How to Contribute

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Are you a a recruiter or a developer (or anyone else that interacts with a recruiter)?

You probably know some things that other people don’t, and your contributions here will be a great help in making recruiting make more sense for everyone.

I’ve added a list of questions to the about page. Send me your questions and your answers and they’ll turn into blog posts.

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project

What Recruiters Do

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What does a recruiter do, anyway?

Recruiters just call you about ‘great opportunities’ that are actually terrible, right? That may be all you are exposed to, so here is a bit about what recruiters actually do. Not all recruiters are great at what they do, just like not all developers are great at what they do, so this won’t all apply to everyone that contacts you.

Wikipedia actually has a pretty thorough page: Recruiter. Aside from that, the first couple of pages of search results that try to answer this question are covered in ads and seem a bit too spammy for my tastes. From Wikipedia, the breakdown is:

  • Job analysis – figuring out actual job requirements
  • Sourcing – identifying candidates to fill job vacancies
  • Screening and Selection – filtering through potential people to find the best fit
  • Lateral hiring – “sniping” people based on their current jobs

True North (a recruiting agency) sums this up as:

Recruiters must be organized, possess strong people and sales skills, and maintain a strong work ethic to be successful. Here are five tasks that a recruiter juggles daily:

  • Sourcing – identifying candidates to fill job vacancies
  • Host Interviews – interviewing potential people to find the best fit
  • Prepare Applicants for Client Interviews
  • Scan Resumes – in-between the rest of things, continually filter resumes for possible matches for all open jobs
  • Maintain Relationships With Placed Candidates – Making sure people stay at a job long enough for the recruiter to get paid, and the person may need a recruiters help in the future.

What you see

Sourcing is the part that most people get to see, and it is the hardest and least-favorite part of most recruiters job’s. Similarly to any kind of sales position, successful response rates to ‘cold calls’ are very low and these are generally not well-received.

Recruiters know that more ‘organic’ means of finding people is better, so they sponsor events like meet-ups and user groups, and they try to make things a fair trade. As you grumble about how the recruiter spends 5 minutes talking about the jobs they are trying to fill, enjoy the pizza they bought for you and listen. Maybe they do have a job for you!

There are going to be some rough edges to all this, so enjoy the pizza and know that if you give a recruiter constructive feedback, they will be happy to hear it and are constantly trying to improve.

What you don’t see

Recruiters much prefer matching up the right person with the right job, and giving you a call with a job offer. Jess Kimmet wrote a good post on this that answers more of “What does a Recruiter like doing?”: What Does a Recruiter Do, Anyway?

I work hard every day to leave a positive impression with everyone I work with. I may not be able to find a position for everyone, but I want them to know that I’m on their side – and I’d like nothing more than being able to call and say, “Congratulations! You got the job.”

Recruiters at recruiting agencies work with multiple companies and are almost always looking to fill multiple positions, so once they know about you and know your qualifications and what you’re looking for, they will contact you when something pops up that you’ll be a good fit for. The more great people a recruiter has ‘on file’, the better of a job they can do and the more the get paid. You being ‘on file’ with more recruiters improves your chances of one of them getting it right.

Working at an Agency

Recruiters working at an Agency are typically working to fill jobs for multiple companies, and are paid based on how well they fill these jobs. Here’s a job posting for Prestige Staffing:

A Recruiter’s job duties include:

  • Successfully recruiting and personally interviewing qualified job candidates
  • Working closely with account managers to plan and prioritize recruiting needs
  • Successfully matching candidates with clients’ employee requirements
  • Confidently and successfully negotiating terms of employment
  • Building and nurturing long-term relationships with candidates and clients
  • Capably multi-tasking in a fast-paced, demanding professional environment

Job Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Excellent oral communication skills
  • Positive attitude and strong work ethic
  • Coachable and enthusiastic about being part of a team
  • The intellect to “think on your feet,” solve problems, and make wise decisions
  • A strong desire to pursue a career in sales and management

Working as an “in-house” Recruiter

Working in-house, recruiters are filling multiple jobs at one company. They are paid a salary and typically aren’t paid based on exact numbers of jobs or hiring salaries.

Google is currently hiring a (probably a lot more than one) Recruiter: Apply Here. Here is what they are looking for:


  • Develop strong relationships with candidates, understanding their needs and helping them find a fit at Google.
  • Keep candidates continually informed with quality communications throughout the hiring process.
  • Solve problems and produce solutions by collecting and analyzing data, identifying alternatives when circumstances change and seeking out additional responsibilities.
  • Keep partners apprised of and involved in work by communicating information and status to project leads and team members, coordinating work cross-functionally and influencing peers, project leaders and/or managers.


  • BA/BS degree or equivalent practical experience.
  • 2 years work experience in recruiting, sales or client service role.
  • Track record of solving complex problems and delivering significant impact.
  • Experience closing candidates and negotiating complex compensation packages.
  • Proven organizational skills with attention to detail and the ability to prioritize and succeed in an environment with competing demands.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills with an emphasis on tact and diplomacy.
  • Proven ability to take initiative, use consultative skills and build strong, productive relationships.
  • Exposure to HR processes, such as interviewing and candidate evaluation.
  • A track record of demonstrating a strong work ethic, integrity and personal accountability.
Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project

The Developer Shortage Lie

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There is no shortage of qualified technical people for great jobs.

While I did spend some time finding out how recruiters at big companies work at Strata, most of my time was spent in sessions. Everyone is hiring Data Scientists, so much that the last side of almost every talk included a “We’re Hiring!” note. In many talks, there was a variety of “Good Luck” and “Data Scientists are Unicorn” sentiments. This reflected the “There are few Operations Engineers available” sentiment from Velocity conferences I’ve been to, the “There are no Ruby on Rails Developers available” sentiment from various Ruby conferences, etc.

Sara Chipps wrote a great blog post: Recruiting: There is no such thing as a developer shortage and I 100% agree with her:

Hiring developers doesn’t have to be hard. While they are in demand, good employers are increasingly rare, and if you genuinely care about finding your developers and keeping them happy it will be easy to set yourself apart.

Go read that entire blog post, it’s short and worth it.

The problem is the way recruiting is done, not anything with the pool of available people. Put effort into the “Sourcing” part of recruiting by doing enough homework to find the right people, write a great Hello World introduction e-mail, and it will be easy.

People are not going to jump ship from their current job for a new one that is not both a good fit and a significant improvement from the one they have, so it is really only worth going after people that could be a good fit. (Another way of looking at this is that it may be worth being a little picker about the types of positions you agree to find candidates for. Great developers want great jobs at great companies.)

I have a pretty diverse background, but with a quick glance at my LinkedIn profile, GitHub portfolio, resume, etc, it should be obvious that I do not have any C# experience. Here is part of a message I got from a recruiter:

I came across your profile and thought you could be a great fit for a C# Software Engineer position in Norcross, GA. This position pays between $55 to $65/hour at an established banking software company. Please take a look at the description below and let me know what you think of this great opportunity.

We also offer a $500 bonus for any referral hire if you know anyone else who could be a good fit!

C# Software Engineer – Senior Role:

Individual must have experience in multi-threaded applications, test driven development, OOD/OOA. Development experience in C#, but will consider any OO language (C++, etc).

Enterprise application experience for a complex banking application.

I’m not sure how they thought I would be a great fit, and the $500 bonus is a not-too-well-received bribe offer that makes me even less likely to read to the end. Convince me that I am a fit and I will reply. Some better examples I have received include:

You look awesome due to experience with Ruby, TDD, DevOps, and both front and back end development. It’s very obvious that you are passionate about technology.

We are actively trying to grow our Atlanta office and think you would be a good fit…for real.


I read your article on “How to recruit developers away from Highgroove”, so needless to say I thought it would be best to send you an email instead of call.

I noticed you’re into riding mountain bikes and the Bay area has tons of Mountains for you to check out :). In any case, I was hoping to connect with you to get a better understanding of your longer term career goals and interests. I was also hoping to get an understanding of where you see things going for yourself.

The technical talent is out there, and there are plenty of great fits for the position you are trying to fill. It is up to you to do the homework required to find the right ones, and that is definitely worth the time that it takes.

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project

Recruiters at Big Companies

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I’ve been in California this week for Strata, and I’ve gotten a chance to talk to a handful of recruiters about things from their perspective. This post is about recruiters that work full-time for big companies, I’ll get to those that work for Agencies and small companies in future posts. First up are a few examples of what I think are great “First Contact” e-mails.

Before Strata, I got a LinkedIn message from a recruiter at Amazon that I’d give a 9/10 to. Nothing particularly targeted to me other than the fact that I’m going to a conference, but that counts!

Happy New Year from Amazon! I’m writing to let you know that if you’re planning on attending the Strata Conference in Santa Clara, Amazon will be speaking at the event. We’ll also be setting up informational interviews to discuss our exciting career opportunities and it would be great to connect with you at the conference. I’ve included a link to some of our job descriptions to give you an idea of what we’re working on and we’d love to see you there!

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me and we can arrange a time to chat one-on-one. Be sure to stop by and say hello at booth 729!

The link she included was to a “Job Posting” entitled: “Come Visit Amazon at the Strata Conference” which I’ll paste here in case they “fill” that position:

Job Description: Our mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company and we’re looking for Earth’s most talented Data Scientists, Software Developers, and Technical Program Managers to relentlessly pursue this mission with us.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Work with massive data sets
  • Guide the optimization and efficiency of a market-leading program
  • Directly influence Amazon’s core business strategies
  • Solve complex technology problems
  • Work with world-class marketing and technology teams on creative analytical solutions
  • Significantly impact Amazon systems, businesses, and most importantly, our customers
  • Stretch your business and technical skills working with developers, data scientists, and business teams to design and implement game-changing features

Preferred Qualifications

At Amazon, understanding extremely large sets of customer data is paramount to our success in providing a seamless customer experience across all platforms. Make an impact working with world-class marketing and technology teams on creative analytical solutions, guiding the optimization and efficiency of market-leading programs, and directly influence Amazon’s core business strategies.

Fun, to the point, and not trying to get me to commit to anything. I’ve gotten similar well-played communications from other big companies like Google:

I hope this message finds you well and I hope you’re having a good day!

I wanted to reach out to you as I came across your information while researching candidates for a variety of engineering opportunities here at Google. Your experience could be interesting for a number of teams I work with.

Though I realize you might not be actively searching, I thought it would be beneficial for us to connect and possibly discuss Google in more detail.

Can we schedule a quick informal conversation in the next couple of weeks?

How can these recruiters be so friendly when most of the e-mails you get are terrible and for jobs that are obviously not a match for you? It’s because the incentives for these recruiters work differently, which causes their jobs to work differently.

The recruiting terminology for sending out these ‘cold calls’ is ‘Sourcing’ and from the people I’ve talked to, its their least favorite thing about their jobs, but a necessary part of recruiting. Recruiters at agencies typically have quotas to meet, and almost universally their pay is dictated by how many people they hire. If you take a job through an agency, your new employer pays that agency some percentage (typically 10-20%) of your annual salary if you stick with the job for a few (typically 3-12) months. This doesn’t come out of your salary or make your salary any lower, it’s simply a cost your employer pays to get new talent.

As for recruiters that don’t work at agencies (like the ones I talked to this week), their salary isn’t directly tied to head counts and hire salaries. Most of them don’t even get bonuses for hiring tons of people and/or expensive/cheap people. They do have goals for positions they are trying to fill or number of hires in general, but they aren’t incentivized to place you somewhere where you would be a poor fit.

These recruiters love their jobs and love making the perfect connection between a ‘candidate’ (thats you!) and the right ‘opportunity’ (your sweet new gig). Some of them got their start with Liberal Arts degrees, while some did something technical. Some have technical work backgrounds too, while others have experience like coordinating volunteer efforts at non-profits. All of them love working with people, traveling, managing events, and connecting people to great jobs.

Companies like Google and Amazon have very high standards for hiring (and even have specific processes in place to continue to raise the bar for who they hire), and these standards apply to the recruiters they hire too. They can quickly understand who you are, what you do, and what might be a good job for you at their companies, and direct you directly to the people you’d need to talk with to find out for sure: specific managers, directors, VPs, engineers, etc.

A recruiter from a big company should be able to pull off a good “First Contact” e-mail, and is someone you should consider talking to, even if you aren’t looking for a new job. I’ve gotten to speak with people that I wouldn’t have met any other way about company culture, how hiring works, how career development works, and plenty of other things, all of which will be useful to me in the future. Knowing what is going on at other companies, especially ones that have a lot of smart people putting a lot of thought into it, will help you at your current job or help you figure out what you want to do next.

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project

Making First Contact

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As a recruiter, you spend a lot of your time, well, recruiting. This involves finding people to fill the positions you are trying to fill, which is generally going to involve getting in touch with people you haven’t talked with before. In Early 2012 I wrote a blog post for the Highgroove Studios blog (which got migrated over to the Big Nerd Ranch blog here: How To Recruit Developers Away From Highgroove) as a guide to this “First Contact” situation with the hope that it would help recruiters do a better job. This post is a continuation of that one.

The vast majority of the time a recuiter contacts me, I politely tell them that I’m not currently looking for something new and that they should read that blog post. Sometimes with a note that they did an unusually good job of “First Contact”, but usually the e-mails I get are pretty bad. I still don’t pick up the phone for unknown numbers, or return phone calls to recruiters. I’ve spoken with plenty of other developers, and many of them won’t even reply to an e-mail unless it is really good.

Below, I’ve picked a few of the really important high-level things that will increase your response rates. These are based on actual contact that Recruiters have made me me and other people I’ve known and/or worked with.

Use The Right Medium

Don’t call.

Flow” is a very real thing, and developers are most productive (and happiest) when they are in a state of Flow. There is no way of scheduling Flow, and once interrupted, getting back to this state can take a really long time. Every developer I know keeps their cell phone on them, and if you call them, it is 100% guaranteed to be an interruption. Your phone call is guaranteed to interrupt the person you are calling. Because it’s not a phone call they ‘need’ to get, you are going to be connected to someone that already thinks negatively of you, and it’s downhill from there.

Don’t InMail

LinkedIn has a pretty wild UI that changes a lot, and developers typically don’t spend any time on LinkedIn. The good ones have notifications turned off, their profiles set to “Please don’t contact me” and have unread message counts in the 100s to 1000s. Your LinkedIn contact request / message / InMail / whatever they are called today is going to get lost or ignored.

Send an E-Mail or a Tweet

Developers live (at least some of the time) in E-Mail and Twitter. They have some method for making sure that they see e-mails and at least skim ones that look interesting or relevant, and a tweet directed at them is almost universally guaranteed to get read. It’s going to be tough to get a response to something that is public and 140 characters long. If you can pull this off, you’ve done a good job!

E-Mail is the best way to go. You’ve got a few more characters to get your point across, and with a good personal subject line, the chances of a developer reading your e-mail are pretty good. Some subject lines that could work:

  • Google wants your Python skills to work on Chromecast (Specific company, specific skill I have, what I’d do)
  • Chicago startup needs full-stack web developers to cure cancer (Specific location, skill I have, something world-changing)
  • CNN trying something new, wants to pay you $200k/year to start innovation lab (Specific compensation, intriguing possibility)

Don’t nag, don’t send multiple e-mails, don’t e-mail and call. Put all your effort into sending a quality First Contact e-mail, and if that doesn’t get you a response, there probably isn’t anything you can do.

Do Your Homework

Know who you are getting in touch with. An out-of-date resume as a reference or a generic form e-mail aren’t going to go over well. The internet is full of information about people which you should be able to find. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn all should be pretty low hanging fruit, and if you have someones name or e-mail you should be able to find one of those. (Check back for a future post on how to find out about potential hires.)

Even an intro line along the lines of

“I couldn’t find you on Facebook, Twitter or Github. The whois for your personal site is anonymized, and you don’t have a LinkedIn Profle (Smart gal!) so I know I’m reaching a bit, but I’m hoping I can connect you with something you’ll like more than your current job.”

is going to go over much better than something generic. Asking if someone has anyone they can refer to you screams of “I didn’t do my homework”, and asking people to do jobs that they are obviously a poor fit for isn’t going to get a response either. Personally (unless they are amazing and I can’t even imagine they exist), I’m not interested in jobs that are not in in-town Atlanta, at big companies that are too ‘traditional’ (e.g. “hours”, “dress codes”, etc), that don’t pay competitively or have good benifits, etc. Every developer has their list, and you should be able to figure it out from their internet presence. If you’re asking for 5-7 years of Java experience for a healthcare firm in Alpharetta, Nope.

Add Value

You absolutley must add value if you want a response. A ‘potential opportunity’ is not value, there are tons and tons of ‘potential opportunities’ out there, and most of them are a terrible fit for the person you are contacting. Finding the right opportunity for the right person is value, having a perfect fit or a handful of options is even better. Giving someone the information they need to make a decision of interest is far more valuable than holding back information to try and drag a dialog out longer. Getting someone first in line for a tough-to-get interview or an unpublished position is definitely value.

I know that recruiters often can’t/don’t share the name of the company, the salary range, and other kinds of details because a you don’t get paid if a candidate ‘goes around you’, but if you can show someone the value you provide and make their life easier, they’ll be happy to go through you.

What else?

This is terribly incomplete, and writing First Contact e-mails is a mix of art and science. If you’re a developer, please let me know in the comments below what else you want to see from First Contact. If you’re a recruiter, what other questions do you have? What works for you and what doesn’t work?

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly / @ckdake

Curator of The Recruiter Project