What I Learned From Nearly a Year of Working With Recruiters and What I Did About It

I’m no longer involved with June and don’t encourage people to join the platform for a number of reasons (which I may write about later). I’m leaving this post here for historical reasons.

I’m a long time software engineer. I’ve spent most of my career hating most recruiters. In early 2015, through a minor twist of fate, I became involved with a group of recruiters who were trying to make the recruiting process better for everyone. This is a story about the lessons I learned and how we’re trying to make it better for everyone involved.

My initial view of recruiters was pretty poor. I felt they were keyword searching email blasters who didn’t even bother to open (much less read) your resume. I’ve worked in several industries and done everything from embedded software in C to JavaScript frontends. My resume is a veritable smorgasbord of keywords. Years of 3–7 low quality contacts a week did a pretty good job of cementing this viewpoint. Not every recruiter was bad of course, but the good ones were the rare exceptions, not the rule.

Early this year, through a group on entrepreneurship, I met Lane Campbell. Lane was a recruiter and entrepreneur who stood out. He was as frustrated with recruiting as I was. He began to explain to me how recruiting works from the inside and I came to understand why my impression of recruiters was a result of the unfortunate dynamics of the “death race of the man in the middle”.

Recruiting is a race

Recruiting is a race with only 1 winner. To borrow a (slightly modified) line from Glengarry Glen Ross:

“Second prize is you’re fired.”

If a recruiter spends 3 weeks looking for a candidate, and another recruiter finds a “good enough” fit first, they just lost 3 weeks of effort. This includes not only their time, but the time of their staff, the cost of their office, the cost of getting access to candidate databases like LinkedIn, etc. By some estimates, this can average around $5,000 per role that they attempt to fill. As if losing $5,000 wasn’t bad enough, they may ultimately lose the client for failing to produce.

No one wants to talk to recruiters

The recruiter’s client (or in the case of internal recruiters, the boss) is pushing them hard to find the perfect match. Unfortunately only 5% (if they’re lucky) of the people they reach out to ever return their email or call.

The candidates recruiters provide to their clients aren’t the best candidates they can find, they’re the best candidates they can connect with.

Of those that do contact you back, some will only do so to pour derision on you. Imagine fishing with a net where the holes are bigger than the fish you’re trying to catch. You need a massive net just to accidentally catch something.

Recruiters get paid on what YOU make

A recruiter will get paid between 20% and 30% of your first year’s salary for making a permanent placement (things are a little different for contractors, it’s still a portion of your rate but it’s not as clear cut). On a $100,000/year a recruiter will, on average, make $25,000. Not a bad haul for a month or so of work, until you consider that a number of other companies are also after that $25,000 and only one of you is getting paid anything while all of you are spending money.

Imagine for a moment as a developer that you work for a month on a project, only to find out that you won’t be getting paid at all.

Imagine for a moment as a developer that you work for a month on a project, spending not just your time, but also your money (perhaps buying an IDE licence you needed), only to find out that you won’t be getting paid because another developer got a solution in just ahead of you. You’d be pretty motivated to shift things around for pure speed. Out goes anything that doesn’t directly feed into completion (usually the first to go is quality control). That’s where recruiters are today.

Changing the script

What if we could motivate ideal candidates to return calls. This would result in higher quality candidates for the client, fewer low quality contacts for us as software engineers, and a better experience for the recruiter.

Would you call me back for $100?

Compensating people for their attention or patronage is a time honored means of getting that attention or patronage. Maybe we hand out the best swag from our booth at a tradeshow to get people to stop by so we can have a conversation. Maybe a store uses a coupon to get people to come to a local pizza shop instead of Pizza Hut. We started June based on a very similar concept.

If a recruiter can have 10 conversations with candidates that are a very good match for an average of $100 each on a $100,000 role, they can submit far higher quality candidates than their competitors. The end result is that they stand a much better chance of winning the “recruiting race” and taking home the prize. On a $1,000 investment (and a far shorter turn around) they stand to make an average of $25,000, keeping their company open, helping a candidate get a job they’re ideally suited for, and garnering a reputation with the client as a performer.

The additional benefit to candidates is that there’s a lot less noise. If it’s free to bother you, lots of people will. If you have any doubt, check your spam folder. If you attach a cost to bothering you, no matter how small, the number of people who will bother you with useless messaging will drop dramatically. Compare the spam in your inbox to the spam in your physical mailbox. Inbox spam (for all practical purposes) is free, while there is a real cost to sending you physical mail.

We’re looking for people to join this journey

The reception to this idea amongst recruiters has been phenomenal, from both small shops with 2 recruiters to large companies like Amazon, everyone we’ve spoken to has wanted to do it. We’re being pretty selective about what recruiters we allow into the system initially to ensure the quality of the contacts that our candidates get.

Currently, we’re opening the system to candidates. We’re looking for people with the following characteristics:

  • You have 5+ years of experience
  • You’re in a technology field (Engineer, UI/UX expert, etc)
  • You’re open to changing jobs if the ideal opportunity presents itself and there’s a number (say $100) for which you’ll take a call to discuss opportunities.

How it works

If you’re interested in joining us in this experiment, here’s how it works

  • Sign up for a June account at https://joinjune.com
  • Add your resume or import your data from LinkedIn
  • Activate search on your account

Recruiters will be allowed in the system sometime in October if things keep going at the current rate. If you’re a great fit for a position one of our curated recruiters has, and your rate for a call is what they’re willing to pay, you’ll get a contact from them.

  • No recruiter ever gets any of your contact info, and they only ever see your first name (though they do see your resume).
  • You get a detailed description of what the recruiter wants to chat about, how long they anticipate the call will last (usually 12–17 minutes).
  • If you decide you’re interested in a chat, you schedule a call through our conference system. The call is recorded to prevent fraud (candidates misrepresenting their skills, or recruiters misrepresenting the call to get a refund).
  • You may choose to share your contact info at any time, there’s no requirement for you to do so.
  • You get paid whether or not you pursue the opportunity any further.
  • Recruiters do get to see how many calls you’ve taken in the last 90 days…if they see you’ve taken a bunch, they’re less likely to reach out to you. This prevents candidates with highly in demand skills from gaming the system.
  • You will have an opportunity to rate the recruiters you speak to, ensuring that bad ones naturally get weeded out while good ones rise.

If you’re interested in joining us in this experiment to see if we can make recruiting a win for everyone involved please visit https://joinjune.com.

About Me

I’m a polyglot developer deeply interested in high performance, scalability, software architecture and generally solving hard problems. You can follow me on Medium where I blog about software engineering, follow me on Twitter where I occasionally say interesting things, or check out my contributions to the FOSS community on GitHub.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate a recommend (just click the heart below).

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking


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