Why I do not like recruitment agencies

My very first “proper adult” job was the one that brought me to London in the first place. I was a recruiter. Specifically, I was an IT recruiter. And I had no idea what I was doing.

These days, I know a fair sight more about IT – at least I sure hope so, otherwise the last three years have been a waste! Back then though, all I knew was that the clients were looking for something called “dot net”, which I was also allowed to take to mean “C#”. I would spend forever scouring CV libraries and LinkedIn for candidates, reading through everything very carefully, in the hope I could avoid spending time on the phone. I hated phoning candidates – I knew absolutely nothing about what these people did for a living, what their profession was, what they’d spent years studying. All I knew was that their CV happened to contain the key words I’d thrown into the search bar.

Writing job specs was easier, at least then, I could rely on my pal Google to help me out. I’d pull up a few similar looking adverts, do a bit of Frankenstein work, cobble something vague together and hope the job title and salary were enough to reel in the candidates. Sorted.

Needless to say, recruitment and I did not work out… but IT and I did. I went back to university, where I’m now finishing up a computer science degree.

I’m in my final year, well, final semester actually, and my CV is now one of the ones that the recruiters are pulling up and skimming to find the appropriate keywords.

Today, I spoke with two different recruiters – one who works for a recruitment agency and one who works as an in-house recruiter for a company. Both of these people approached me, but the experiences with each of them was so different. The in-house recruiter was a really pleasant woman, and right on the mark in terms of what I was looking for.

The other one… well, now I can definitely understand the frustration of candidates. Our phone call lasted exactly four minutes, part of which went like this:

Him: Okay, so I’ll put you down for software development and web development

Me: Back end development, yes, definitely, but not web.

Him: Oh well they’re pretty much the same, so I’ll just write down web design.

Me: No, I’m really not interested in any web, it’s actually quite different from back end, please don’t put that down.

Him: Okay. I see you worked in recruitment yourself, so I’ll consider you for any roles with a sales element.

Me: No, please don’t do that, I’m only looking for development, only technical positions.

Him: Okay, well we have some roles that are sales with some development.

Me: No, I really don’t want that. No sales at all, it’s really not one of my strengths. Please don’t do that.

Him: Okay, well, we’ll see. I’ll call you in a few weeks.


I find it really frustrating that a person’s chances at a career is often in the hands of someone who knows nothing about it. Please don’t get me wrong, there are some stellar recruiters, who know exactly who to search for and what people would be perfect for the role, but the recruitment industry itself is so flawed. People are products, and while we’d all like to think we’re a special snowflake, sometimes you’re just five minutes on the phone with someone who’s trying to fill up their phone targets for the day.

Often, a job could go “on hold”, which basically just means that the client isn’t responding to emails from the recruiter right now. This is often because the clients might have found someone themselves, which is always going to be cheaper, or the particular project they were hiring for has had its budget tightened.

Whenever I’ve applied directly to a company, the response has been so much different. My CV usually lands on the desk of the actual person who will be doing the hiring, someone who knows the job inside out and can realise that someone who knows that JavaScript is not the same as Java, or that someone who has learned Objective-C isn’t going to be making Android apps. In short, they look past the word “programmer” and can see what this person can actually do.

In addition, the hiring company is often going to be less picky than they would be if going through a recruiter. You’re paying the recruiter top dollar, of course you’re going to give them a grocery list of requirements; if you’re paying for it, you’re going to want the Vitruvian Man of programming.

To those recruiters who really get it, who know what they’re doing and who can be honest with someone and tell them what’s going on – I salute you. It’s not an easy job, but there are some who do it well.

To the others, please stop asking me if I’d like to be a JavaScript developer.


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