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An Open Letter to Internet Job Recruiters

The nice thing about having a blog is that you can pour your unfiltered frustration into it and walk away self-satisfied. Warning, this is one of those posts.

Dear New York City Internet Job Recruiters,

I’ve met several of you over the years, and many more lately now that the demand for talented people has outstripped the supply. For the most part, you are pretty nice people who are willing to go the extra mile to consider a good match of person and job and maybe even career, unlike the IT headhunters I knew in the early 90’s that were mostly middle men for resumes.

But, I have two giant gripes with the way you’re working these days:

1. Don’t ask me to do your job for you.
Yes, I know a lot of people, and yes I like helping them find new opportunities. But simply telling me about an open request you have tells me that you haven’t taken the time to build your network or don’t know how. Further, you’re being paid to do that, so if you want expert help you need to share a significant portion of your fee.

2. Great people are not found, they’re grown. There are simply not enough skilled workers to fill your jobs these days. This may be great news for you, but ultimately the companies you work for (and the clients they work for) will continue to suffer until you learn to cultivate good people. It’s easy to measure if a company knows how to do this, just look at the rate of employee turnover. If it’s under 5%, they do it well. If it’s over 10%, there are serious problems.

To illustrate the potential, I’ll tell you a story from the first dot com boom. I was working at a company that hired a certain smart guy as a receptionist. In between phone calls and signing for packages he taught himself javascript. Excellent, make him a developer. After a while doing that he wanted to be an information architect, so I trained him. At that point the company failed to keep engaging him, and he left to pursue a masters degree, where he formed a company with a classmate. Soon after his company was bought by Google.

That’s an extreme example, but I can tell plenty more about people hired that were not qualified, but had the right qualities, were smart, and got things done. A little training and encouragement made them qualified. But until your clients realize this and stop turning away good people, I’m done helping you.

  1. Victor!

    Interesting blog!

    I have to agree with your first statement and disagree with the second – at least somewhat.

    I think the right people can be grown into great team members. This isn’t often the case, however. Most of the time – people hire the wrong people and expect them to do a great job. It’s what we call a “job benchmark mismatch”.

    On the other hand – I agree – when you have someone that enjoys what they do and are a good match – they can grow into positions.

    I am a huge fan of personality profiling to ensure that the right person is hired and they are engaged so that they stay as long as possible.

    Good stuff!

    Chris Young
    Daymaker
    The Rainmaker Group
    http://rmg.typepad.com

  2. I think your second point is spot on there. I once worked for a firm that was notorious for staff retention problems.

    I watched so many capable and talented people walk out of their doors because they had a real culture of disposibility when it came to recruitment.

    The company suffered too, 50% of their staff were training at any one time, just learning how to do the job.

  3. Amen.

    Managers in our field, and recruiters & HR people live in different dimensions. When I need to hire, I’m asked to write job description as if they will magically align with a resume. That is a fantasy.

    I have long realized there are no people available in the market that meet my current gaps so my hiring strategy became finding people with a) the right cultural fit and b)the smarts, positive attitude and willingness to learn. Everything else can be taught.

    My entire team fits this criteria. Half of the team had the skill set and experience as well, but half didn’t and that only means they are that much more invested in it. My team kicks ass! *proud*

    This also reminds me of another point: Managing is about growing people and enabling their work, not filling positions and allocating resources, which is where the recruiter minds are.

    It’s all about misaligned expectations.

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