Ground Rules for Working with Tech Recruiters


Every business relationship needs to have boundaries and guidelines that govern the way that participating parties work together. And though most tech pros are very open about demanding timely updates and constructive feedback from recruiters, they may not realize that tech recruiters have ground rules, too.

Recruiting’s unwritten rules of engagement not only build trust, but can also lead to success. So in the spirit of getting everyone on the same page, here are several ground rules that you should follow to maximize your relationships with tech recruiters.

Don’t Waste Their Time

When it comes to filling open requisitions, speed matters. Respect the recruiter’s time and client-driven mandate to find a qualified candidate by being totally honest about your interest and conditions for changing jobs.

“Don’t engage in ego-driven conversations; be honest about your desire to change jobs and the professional opportunities you’d find appealing,” advised David Tate, VP of Technology for Blue Oak Labs.

If the timing just isn’t right, that’s okay. It’s better to be honest so you have a sturdy relationship in place when you’re finally ready to make a move.

Honesty About Your Hands-On Experience

Never inflate or misrepresent your on-the-job experience with a specific program, tool, or process. If those critical shortfalls are exposed during a technical evaluation, or, worse yet, during your first days on the job, then everyone will have egg on their face. The same goes for a workplace faux pas that may have led to your dismissal from a previous position. As a general rule, you’re better off disclosing potential areas of concern up-front rather than trying to hide them.

Recruiters know which skills are vital and which are “nice-to-have.” If you were exposed to a software program in your previous environment or learned it in your spare time, a competent recruiter can portray your skills to a prospective employer in accurate ways that will keep you in the hunt.

Let Them Do Their Jobs

A recruiter is entitled to know your current status or if you’re already considering an offer, noted Arnie Fertig, founder and CEO of JOBHUNTERCOACH. For instance, they may be able to hurry things along in order to leverage a competing offer, or steer you away from employers that don’t measure up.

“Don’t get in between the recruiter and the client by cutting them off after the first interview or attempting to handle salary negotiations yourself,” Fertig added. “It’s in the recruiter’s best interest to get you the highest salary possible. Plus, a recruiter knows the maximum amount a client is willing to pay and is better equipped to handle the negotiation process.”

Show Respect for Their Abilities

You don’t need programming skills or deep technical knowledge to be an effective recruiter. The real pros have meaningful connections with influential hiring managers, and a keen sense of timing, persuasiveness, and drive.

“The top recruiters have skills that you don’t have,” Tate noted. “Show respect for their abilities because you may need to call on them in the future, especially if you become a manager and need help adding staff.”

So if a recruiter doesn’t seem to have an in-depth understanding of the job duties, or doesn’t know the lingo, don’t get upset and badmouth them on discussion boards: mutual respect is the key ingredient in any successful relationship.

Use Your Power in a Positive Way

Yes, it’s become a candidate-driven market, but don’t let that go to your head. You don’t want to develop a reputation for being egotistical or difficult to work with, because at some point, the market will swing back around. Experts insist that expertise and humility are a powerful combination. And quite frankly, you may not be as good as you think.

“You may have concluded that you don’t need a recruiter to find a great job, but they can be a highly valuable asset in any market,” Tate said.

9 Responses to “Ground Rules for Working with Tech Recruiters”

  1. This article is one sided. I’ve had my time wasted and have been ghosted by recruiters many times. I can’t stand it when they rush you for a job and then ghost you for a week and leave cryptic voicemails.
    My ground rule is: No recruiters or solicitors

  2. Always be aware the recruiting company makes money off you. For example: if you are getting $80 / hr the recruiting company has a contract to to paid $130 to $150/hr. Remember this when taking $$.

    I once was accidently cc’d on an email that disclosed the actual rate the client was paying, so I know this for a fact.

  3. Ryan Wright

    I have maybe 300 emails from recruiters that have nothing to do with my experience not to mention many phone calls a day. They will call and sell you on a job that the client would never go for (I have 2 yrs exp , not 7-10). I have even taken software development tests that can take a week to finish completely then you never get a call back even though you are proficient in the code. My advice to anyone getting into tech is give the staffing places a try first in order to learn they they will waste more of your time then anyone else in this industry .

  4. Many recruiters just have no idea what they’re doing or how to do it. Recruiters should only take 10-20% of a person’s total job hunting time. Really, a job seeker’s best bet is utilizing their network and following the job leads one finds from there.

  5. I keep wondering who writes these so-called articles. They certainly are not people who actually have any experience in the subject that they are writing about
    I have dealt with recruiters all of my tech working life and it frankly is a mixed bag, some very good some very strange
    If any employer believes that the candidate receives most of the money they are paying the recruiting company then they are sadly mistaken (especially now). I know for a fact for example that I was getting paid 30 percent of what the end client was paying. Where the problem comes in for the candidate is the client is thinking they are paying for a person at let’s say 10 years experience, but because the agency is getting 70 percent the client is really getting someone with 2 years experience. The client get’s pissed at the candidate because they don’t feel they are getting what they paid for (suspecting the candidate somehow lied about their experience) when they actually are, I fault the company because they really should make sure that the candidate is properly compensated. I was laid off from my job and what has shocked me is the pay rate that was being offered (and is in some cases were jobs that I was offered 10 years previously) was less and not by a couple of dollars and even at a couple of dollars you would think that at the lease the pay rate would stay the same not go down substantially.
    I agree with one of the other the responder about recruiters contacting you either by email, phone with jobs that there is NO way your resume reflects the job they are presenting, worse is the emails that state “they found your resume on a job board and felt you were a perfect fit”. Never mind that not only is the job for a high level programmer (and your resume has basic program skills) but it’s in a state that is 4,000 miles from where you live. I’ve decided that these emails are mistake and it was sent in error
    And what is the statement “candidate-driven market” suppose to mean?. If the market was so candidate driven then why are so many of the tech jobs in southern CA offering payrates five dollars above minimum rate and asking as part of job requirements that the person have a BA and several certificates (like you could ever pay for your education loans with $18 an hour)

  6. Lots of hate recruiters on here, yes lots waste your time because they are playing a numbers game, send out a thousand emails in hopes of commission on one. A good recruiter can be very valuable. New to the industry? Good luck getting an interview without a recruiter.

  7. Unemployed In Oregon

    I also have to disagree with the tone of the article. I need to separate between recruiters and call center lackeys. I can get over 15 call a day form East Indian call centers hired by shadow submission mills to do cold calls. They are not even recruiters, they have no knowledge of me or the job I am applying to. I have often got the wrong job and / or wrong geographical location.

    The good companies hire real recruiters in the USA and they not an Indian call center will call you.

  8. Jennifer Brower

    Even worse than ghosting is when they take my resume and references and give them to someone else, changing the name. I have had that happen several times over the past 3 years. I don’t give my resume to anyone unless I trust them. And my references?? No, you get those at the end.

    Another thing they do is spam my phone and email with roles that are obviously a poor fit. I am an IT Project Manager/Business Analyst. You’d be amazed at how many programmer roles for which I am contacted. I haven’t written code since 2003. I also get calls for roles all over the country. No, I am moving halfway across the country for a 3 month contract.

    I’ve been in this business for nearly 20 years. There are great recruiters who build relationships and there are data gatherers who work in call centers with high turnover. We need to distinguish between the two, perhaps through a certification or a professional organization like how we have PMI for PMs.