of people, whenever I'm looking for my next project I'll often times work with recruiters to find my next gig. Some folks, especially in the tech world, tend to shy away from working with recruiters because they've had so many bad experiences with them.

I don't mind working with them by default, because if they can help me find a project to work on that I would enjoy, I'm more than happy for them to take a cut of the pay. I simply look at it as a commission that I might otherwise have to pay a sales person.

Sure, I'd rather have companies come directly to me or find these opportunities myself, but I'm only one human and there's no way I can know about all the great opportunities out there - nor can I expect everyone to know who I am.

The problem though is that a LOT of recruiters are absolutely terrible at their jobs, and only a few are really great at it. This surprises me though because there seems to be a really great opportunity for people who are genuinely interested in working in that profession.

The problem most recruiters (and recruiting agencies) have is that they haven't changed the way they're doing business. Most of them seem to think that their job is to cast a wide net, pull in a bunch of resumes, sort through them, and pick out the ones they think their client may like.

The problem with this approach is that they're simply acting as middlemen. The value they're bringing is acting as a collector and a filter. I suppose this is still working a little bit right now - but it won't for much longer.

I had two completely different experiences with recruiters recently that have had me thinking about this a lot. One recruiter brought me into their office to talk about a project with a company in Chicago. After a pretty good conversation, he brought in the "account rep", who is the person that manages the relationship with the client and she started looking at my resume.

I should point out that I never only send someone my resume. In fact, I try not to send a resume at all but sometimes I give in. When that happens, I always send a link to my bio so they can check out my blog, the apps I've made, my company, my podcast, etc. Admittedly, my resume is probably pretty terrible, and it likely reflects my belief in their value.

The first thing she said was something like: "you know Andrew, when I look at your resume I get all confused. I mean, the first thing I see on here is 'founder' and I don't know - that says entrepreneur to me and my client needs a project manager - not an entrepreneur."

Apparently, never-mind the fact that the company I started was a project management company. She went on to show me an example of a resume she worked on for what their client would want to see. IT WAS AN 8 PAGE RESUME!

So I asked them, you know that link I sent you, did you click on it? Answer: no. So you haven't seen my blog? No. You haven't looked at the companies I started? No. You haven't seen any of the applications I've made? Nope. Not the Android one? No. Not the Rails app? Nope. How about Duarlander, you know, the application testing service? Nope, not that either. Did you take 20 seconds to even Google my name? No.

So you mean to tell me that you brought me out of my office, into your office, losing an entire half day of productivity to meet with you and you didn't even take the time to get to know me at all? Yep, that's right. Keep in mind, this isn't a hiring manager with 1,000 other things on their plate. It's their job to find people for their clients.

That is a bad recruiter, they insulted me, and it's what almost everyone in the industry does.

Contrast this with another person I've been working with, and who's project I'm joining. Before even speaking with me, they talked to someone else that I've worked with, they checked out my experience, they looked at some of the applications I've made, and based on that, they thought I may be interested in, and be a good fit for, their project.

Turns out, they were right. It's a great project and I'm thrilled to be working on it and it's going to be really interesting for me.

So here's the lesson I think a lot of recruiters should take. Don't think of yourself as a recruiter; think of yourself as an agent. Can you imagine a sports agent representing a ball player without knowing their batting average, or on-base percentage, or number of home runs they've hit?

Of course not.

If all you're doing is shuffling resumes around, you are becoming more irrelevant with every minute that passes. And, by the way, you're doing a huge disservice to the company's that have hired you.

But, if you're getting to know some great people, understanding what their interests are, and matching them with opportunities that they'd be interested in that they might not otherwise know about, you'll rise to the top as the rest of your industry crumbles.