Are Developers hesitant to work with Tech Recruiters?

Are Developers hesitant to work with Tech Recruiters?
Post Author: Aaron Decker
Date published: September 20, 2019

I did a survey and about 60% of the developers who responded said they had never gotten a job through a recruiter.

What does this mean? The first conclusion is that developers are hesitant to work with tech recruiters when searching for a job.

On this same survey I asked developers to tell me about their experiences with recruiters and I’ll share the unedited responses with you and go through some of them. Just to clarify — I am not editing any of these responses, or censoring them. I think both developers and recruiters might be a little startled by some of this feedback.

Here we go (this list is emoji delimited, because why not):

I got only one job through a recruiter and it lead to one of the darkest times in my life. New grads should be careful, vet your recruiter. Don’t let them sell you, do your research. Don’t buy into the shotclock mentality. If you don’t have a job at graduation, it is ok.


Often I am contacted by recruiters who offer non-specific leads that ask to speak over the phone. This is always a waste of time. The best recruiters are transparent — they provide the company, JD, and salary range up front without wasting time.


I think most recruiters see developers as interchangeable code monkeys instead of human beings. Instead of cultivating a long term relationship with developer and providing value to them, most recruiters try to quickly woo a developer with a flashy, buzzword-filled job posting. I think the successful recruiters that I know spend their time building multiple-year relationships first and sending them highly targeted opportunities as opposed to saying “Oh, you know [language]? Here’s a new job posting every day with that requirement!”


Recruiters that only know buzzwords and don’t really understand what type of people they’re looking for.


recruiters seem lazy: not really trying to understand an online profile and thus making silly proposals


Interacting with recruiters is like interacting with a used car salesman: I’m certain that they aren’t looking out for my best interest and every dealing feels like an attempt not to get ‘fukt’ and/or ‘rekt’.

While recruitment needs improvement, in my experience and I think that of most developers I know personally, the current model is super broken and basically needs complete replacement.


I’m an experienced developer with a pubic speaking & open-source presence. I get a recruitment email almost every day, even though I’ve never positively responded to any of them. All the jobs I’ve had I found through jobs boards, filtering for the things like remote work & interesting products, or direct recommendations. Feels like there’s a massive waste of companies’ & recruiters’ & developers’ time happening here.


Recruiters probably should have industry experience. There’s too much of a disconnect


The biggest issue I have with most recruiter messages I get is that they say things like “10x developers”, “code ninjas”, etc. In the case of big companies, they often mention teams that are “like a startup.” All of this is boilerplate that I can’t trust, because they’d say that even it it wasn’t true. That might work for junior people, but I’m a senior hire. Those phrases just tell me the team needs to grow up.


Recruiter messages need to ditch the stupid buzzwords and get to the point: you need me to do XYZ, and it looks like my skillset could be a good match.

I almost checked a few of the other boxes above, but they aren’t why I don’t respond to recruiters. If the project has the wrong pay or looks uninteresting, I will still respond to say that I’m not interested. You never know when a relationship might prove important. I pretty much only ignore them if they are clearly messaging me without reading my profile. Another thing that is annoying is getting farther along in a conversation (this happens to me at least two or three times a year), and finding out it’s not a good fit, but they’ll inevitably tell you they’re checking with the client to see if they can get more money (or whatever). I think when that happens I’ve only had them get back to me that the client declined ONCE. Out of dozens of recruiter interactions. Also worth noting those same recruiters are SHAMELESS about contacting me again in the future. (Often with similarly low rates or missmatched projects!)


As you can see the responses range from apprehensive to outright hostile. But I would go as far as saying that perhaps a majority of developers (based on the survey) are at the very least cautious about working with recruiters, and it is not just happenstance that they never got a job from a recruiter.

I think recruiters would be well served to understand this, and I think they way to deal with it is to understand the industry better and understand developers better. In many of the responses developers are complaining that recruiters don’t understand what they are talking about, it seems that listening to this feedback would lead to a positive outcome for any recruiter.

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Written By Aaron Decker

I'm currently a co-founder and head of engineering at a venture backed startup called Bounty. I tend to think of myself as a backend engineer that can work up and down the stack in Typescript. Previously, I have worked as a Tech Lead and hired teams, and as a Senior Software Engineer at multiple fortune 500 companies building large products. I also did a brief stint teaching programming courses as an Adjunct Instructor at a local community college, which taught me a lot about breaking down complex things into understandable chunks.