The recruiter business is broken -- at least in San Francisco. I get multiple calls each day from recruiters and they're all pitching the same "exceptional candidate" that's perfect for our company's needs. I always politely tell them to take me off their lists, but yesterday I had a recruiter refuse to do so. Then he sent me the email below, extorting me by saying he would take me off his list only if I'd look at his candidate. Below is how I responded to him. I cc'd a manager at his company, and Lowell Isom & Erica Jarmen at the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
If you're a recruiter and you're reading this, you need to re-think your approach. It's not working. And because of bad apples like the guy below, I won't use any recruiter.
If you're an entrepreneur looking to hire top talent, what I do recommend is AngelList's Job board. It's very, very good. And you cut the recruiters out completely, which is a nice bonus.
Here's the extortion letter I received, with my response at the top:
EDIT 3/20/13: This recruiter called me, apologized, and asked me to blur his name and company name out, as it was causing him trouble. I told him that if he participated in a conversation with me on this blog so we could use this as an opportunity to better understand what the problems in the recruiting space are, I'd agree to blur all his personally identifiable information out, which I've now done. He's posting under the pseudonym "Timm" below; feel free to ask him questions directly if you'd like to learn more about what drove him to send this email to me.
This entire post is blown out of proportion. From one bad sed to another bad seed. The broad sweeping decay of professionalism on both sides.
"Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter." — Gilbert Amelio
I just so happened to see this video today.
Makes me think it's actually San Francisco that's broken :)
I originally reached out to Daniel as a new recruiter. In doing so I authored an email well, co-authored an email that in the eyes of many was and in retrospect not up to my personal standards. Since then Daniel and I have communicated and both come to understand one another’s side a bit better. We decided that this blog has the opportunity to shed a positive light on an industry that like many others has its flaws. By this I mean there is no standard operating procedure for being a recruiter. In fact being “creative” and employing tactics that elicit a “response” are sometimes more often the goal because it opens up the lines of communication and helps build a relationship. It is difficult for recruiters to establish new relationships with companies and help grow the business they are working for. As a result sometimes people working in this occupation misstep and make errors in judgment. However, there is good that can come opening up the dialog and discussing this matter further. One thing that I can suggest would be a specific email address on a company website for recruiters to send resumes and perhaps probe whether or not a company is open to working with external agencies. I welcome any further comments/suggestions for how to continue to improve professional recruiting. Thank you for future contributions to this post.
This recruiter called me, apologized, and asked me to blur his name and company name out, as it was causing him trouble. I told him that if he participated in a conversation with me on this blog so we could use this as an opportunity to better understand what the problems in the recruiting space are, I'd agree to blur all his personally identifiable information out, which I've now done. He's posting under the pseudonym "Timm" above; feel free to ask him questions directly if you'd like to learn more about what drove him to send this email to me.
I'll start the conversation:
Timm, on the phone you told me that when you sent me the email above, it was your first (or second?) day on the job and you were working from a prepared script. Can you elaborate on that? Is it company policy at your company to use prepared scripts like the one above?
By the way, I appreciate you posting a suggested solution, when you write:
"One thing that I can suggest would be a specific email address on a company website for recruiters to send resumes and perhaps probe whether or not a company is open to working with external agencies."
That may be a good first step for companies to take.
I think Timm has nailed it on the head with "employing tactics that elicit a “response” are sometimes more often the goal because it opens up the lines of communication and helps build a relationship." - That is it. If recruiters had a way to start a conversation with hiring managers/HR that would help build a relationship, that would solve a lot of problems. But, there are so many recruiters out there now that everyone is shouting over everyone else and thus no one is heard. Being "creative" is the only way to stand out from the crowd, but as more recruiters become "creative", things only move downhill on the ethical scale. I'm not sure that having a specific email address would solve anything though. If that email address receives 50 emails a day from different recruiters, how do you pick out the ones that truly want to help build the company rather than just spam resumes over and hope one sticks? I think that word of mouth between hiring managers would be a better way to go, but I always feel awkward asking a hiring manager that I have a good relationship with to solicit business for me ("Let your other VPE friends know how great I am!" - just awkward). Any ideas how to breach this subject or is it just too much to ask in general?
On a separate note - reading from a script seems pretty standard for new employees. Since most of them have no experience in the field (tech or recruiting) reading from a basic script seems to be the standard way to get them comfortable on the phone.
Here's a great post about how Elaine Wherry created an imaginary engineer, Pete London, and the resulting experience he (she) had with recruiters. It's another example of how the current model is broken.
You say that recruiters need to change how they approach hiring managers; do you have any suggestions as to how you would prefer to be contacted by recruiters (if you were still working with them). What would get you to give them the time of day or agree to work with them if you did have openings available because there are recruiters our there who genuinely just want to work hard and help companies fill their roles? It's just impossible to tell which ones are which when their are recruiters our there like the one described.
Matt, you're the first recruiter that's ever asked me that question. So already, that's a start, and I'll be happy to have a dialogue around the topic to try to find some solutions.
The first thing to do is understand the dynamics at work. Here is what my relationship with all recruiters is like today:
Well that definitely makes sense to me and you have provided some great insights. A couple of thoughts I have:
- How would a recruiter be able to learn what your (and your company's) needs actually are if they can't get your attention?
- WRT the fee, I would rather fill a role with a good employee at any salary that is agreeable for the company and the candidate, because any fee is better than no fee and it wouldn't be worth the risk of losing a placement fee just to get an extra $1000. But I've never thought about charging a continual fee for the duration of the candidate's tenure. What do you think a fair amount for that type of arrangement would be?
- The other question I have is: If I became an expert in a specific vertical - how could I approach companies that I've had no prior contact with and actually get their attention to show them that I am an expert? Because as you stated, almost all C level executives get hounded constantly by recruiters from all over the world. How would I be able to reach out to a hiring manager and actually receive the time of day from them rather than just being disregarded?
Is there anything you can do to help job seekers avoid these recruiters as well? I'm sure most people wouldn't want themselves being represented in this way. I would have been tempted to take the meeting with the candidate first, just to be able to warn him or her and tell her to run, run far and run fast.
Technical hiring managers need to take their requisitions a LOT more seriously than they have, over the last half dozen years. Too many requisitions are vague, incomplete and obviously very political. They are too general for a candidate to prepare him/herself for a series of interviews.
A hiring manager should spend the time to actually define goals for a new project, identify and define the tasks comprising that project, and then look at each and every skill that a task requires, and finally estimate the mentoring necessary to provide to a new hire. Don't hire somebody if you don't have time to brief them on the project.
Every job req should be defined at a professional level. No job should ever be defined as a tryout, temporary or support job where you will just fire someone who isn't working out for some vague reason. Vague reasons burn up time and cost money. don't even do this if other hiring managers are doing this. If your company has a policy of hiring this way; start looking for another job yourself. You are better off hiring a good person for more money and training them, than you are burning up a year spinning through five eager and inexpensive new hires who don't work out.
After looking closely at a new project, the hiring manager should write specific, carefully considered requisitions for the jobs required -- AND spend a little time networking publicly to see if he/she can locate candidates himself. Being public is important -- just calling up a few friends isn't enough, and sometimes is not even appropriate.
This basic stuff is NOT what most hiring managers do.
Candidates need to use unemployment time to brush up on the business-oriented skills that impact their professional role.Take a professional course if it's appropriate. Zero in as you can, on your specialties and strengths.
Isolation is your enemy. Learn to network, and learn something about starting an appropriate business for yourself. LinkedIn is mandatory now, but not sufficient -- you have to find a way to get in front of a real person every day. Also keep in touch with employment agencies and jobs boards; just don't expect them to be reliable and honest, or to produce a job. YOU know more about your job field than THEY do. ... and don't apply for everything you see. Treat senior recruiters with respect -- they can be helpful sometimes. You might run into them at professional or business meetings. They aren't the ones who cold-Call or send email.
Nobody knows enough about any of this to call themselves an expert. Neither do I. Whether you are hiring, looking, or representing: Good Luck.
Interesting story. Mentioning the recruiter business is broken becomes evident when you visit Linkedin.
Start making connections with recruiters on Linkedin and watch what happens to your daily update feed.
Judging by their truly abysmal, bordering-on-embarrassing social presence, I doubt this person is more experienced than the average intern. In fact, I'd venture a guess that Rick Gerard actually directed Jory that this is a creative way to REALLY get someone's attention. Welp, she got your attention alright!
I love how she asserts that you shouldn't be bothered by someone CALLING YOUR CELLPHONE UNSOLICITED because you're listed as CEO on your company's page of team members ... of course, with no mention of your phone number. Like, if your name/position is on the web, then you'll just have to accept that not only will people contact you, but you have NO RIGHT to request that they don't.
Stay Classy Jory/Stride Search!!
This man is correct. The recruiting industry is broken. It is broken for candidates, too. Employers and agencies behave badly because, well; they can.
@Milt, that's what keeps me from using any recruiter -- and I know there are some good ones out there. I just can't support an industry that condones this type of behavior.
I do know there are some startups out there trying to fix things. I'm 100% behind them, especially if they can find ways to remove the inefficiencies inherent in me getting multiple calls daily that all sound like the same broken record.
Something hit me today like a ton of bricks.
Something that's so damn obvious I can't believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before.
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is... trading up.
Yep, that's right, trading up.
Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house.
Something hit me today like a ton of bricks. Something that's so damn obvious I can't believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before. The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is... trading up. Yep, that's right, trading up. Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house. Except I'm not talking about trading paperclips for houses. I'm talking about turning nothing into something. I'm talking about hustling. About maximizing opportunities. About asking yourself, "what could I do with this thing I just got, to turn it into something bigger and better based on my goals?" (the "thing" being press, or a successful product launch, or an introduction, or basically anything). I just realized today this is something I do all the time. I've done it so much that it's ingrained in the very fabric of my being. It'd be really easy to take this the wrong way, especially if you don't trade up often or at all. I don't mean this in a manipulative sort of way at all. There's a certain earnestness you have to have in doing this to live a good life while always reaching for something greater. Let me just give you the small example that made me realize it today, in chronological order: We're looking to hire engineers. In a big way. So I heard the news on TechCrunch today about Digg laying people off And then shortly thereafter I saw this blog about people scouting for Digg engineers, which mentioned that Joe Stump of SimpleGeo used to be lead architect at Digg. And then I thought to myself, "hmmm, I know some SimpleGeo guys" so I looked up the people I know to see what their email addresses were in an attempt to discern a pattern of email addy so I could email Joe I found that they were all [email protected] and thought "hmmm I'd better verify that, because Joe is a common name, so his might not be firstname@" So I did a Google search for "Joe@Si...eGeo.com" and viola! A few things did pop up - enough to assure me that I had his email address right (note - took part of the email addy out in this link for spam bot mitigation) So I emailed him, letting him know about my relationship w/ SimpleGeo and how we were looking for engineers And he emailed me back letting me know he'd shard my info with some ex Digg engineers I 'traded up' a series of thoughts & actions to achieve a goal, starting with a simple thought about how ex-Digg engineers were available and I might have a connection to someone who could connect me, to following through with an email and response. I don't know if anything will come of this, but that's somewhat besides the point. It's kinda like baseball scores. Having a ".267" is pretty solid and a ".335" is even better - if you do it enough times, you'll see results. Or to put it another way -- the way I just figured out today-- if you trade up often enough, you'll get outsized, unusual and extraordinary results, even if you completely strike out much of the time. The example I showed you above isn't even that impressive. I think any entrepreneur worth their salt will say, "so what? I would've done the same thing. In fact, I'm going to email Joe now." Some of you may have in fact already emailed Joe from reading the part above. That's exactly my point. This is what all good entrepreneurs do. In fact, we do it without even thinking about it, which is why it hit me today that it's such an obvious thing and yet such a marker for success. I must do things like this dozens or more times per day. If I were an Angel or a VC, I'd find a way to test for this. Another example from today that comes to mind: Sean, one of my co-founders, sent me an article about a "first of its kind" partnership Apple just inked with a Fortune 500 company. So I used Jigsaw to find the contact info for the person mentioned in the article who inked the deal with Apple and emailed him. Who knows if anything will come of it. The process of looking him up and composing an email to him took me about 3 minutes. But if something comes of it, it could mean meaningful revenue to our company. Most likely, it won't happen, but it's a numbers game and seeing his name in the article and reaching out to him is just another example of 'trading up.' It's something I do almost without thinking about it. Trading up explains why entrepreneurs are always thinking about work, or taking work home with them, or mulling things over in the shower. Trading up explains why being an entrepreneur is an all-consuming experience. Because you know that that one email you didn't get to write, or that one phone call or meeting you didn't take, or that one networking event you didn't go to could have been the home run. Although many (I might even say all successful) entrepreneurs do this, I don't think many non-entrepreneurs do this, simply because they don't have to. It's mentally exhausting to always be thinking about trading up. Or to put it another way, it's not exhausting once you've done it enough, like building up a muscle group. You have to be hungry to always be looking for ways to trade up. If you have a nice job, or you're satisfied, you won't need to trade up. You never develop those mental muscles. You never see the little opportunities in front of you that you can turn into big opportunities ".335" percent of the time. Some day I may feel like I don't need to trade up anymore. Then again, it might just be set like concrete into my persona; unchangeable. I've already had one person disagree with me that "trading up" is the most important facet to being a successful entrepreneur, but I'm going to stick with it for now, at least until someone can convince me otherwise in the comments. PS see, there I am, trading up again. Putting a line and the end of my blog to encourage comments, so I can make a connection, so I can have another data point in my batting average. I'm telling you, this is big. PPS if you like this blog, please vote for it on Hacker News. Yep, trading up again, you called it.
In the previous draft Top Talent Acquisition: Stop Fishing in the Wrong Lake, we spoke about the importance of broadening your recruiting strategy. Today, we are going to talk about developing a recruiting strategy, or as I would prefer to title it, "How Not to Kill Your Recruiter and the Recruiting Strategy". (Decided that one wouldn't be as marketable of a title.) So, here are some basic steps:
1. Job Description: There is nothing I detest more than having an ambiguous job I am expected to fill. If you are looking for a java developer with a certain certification, have that in the job description, don't add it later as a filter through which you will grade all candidates provided to you. Job descriptions should have the following:
2. Follow UP! One thing that can kill a recruiter's drive is when they identify a candidate for you, after some painstaking conversations, and you go dark on them. Understanding things happen and take priority over talking with your recruiter, however, if you start to show a lack of interest in the position, the recruiter will most likely do the same. Most good recruiters are sales people at heart and aim to please the client, but also aim to "make a kill."
On the flip side of that, be sure to honor appointments with candidates. It amazes me how managers will blow off phone interviews or miss appointments with candidates who are interested in the position. There are no words for what type of impression that leaves with a candidate. And when you have met with them, provide feedback to both the candidate and the recruiter about next steps.