Tech Recruiting Is Totally Broken: Fish Are Taking Your Jobs!

Here is a bold proclamation and a completely new concept nobody has thought of before: tech recruiting can suck. There, I said it.

Curious to see just how bad it can get, one developer created a fake LinkedIn profile to see if anyone would reach out and offer this… account… a job. It worked; a recruiter pinged them via LinkedIn to say they wanted to talk about a gig.

The job (iOS Developer) was local to the user, and fit their listed experience. The recruiter offered a starting salary of about $72,000 (£55,000) and $20,000 in stock (£15,000).

Not bad, except the LinkedIn account belonged to a Sea Bream.

I was curious to see if a nonsense LinkedIn account would also receive job offers. It does! 😀— Alejandro Ramirez (@j4n0) May 6, 2019

The picture? A fish. The description? It lives under the water. Location? Inside of a pineapple.

Tech recruiting thirst is real. We’re sure this recruiter query was totally (or mostly) automated. As one respondent to the above tweet cleverly pointed out, recruiters cast a wide net (pun!). Even if the pitch was reviewed by a human, it’s unlikely they really recognized the fish as a viable candidate; chances are good they just focused on skills such as “iOS.”

(It’s also entirely possible this is fake, but it’s still believable a recruiter would pitch a job to a fish, and that’s the real issue.)

You might be wondering: “Are Sea Breams smart enough to code?” The answer is no, they cannot code, and are not bright sea creatures. An Octopus? Maybe. They pick World Cup winners. Eels? They probably use snake-case, and iOS code is best with camel-case styling.

Sea Bream is great with white beans and artichokes, but not Xcode. Better luck next time, recruiters. There are – wait for it – plenty of fish in the sea.

12 Responses to “Tech Recruiting Is Totally Broken: Fish Are Taking Your Jobs!”

  1. James Igoe

    Honestly, so what. Are you expecting recruiters actually read resumes? If you’ve been in the industry for a bit, you know that they have systems that scour sites looking for candidates that fit requirements. Is this any different than any kind of automation or AI/ML implementation? The process looks at the data, processes it, and provides results. This would only be news if we somehow imagined the keywords and on online presence no longer mattered, or that much of the recruitment process was not being handled by people overseas. Sure, it’s of greater value when you get a phone call from a real person, from the US, who actually has reviewed your profile, but the recruiting industry is little different than the spam that technology has wrought; they simply reflect what many of us do, automate processes…

    Now that you’ve declared it’s broken, how do you imagine to fix it? Would you expect the industry to become a bunch of Luddites, individually scouring profiles, or would they simply increase the automation and have it evaluate your picture for signs of life, or more realistically, conscientiousness, attractiveness, and likeability?

  2. wageSlave

    I am the Lizard King of fake resumes. I have been using them for decades to gage the effects of data driven labor market dynamics. My conclusion? The data driven model has enveloped and destroyed the price driven model. Price theory no longer applies. In price theory, a natural market will gravitate to an equilibrium price balancing supply and demand. Shortages in supply are elevated over time by the incentive of a high price and excessive supply are elevated over time by the disincentive of lower prices. A data driven model, burdened with huge entry and exit costs, is a place where price can be controlled to the down side. In simple terms, it creates shortages and creates impactions that can lasts for very long periods. Maybe even perpetuity for the low skilled.

    One would think that reducing wages is a good thing for domestic employers competing in the New World Order, but the shortages that a price control mechanism creates are a big problem. As a result, of the disincentives in the labor market, the United States will lose its technology superiority if it goes on long enough. This truly is a national security problem on steroids. Since the beginning, technology has always advanced faster than our ability to regulate the results. Data driven labor markets are no exception.

    James, you want to know how to fix it. Regulations come with their own set of problems. Unfortunately, regulations rely heavily on the judgement of bureaucrats and the corrupting effects of entrenched business interests. When you have the best government that money can buy the option becomes a quagmire. Some level of regulation will be necessary, but it must be in addition to market changes on the supply side. Labor is going to have to just say NO to the current system and a certain amount of that is currently occurring. In my humble opinion, a labor market has to have balance. Our current market favors the employer and the employment business models. The entry and exit costs currently favor one side. The employment business models need to change.

    There needs to be real talent agents with legally mandated fiduciary duties pushing the entry and exit costs back at the employer funded by half the current commissions received by a recruiter. Talent signs up with a talent agent lets them deal with entry and exit costs balancing the equation again and creating a new equilibrium in a data driven environment. Alternatively, we could go back to a price equilibrium model without data mining recruiters and resume mills? Or, eventually heavy regulation by bureaucrats? At some point, something is going to be done. We cannot continue like this forever. All labor depressions must come to an end eventually.

    • James Igoe

      My question about fixing it was purely rhetorical. I certainly do not think that recruiters chasing down potential hires need regulation. Now, if this was a conversation about human welfare and a better workplace environment for everyone, then yes, I would include regulation…

      • wageSlave

        One of the things regulation can do well is even a playing field. In California, all the real estate agents have to represent one client or the other. Buyer or seller giving some level of pretention to both. Just for fun have Dice look at all the job listing putting them in two categories, recruiting firms (including their resume mills) and employer direct hires. If recruiters have more the half the market tied up than that is a problem. I have not done it in a while, but in the past recruiting firms and resume mills have consistently represented more than eighty percent of the job listings. For the most part leaving Government jobs and their prime contractors. That is too much of a market share. In technology, it is near impossible to find work without a recruiter involved.

        The employer writes the commission check so the recruiter in theory represents the employer, but who is really paying for the service? The employee is. The employer is willing to pay X amount of dollars for a hire. Subtract the commission and that is going to be the new salary. Therefore, the employee is paying the commission with a lower salary. Shouldn’t they be represented in the transaction too? They are paying for it with a lower salary.

        The problem is that the current arrangement is causing negative pressure on wages in general. Adjusted for inflation wages have been stagnant for decades. Why? Because prices are not floating at equilibrium causing shortages in some sectors. Think of it this way. Costs of living have been going up steadily at a relatively low rate. This would naturally cause upward pressure on wages as need increases. We are not seeing that movement in wage price. We have not seen it for decades. This problem is causing government to raise minimum wage at a radical rate to protect consumer spending, control welfare rolls, and protect its tax base. With the exodus of its manufacturing base, the US is reliant on a consumer economy neglected by a supply side view of the economy.

        It is not as simple as recruiters chasing commissions. For the under employed/unemployed and the rest of us it is a matter of economic survival. I think that is a human welfare problem.

        • Paul Smith

          The balance for recruiting has shifted many times, currently the value of having a recruiting firm sift through the mountains of applications is the better value. With the online application venue and unemployment criteria that one must apply for 5 jobs a week, this causes a huge influx of resumes and applications for open jobs. Many applicants are not qualified for the position, they simply apply to satisfy the quota. Some apply to every open job near them to see who calls back. Recruiters have to field these onslaughts and manage to find the qualified from the bunch. Employers don’t have time to manage through that many applicants and HR personnel usually have too many jobs open to know who really qualifies based on resume. It boils down to cost-effectiveness of hiring an outside agency to manage this and send the qualified few to HR to further the hiring process. The idea with the fish and other false online characters is that they won’t reply to the job invite. That means only those that are actively looking and feel they qualify will reply and that greatly narrows the list. Then the “live action” recruitment process begins. Salaries are based on what the recruiter and hiring manager can agree upon, which is usually lower than the market suggests. Funny thing, the hiring manager wants a very large assessment of qualities and years of experience, but is only willing to offer a base salary of less than ideal wages for what they seek. That puts the recruiter at a disadvantage of trying to get top talent with lower salary caps or recruiting under-qualified to hit the wage. That is where the process is needing improvement.

          • wageSlave

            What you are describing is the downward pressure that recruiters put on the labor market price with their existence in the market. The recruiters are providing too much value to employers at too little a cost. The problem is that employers do not pay anything if the recruiter fails to find candidates. In economic terms, the fishing is free. When the fishing is free, the employers fish constantly and over fish. The employer’s bottom feeding behavior becomes a weight thrown to drowning sailors forcing prices to the bottom. Especially, in a climate of instability. Which describes the downward facing spiral of a labor depression. It is a loose loose for labor.

            This becomes a sales pitch for recruiters, which gobbles up the market as all employers stop using the market. Over 80% is too much. Non-participating employers are approached with the promise of a lower wage and a lower wage in the future. For example, an employer offering a position for $125k. They can be lured by the promise of a $100k salary if they give the recruiter $25k. After a year, the cost is amortized and the cost of that employee falls from $125K to $100k. A reduction $25k the commission.

            Employers stop using price as an incentive if their needs are being filled at a lower price and free fishing with a 25K reduction in a year accomplishes this. The pricing mechanism is replaced with an anvil tossed to drowning sailors.

  3. Jeromy Stewart

    No BS I have been programming since age 9 for 36 years, the market is a huge meme, people can lie on their resume and it’s totally legal, sometimes I reach out to thousands of companies to find an actual position, what’s worse is that some of these positions are just ongoing test runs in the market to see what’s out there. I worked internally for a tech temp agency as a technical interviewer and rarely if ever did these prospective candidates with seemingly superior credentials even answer basic fundamental software engineering questions correctly. One guy said he was influential in creating the original SQL standard and didn’t know what a unique constraint was. The industry frankly is a giant troll. Don’t get me started on the million trashy temp agencies sending out 50 spam messages to me per week based on automated keyword matching software. They don’t read your resume or qualify you they just send the email and hope you are naive enough to buy in. This is really a huge problem I think.

  4. wageSlave

    In 2009, I was going to defense industry trade fair to gage that market. I found a defense contractor who I thought was posting legitimate jobs but at the same time was not responding to the exact matches I was sending them. Right there on the table was a print out of one of the positions. I pointed out that I applied online for the position and never received a response back other than the electronic canned response sent by the computer processing the resume. The woman, obviously worried about being overheard ushered me out the door for a cigarette and very candid conversation. She told me that the company runs hundreds of fake listing each year. Over and over. Again and again. Year after year. She told me that the cost was so minimal that the company simply was collecting resumes and if a position opened, they would go to the electronic stack and start interviewing. Fake job listing stream lined their hiring process at very little costs. She honestly felt bad about wasting the time of job seekers in need and distorting the view of the labor market. She was quite apologetic. Sure enough, I got a hit on one of the resumes five years later from the same electronic processing system that produced the thank you letters.
    In 2009, in the grips of the great recession, I was posting 100 resumes a month. I copied and pasted each job listing and rearranged the verbiage to flow a little better. I was customizing each to be an exact match to the listing that I was applying for. I was getting less the one percent legitimate job listings in 2009. All the activity that I was seeing was data miners and there resume mills. Some parts of the labor market simply disappeared, but you couldn’t tell do to all the noise. That is a lot of noise and economic costs pushed onto the job seeker. There were hundreds of thousands of job seekers just wasting their resources (time, money, effort) with no return. The headlines were that the technology sector was doing great in spite of the recession. If you looked at all the job listings going unfilled, it was a reasonable conclusion. Very wrong, but a reasonable assumption without the research. Fake job listing are a real labor market problem and just one of a long list of labor market problems. In my opinion, it should be illegal to collect resume data under false pretense subject to a very substantial fine.

    • Paul Smith

      That is a current issue and the best counter for the recruit is to call the agency and speak to a recruiter about the position. I have left many messages with different agencies and quickly realized they were not actually hiring for that position. But, like real estate, they post pictures and details of homes that have already been sold, to get the phone ringing with potential buyers. Wrong? Yes, but usually effective. Car lots do it as well. “That car has been sold, but we have many similar, stop by and see us.” Calling is the best ‘next step’ for the job seeker.

      • wageSlave

        You are spot on. I’ve experienced this exact behavior many times. Bait and switch is a nasty tactic that adds cost to the transaction. Almost all the major recruiting firms are doing it. There is way too much noise in the labor market.

        Lockheed Martin was having a problem with data miners using their web site as a source of unauthorized listings. The data miners simply went to the site cut and pasted them on to sites like dice and boom they were in business. They collected the resume data, sold it, and did not bother to forward the resumes to Lockheed. Lockheed was not the only source. The problem was huge.

        Arrow space engineers with clearances are a very small tight net group. Some of them had inside tracks and no response to their submissions. When they followed up Lockheed’s lawyers got involved with cease and desist orders. Most of the employers were unaware or not interested. Certainty, not to the level of using lawyers. Apparently, prime government contractors become very aggressive when they find someone they want and third parties interfere.

  5. people’ experience now a days: resume on net… only getting calls/emails from offshore vendors…. for Indian based multinational companies for onsite work at client sites. Usually it will be filled by H1B holders, file h1b..then RFE.. petition approved. or EAD’s(with no exp).

  6. James Green

    Here, here, the recruiting industry is inundated these days with 3rd party recruiters from India that never actually bother to vet resumes properly for location or experience content in contrast to the job description. They low ball salary rates for highly seasoned tech vets. Reason, they get a referral fee from the implementation partner if you get hired. I also suspect they get a bonus if you sign on for the wage they offer upfront.
    I get no less than 12 calls/emails a day from these bottom feeders. They ruin the reputitive state of the recruiting industry, waste peoples time, can barely speak english, and are 99% located outside of the US. They are nothing more than blindfolded monkeys throwing darts hoping they will get a bullseye for a banana.
    Solution? US based recruiters, step up and do your jobs instead of farming it out to these dufuses. Bring back the personal contact to your candidates. We dont want to talk to your lackeys anymore and endure the untimely phone calls, unsolicited texts, and totally off target emails.