Dave Fecak

About Dave Fecak

Dave Fecak has been recruiting software engineers for start-ups since 1998 and he has served as the founder and president of the Philadelphia Area Java Users’ Group since 2000. Dave is often cited and published on career topics for technology professionals, and he blogs at JobTipsForGeeks.com.

So You Want to Use A Recruiter Part I – Recruit Your Recruiter

This is the first in a three-part series to inform job seekers about working with a recruiter. Part II is “Establishing Boundaries” and Part III is “Warnings”

This week I read an unusually high number of articles (and the comments!) about recruiting. Although most of the discussion quickly turns to harsh criticism, there are always a few people wondering the best ways to find a decent recruiter to work with and what to do once they have established contact.

Some recruiter demand stems from candidates looking to relocate into areas where they have no network, while others just want to maximize their options and feel they may benefit from the services provided by an agency recruiter. Regardless of your reasons for seeking out an agency recruiter, first you have to find one.

Finding a Recruiter

There are three reliable methods to getting introduced to a recruiter.

Referral

This is the best method for most, as being introduced by a contact can have unexpected benefits. To maximize those benefits, you must consider the source of your referral.

If the recruiter has a great deal of respect for the person introducing you, you are likely to be given some immediate credibility and favorable treatment due to that association. Unfortunately the alternative is true, and if you are referred by someone the recruiter does not respect it may be assumed that you are not a strong talent. When asking for recruiter referrals it is wise to start with the most talented people in your network.

Your network does not have to be the only source of referrals, particularly if you are looking for a recruiter in an area where you have no network. User group and meetup leaders are frequently contacted by recruiters and one should expect group leaders to be knowledgeable of the local market. Even a random email to an engineer in another location could result in a solid lead.

Let the recruiter find you

If I had a nickel for every time I heard technologists complain that they aren’t hearing from enough recruiters, I’d be poor – though some voice frustration that they don’t hear from the ‘right ones‘. Increasing your visibility will attract recruiters who may or may not be the ones you’d want, but it helps establish a pool for evaluation to choose who is worthy of a response.

To maximize your chances of being found and contacted, you need to consider how recruiters will find you. The obvious place is LinkedIn, and spending a few minutes fixing up your profile will help.

Keywords and SEO concepts as well as profile ‘completeness’ should be your focus. (further reading on this) Recruiters are likely to be searching for combinations of keywords from their requirements, usually with some advanced search filters based on location, education, or experience. Completeness matters.

Some recruiters search Twitter and the other standard social sites as well. If you have a profile anywhere, just assume that a recruiter might find it and optimize keywords similarly.

Keep in mind how easy or difficult it is for people to contact you once you’ve been found. Just because I see your LinkedIn profile or Google + account doesn’t mean I can contact you. Many professionals create an email address (maybe currentemail-jobs@domain) strictly for recruiter correspondence and include it in their LinkedIn profile and other social pages.

Another option is to get discovered on job search sites like Indeed, Monster, and Dice. These are frequented by active job seekers, and some recruiters may view your posting there as a somewhat negative signal. Be warned that posting personal information on these sites means that those phone numbers or email addresses will live forever in the databases of recruiters everywhere.

PROTIP: Those that complain about recruiters often cite laziness in the initial contact. This may be evidenced by an obvious cut and paste or clear signs that the recruiter didn’t read the bio. If you want to screen out recruiters that don’t do the work, put up a barrier to weed out the lazy. This page that uses scripts in Python and Haskell to hide an email address is perhaps my favorite, but there are other less clever ways if you want to set the bar lower than the ability to cut/paste code into a compiler.

Search

Recruiters search for you, and you can search for them. Most recruiters are going to be easiest to find on LinkedIn due to the amount of time they spend there.

  1. Click on Advanced at the top of the main LinkedIn screen (just to the right of the search bar)  
  2. advanced-copy

  3. On the upper left side of your screen you will see several fields.  Make sure you are doing a People search (and not a Jobs search).
  4. people-search-copy

  5. Type ‘Recruiter’ and other terms specific to you in the Keywords field.  Try ‘developer‘ or ‘programmer’ and a term that a recruiter might use to brand you, such as a language.  Recruiters often populate their LinkedIn profiles with the technologies they seek, not unlike job seekers trying to catch the automated eye of a résumé scanning system.
  6. keywords-copy

  7. Enter the zip code of the area where you wish to find work and consider setting a mile limit.  Some recruiters work nationally, but local knowledge goes a long way if you are seeking to work in one area. Once you start entering the code, a menu appears.  Depending on where you live, you may want to select 25 or 50 miles (probably good for northeast or mid-Atlantic US), or up to 100 miles (for midwest).
  8. location-copy

  9. On the right, make sure you have 3rd + Everyone Else checked under Relationship.   This will maximize your results, particularly if your LinkedIn network is small.
  10. 3rd-copy

  11. Click Search. Repeat, and vary the words you used in Step 3.  You should see a few different faces as you adjust the keywords, and you’ll also see whether you have connections in common with those in your search results.

Twitter is another decent option. Make sure you are searching People (and not Everything), and pair up the word recruiter with some keywords and/or geographic locations. You’ll get numerous hits in most cases, and should only have to do a bit of legwork to find their bios.

In addition to being able to find recruiters on social sites, you can use job boards as well. If you search for a Ruby job in New York City, you may quickly find that several of the listings are posted by one or two recruiting companies. Look into those firms to see if they have a specialty practice.

Search engines might be a bit less useful and are likely to turn up the same listings found on job boards.

Evaluating a Recruiter

Once you have found a pool of potential recruiters, you need to decide which ones to contact. Most job seekers want a recruiter that can provide quality opportunities, has deep market knowledge, can leverage industry relationships, and will navigate issues in the hiring process.

What criteria should we use in the evaluation?

Experience

Just like most disciplines, in recruiting there is no substitute for experience. It takes time to develop contacts and to learn how to uncover potential land mines. Extensive education, recruitment certifications, and training programs don’t get you a network or prepare you for handling unique situations.

Early in my career I know I made many of the mistakes that technologists complain about, and I didn’t have a solid network or steady clients for at least five years. At a certain point in your recruiting career you may not have seen it all, but it’s rare that you are surprised by an outcome.

Focus and Expertise

Experienced recruiters that have spent little time in the industry may be good for general job search advice or negotiation, but can’t provide full value. Look for a consistent track record of years in your field and geography of your search. Talking to a few generalists will make the specialists stand out.

Relationships/Clients

Since recruiters aren’t paid by you and differ from a placement agency, it’s important that the firm has client relationships. Most firms do not advertise their client names which can make it difficult to discover the strength of an agency’s opportunities. The descriptions themselves could be enough to convince you that the agency has attractive clients. Agencies with solid relationships may reach out to past clients and contacts when they don’t have a position that is a clear fit for your background.

Personality fit

Being that an agency recruiter is going to be representing you to companies and even advocating and negotiating on your behalf, it’s important that you get along. You don’t need to be best friends, but someone who dislikes you is unlikely to fight for your best interests.

A ten minute call should give the insight you need to make the decision. Ask questions about their experience and pay attention to the types of questions they ask you. If they don’t dig into your goals and objectives, they probably aren’t concerned with finding a good fit for you.

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2 Responses to "So You Want to Use A Recruiter Part I – Recruit Your Recruiter"

  1. Stephen McConnell says:

    Very good article about recruiting from the recruiter perspective. In dealing with many recruiters both as a job seeker and a person looking for potential candidates, I have found most of this very true. The topics on evaluating recruiter are very appropriate. I work for a large company and we get many resumes that cross our desk. The first line of a recruiter and recruiting company’s reputation is the types of resumes we see cross our desk for the type of job we are offering. Does what they are sending us fit the job description? Then, once we call a prospective employee or call them in for an interview, does their knowledge match what they have on their resume. One would be surprised at how often it does not.

    Working with a recruiter is a matter of trust, both ways. Once we find a good recruiter, it is a joy to work with them and they often become a preferred recruiter for our company.

    Again… a great article.

    • Dave Fecak says:

      Thanks Stephen and glad you liked it. This series is geared towards a job seeker’s perspective but I could write it from a client’s perspective as well and it wouldn’t have much variation. The second and third parts of the series delve a bit into recruiter incentives and provide some explanation for much of the bad behavior that recruiters are responsible for (including the volume of resumes, which is a function of the contingency recruiting model used by most agencies and favored by most hiring companies).

      Thanks for reading.

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