Stop Bad Tech Recruitment Cold with One Question

Tech recruitment made easy.

Many developers and engineers live according to one inalienable belief: they think that tech recruitment is pretty terrible. It’s often worse when big companies such as Google and Facebook come knocking. But one developer has found a way to cut to the chase quickly with recruiters.

Yegor Bugayenko’s blog post, titled “Why I Don’t Talk to Google Recruiters,” is a good look at what it’s like to be recruited by big tech companies. As he notes at one point, Amazon flew him from Ukraine to Seattle for a job interview, which made him think the firm was very interested in his specific skill-set. But after he failed to create an algorithm from scratch in four hours, he didn’t get the position.

“If she would have started her email with ‘We’re looking for an algorithm expert,'” he wrote in the blog posting, “we would never have gotten any further and would not have wasted our time. Clearly, I’m not an expert in algorithms.” (At least Amazon put him up in a really nice hotel.)

After that bad experience, Bugayenko decided to break his loop on the first recruiter pass. When recruiters reach out, he now sends this:

Thanks for your email. I’m very interested indeed. I have nothing against an interview. However, there is one condition: I have to be interviewed by the person I will be working for. By my future direct manager.

The result? Recruiters tend to drop the communication cold, though Bugayenko suggests they often return later to query him about other positions. His experience reiterates an old argument among tech pros: tech recruiting needs some TLC.

While we won’t advocate Bugayenko’s abruptness with recruiters, there are ways to elegantly navigate the process. As with any good negotiation, good faith plays an important role. Recruiters (annoying as some tech pros may find them) have positions to fill. If they fire off dozens of spammy messages, it’s because the client (or bosses, for larger companies with dedicated recruiters) have an urgent need for talent.

A new hire is also expensive. DevSkiller notes that recruiting a new hire can cost as much as $60,000, and the process may take over a month. It’s reasonable to think recruiters would want to get you speaking directly with companies quickly, even though that process has a tendency to confound:

Although his take on recruiting is perhaps a little sensational, Bugayenko still highlights a skill that tech pros should develop to better navigate the hiring process: ask what specific skills the job requires. It lets the recruiter know you’re engaged, interested and cutting through the fog at the onset of recruitment, which can help avoid wasting everyone’s time. Even during the application process (which can yield similarly pitiful results to direct recruitment), asking the right questions early is a solid move.

A recruiter knows what specific skills a hiring company wants; asking about those skills at the beginning of the process can prove a good starting point from which to launch a discussion about the role. The recruiter can likely get that info from the company, if it’s not already on-hand. If they can get you the information, you’ll know if the granular skills needed are ones you’re comfortable with; no more whiteboard fails! (Just kidding, you’ll still fail now and then.)

The desire shouldn’t be to avoid recruitment, but to get beyond the initial stages as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Bugayenko demands to meet with the hiring manager straightaway, which is probably unrealistic. But if you make it easier for the recruiter to confidently recommend you for the position and an interview, the company has a good reason to expedite the initial steps of your hiring process.

From there, it’s all up to you… even the dreaded whiteboard interview.


36 Responses to “Stop Bad Tech Recruitment Cold with One Question”

February 22, 2017 at 2:58 pm, BobSmith said:

Another article where it’s the responsibly of the job seeker to make life easier for the recruiter while not having to return the favor. It’s a two-way street, like it or not. Everyone is being interviewed. The candidate and The Company.

Personally I’m so sick of recruiters that have my resume in front of them, think I’m a great fit for a role they are trying to fill but refuse to talk about that role. Instead they want to hear more about what I have to offer for a role I know nothing about and what my future plans are. It is a total waste of time for everyone involved if I have absolutely no interest in the job at the end.

In my experience asking for a detailed job description also drops the communication cold. It’s madness.


February 23, 2017 at 6:13 am, Designer Dan said:

I always ask for a job description. This gives me a good idea of what the client wants.

My biggest cripe concerns the recruiter who don’t look at the resume. I am a mecyhaniical engineer with 3D CAD experience. But I get calls for an electrical engineer, or an aassembler, or a skill that is not shown in the resume.


February 23, 2017 at 6:30 am, Crazy bunny said:

OMG, you are soo right. I am so pissed off and fed up with IT recruitment in California, i am looking overseas for job opportunities. screw this crap


February 23, 2017 at 6:31 am, Julian Cook said:

Worst of all is when companies like Dice, Monster, etc. sell your resume over to recruiting spam entities who spam you with irrelevant job postings. I like in DC metro and at least a couple of times a day I get offers for “Urgebt requirement: PHP developer Fort Wayne, IN”. These pitches always comes from someone with an Indian name so based on that I’m guessing these are Indian recruiting sweatshops. If tech people are pissed at recruiters maybe Dice, and other online job boards would do well to see how they are contributing to the problem.


February 23, 2017 at 6:46 am, Ken E said:

My experience, I’m a systems engineer, is that I am dealing with someone in little more than a boiler room call center in India. They’ve been given a list of keywords (which a rarely accurate), names, and phone numbers. I have come to the point, I always say “If I have to relocate, I am only interested in positions west of the Mississippi River”, it’s nice to see that Americans aren’t the only ones that don’t know US geography.


February 23, 2017 at 7:18 am, James said:

I agree, many times I ask about the job and I get continuous questions about my job goals and aspirations, the recruiter talks to me for almost 30 mins, then I have to hunt them down afterwards to find out that the company didn’t get back to them about me, which is another pain staking process of phone tag and emails.


February 23, 2017 at 7:58 am, evaeva said:

I agree with the previous posts. I have been both a technologist (programmer) and recruiter. I am disgusted with how unprepared and uninterested recruiters generally are in the conversation that is directly relevant to the work that needs to be done, and the team that needs to hire the person to help that work to get done. I have also been interviewd by Google and found their process to be sickening and repulsive in its unchecked arrogance. I always made a point of really listening to each person I interviewed, and being as precise and comprehensive as I could be about what was needed of the indiviual in the position being hired for. Daily I encountered extreme negativity and distrust from candidates because of how poorly they had been treated by other recruiters. I haven’t done any recruiting in a while because of how disgusted I became with the industry.


February 23, 2017 at 8:32 am, Olayinka said:

Interesting point of view…. nevertheless, all comments I’ve read are 90% characteristics of Robert Half Technologies.
Heaven knows where they get the list of openings all over the country!
Very unprofessional… SAD!


February 23, 2017 at 8:43 am, Oliver Kuster said:

Asking to be interviewed by a person you will work with wouldn’t work with Amazon, since afaik the recruitment already is done involving the team you are going to work with.


September 26, 2017 at 11:18 am, BambiB said:

I was a QA Manager at Amazon, and you’re basically correct. In general, you will be interviewed by the people on the team, or who work on closely-associated teams, including the hiring manager. You’ll also be interviewed by a “bar-raiser”. When I was hired, the bar-raiser was an Amazon VP.

Sadly, much of the culture at Amazon is self-delusional. They pride themselves on a “merit” culture – but the truth is, I have never seen a place that was more political. While you still had to know your job, the truth is, if you don’t swill booze with the right people, make the right jokes, laugh at the right time, hold the correct political opinion, you’ll be left behind. It’s also a culture where back-stabbing is prevalent and acquisitions of other companies result in pollution from the management of other companies.

I think Bezos’ idea is to do the right thing generally – but in the final analysis, it’s a moderate-energy petri dish where politics – not excellence in technology – will benefit you most. Of course, there are still technological rock stars who don’t have to deal so much with the politics, but it’s not enough to do an outstanding job. I saw one QA manager who was fired because he did an upward report (required by Amazon) that honestly said the upstream manager wasn’t doing anything. Unfortunately, the upward reports go to the next echelon up – a VP who had come over bringing the non-performing manager as her “sidekick” – so though the feedback was valid, the QA manager was fired for providing required feedback honestly instead of politically. This was a guy whose team had a perfect operational record with 50% manning!

They say that when the axe falls at Amazon, you never even hear the whistle of the blade. I think that’s probably true. I’ve certainly known people who had no idea they were about to be chopped. I’ve also seen people downgraded on their performance reports due to the incompetence of their managers. (Face it, one part of a manager’s job is mentoring, and if you can’t be bothered to help one of your team resolve problems for which they have no experience, you’re the problem.)

Overall, I’d rate the Amazon experience as “interesting” and “discouraging”. I’m glad I don’t work there anymore.


February 23, 2017 at 9:22 am, john said:

I truly can not believe how many “Indian” recruiters I get from a job posting and they have the GALL to say..the rate is (I.E.) $29.00 / hr all inclusive aand that is a good rate, and the “proposed” job does not fit my background!!!!!!! ….IN WHAT PART OF AMERICA is that a good rate ESPECIALLY IN A HIGH COST OF LIVING STATE SUCH AS CALIFORNIA OR NY OR MASSACHUSETTS,,,,By GOD …these Indian call centers are a blight on the recruiting industry. They think you just have to have a phone ( preferably with US area code) and a list and money will fall from the sky. I will NOT EVER AND I MEAN EVER work for any major corporation that uses these shills to recruit for a position. Remember, treat people (ESPECIALLY TECHNICAL PEOPLE) well ( we are not stupid nor ignorant) and you will get good results. Treat People like they are idiots by using these fly by night , spring up like mushroom foreign call centers and you will get GARBAGE. I have know quite a few Indian recruiters who have been here for quite a while and they do treat the candidates with respect and know what the marker will bear, It is those ill informed, very low ball , don’t understand scammers that are a big problem. Best to do…don’t bother with the scammers and deal only with reputable people.


February 23, 2017 at 9:25 am, Kris said:

When did IT recruiting become about volume and not about the actual jobs? I get e-mails from recruiters for jobs that I’m not even remotely qualified for – many times when the mandatory skills aren’t even on my resume. Rather than a focused, intelligent search, a lot of these staffing companies just shotgun things out to the world and hope to reel something in. It’s not doing a service to the candidates or the companies that are hiring. IT recruiting needs a reboot.


February 23, 2017 at 10:03 am, Michael said:

This is among the first questions I ask as well, which tends to separate the men from the boys real fast. Who is it with, the company, my hiring manager (or *managers*, which is also at least a yellow flag in my mind), and sometimes even the team. I’m not interested to be wasting my time on anything less than that up front. And the few (out of literally hundreds of pretenders, I can count them on one hand) that have come back with any sort of challenge, I just respond with, “look, I will find out one way or another.”


February 23, 2017 at 10:16 am, Relentless said:

Agree with all in this post. What a mess. In my case, I’ve been in many different IT tec roles over the last 20 years. Makes it hard to respond to jobs where they want 1 skill for 5 – 10 years. Even if I have that skill I don’t get call backs as my resume tends look like a jack of all trades, master of none. Where as mastering all these roles, means I’m a good IT guy who brings experience and can learn the new stuff, usually the role the hiring company has trouble filling and thats my forte. So! I need a recruiter who takes the time to get to know the hiring company, sees they could use a guy like me and gets me an interview. How the hell do I find that recruiter? They are about volume and quick sales. Not about finding the “right match” for the “right” job, that good recruiters ought to be. I am so disappointed. Is is too late to become an auto mechanic or a baker. Less pay, but less stress. Does anybody know a “good” recruiter? (send that and I’ll bake you a nice cake)


February 23, 2017 at 10:32 am, Elle said:

Looks like most posters here have had the same experiences. Emails, calls from Indian recruiters who have not read your resume, have no clue what your skills are and are only interested in your hourly rate. And even worse, all of these companies who want contract workers but are not willing to assist with relocation expenses. They want you to put out thousands in order to get to the location and find temporary living arrangements all at your own expense. Times are rough!!


February 23, 2017 at 11:02 am, JB said:

So glad to see others posting what I have been experiencing. One email after another from Indian recruiters. Some days are multiple emails for the same job.

They are collecting names / resumes. I am so frustrated with it. I have gotten to the point of not answering my phone if it’s a number I don’t recognize. And they don’t leave a message. But it puts me at risk of missing a “good” call, although I’m sure they would leave a message.

I’ve had a few that were shocked I wouldn’t move forward on what they are offering. “You don’t want to take this in Sioux Falls, SD”. I feel like saying… #1 are you in the USA right now or India ? #2 Have you ever been to Sioux Falls #3 Have you ever been there in the winter ?? — I have been and I’m not interested.


February 23, 2017 at 11:19 am, Vannessa said:

I am…a recruiter (unemployed). And I feel your pain. There are too many “sweatshop” and lazy recruiters. Resumes are run through programs that hit on key words, and sometimes no one bothers to verify results by actually reading the resume. I have been contacted by recruiters for anything from HVAC mechanic to Procurement Management jobs, because I have recruited for these positions. As a corporate recruiter, I grilled hiring managers on their expectations, and tried to gain as clear a picture of the job as possible before talking with candidates, and fine tuned the approach as the search progressed. What good does it do anyone to keep people in the dark on details? It’s like they just fling a bunch of crap to see what will stick. As I continue my job search, I am working as an independent recruiter…if anyone here is looking for placement assistance, feel free to reach out.


February 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm, BambiB said:

It seems an ever-increasing number of recruiters are Indian and they don’t seem to be trying to hire anyone – rather, they seem to be working to eliminate applicants so H-1B candidates can be hired.

Three years is a bit long for a “temporary” visa, but the fact that they are routinely renewed, and that after the second expiration H-1B holders often apply for citizenship, the “temporary” visa goes from 3 years to 8 years (or forever). In addition the 65,000 “quota” of H-1B visas is routinely exceeded by nearly 200,000. In fact, for the past 12 years, the average number of H-1Bs issued exceeded 260,000 on average.

I am hopeful that President Trump and Attorney Jeff Sessions land on the H-1B program with both feet.


February 23, 2017 at 1:15 pm, Tech in PDX said:

It not just tech professionals who face this problem of bad recruiters, I only have an associate degree. As a tech make good money and do not see going thousands in debit for a BSEE is prudent. I am get up to 15 calls in one-day form Indian call centers or submission mills. They keep on sending me opportunities I am not qualified for like requiring a BSEE or Masters degree, or in the wrong graphical location.
Some US recruiters are just as bad like out of state recruiters offering to apply for a HVAC job that clearly requires a Low voltage license in my state.


February 23, 2017 at 1:19 pm, Lawrence Weinzimer said:

If you’re mot being recruited directly by the firm, the deal with IS recruiters is approach with some caution, or in some cases, avoidance. Some firms split commissions; some see applicants as too hungry and so on. In other words: Watch their moves – many are predatory for the wrong reasons.


February 23, 2017 at 2:13 pm, Scott Lee said:

Many of these abuses will drop by an order of magnitude when the H1B program is overhauled. These “recruiters” are there to justify paying an H1B with a fake resume and little real experience 1/2 (or less) what a person with a real degree and real experience would be paid; process is, do a search, “prove” a US citizen is not available, bring on the H1B.


February 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm, Kevin said:

What I’ve heard is that most of these people don’t have a recruiting contract with the companies. They just get lists of open positions from company websites, and figure they can cash in on a finders’ fee.


February 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm, Mukaila Raheem said:

There is nothing special about recruiting firms because most of them talking to you do not know the knowledge contents of CISA , CISM or CISSP. When an advert is put out or an invitation is extended what you see are junks of unrelated experiences listed as prerequisite. The issues are what position do you want to fill,what qualification or certification do you want , what are the minimum job contents. But what you see are junks that are not related..if I still have to meet the real manager who can judge my fitness for his job what exactly has the recruiter done.I am unemployed, I have 3 good and recognized certifications but I don’t respond any longer to invitation. It is better to be a trader at Harry Hines than to be tormented by those who cannot passed the knowledge sets that I have.


February 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm, Larry Smith said:

I suspect the the Indian recruiters who inappropriately spam listings and seekers, are possibly only interested in proving the opening cannot be filled by Americans, so they can place an H1-B candidate.


February 23, 2017 at 6:45 pm, beez1717 said:

My biggest complaint is where the company is looking for a specific profile of worker regardless if they are actually the right person for the job. For example, I’ve been told by recruiters that I did an amazing job at the hands on activity they did during their hiring process, but then turned me down because I didn’t have a BA. I then find out later that they’d rather hire the person with the BA in an unrelated area. It’s really sad that so many job recruiters would rather have someone on the team who sounds good on paper than someone who is ACTUALLY the right person for the job. They hire less qualified people just so they can say “All our employees have a bachelor’s degree”.

The reason that I don’t have a BA in a computer related field is because even though I’m good at it, I can’t stand math; nearly every, if not all BA programs want you to learn advanced math, even if you’re a graphic designer or you want to be a computer repair technician. It’s nuts! Those fields have NO need for learning advanced mathematics and yet I see so many schools unable to realize that many jobs that require the use of computer have nothing to do with hard math. Why would I need to know discrete math and statistics when I’m the person testing the software, or the person whom the repair team goes to when they can’t figure things out?

I do ask questions as to what the job actually entails and I try to get all my information straight before I get too far into the recruitment process, but a lot of the time, I just get answers that are clearly aimed at sidestepping the real information. It at least shows that I actually care if I’m going to be a good match or not.


February 23, 2017 at 11:12 pm, Janet Jenkins said:

Just contacted by an Indian recruiter this morning.Didn’t leave a voicemail but his phone number showed up so called him back. He said “Hello.” Gee, are you a company? Someone called me from your number. “Oh it probably was for the XYZ position. What is your rate requirements?” Gee, can you please tell me about the job first, where is it, who for, duration, what is THEIR RATE RANGE? Answer: “They don’t have a rate range. What is yours so I can know if I’m going to submit you.” ….CIICK. Take Off, bro! You are so unprofessional!


February 24, 2017 at 3:30 am, Tim Woods said:

Sounds like Google missed a bullet – big time.

If I had a pretentious jerk like this apply for a job and whine about it, I wouldn’t hire him either. I would probably let it go, but since he blogged about it, I am not sure if I would sue him for defamation of character OR should I just blacklist him from software engineering entirely.

Yeah, you’re right — I’d do all of the above. We don’t need another overpriced coder tainting the well thinking that he’s special, because, well — he’s not.


February 24, 2017 at 9:28 am, williedee said:

I think the approach is naïve. I always ask: Where is the previous employee fro this position…did they get promoted or did they leave of their own accord? Explain the interview process from start to finish. Finally, compensation and benefits are what? If the recruiter cannot answer its a nonstarter.


February 27, 2017 at 11:19 am, ArpenP said:

Once you post to your Resusume to the common jobboards Like CareerBuilder, monster, indeed. You will be slammed with so much junk mail and phony unrelated jobs that your inbox will blow up if you don’t filter or delete the crap out. They also sell your Resume to other Tech recruiters that will always send you emails that are unrelated. One day after posting a revised Resume back to CareerBuilder the night before, I had about 30 calls from the Indian Tech Recruiter that Julian from above spoke of. They were all competing against each other to win out on the very same job that they found matched my skills-set. These calls lasted all day long, and they were all from different recruiters and agencies. They would all lead me on about the job and not say where it was, but I figured it out. However I knew that the company wouldn’t hire me because I have not specifically worked in that exact role before. So I had one recruiter submit me after I spoke to the head of the agency and asked him detailed questions of the process, rate, and their success rate in placing qualified people. The others I blew off and even told one guy that the position was closed already. He was furious and said he would call back! Never did! LOL! Anyway these recruiters are determined to place you whether you qualify or not. If you are still interested in the position. Just thoroughly assess that company and the legitimacy, before you say :Yes: Also if they persist and have multiple agents repeatedly call you or give you a hard time then ask for the Head of the Company and start your questioning from there. You do have a choice to hang up but you at least want to get what company it is and apply online to that company, then hang up.


February 27, 2017 at 11:28 am, Michael W Powell said:

Most of the time these kinds of head hunter placement agencies are just going to submit you on the “client” company’s web site, anyway. The few rare recruiters that really do have a true alignment with the client may disclose who it really is early on, the process, etc, or may not. In any event I want to assess value add, what are they doing for me getting me in front of decision makers, helping to close the deal, apart from my being present and accounted for. Any that can’t answer this, I show the door.


March 01, 2017 at 6:56 pm, William said:

#1 rule to follow:


If you avoid all Indian recruiters, your success rate improves dramatically. Indian recruiters should be recruiting indians to work in India, not Americans to work in America.

Why would you go to an auto mechanic if you need a dentist? Auto mechanics speak a different language, lead a totally different lifestyle, come from a completely different mindset, socio-economic background, and work in a completely different environment and culture.



May 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm, Jeff said:

I’m haunted by Indian recruiters when I answer my phone I can’t understand more than half of them. They are disrupting my job search with stupid calls and hundreds of emails! No thanks deeksha, vishnu, aditya, manjushree I don’t live in that state and that’s not even my skill set. The Industry culture has been destroyed by them.


September 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm, FED up said:

Its not only indian recruiters. Teksystems, robert half, Recruit mgt consultants, etc the list goes on and on.



October 17, 2017 at 3:34 pm, Judy Loo said:

I have long wondered if this army of incompetent Indian recruiters really works for the known Indian companies which abuse the H1B programs. Perhaps they are just gathering data so people can create better phony resumes and purposely sending out inappropriate “quota” emails to unqualified people on purpose to justify an H1B. This awful practice seems to have been going on since 2012.


October 17, 2017 at 4:09 pm, Michael said:

Since only 2012? I would argue since well before then. The only difference is, they’ve just about run out of any kind of political cover and are out in broad daylight today.


October 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm, BambiB said:

Here’s something I just became aware of: In January of this year, the Department of Homeland “Security” approved a new final rule granting H-1B visa holders a 60-day extension in the event that they lose their job. It used to be that if an H-1B was fired or laid off, they were immediately “out of status” and supposed to leave the country. In practice, they were given a 10-day grace period to arrange transportation. Now the DHS has approved a change allowing them to hang around for two months and look for another job!

Keep in mind that the ONLY reason they’re supposed to be here is to fill a job for which no American is qualified and willing. If that particular job goes away, so should the H-1B. They should NOT be hanging around competing in the US job market. Worse, the requirement that a prospective employer show that there were no American workers available to fill the position isn’t clear in this case.

I’ve been getting lists of H-1Bs who are “on the bench” from these Indian recruiters – apparently H-1Bs for whom there are NO JOBS competing against Americans in America.

Another change is that H-1Bs are now seen as SIX YEAR visas, and the time to change status at the end (APPLY FOR FOREVER STATUS) has been further extended! H-1B is no longer about jobs with no applicants being filled by foreigners. It’s a full-on program to import outsourcing.

Apparently this was one of the parting shots to the American work force from Obozo (may he rot in hell forever).


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