Recruiter Dos and Don’ts

It’s certainly no secret that people in my profession are often targeted by recruiters. I may not get as many such communications as some of my peers, but I do receive them sporadically. There’s a fairly common format to them:

“Hi, my name is [name] and I work for [company]. I have [one or more positions] available in [one or more cities I don’t live in]. I would like to schedule some time with you to begin the interview process.”

Having been through such interview processes on numerous occasions, I can speak to several things that I’d like to see more recruiters and companies do going in.

  1. Get to know us especially what motivates us like things we value more than money and the culture inherent to our vocation.
  2. Be aware that corporate perks may be important to some of us, but that’s certainly not a universal truth.
  3. Be aware that we tend to change jobs often. Understand why so you can curb this trend. Don’t offer lame engineering jobs.
  4. If you get as far as an actual interview, know what to look for or how to look for it.

These are some common situations I see when recruiters make first contact:

  1. I have positions you’re not qualified for based on your skill set. Take the time to read my résumé!
  2. I have a position, but won’t tell you anything other than the desired skill set. If you can’t at least tell me the industry or types of projects I’d be working on, I can’t tell if I’m interested or not and we’re at a stalemate.
  3. The positions I have open are in cities nowhere near you and working remotely isn’t a possibility. I have no economic ability or desire to relocate. Being open to a remote working arrangement for a candidate who can function well in one will set you apart.
  4. 50+ hour weeks or late nights are frequent and commonplace. Such hours are not conducive to work-life balance, which is important.
  5. The daily schedule is fairly strict. Some guaranteed hours are understandable, but I require trust that I’ll put in the time required to get the job done around family and other obligations.
  6. Travel lasting more than a week is frequently required. I appreciate the value of face time, but spending a significant portion of my life on planes and in airports isn’t something I’m signing up for.
  7. You would be reporting to a manager who has no programming experience. If someone doesn’t understand what I do, I think it significantly impedes their ability to manage me.
  8. No support is provided for professional development, such as attending industry conferences. If I’m not growing, I’m stagnating, and any other opportunity for growth with eventually supersede the position I’m in.

While I can’t speak for everyone in my field, I think these circumstances don’t apply to just me:

  1. I’m a husband and a father of small children. I have family in the area where I live (where family is a large element of the local culture), they have close relationships with my children, and they provide most of the only consistent familial support we have in raising my children.
  2. My family has a weekly routine. I often have to get my kids to school in the morning and get them off the bus or pick them up in the afternoon. This isn’t always conducive to being in at 8 AM on the dot, being at a keyboard every minute until 5 PM, working after 5 PM, or being away from home for long periods.
  3. The cost of living where I live is low. This is offset by the cost of raising three children, but it is better than moving to a major city where it costs two to three times as much to live what I would view as just as well.
  4. The current state of the real estate market makes relocation a losing proposition. It’s a buyer’s market. To sell and relocate would in all likelihood require a five-figure loss that’s unlikely to be mitigated by a relocation package.
  5. Companies where I’m not growing and learning as a professional don’t stay appealing very long. Coworkers and managers who contribute directly to this and companies that allow me opportunities to learn from and network with others in my profession do.

The point of this post isn’t to discourage recruiters from contacting me (though they should understand that I like where I’m working now and I’m not on the market). We all know time is valuable. Rather than spend it repeatedly reiterating all the things I’ve written in this post to each recruiter who comes along, I’d rather write it once and point them to it. If they still want to talk, that’s fine. Otherwise, that’s time we can both spend furthering our respective careers in other ways.

Recruiters and developers alike are invited to leave their comments on this post.


  1. I have been on both sides of the spectrum. From 2006 to 2008 I was a recruiter with Shulman Fleming & Partners. However I found the allure of being a developer to much (looking at the awesome jobs as such). What I have noticed is that recruiting is an art. Typically from the standpoint of the developer, recruiters are swine, however they are not. They have a job just like the rest of us and are trying to do it by filling a position or need of their client. This is not to say that the scumbag practices of the many recruiters out there are encouraged, they are deplorable and deserved to be flogged, however putting your resume in the stead of a boutique style firm that specializes in only one vertical (such as start ups) is better than putting your resume in front of a recruiting firm that claims to do tens to hundreds of placements a month (in any vertical). If the recruiter is good, he will build a relationship with you and get you a good job, and you will go back to him and ask him to do it over and over again if you find he keeps getting you the right job, I watch it happen every day. If you are a developer, choose wisely who you ask to represent you with companies, ask other developers who have used a certain recruiting firm how their process from start to finish went.

  2. David Grim says:

    I was referred to you article by (Charlotte, NC php Meetup). Having been in the I.T. recruiting field since 1986, way too many years, I have had lots of training in working with I.T. professionals and it basically comes down to this. Know your candidates, Know your openings.

    Knowing a candidate is not a science but an art. I.T. recruiting as done by large corporations with numbers to make so they can say they are the fastest and biggest leave many folks such you feeling, well, pushed and shoved and not listened to. People are not like computers, even computer people. They can say and mean something one day and not the next. That is the reason why some recruiters will ask the same question repeatedly over time. One day you want to stay put and the next time we reach out to you, you have changed companies, remarried, moved to that city you swore you would NEVER move to.

    Clients are the same way. Today they say the candidate MUST have 5 years of experience and the next thing you know they have hired a 2 year hard charger with some REAL skills above his years.

    So please accept my apology for all the recruiters that don’t care or listen. Please know there are some of us out there that really do. Like you, it is not all about the money. A happy day for me is placing just the right person with just the right company and when I call them back in five years they are as happy as can be.

    If I can of assistance, please feel free to reach out to me. We are always looking for “Great I.T. People for Great I.T. Jobs”. or by phone (704) 554-7469

  3. My favorite are the recruiters who call me and say, “Hello (insert incredibly thick accent), my name is Bob (yeah, right) and I have a six-month opportunity in downtown [Chicago/NYC/San Francisco].”

    It always kills me when these goons think I’m going to transplant my entire life and family to a big city for a six month contract with no hire option at the end, and no telecommute either. Makes total sense.