Monday, 11 July 2011

My experiences as a Recruiter on Hacker News

Allow me to preface this post with some caveats:
  • I have not, nor ever will attempt to solicit business on Hacker News
  • This is not a 'pity me' post

Here's a little bit of background on me: I studied Software Development in University and worked as a (very average) Developer for a few years and it just simply wasn't for me. I was young and eager to travel and meet new people so I wanted a job that would afford me the luxury and finances to facilitate such a lifestyle so I moved into sales which eventually lead to recruitment and never looked back. My experience as a Developer does provide me with the edge over most people in my industry and I think this is the key to changing the face of Tech Recruitment but I will cover that in my next post.

I discovered Hacker News through Reddit/r/Programming and having seen it mentioned a few times, I took the leap and created a profile under the name KoZeN.
My first impressions were shock & awe. I was blown away by the quality of submissions and I am still perplexed by the almost non-existent presence of trolls and small-minded, ill informed script-kiddies.

Having read the Guidelines & FAQ I tentatively started to contribute my opinions, albeit limited and basic and eventually I discovered a significant air of disdain towards the recruitment industry so now and again I would weigh in with my opinion that we are not all that bad. Most of us are terrible but more on that later.

I eventually hit breaking point and decided to actively try and help the community and maybe even change some peoples perception that we are money hungry, clueless idiots by offering to critique CV's/resumes for people on Hacker News who might potentially be looking for work. In my post I stated categorically that this was not an attempt to harvest CV's or generate leads. My intentions were entirely altruistic and remain so.

Here's the post I am referring to:

Within an hour of posting I had received 22 CV's and within the next 24 hours I received a total of 408 emails and 341 CV's from all sorts of candidates from all walks of life. At that point I had to ask the staff at HN to remove my email and replace it with a general apology that I was no longer accepting CV's as they were still coming in at a rate of about 5 or 6 an hour. Even after removing my address people were still sending CV's having obtained my info from my profile and previous posts.

Unfortunately I only managed to get around to about 80% of the CV's. I spent an average of 20 minutes on each CV so as you can imagine, it was a pretty laborious task, more so considering I had a new baby to look after and a partner who was fed-up with me spending every weekend on this particular charitable act. At this point I wish to apologise to those of you who didn't receive a reply. I simply didn’t have the spare time.

The remaining 67 emails that had no CV attached contained a few messages from people thanking me for offering my services free of charge, even one or two offering to donate to my PayPal as thanks (which I politely declined) as well as 2 from potential clients in London who asked me to help them recruit for current vacancies (one offer I rejected on the grounds that he wanted me to recruit from the pool of CV's I had just been sent). The rest (about 45 in total) were hate emails.

45 people had read my post, ignored the statement where I told people to remove personal details proving my intentions were genuine, and emailed me all sorts of abuse. One of which even went to the extent of finding out the company I worked for, phoning them and threatening to report them for illegally obtaining personal information?! Fortunately I had told my boss at the time what I was doing and he happily sent that particular gentleman on his way.

It was easy at first to ignore the hate mail but they kept coming. Eventually it reached a point where every time I commented on HN I would get a flurry of emails from people who were inexplicably monitoring my activity and had their pitchforks sharpened and at the ready.

I gave in. I reset my HN password and deleted the email with my new password. I took a break from HN for a few months but I missed the community. I was, and still am, working on my own tech start-up with my best friend (who isn't a recruiter!) and I always found the community engaging and inspirational. Time to start from scratch and create a new profile.

My new profile, username 'Peroni', was simple; focus on the start-up community, resist the urge to try and change the world of recruitment and absolutely no more random acts of kindness!
As well as getting involved with the community online, I started to attend the amazing #HNLondon meetups and I have fallen truly and completely back in love with Hacker News!

I've learned a lot over the last year and I still think that I have the ability to change people’s perception, even if it is only a very small percentage of people, that recruiters aren't just a necessary evil and some of us are passionate and actually quite good at what we do.

The purpose of this post is entirely cathartic. I needed to let the community know that even if we aren't one of the 'cool crowd' some of us are still capable of making a valuable contribution. I even play my part in staving off the decline in quality on Hacker News by patrolling the 'New' page on a daily basis and flagging the spam and irrelevant content.

I don't want an apology on behalf of the very angry minority, not even close. I actually want to thank the community. You have taught me more about the current state of technology than any news site in existence and you have helped me no end understand what struggles candidates face when trying to find work and also the struggles clients face when trying to find good staff.

So, thank you HN. Keep doing what you’re doing...oh, and bring back the comment points! ;)


  1. I guess I should point out most so-called recruiters do not understand the recruiter definition and thus fail to live-up-to that definition.

    Sometimes that gets lost in HR-DIY trends of start-ups to the point where the HR-DIY'er also fails to live up the recruiter definition..

    I enjoy your posts..thanks for posting

  2. Yeah dude, well said.

    No matter your intentions, there will be assholes. Nice of them to identify themselves as people to avoid.

    2-3 years ago I managed to make the leap from recruiting to digital marketing then to my current role in product management on a rapid prototyping team.

    The level of disdain on the part of the devs I work with toward recruiters in general is remarkable. Having worked with the kind of chowderheads in recruiting who have created this disdain; I understand.

    All the recruiting tricks and tips in the world for finding pools of talent and attracting the best etc etc are all bullshit and instead create the kind of fevered anger you experienced from the developer community.

    The problem is the construct of "recruiting" in the first place. It's inherently a middle man type of role. Of course it's going to spawn fools and charlatans, that's what most middle men are. That doesn't mean that all are, but there's a higher percentage. I know several recruiters, who like you, are interested in making a difference, and offering a quality service. The bulk of their work is simply developing and managing real relationships, and it works. However, they still have to battle the reputation.

    Good on you for your efforts and clear writing.

  3. Great job for contributing and investing in the community. Sorry for the trolls - they suck - especially when you're doing something to help.

    Best of luck with your career. Whatever you do, with the attitude you have I'm sure you're be very successful at it!

  4. After 258 days I never expected to hear what happened to your offering. I was part of the 20% you couldn't finish and after a while I thought you were just harvesting CVs. Good to see I was wrong.


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