In praise of recruiters

My current work situation is unusual.

I am doing engineering work, but often find myself at a desk sandwiched between two full-time recruiters.

I have many times been chased by recruiters to go work somewhere. And I have been the company using a recruiter to source engineers.

This is the first time I’ve gotten to see the world through the recruiter’s eyes.

When I was the client or the recruitee, the recruiter was a necessary evil.

Someone I didn’t feel I could avoid dealing with, but who nevertheless I resented.

They seemed like the power broker, the information filter, leaving me in the dark until they had assured themselves of the lion’s share of the winnings.

Now I know: It’s not like that.

Recruiting is hard work. It requires good telephone skills, good manners, and grace under pressure, whether they feel like it or not. 90% of the phone calls they make end in disappointment, because the employer doesn’t have any vacancies, or the candidate isn’t available.

And some clients, and some ENGINEERS . . . . Holy cow . . . . . some of you folks are just mean, obnoxious, nasty, selfish, obstinate, egotistical . . . . . If it was me, I’d hang up on you. Gosh, some of you people are horrible.

I’ve watched recruiters get up and leave the desk after an unpleasant conversation, just so that they don’t accidentally strangle the next person who calls.

The Recruiting Industry exists because companies have problems. They need solutions than come wrapped up in a human being. They don’t know anybody with that skill mixture, and none of their colleagues do either. The network isn’t big enough, and word of mouth isn’t fast enough.

So they need an agent. An agent is someone who acts, in this case to solve a human resource problem.

When you have any other need, be it food, housing, travel, whatever . . . you go find an agent. In the case of food, you go to a grocery store; in the case of housing, you go to a real estate agent, etc.

If the need is for sales, you hire an advertising agent, and you advertise.

We don’t resent the agent for her work. On the contrary, we are grateful. She has met demand with supply, so that everybody wins.

Why do we therefore resent recruiting agents?

I was successfully recruited to one engineering client several years ago. Some weeks afterwards, the business manager spoke scornfully about the recruiter, “What do they do that’s worthwhile? What do they really do to earn their money?”

They picked up the phone and called me, I thought to myself, And did what you couldn’t be bothered to do. If they’re such a waste of space, why did you hire them? You’re the manager.

The next time you field a call from a recruiter, and find yourself resenting their existence, ask yourself: Am I willing to solve this problem myself? Have I got the time to make a few hundred phone calls?


Show them some respect. And maybe a little gratitude. It will pay you dividends.

3 thoughts on “In praise of recruiters”

  1. Great observations. I’ve worked with some great recruiters both now and in the past. I’ve also tried working with some lousy ones: they didn’t get far. There are areas where the good ones add value in spades but they still end up resented. As did estate agents, until the bankers overtook them in the hate stakes.

    1. “Hate stakes.” LOL!

      Recruiting is like any profession: You will find good, bad, mediocre, a few very good, and a few very bad. The bad ones tarnish it for the rest, just like the few hyper-introverted geeks who’ve never heard of deodorant tarnish engineering.

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