Exploring the Secret Practices of Tech Recruiters

Understanding the role of recruiters and how the hiring process works is integral to conducting a successful job search.

Given the rapid advances in recruiting technology and tactics, this seemed like an opportune time to update our two previous lists of behind-the-scenes recruiting practices (which appear here and here). Here’s a fresh look at the true modus operandi of both corporate and third-party recruiters.

They Sometimes Blacklist Overly Enthusiastic Candidates

If you really want to work for a company, it can be tempting to apply to as many openings as you possibly can. But inundating an employer with applications can make you seem unfocused and lacking direction; even worse, it can get you “blacklisted” by the company’s recruiters.

“Copying and pasting is a bad habit that can actually work against both recruiters and candidates,” noted Pete Radloff, senior recruiter for a major cloud services company. “I’d rather engage with a candidate who has identified one or two positions that seem like a fit, than someone who has applied to 75 different positions they aren’t remotely qualified for.”

They Make Decisions Based on Cultural Fit

Recruiters often research and match the demographics of a company’s current workforce when selecting candidates, explained Katrina Collier, candidate engagement speaker and author of “The Robot-Proof Recruiter.” As a result, they may inadvertently support a tech manager’s inherent hiring biases.

As a case in point, Collier described a tech candidate who became aware of this secret recruiting practice and instituted a successful workaround—substituting “Adam” for his true Asian first name on his CV. He eventually “came clean,” but not until he landed an offer.

They Conduct Bottom-Up Résumé Reviews

Some recruiters are primarily interested in seeing where you’re headed, not where you’ve been.

“My job is to identify candidates who can grow with the company by mastering technologies and roles that don’t exist today,” Radloff explained.

Since most tech pros place interesting side projects and unrelated work near the end of their résumé, Radloff makes a point of reading the document from bottom to top to understand a candidate’s technical passions and the types of technologies they are learning in their spare time.

They Rely on ‘Deep Web’ Searches

Be aware that some recruiters use tools or Chrome extensions (such as AmazingHiring or Hiretual) to obtain a complete digital picture of a prospect or candidate. So even if you select different usernames or try to hide a profile from public view, a recruiter may still be able to connect the dots. They’ll consider all of the information they discover online before deciding whether to reach out or submit your résumé to a hiring manager.

They Screen via Recruiter Chatbots

More and more recruiting firms are using AI chatbots to qualify, pre-screen and validate prospects. Rather than removing bias and discrimination from the hiring process, a screening algorithm could perpetuate it or screen you out for the wrong reasons.

If you’d prefer to take your chances with a human recruiter, you can bypass the chatbot by asking its birthday or a question it’s not programmed to respond to, Collier advised. Better still, go old school: Do some research to find the recruiter’s name and contact her directly.

They May Not Be Motivated to Get You the Highest Salary

As long as the offer falls within your stated salary range, a recruiter may not be motivated to negotiate or request a salary near the maximum the company is willing to pay for the position. After all, holding out for more money when both parties seem satisfied may put the put the kibosh on the deal.

To avoid leaving money on the table, make sure to ask about the range for the job before you get to the offer stage.

They’re Using More One-Way Video Interviews

Recruiters are increasingly using pre-recorded or one-way video interviews as a substitute for face-to-face meetings and phone screens, explained Sarah Brennan, CEO of Accelir Insights.

“This format gives recruiters the opportunity to ‘meet’ more candidates than they otherwise could,” she said. If an interviewee doesn’t get off to a good start, the reviewer will only watch for a few minutes and move on. With that in mind, give these types of interviews your best shot; it might be your only chance.

10 Responses to “Exploring the Secret Practices of Tech Recruiters”

  1. wageSlave

    Any article that discusses blacklists is a good article. Blacklists are a dirty little secret of most recruiting firms. It is kind of like having an erroneous black mark on you credit only you don’t get to know it is there and unlike a TRW you have no way to find out. It is a nasty by product of the proliferation of database driven robot resume search technology. You fart on an interview, the hiring manager mentions it to the recruiter, it gets sold to a hundred companies (also hidden), and you never get another placement. Black listed for life and starved to death. The equivalent to a chip in the wrist 999666 being turned off. Same results.

    Another fun little secrete practice that folks in the Los Angeles basin know all too well. Lazy manager/HR short cuts. I’ve had multiple people in the Dot Net community report that certain mangers walk them to car after an interview to tell them they were the best candidate but cannot be hired because they are currently unemployed. The thought behind this is that if the last employer wasn’t willing to keep them then there is something wrong with them. Cut the candidates on the list down through an arbitrary rule structure. You can ask the recruiters these particular employers tell them to exclude unemployed as a job requirement. No wonder they cannot find candidates.

    Thanks Leslie

    • “certain mangers walk them to car”

      They do this to gather additional information about you by looking at your car. They’ll often check for child seats etc to find out if you have children since they can’t ask you outright. If you go to an interview, remove anything and everything from your car that might give them personal information.

      ” The thought behind this is that if the last employer wasn’t willing to keep them then there is something wrong with them”

      Which clearly indicates they don’t understand how corporations work. Layoffs are often capricious or based on age and financial reasons. Older employees will be laid off so a company can keep cheaper employees. Qualifications have nothing to do with it.

      • wageSlave

        I think you are on to something. Hiring managers get a lot of information from the car you drive. A new car indicates stability. By stability I mean desperation and controllability. Car payments and high car insurance premiums indicates someone who has great need worthy of a lower offering wage if they are in a pinch. Child seats are about the same. A piece of junk car means you have been in the tech industry for a while. When you go to the dot net user groups the cars tell a story. The newer BMW and Mercedes convertibles are the head hunters. The older ones are the hiring managers.

        As for understanding how corporations work, I don’t think they care. It’s a lazy man’s way to cut the field down to two candidates and a management team that lazy needs to have only two candidates. For the mentally lazy making decisions is usually not a strong point.

  2. For an industry that claims to be short of people, this is self defeating. I honestly wonder why we need tech recruiters anymore as they cause more problems than they solve.

  3. Carlos Bott

    99% of Recruiters are Indian. A vast majority of hiring managers for the big IT firms are Indian. If you are East Asian, European or American or Middle Eastern, your CV usually ends up in the rubbish bin. One of the first questions they ask in the initial screening is citizenship. Answer US citizen and the interview is over.

    • Reginald B Alderman

      Let’s see your data on the 99% of recruiters are Indian.

      The article describes discrimination by recruiters on behave of hiring managers. “Cultural fit”. I’ve heard that quite a lot in my career . When asking what it really means, I never receive even a “corporate speak” non answer.

      Guess I black listed again.

  4. Thank you for bringing up the Indian recruiters. I do not discriminate against anyone, however, I get so frustrated when I’m looking for local jobs and get calls from people who’s names I cannot say, and a language I cannot understand. Even in email I will research where they are located and find they are overseas somewhere.
    I would like to know how they became so involved in the US, recruiting business and what they hope to accomplish. If one new job posts for a casino here, for a project manager, I will get 15 out country Indian recruiters calling me. Not one local recruiter.
    I find it all very interesting.

  5. I’ve been job searching off and on for two years. It is mind-boggling to me how I see soooo many job postings and articles reciting companies are having a tough time finding talent, but they totally ignore the antiquated, discriminatory, and impractical hiring practices. External recruiting firms are the absolute worst, but internal recruiters aren’t a breath of fresh air either. Each company utilizes a useless ATS that more than likely kicks out great talent because someone’s weighted score is too low. Some of the things I have been told that affects your score are mentioned above: laid off, currently employed, and year you graduated from college. I just had a recruiter ask me questions relating to those 3 topics, and she ended the conversation after I told her the year I obtained my degree.
    IF you get to talk to a recruiter (internal or external), 90% of them do not have the technical skills or aptitude to understand your skills which means they cannot effectively push your resume forward. Most of them also function as car salesmen and are ready to move on to the next “sale”. Then the interviewing process can be brutal. Are interviews with 6 different people over a period of two weeks really necessary for an analyst position? I had a friend who finally got a job offer, but then it was rescinded because someone else at the company looked at his resume and felt he was missing a secondary skill (this happened AFTER he went through the screening process, two separate interviews with three different people, and was given an offer with a start date).
    Moral to the story: The talent is out there. People have a ton of articles that tell them how to be a great candidate, how to update their resume, how to dress for the interview, how to answer tough questions, etc…. But all of that information is pretty much useless until the job hiring and talent acquisition process gets a makeover.

  6. One way video interviews are a great way to miss out on candidates that just aren’t comfortable in front of a camera, yet can communicate effectively person to person.