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Nov 19, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

This is the sense I get when reading so many articles or LinkedIn posts. Recruiters, especially new ones, are evil. They are lower than car salespeople, worse than the political campaign calls and just a wee bit better than the fake IRS calls. How in the heck did the profession of finding/helping people get jobs turn in to the butt of endless Reddit snark?

Yes, I know, there are bad actors, there are scammers, there are dishonest people and their shady contributors. But that is every profession. Ever meet a bad doctor? I have. I have met dishonest and shady CEO’s as well, and I have for sure met bad teachers, mechanics, carpenters, etc., but when you type “Carpenters are…” into Google, the results are wildly different than if you type “recruiters are” into Google. BTW, if you have not done this… do it now; I’ll wait.


I spend a lot of time thinking about this and have concluded that in many cases we are our own worst enemy. I am not talking about the fringe outliers who are generally bad recruiters, but I am talking about us. The seasoned recruiters, the socially savvy high performing recruiters. The ones who know better. How could this be?

Well, we are straight up publicizing our shortcomings, calling out recruiter fails, putting people on blast for making rookie mistakes and focusing so much on what not to do. I see so many examples of this every day, and I think to myself, “Why would anyone want to become a recruiter?” Yes spam sucks, and it’s embarrassing to ask a Javascript person to interview for a Java role, and you may even sound unintelligent if you don’t know the difference between system admin and network admin.

I don’t condone spamming and if you don’t take the time to learn your positions after a while, then yes maybe this is not the right profession for you, but this is not what is making recruiting hard. What is making recruiting hard is that there is 0% unemployment.

(Side note to those developers who are a hot commodity right now, you will not always be.)

What is making recruiting hard is that you went to a two-month boot camp and are now a “Full Stack Developer” and the recruiter is a jerk because they didn’t know the difference between a MEAN and MERN stack.

If I have not lost you already, I think I am about to.

Sometimes whatever works, works!

Look, if you are sourcing in Silicon Valley and you need to bring in 10 developers throughout a year, go ahead, take your time. You need to, as that is an insane market and you might have the benefit of working within the same technology that allows you to build a brand and pipeline. If that is your situation, awesome and you can stop reading. But I think you are more like me, someone who has recruited on a wide variety of skills, industries, and locations.

One day you’re working help desk in San Antonio and the next finding F15 pilots to train in Saudi Arabia. Ok, maybe not that drastic but that is a severe example from my past. Either way, you get the point. Many recruiters work across a wide variety of functional areas and have 20+ requisitions sitting on their desk. How is that person supposed to speak intelligently on every single position and roll out the red carpet for all candidates? Well, they can’t.

Back to the point. We work within ATS’s, those ATS’s have candidates who showed previous interest in your company, but you can’t possibly keep in contact and up to date with them all. They have this feature built into them that might be the majority cause of all candidate spam. The ability to send mass emails.

Now you are probably saying, “well can’t you just make sure all the people you mass email match your job?” Sure, if I contact them all individually, but that kind of defeats the whole point. So, out goes your campaign for a Javascript developer, and Joe the Java developer accidentally gets it, and it may be because Joe started his career as a JS developer, but that was five years ago and has since moved on. It was an honest mistake, but Joe posts it to Twitter and the recruiting industry hops on the recruiter and shames them. I am dramatic, but you get the point. What we didn’t hear, is while Joe was shamming the recruiter, that recruiter hired three developers from that mass campaign, so yeah, sometimes whatever works, works.

People make mistakes, and we need to have an industry that allows that to happen. Again, I am not saying spam everyone in your contact list, but if your job depends on you filling a position by a particular time, however, you did it, AWESOME! The environment I learned recruiting was an environment that never made you feel stupid and at the end of the day. What was the most critical part of my job, was filling the requisition, sometimes by any means. As I grew in my career, I became better and learned more about strategy in sourcing, but I’ll be damned if I don’t still stumble into success by accident from time to time. I could write the most complex Boolean string possible, hit all the “OR” statements, throw in an “AND NOT” in there and a “NEAR” statement for good measure and find nobody. Then the next search I could type in “Selenium” and find the person right away. Seriously, this has happened.

Do I want to spend all my time learning how each different search engine recognizes Boolean operators, or do I want to test my luck and find someone by accident? I guess whichever happens first. Now I am not saying this stuff is not necessary, because really at the end of the day learning this stuff will make you better and prepare you for when sites like LinkedIn turn off the faucet or block your favorite Chrome extension. But I will parrot the earlier sentiment, whatever works worked.

But what about my company brand? Yes, you are right. Bad habits can hurt your brand. But, if you have made it this far in the article I would guess you are not working for Google, Johnson and Johnson or Amazon and your company is more considered with delivery than their brand.

As I write this article I know it sounds like I am advocating bad behavior in recruiting, I am not. I am promoting the ability to make mistakes, learn from them and grow, and every once in a while, throwing something against the fence to see if it sticks. That is what it is all about. That is what makes it exciting, and that is what keeps it fresh. You show me two candidates, one that you nurtured through a long courting process and wrote the most epic search string for and one where you went to CareerBuilder and typed in JAVA. I bet I can’t tell them apart.


This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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