Interviewing Tech Recruiters Anonymously - Part 1

Interviewing Tech Recruiters Anonymously - Part 1
Post Author: Aaron Decker
Date published: September 02, 2019

I know recruiting is hard because as a programmer I am on the receiving end of attempts to get my attention for jobs every single day and the majority of these are just not a good match.

The messages I get range on a spectrum from outright spam to thoughtful and highly personal, but 95% of the time what I get is just stuff that doesn’t match skill-set, or professional level very well.

I decided I would interview a few tech recruiters and see if anything interesting came from it. I want to understand how tech recruiters see the industry. I have completed a few interviews already, so this is just the kick-off.

All of these interviews are totally anonymous - I want to showcase real feelings.

I met this recruiter though Reddit, we’ll call him “Sr. Technical Recruiter from Seattle”.

Q: “Can you describe your experience in recruiting?”

A: “I have been involved in recruiting for 8 years. I started out as a sourcing specialist, an individual who simply finds talent based off of resume searching and setting up email lists. I moved onto full desk recruiting where I interacted with paying clients to gather their requirements and recruited the talent to deliver them. I then moved into corporate recruiting where I recruited for Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft as a full-time employee. I have worked at large tech companies, staffing firms…”

Q: “Can you describe your process of reaching out to candidates?”

A: “I of course get the job posted (from the job boards). Every morning I review applicants that come in overnight. Email the ones I think are a fit and send rejection emails to those who are not a fit. Otherwise I create Boolean strings based off of the job requirements and plug them into various resume repositories like indeed, Linkedin, Dice, etc. I then email those candidates and wait for a reply. It is stupid simple like — (“Programming Language 1” OR “Programming Language 2”) AND (“Database 1” OR “Database 2”) AND (“Nice to Have Skill 1” OR “Nice to Have Skill 2”) After I engage with a candidate via email, I set up a time to speak with them over the phone to perform a preliminary phone screen to ensure they match all of the position requirements. I also provide time where I can answer their questions about the company, position, etc. to make sure they aren’t confused about what they are applying for. Lots of emails and mail mergers is the main way. Sometimes I will use Linkedin recruiter if it is provided by the employer.”

Q: “How often do potential candidates respond to your proposals?”

A: “The rate at which someone will reply to an initial email is pretty low. Like low 10% probably. The only difference is when I worked at big name companies that people were especially eager to be recruited by like Amazon, Facebook, or Microsoft”

Q: “What seems to be most effective in reaching potential candidates?”

A: “Not doing things in a cookie cutter fashion. I see a heavy uptick in conversion from email to response if I explain WHY I reached out to that candidate. Even better if I provide a job description.”

Q: “Do candidates ever respond negatively to your proposals?”

A: “I have had people complain about bad recruiters from the past in the same organization. Totally understandable. As well as complaining about a lack of feedback from their previous interview from months or years back. If I am allowed to I will share that feedback.

Otherwise people are typically ambivalent to a recruiter reaching out to them. They either reply or don’t. Totally understandable.

Back when I was at a staffing firm and forced to “Smile and Dial” candidates off of a list, people really don’t appreciate cold calls. I know I don’t so I don’t do it to others.”

Q: “Do you enjoy recruiting? What do you like about it?”

A: “No I don’t. I think the entire process is broken. Hiring managers are slow to respond to your questions and candidate submittals then complain that the process is slow. Moreover, there are a lot of hiring managers who are paying below market rate for skill sets like AWS or GCP architects and then act confused as to why recruiting can’t find people within the requirement scope.

My biggest complaint was there are far more incompetent recruiters that give good recruiters a bad name that make candidates not want to reply to emails or phone calls.”

Q: “What are some of your frustrations with recruiting? Does it come more clients or from candidates?”

A: “It comes from both. Both sides biggest problem is they blow off of responding and slow down the process. Hiring managers can stall the process big time. Then when candidates go cold without a warning when they don’t want to move forward it can feel rude but you get over it. It just makes you weary of them in the future to actually commit to the process.”

As a software engineer (and currently, a Tech Lead trying to hire engineers) one of the most interesting points that this recruiter brought up was that hiring managers are offering below market rate pay and then “act confused as to why recruiting can’t find people”. Coupled with the fact that Hiring managers are not getting back to him soon enough to actually send out offers, and as hard as it is to get a candidate to respond initially, this really shows the difficulty of being a bridge between both parties.

Another good insight is that this clearly very experienced recruiter is frustrated with the industry as a whole and other recruiters:

My biggest complaint was there are far more incompetent recruiters that give good recruiters a bad name

He lists that as his biggest complaint! Is this is why he is getting a 10% or less response rate? Because lots of recruiters are flooding everyone with job opportunities that don’t really match their skill-sets?

But, by far the most revealing response is this one:

Q: "Do you enjoy recruiting? What do you like about it?" A: "No I don’t. I think the entire process is broken... "

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As a result of doing some of these interviews I decided to make a course for recruiters. I want to teach technical topics and the general tech ecosystem to recruiters so they can craft more thoughtful proposals to candidates and better serve the industry.

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Also, if you are interested in learning technical topics through a video course specifically created for recruiters, don't forget to check out the courses I offer.

The main course "How to Speak Software Engineering Jargon for Recruiters" is specifically designed to help tech recruiters get up to speed fast on technical topics.

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.