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Maybe they do it without realizing. The recruiter's goal is to fill the job as soon as possible. I even think they feel it is in their best interest that the candidate be qualified, so I'm not trying to knock recruiters.

Aren't they better off presenting 3 candidates, but one clearly stands out? The last thing they want from their client is a need to extend the interview process because they can't decide. If the client doesn't like any of them, you just bring on your next good candidate. This way they hedge their bet a little.

Any experience, insight or ever heard of a head-hunter admit this? Does it make sense? There has to be a reason why the choose such unqualified people. I've seen jobs posted that clearly state they want someone with a CS degree and the recruiter doesn't take it literally. I don't have a CS degree or Java experience and still they think I'm a possible fit.

Edit: I'm asking this question because there are many posts that assume recruiters cannot recognize talent, but maybe it is not in their interest to recognize too many talented candidates and make it harder for clients to decide. Eliminate the confusion. There is one candidate. Make that person an offer. It's a win, win, win.

Maybe this falls under the theory of Too Many Choices?

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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Nov 11 '11 at 7:26

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What is the purpose of asking this? What angle are you coming from? Are you hiring or looking to be hired? Also, I did not understand the question, sorry. –  Job Jan 8 '11 at 2:29
@Job - not so much for me personally, but more of an observation/theory. Think of it from a strategy perspective. If your goal as a recruiter is to fill the job as quick as possible, are you better off with one good candidate out of three or three good candidates? –  JeffO Jan 8 '11 at 3:09
Good recruiters do not have a simple formula - they try to serve both parties well. It really depends on the market, on their load, etc. Recruiting is about a long-term relationship with many parties. –  Job Jan 8 '11 at 3:15
I just have to comment on your CS degree point. I'm GLAD when a recruiter ignores that requirement. IMO, it's bull, especially when you have an experienced candidate. Every job I ever got in 25+ years in the field required a degree. Never prevented me from getting the job. They CAN'T take that literally. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are just a couple of MANY examples of successful people who never finished college. And several of the most successful developers I know have a degree in a totally unrelated field. I'm not putting down a degree (esp. for entry level), but it's very overrated. –  Mark Freedman Jan 8 '11 at 3:54
@Mark Freedman - maybe the recruiters could work with the client and have them take that out of their requirements or at least indicate CS Degree/relevant experience. But if the client is firm on this requirement, don't waste people's time. –  JeffO Jan 8 '11 at 4:06

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes, that's what the very best recruiters do for the very best clients.

When you're hiring, the value proposition is that the recruiter spends their time sorting the candidates so you don't have to. The better a job of sorting the recruiter does, the more valuable the recruiter is.

If you're hiring and you don't want the recruiter to send you only the very best matches, then you're doing their job for them for free. Unfortunately, a lot of managers and companies think interviewing more candidates who may be less qualified has some benefit; I haven't figured that one out.

However, it's very hard to for recruiters to recognize great matches in programming, since there are so many subfields and nuances, and frankly, a lot of us are lacking in people skills and may not interview well. That means the recruiters actually have to know something about the technology, and unfortunately, in our industry most recruiters just do buzzword matching.

If you ever meet one of those very unusual recruiters, cultivate them. In the last 25 years in the industry, I could count the number I've met who could routinely do that on one hand. These days, most of those folks specialize. For instance, I know a small recruiting firm that specializes in Java, and they pretty much hit a home run every time.

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+1 for cultivating the very very few good recruiters out there - their work is brutal, I know I couldn't do it. –  nomaderWhat Jan 26 '11 at 12:49
I think real estate agents do the same thing when selling houses. –  JeffO Jan 26 '11 at 19:05
@Jeff O: Yes, the good ones do, and the not-so-good ones drive you around a lot. –  Bob Murphy Jan 27 '11 at 2:47
Cultivating recruiters doesn't help. I met a good one, but the company didn't work out. I asked her to place me elsewhere but she didn't have anything. Jobs placements are so infrequent it's better to just go with what's available at the moment. –  Chloe Apr 12 '12 at 21:06

My sister is a recruiter and I have had many discussions with her about the challenges of recruiting for technical positions. A major issue is that technical recruiters have extremely limited domain knowledge mainly because there are so many different technologies. Think about trying to explain what you do to your mother. You could say web development, application development, embedded development ... it is all the same to non-technical people. In contrast, it is much easier for a recruiter to specialize in say finance., which is exactly what she does. She states that her primary goal it to provided a client with a qualified candidate on the first try. I think this goal is admirable, but unrealistic for technical positions.

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I think the tough part for a recruiter (and separates the good from the average) in finding a qualified candidate is not finding someone who can code, but someone who is also willing to accept another position. –  JeffO Jan 8 '11 at 3:04
That is probably true, but how is that relevant. –  Pemdas Jan 8 '11 at 3:17
I think this is relevant for developers who may be working with a recruiter(s). You don't want them wasting your time sending you on interviews for jobs you know you don't qualify. They can't plead ignorance of technology all the time. This is what they do for a living. –  JeffO Jan 8 '11 at 3:53
I think the two really go hand and hand. You need to have some domain knowledge to make both client's happy. –  Pemdas Jan 8 '11 at 4:24
@Jeff - When a recruiter contacts you about a position, do you not ask to see the job description before you accept an interview? If you do see the description, it should be pretty easy to decide if you qualify or not before much time is wasted on interviews. Perhaps I have just had good luck with recruiters, but I have always seen the job qualifications at the beginning and know when I do or do not qualify. –  Jesse McCulloch Jan 24 '11 at 20:57

My craziest recruiter story matches up with my craziest job interview. The recruiter claimed to be the very best, super picky about his clients, always places them etc. I was sent on two interviews, the second was at a large defense contractor, at one point they took me on a tour of their stuff, and I was asked "is this what you want to do?", I said NO, and was immediately escorted off the premises. The next day the recruiter called and angrily dumped me. I guess he only wanted clientele who would accept the first job on offer.

Funny, thing is next time I went that route (with another guy) I did accept the first job offered (and the first contact he sent me on) (because it was my dream position), and got yelled at for taking the first one "I coulda got you more money...".

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The second recruiter should let the clients know that they want to be in the job offer / salary negotiation loop. What an idiot to tell you that after the fact. –  JeffO Jan 24 '11 at 20:48
The second recruiter was most likely mad about missing out on the bigger commission he was hoping for - it's right he should have told you to keep him in the negotiation... probably would have got you more money. If it works for footballers, it might as well work for you. –  nomaderWhat Jan 26 '11 at 13:12

There's a combination of problems I think. You've got the problem of clients requesting workers being intentionally vague or not knowing what they want. You also have the problem of trying to potentially match what a client wants to the resume's available. Rarely is there ever a perfect match. You've also got the problem of the volume of data. Lastly, there's the problem of schedule.

A couple of my friends are recruiters, and in many ways it's really impossible for them to be up on what technologies are out there--particularly when they change often. They have to make certain inferences to expand their search results (such as Ruby == Ruby on Rails) so that they can possibly get someone to the client who said they wanted someone with a particular experience.

They can and do take time to understand education requirements, and equivalent experience from their client. After all, it's in their best interest not to waste anyone's time. If they fail to get the match, someone else will succeed. Particularly in the world of tech recruiting, it is very cut-throat. You even face competition within the recruiting company, which can make for some messy situations. Recruiters routinely do provide multiple prospects per client position. A good recruiter will ask why a prospect got rejected so they can refine their search process a bit.

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In my experience, every time my employeer went through a recruiter to hire someone - it was because he wasn't sure what he wanted either. We went through months looking for UI Usability designers - because as a company we weren't sure what that was and hoped the recruiter could guide us. However, when we looked for a IT person or a C# Programmer, we avoided recruiters and went with straight monster.com posting and interview people who's resume's we liked. Overall, I find companies use recruiters when they aren't sure what they want and they want that contract-to-hire option so they can bring someone in and if it doesn't pan out, they don't feel guilty when they part ways.

IMHO, if I was a recuiter, I would try to find the right person the first time, everytime - because the more people I get hired, the more I get paid. Also, HR people talk to each other - once you are known in your area for bring in good recruits, people will seek you out.

I had a recuriter help me after I graduated college and found me a job in about 3 weeks - plus she told me to ask for X amount of money - more than I ever thought I would get at that time in my career. She was very good and concise with how I need to handle the interview and even prepared me for the most common questions, etc.

After I was on a few months, I found out I was her only candidate - but other recruiters had presented people - and I made the best impression - where it seem the other recruiters were pulling people off the street - just to hope they would say go with this guy/gal cause he/she isn't as bad as the others.

So, I think presenting your best candidate is definately the way to go. You can always present someone else if they say no and still have the position open!

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It's not just presenting the best candidate for all jobs, but strategically if you had 2 "A" candidates and 2 "B" candidates, it may be an advantage to split the "A" candidates between two different job openings, so the client doesn't waste time in a "I can't decide which one to hire" quandary. The choice is much easier when one candidates sticks out. They both get filled with a quality candidate: it's a win-win-win-win-win. –  JeffO Jan 24 '11 at 21:33

They are better off presenting 3 rather than 1 candidate, at the resume stage anyway... you are using a recruiter because you don't want to/can't deal with 300 resumes; only getting one resume is almost just as bad. I tell you this as someone who has been on both sides of the recruiter relationship. Getting only 1 candidate is not going to make much difference with negotiating over money and stuff, if you're choosing from 3. Even if you decide they are right for the job and the recruiter doesn't present you some alternatives, then you'll ask another recruiter. I have enough disrespect for most recruiters to not trust their assessment of who their best candidate is. You might only get one because you just described the role and they have someone 'on the books' and who is available (currently looking or about to finish a contract say), so they send that one to you straight away. If someone has 3 resumes in front of them and can't at least rank them according to what they want - the problem is the person doing the hiring (which is not an all together uncommon problem). There are so many things that can & do go wrong with the hiring process - good companies put alot of thought into it first.

What's even better is getting 4 or 5 (or even 20) one page resumes (ok, 1-and-a-half pages) so that you can ask for the long version of the best one(s) next. And no, I don't want to hear from anyone telling me your long and varied career is impossible to condense into something that short - if it can be done with Gandhi's entire life, you can do it. Only then I tell the recruiter who to send for an interview, after all we're doing the hiring not the recruiter. Yes I hate the tick-a-box/buzzword matching that the majority of them use... but unless I'm in a situation where I can take on the flood of resumes & deal with them myself (which every blue moon happens) they are unfortunately a necessary evil.

I dread the moment when you tell a handful of recruiters the details of the person you are looking for, because then the feeding frenzy begins. I just love leaving my desk for half-an-hour to do the rest of my job and come back to find half-a-dozen voice mails... The rush to fill the job comes from trying to beat their competition, make the sale, get their commission - that's why if I have the luxury to do it I try to give one of them an exclusivity to find me someone for the job for one or a few more weeks. It's kind of pointless when you see what is obviously the same job posted by several recruiters. Job seekers are just going to apply to each one of them...

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The strategy is to present 3 candidates, but one is the obvious choice. –  JeffO Jan 31 '11 at 0:57
@Jeff well maybe, but I think that would be unintentional and entirely dependent on the quality of the candidates they had in front of them... if they had 2 candidates that looked equally good it would be mad to deliberately hold back one of them and instead send a couple of weaker candidates in their place. When you're down to a handful of candidates, the final choice is the hiring company's problem/responsibility. –  nomaderWhat Jan 31 '11 at 1:28

I think like with many things in life, this question is all relevant to the other variables. Typically, one of the first questions I ask a potential client is directly, "What is your business need? Does making this hire generate revenue or save the company and is it mission critical or something along the lines of deadline driven? As long as the position remains open how is the rest of the team/business affected?"

If the hire is deadline driven - it is good to leverage a recruiter for a quick, pre-qualified cross-section of the available market as it relates to your core competency requirement, culture in mind, and reasoning for setting up the interview. In this instance you would take that cross-section to be a representation of the market from a referral network and proceed with the top 2-3. Now you can give your team the same fair cross-section but even more qualified because you've met them, and know what else is out there thanks to the 3 who did not make the first round cut. They rank the candidates 1-3 and the top 2 meet the last stand interview. That interviewer has an option rather than a yes/no and win-win-win. It was appropriately called above, hedging your bets.

If the hire is NOT deadline driven - then after 1-2 first round interviews including detailed constructive feedback from the client, who realizes it's a partnership and a relationsip built over time, the recruiter should implement a learning curve to the point of not missing by much each time. The turn rate between first round interviews or total interviews should lessen in time working with one another.

Recruiters are never going to fill jobs with resumes, or fill every job with one interview, but a good one should make the process feel painless, have great work ethic, truly understand your business, and be passionate about what they do. If they are not, it will not come across when they talk about your product, opportunity, organization, and in the most competitive market since '99 that's not good.

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