There are no good candidates

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31 October 2014

I have recently spent the longest time of my career searching for a new position, and while this post might seem a little jaded, I'm referencing roles where I was also successful but declined the role, or unsuccessful.

The largest part of my experience was that there is a severe lack of respect for the time of a candidate, including appropriate times to call, how long it is appropriate to wait before responding, the ridiculousness of autoresponders, and outright disregard for opinion.

My experience with recruiters was very one–sided with little gain from myself. I followed them up, I did their work, and very rarely did I receive detailed feedback.

There were a number of key learnings for me during the last few months of working with recruiters on finding a position, however my frustration lies equally with both employers and recruiters as offenders.

1. Recruiters don't understand what motivates a candidate

Ok, so this isn't a universal truth. I worked with some absolutely great recruiters who knew what I wanted as much as I do, namely Robbie from FBI and Simon from Claydon Price.

However, for the most part I'm almost certain that almost none of the recruiters I sent my resume to actually read it. I was very clear in my overview of what I wanted, and in initial phone calls even more direct.

'I have a great role, it's as a PHP developer' 'I have a great role, it is as a very hands-on CTO' 'I have have a great role as an Account Manager'

And the most insulting part is what comes next:

'It is with an award winning agency with great clients'.

It's the quickest way for me to disengage with you, and not bother taking your calls. You've immediately explained that you have no idea what I want, or where I am headed.

To boot, the likeliness that I care what awards have been won is low. I want to work somewhere that fosters great culture, employee education, has long-term stability and can grow my career with it.

It also expresses that they probably have no idea what they're recruiting. This is also demonstrated in their use of industry specific language, and trying to appear like they understand what someone is looking for, i.e. 'UI is not UX'.

Well, it kind of is a large part of UX, actually.

2. Companies don't understand why I am interviewing

The actual interview is a great place for one of two things to occur: (a) the potential employer can interview the candidate, and (b) equally so the candidate can interview the employer.

By the same means that they have agreed to see me, I have agreed to see them. I want to explore mutually what potential there is for employment.

However for the most part there was complete disregard for my time, my desires as an employee, and my intelligence.

On more than one occasion I was made to wait more than half an hour after the scheduled start time of the interview because 'something came up'. Ordinarily I would be ok with that, but finding out after 15 minutes of waiting isn't great.

Imagine if I were to show up half an hour late to the interview!

On another occasion two very corporate people sat behind very corporate computers and asked me very scripted questions without having read my resume, or making eye contact. I grew tired of the interview and became disengaged. They didn't progress because I 'appeared arrogant'.

I was happy with that outcome.

For one role that I declined at offer stage for very clear reasons (I could not align with the company, it would place me in a box, I didn't find their process appealing) they countered with more money.

I am a candidate that has said 'I don't like you as a company' and your reaction is to offer me more money? Whoa.

3. Recruiters and companies don't share information

Although it is meant to be a partnership (having worked with recruiters as the hiring manager, it's what I've been told) there is next to no partnering.

9 times out of 10 there isn't a formal JD ('the client hasn't sent it, but you will be fine in the interview'), and when I turn up to the interview it's expected that I have details knowledge about the role.

'Did X not send you the JD?'

The frustrating part is that I look like the fool, not X.

The flip side is that the interview goes well, and then there is radio silence from the client to the recruiter for days.

4. Don't give up, and go direct

It is tough, but you need to keep going. When it boils down to it recruiters have the contacts and the roles, and I was told endlessly 'there are no good candidates on the market' (actually, given the content of this post I think recruiters/companies can't see the forest through the trees).

Some of the most helpful people I dealt with were internal HR. They're mandated with finding great talent as part of their KPI and are salaried, so their motivations are different.

A lot of larger corporations have dedicated HR managers and a simple LinkedIn search will reveal who they are. Touch base with them and start the conversation.

Again, I hate to sound jaded. It's an industry that's renowned for being loathed, and it's probably because a bad bunch ruin it.

It is synonymous with being a harassing, and unfulfilling position, with most recruiters not doing much to diffuse that image.

In the end, I found my new role through an introduction from a friend. Wonderful.