Launch Pad Blog


Why Bad Recruiters are Prominent...and How to Change That

by Cody Voellinger | Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Ask an engineer or a Founder what they think about recruiters, and you would be shocked to get a positive response. Let’s face it, even an ambivalent response would raise eyebrows.


So why has the tech community come to accept and expect such a low standard from the profession as a whole?  I will try to break it down from a macro view but speak specifically to the current local market.


Recruiting as a profession does not require much formal training and has relatively low barriers to entry.  Have a phone, have internet, have an engineer friend, know someone starting a company?  If you live in the Bay Area and answered “No” to any of those questions, I would question if you really live in the Bay Area.  If you answered “Yes” to all of them, you have what it takes to get started in recruiting.


Considering that companies can pay $10-20k internally for referrals and generally more as a recruiting fee, there is significant motivation to give it a shot.  One deal is all it takes to jumpstart your career and keep you in business for a few more months without any formal training, direction, or experience.


To make matters worse, companies are so starved for talent they will accept a resume from any source if it leads to a quality hire.  Shockingly, 1 out of 3 companies I visit tell me they work with a recruiter they dislike because: they are rude and/or unprofessional, they do the bare minimum by simply forwarding a resume or Linkedin profile with no additional information, or they don’t trust them.  Why do they still work with them? “Because sometimes they send good profiles.”


This short-sighted approach of hiring a candidate from a poorly performing recruiter allows them to stay in business and continue providing a lousy service.  This lousy service continues to hog your recruiting bandwidth and keeps you from finding a good recruiting partner.


To find a good recruiter, like any service partner, ask your trusted network for referrals.  The most important part of the process is vetting, so here are a few tips:

-Meet in person- recruiting is a people business and a recruiter’s ability to build a relationship with you will give you a pretty good understanding of how they interact with engineers.

-Expect them to know the basics about your company- start the meeting with, so what do you already know about Insert-Your-Company-Name-Here? If they don’t know your background or your current openings, and didn’t play with your product, they won’t keep current with your fast moving start-up or prepare before speaking to engineers.  Engineers don’t like that, and neither should you.

-After discussing your company’s Unique Selling Points (which the recruiter should elicit), ask: “How will you pitch My Company?”  This allows you to see the recruiting in action and give feedback on the spot - everybody wins.

-Some companies ask me to send resumes to show that I “get it” as an initial test.  At this stage this is simply a keyword matching test.  I don’t think it adds much value since it doesn’t demonstrate any core recruiting skills, but if you question the recruiter’s ability to just read a job description and match an appropriate resume, then this can be a starting point.


In closing, I ask you to reconsider your approach to working with recruiters.  Have the courage to say no to the errant resume, even if it looks pretty good.  Invest your time developing real relationships with recruiting partners that can deliver quality consistently, and they will continue to get better.  Your life will be easier and your team will be bigger in the long-run.