Two Surprising Things You Never Realized About Technical Recruiters And ‘The Process’

Flickr / Ben Scholzen
Flickr / Ben Scholzen

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What’s something that is common knowledge at your workplace, but would be mind-blowing to the rest of us? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

I can think of two things that might surprise people about my industry or workplace.

  1. Offer deadlines are often made up.
  2. People would rather stay at crappy companies in crappy jobs than go through the job search/interview process – even if you offer them the moon.

Offer deadlines

I’m a technical recruiter, so my world is likely quite different than other types of recruiting. For engineering positions where there isn’t a 1:1 need (i.e. there’s not one position open that can only be filled by one person), offer deadlines are pretty arbitrary if even non-existent.

Smaller companies are more likely to mean it when they say an offer expires on ___ day. But when large companies looking to fill big engineering pipelines pressure someone to accept an offer with a deadline, it’s totally arbitrary.

Trust me when I say if you come back to Google or Oracle two months later wanting to accept an offer, they’re not going to kick you out of bed if you know what I mean. The equity side of the offer might not be the same, which would be entirely within their right, particularly with the ebb and flow of the market, but no tech company worth their salt is going to turn down the opportunity to hire someone they already agreed they wanted to hire. But sitting a long time on an offer also makes you look like a jerk, and can be disrespectful to the company, so I recommend finding the balance.

People don’t like changing jobs

Technical recruiters get a bad reputation for a lot of reasons. One thing that absolutely is common knowledge among peers in my industry is that it doesn’t matter how awesome a company is, how awesome the product is, or how much money (or equity) you throw at a person. More often than not, none of those things can entice someone to leave a company (or a role) where they feel valued, appreciated, or needed. I have encountered some of the most fiercely loyal employees for completely non-understandable reasons.

I’ve worked in recruiting for 10+ years. I’ve worked for big companies like Google, Nintendo and Nordstrom, mid-size companies like Facebook and Expedia, and start-ups like LivingSocial, and Lithium Technologies. I have reached out to tens of thousands of candidates in my lifetime, and the average person would be shocked at how many passive candidates recruiters have to reach out to in order to yield one candidate hired. At times it can feel like a frustrating numbers game even when you’re doing all the right things (i.e. not doing what 95% of most recruiters do and ending up the laughing stock of a blog).

At one of the companies I worked for, I worked very closely with the CTO on a hiring initiative. This CTO was also the co-founder and an incredibly smart engineer once said something like, “I don’t understand why we can’t just email people on LinkedIn about our opportunity? Anyone worth their salt should be excited about this.” All the recruiters laughed.

Not so, silly mortal. In fact, throughout my career I’ve offered meetings and phone calls with CEOs, CTOs, COOs, and people of every other high and mighty title to candidates who kindly said they “Aren’t interested.” Many recruiters reach out to 50+ candidates per day and even that might not yield amazing results.

On the one hand, I totally get it. There is job security in being a good software engineer/ux designer/amazing person who can code as there are no shortage of companies clamoring to hire talented engineers. So there’s competition. Yet, in some instances, I feel genuinely baffled.

Some candidates I interact with are clearly sitting on sinking ships or working for companies whose trajectory and even reason for existence seem dubious (like Lockerz), or working for companies where I know on good word there are chairs being thrown in staff meetings and it’s an openly hostile environment, or the stock is plummeting faster than Brian Bosworth’s NFL career. Yet those same people have no qualms about writing me an email, waxing poetic on how much they love what they’re working on or how they’re not looking for new opportunities right now. And I’m all, “Really? You’re really loving working on a product absolutely no one sees or cares about? You like pager duty? You like working with a bunch of jerks? Alrighty then. #respect.”

I’ve summarized my opinion on the reasons candidates don’t want to come work for your cool, “awesome” company:

  1. Too much noise. This is a no brainer. Sometimes recruiters are our own worst enemy. I once heard that less than 10% of Software Engineers on LinkedIn receive 85% of all the recruiter inMails. We recruiters are most definitely the problem. I once talked to an Android Engineer who told me he receives two to three emails from recruiters every day of the year. The math on that one is staggering. So I can imagine when you’re receiving that many emails about some “amazing opportunity” at a company and the recruiter won’t even tell you the company name, you start to put everyone else on mute — even the legitimately cool opportunities. There’s also the relevancy factor. I have on my resume that I’ve recruited ruby engineers at one point in my career. I probably receive in excess of four emails a week from some random recruiter at a staffing agency asking me if i’d be interested in a software engineer role. I have zero engineering experience. Dude, did you even read my resume or are you just searching for key words? Sometimes, I hate recruiters. And I are one.
  2. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. Sure where they’re working right now is a total nightmare, but how can they be certain the opportunity you’re offering them isn’t a total nightmare as well? Meanwhile, the candidate’s thinking, “I think I’ll stick with my current nightmare situation, thanks. At least I know where to hide.”
  3. Comfort. We are creatures of habit. We like to complain about things, but we don’t actually like to make the changes in our life necessary to get the outcome we want. Some people fear rejection. Particularly if they know a company has a high bar. Also, some people just don’t want to work that hard by starting a new role. Maybe their current job is easy (for them) and it leaves them more time to spend with their kids and family. They’ve been doing the job so long they can do it in their sleep and they genuinely like it that way because it frees them up to work on side projects they’re passionate about. They might have a sweet deal where they get paid for 40 hours a week but only really actually do 20 hours of real work because they’re the smartest person on their team and no one else knows how to do what they do so they’ve become indispensable. And now you’re trying to offer them a new opportunity where they have to pay dues, and pay their idiot tax, learning new tools, a new corporate structure and play politics? No way.
  4. No time to job search. Job searching is exhausting for a lot of people. Because I work a lot with engineers, I also find that for a lot more introverted personalities the activity of having so many intense conversations in a short time span can be mentally exhausting, particularly if someone is interviewing with more than one company. Opening oneself to new career possibilities can sometimes be a job in and of itself and some people just aren’t ready for that.
  5. You aren’t appealing to their true interests. People who are good at what they do can’t usually be “bought” by a salary. With software engineers in particular, I’ve found that the type of people I like, the good ones, they want to work on something they’re passionate about. They’re not trendy and they don’t pick their technological pursuits based on TechCrunch. They’re not looking to be famous; they’re looking for impact and to carve their name in something unique and pioneering. They want to work with smart people. If you can’t offer that in a clear and concise way, good luck wooing these types of people away from their pet project.
  6. They feel valued and appreciated in their current job. People like to feel needed and necessary. When I worked at Nordstrom in the corporate office we once ran an all employee survey (among 40,000 employees) to find out what people wanted most. Money was not it. People wanted to feel valued and appreciated in their job more than they wanted a raise. No one wants to feel like they are easily replaceable. Even if it IS the case. This only confirms what every other job satisfaction survey in the US has shown. You will keep your employees loyal to you and they will stay longer if they know they are showing up to a place where the company takes good care of them (up for interpretation…this doesn’t just mean giving tons of perks. A place could be filled with perks and still be a crappy work environment), they are affirmed in their job, and they feel like they are adding value. TC mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

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