Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Questions from 'My experience as a Recruiter on Hacker News'

Off the back of my recent successful post on Hacker News, a number of people, job seekers & employers alike, had questions on how to improve their experience dealing with recruiters. This post is designed to address the most common questions I was asked. I hope you find it useful.

How do I stop the constant calls from recruiters?
This applies mainly to employers but the advice is the same to candidates who experience the same issue.
I have spoken to so many employers who say they receive an average of a dozen calls every single day touting the latest 'Rockstar Developer', god I hate that phrase.
If you employ people then recruiter calls are a fact of life that you will always have to tolerate but there are ways you can make a drastic impact to the number of calls and time wasted every day.
Start making notes. Create a spreadsheet with 'Recruitment Company', 'Recruiter Name' and 'Date' fields. Every time you get a call from a recruiter, stop them in their tracks and obtain the info for those first two elements. Once you have that info, instruct the recruiter to no longer call your business as you do not take unsolicited calls from recruiters and politely end the conversation. When you eventually encounter another recruiter (or possibly even the same recruiter) from a company that is already on the list, stop them and ask to speak to one of their superiors, when put through, politely point out that you had previously requested that you requested to have your company details removed from their books and re-itterate the fact that you don't want them calling you again. At this stage most managers take steps to ensure that you are placed on a 'Do Not Call' list. If the recruiter insists they don't have a superior (a lot are self-employed), highlight your previous request and instruct them directly to ensure you are not called again.
I admit this whole process may seem a little time consuming but I am adamant that in the long run you will spend less and less time having to deal with shoddy recruiters over the phone.

How do I make my CV/resume stand out above the rest?
Portfolios. I don't care if you are a developer or a designer, the fact of the matter is that you create something for a living so show it off. If you are a developer, start using GitHub or similar platforms that allow prospective employers to see examples of your code. Go to Stack Overflow and start answering peoples questions and build a reputation. Be creative but meticulous.
If you are a designer or front-end dev then a portfolio seems obvious but so many portfolios are incredibly basic, some are down-right ugly and a lot are difficult to navigate and comprehend. Ask for feedback on your portfolio at every given opportunity.

What common mistakes should I avoid on my CV/Resume?
To this day I still come across at least one or two CV's a day that contain spelling & grammatical mistakes. Please, don't rush your CV. IF you really want the job, prove it by investing your time into perfecting your CV.
Aesthetics play a big part. Employers want CV's that are easy to read, easy to follow and relatively lightweight. If you are a contractor then no doubt you will have dozens of companies in your employment history. List them clearly and concisely. Something along the lines of the following:

MegaCorp - January 2011 to Present - Python Developer
BlueChip Ltd - June 2010 to January 2011 - Python Developer
DevHouse Inc - March 2010 to June 2010 - Python Developer
Conglomerate & Co - January 2010 to March 2010 - Python Developer

Follow this list with 'Key Achievements/Projects' and this is your time to shine. Highlight the main projects you have been involved in and what part you played. You don't need to quantify every single project you have ever worked on. If an employer wants more info they will ask.
Avoid page borders, use one sans-serif font consistantly throughout the document, leave out company logos and certification logos and stick to one font colour, black.
If you want to highlight your creativity, keep that to your portfolio/website.
DO NOT list references on your CV. The only time you should provide these is when you are at the point where you have already interviewed for the job and they are keen to progress to the next stage.

How do I find a 'good' recruiter?
Hacker News member edw519 sums it up pretty eloquently right here:
Honesty is key. Never, ever consent to a recruiter submitting your details if they haven't disclosed the company name. Most will only do this at the end of the conversation as at that point they will be clear on whether or not your CV is suitable for submission.
If you have the time to meet with the recruiter, take it. Generally a recruiter can sell you to their clients much more effectively if they have met you face to face. If you invest your time in them, more often than not they will invest more of their time and attention in you.

As for employers finding good recruiters to work with, that's a different ball-game.
Referals are great. If you know someone in your industry who has used recruiters, ask them for a recommendation. I can personally guarantee you that if you approach the recruiter saying they came recommended, that recruiter will bend over backwards to try and impress you. If you encounter a decent recruiter, recommend them. Linkedin recommendations are useful currency for recruiters so five minutes of your time drafting a paragraph on your positive experience with that particular recruiter can have a profound impact on their career.
If you are in a situation where you have no choice but to enlist the services of a recruiter, screen them thoroughly. Find out what their technical competencies are, don't try and baffle them with science, give them a chance to be honest with you. Find out what other companies they have placed with and don't be afraid to ask them for references from other companies they have done business with if you plan on using them more than once.

How do I get recruiters to send competent candidates?
The biggest bugbear most people have with our industry is 'buzzword bingo'. Where you give us a requirement and we select key words and use those as the basis for our searches. The only way to counter-act this phenomena is to ensure the recruiter understands the role fully from the word go. Help them understand the more technical elements of the role and make sure to give them a list of what you DON'T want to see as well as what you do want to see. This will save you a whole world of time down the line.
One very effective method that I have witnessed is where the employer implicitly requests to see one CV and one CV only from each recruiter and using that profile to gauge how well the recruiter understands the requirement. Good recruiters will send you a profile that's either extremely close or spot on the mark, request two or three more CV's from these guys. Average recruiters will send you someone who isn't quite right but they appear to have the gist of what you are looking for, inform these people of what you did and more importantly, what you did not like about the CV and request only one more CV from them. Poor recruiters will miss the mark completely, inform these people politely that you no longer wish to see anymore CV's from them.

As I mentioned, the above questions were the most common and popular questions I was asked as a result of my previous post and I sincerely hope you find this information useful. Our industry is riddled with sub-par recruiters and both employers and employees have the ability to affect the methods recruiters use. Good luck and please feel free to email me or comment if you want any further assistance or advice.


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