Recruitment is changing

“Sorry, I got too excited”, the recruiter blabbered.

In Manchester, we have a Community Slack which I recommend. It is a fantastic place of joyous discussion, job offers, pet projects, pets and beyond. It’s also a great place to find a job.

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One day on Slack I got a phone call from a recruiter who had sent me a message minutes before which I had not yet replied to.

“Sorry, I got too excited”

Although jarring I gave them a chance to start again but it came with no apology or change of tune. Poor representation is costing the company, good applicants. From faking family illness to contacting managers to reach candidates. There seem to be no tricks some recruiters aren’t willing to use. The lack of self-awareness can be cringe-worthy. But it’s not only their fault.

LateRooms made me redundant, so I did something I had not tried before. I posted my CV on a jobs board. 9 am on the dot I started getting phone calls, and the first two hours of my morning were full of repetition. By 11 pm I took my CV down, not because I had a job, but because of the repetition. Had my network been stronger I could have handled this process alone. I instead searched the jobs board. When I applied I got a phone call from a recruiter representing the company. In three hours I’d learnt not to trust recruiters, and not to trust job sites. Does this sound familiar?

The loudest group of recruiters use what I call a “shotgun” approach. This is where the recruiter sends Automated messages to candidates on LinkedIn. These sometimes get my name wrong, leave in templating language and more. What works over this is intentionality and respect, a “sniper” approach. When a recruiter contacts me in a relevant and genuine way they have my attention. Some recruiters even embed themselves in the Meetup culture. They become close friends, who happen to be recruiters.

If you clicked this to read about why recruiters are bad I apologise. I’m not here to complain about recruiters, my complaints go higher. The burden of responsibility lies on those running the recruitment agency as well as the company enlisting them. If you reward “bums in seats” this is a race to the bottom.

The way we currently do recruitment hurts people far beyond the notion of rejection. Recruiters are under extreme pressure to convert, hence the malicious tactics associated. A company is as quick to apply any tactic that minimises effort on their part. Some companies expect their HR to write job descriptions and vet CVs. Why not trust your experts? If the answer is “it’s expensive” you’re going to have trouble convincing the candidate the rest of the way.

I’ve met hiring managers who have offered me interviews. To the Managers surprise, I have already applied and had my CV rejected. HR staff have rejected me with feedback such as “You have too many Front End skills to be a Data Scientist”.

Another common tactic is the “take-home task” or “kata”. My application to the BBC ended with no feedback or rejection after receiving my Kata. Asking for days of free work in exchange for the opportunity to work for a small company is not appetising. Respect yourself and your time. The last place I applied paid a day rate during kata development, showing me the most respect out of any company (good job Simon Owen). Are you surprised I wanted to work there? Further to this, I am a programmer, I program for fun. If you want to see the way I work, look at the examples I have on my website, Twitter and Github or come to one of my many talks. My recommendation is to counter any offer of a Kata with an hour of pair programming. If the company isn’t flexible to that, you’ve found a company that isn’t flexible, do you still want to work there?

Reflect on why things are the way they are. I am imploring some empathy and respect for all involved in recruitment. Don’t treat candidates in a way that proves you only care for them as an employee. And please remember Recruiters are people too.

So how should we handle recruitment? It’s done great. The problem is it’s only done by a few very intentional people. Recruitment is a blend of networking and intention. Those Recruiters who care about the community stand above all others. Good people know the good places to work, and they will recommend good people to good places. That’s ethical recruitment. They have the ability to cut out the nonsense. They have good relationships with all levels of the business and the person who will be your boss. Do you want them on your side?

To the recruiters who are sending out merge mail messages, I urge you to stop. It may not work short-term but the power of those recommendations will find you if you survive. Join the culture of your roles, if you can’t recognise a good UX Researcher how do you plan on placing one? Luck?

To the candidates, have respect for your time. Do you work for free?

  • A fifteen-minute phone call is free work.
  • Doing a kata is free work.

It’s time to start believing you’re better than that. Join the mcrTech slack we have a #jobs channel.

To the company, your recruitment is your problem. Every person you outsource your work to represents your organisation. A bad experience with a recruiter means a candidate may back out. A recruiter lying about benefits may look like your lie. Perform due diligence and ask the community for a recommendation. If those recruiters don’t want to work with you then you have bigger problems.

Some fantastic people that are also recruiters:

Liam Wilson — Liam Organises MancML, Manchesters largest Machine Learning meetup. Further to this he also organises ScotML and sponsors PyDataMCR and PyDataEdinburgh. Liam has been a guest on the PyDataMCR podcast. From my talks with Liam, he has shown an understanding of the data industry I would expect from a local CTO. If you are looking for a job in data get in touch with him or Cathcart Associates.

Amy Newton — Amy runs the mcrTesterGathering(and so much more) in a way I wish I ran PyDataMCR. She is always doing something incredible and her recommendations sing like a chorus. Amy used to be the Software Tester recruiter. She has now started her own company and I look forward to her ever-growing success.

Manchester based Data Scientist, Digital Artist, Front-End Dev

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