The tech recruitment industry has a reputation for having little technical knowledge and misunderstanding candidates profiles and role requirements.  In this week’s blog, Rose discusses why this happens and tells it straight from the recruitment side. #AskRose

Why don’t recruitment consultants know anything about technology?

This was literally the first thing someone said to me at a Python meet-up last week, once I was unveiled as a consultant. “But WHY don’t recruiters know the difference between Java and JavaScript?” Then in a techie slack channel the next day, I was asked the same question again so I guess it is time to try to answer it.

Personally, I feel that industry knowledge is absolutely vital. I can’t recruit for a role unless I can visualise what the person in that role does day to day. I mean that literally – unless I know what actions that person carries out, I generally will fail to find someone suitable. Do they write code at a computer? Do they crawl under a desk with cables? Do they go to lots of meetings and organise things?

I was very clearly reminded of this last week when I started working on a Verification Engineer role for a medical device manufacturing plant. Science and Engineering roles are not something I have a lot of experience with, so it took a lot of reading online, a few completely misplaced messages to people on LinkedIn, and a very helpful conversation with a friend of mine who works in Pharma for me to figure out what was going on with it.

The experience for most of you though, when you contact a recruiter is that the person you’re speaking to doesn’t really understand you

(I’m going to start carrying a small sign that says #NotAllRecruiters, by the way. There are plenty of us with technical knowledge to burn!)

Here are a few reasons why your consultant is light on knowledge:

1) Recruitment is a skill by itself and generally, recruitment companies don’t hire for industry knowledge, they hire for that set of skills.

Being able to work as a member of a team and generally be a nice person to be around is hugely important for a software developer. However, it’s not the core set of skills and usually, devs are hired for their ability to code first and their ability to have the bants second.

Similarly, consultants are hired for their ability to recruit and their knowledge of technology second.

To be a consultant, you need be indomitable – we get told “No!” a dozen or more times a day, competition for candidates and placements is fierce and comes from everywhere, and the hours are often long. It is often a very sales and marketing skillset in that the same “toolkit” that those sectors use are helpful for recruiters.

A good memory is key so you can remember candidates, clients, roles, companies, basically everyone you have ever met. You never know when a new role will drop on your desk and that CV you read for 3 minutes about 6 months ago will be handy.

Basically, an in-depth knowledge of programming languages and all their friends isn’t usually high on the list for recruitment companies when they are recruiting consultants.

2) There’s a lot to know!

In larger companies, consultants specialise in one area or another but many other consultants recruit across the industry. You might be a Front-end Dev with expert knowledge of those technologies but I need to have knowledge of all areas – Embedded, Front-end, Infrastructure, DevOps..

Every recruitment consultant is going to have an area they’re particularly strong on and other areas they’re weaker on so perhaps you’ll have caught yours in a blank spot. Particularly if it’s a role that person doesn’t recruit too often, it’s easy to let your knowledge lapse a bit! It is a continuous learning process with the pace of change in the industry and with technologies.

3) The job description is terrible

For some roles, the spec just isn’t up to scratch. I mean, I get it – hiring managers are up to their eyes and now there’s a HR person after them to write a spec so they just jot a few lines down or rewrite whatever the last one was. Sometimes, they’re too busy to answer questions from us too. That can leave us in a tough spot.

I’ve gotten roles in with about two lines of description. I’ve had jobs called in over the phone where the client didn’t seem to know they wanted. Clients have called and asked for “a Java Developer”. (What level? Front-end/back-end? J2EE or Java 8?!)

You, the candidate, know what the job is. You have a super clear idea of what the job will be like because you work in the industry, so you know what part the various technologies play and can mentally fill in the gaps in the spec.

It’s much harder for consultants who, most likely, have never physically done the job. The more experience a consultant gains in the industry, the better we become at filling in those gaps but it’s never going to be perfect. It’ll be guesswork at best!

If you are interested in reading more about this check out my previous blog post on Sending Unsuitable roles.

4) The recruiter doesn’t need to know the technologies and doesn’t care to find out.

I mean, this is going to be the main reason a lot of the time. It’s not a nice reason and it’s why I’m so embarrassed to be asked this question when I’m out and about.

It’s completely possible to earn a lot of money in the recruitment industry and have a very good career without ever learning more than the absolute basics.

Recruitment can be a numbers game and if you send out 300 messages, with a 2% positive return rate – that’s still 6 CV’s to send to your client. It’s a terrible way to do business and I feel that it’s inefficient but you’ll make money. For some, it’s much easier than sitting down to learn lots of things that you’re not interested in learning!

I just feel uncomfortable to be contacting people when I have no idea what I’m talking about so I endeavour to know as much as I can. I mean, it helps that I’m a huge nerd. I love technology for its own sake. I learned a bit of code before ever becoming a recruiter and I like to know how things work so I read technical websites to find out the why of things. I have an advantage there – this stuff is my hobby. I do accept though that there are others who know very little and have no desire to learn more and it is against these that I am constantly battling to show it is not all recruiters.

 

However! Things are changing. Since I entered the industry 4 years ago, technical candidates have become more discriminating. It’s harder and harder to attract good candidates and to get them to talk to me. New platforms are coming out that allow people to find jobs without recruitment consultants (the horror!).

I don’t think that getting by on keyword searches is going to work for many more years. At Verify, training Junior Consultants in technical knowledge and terminology is as important as training in LinkedIn searching and soft skills. AI technology is improving every year and if consultants don’t differentiate themselves from a Python script, we’re going to be replaced!

 

Rose Farrell is a recruitment consultant with at least twice as much skill as a Python script.

For Dublin tech jobs contact [email protected] or #AskRose

She will be answering questions weekly, so if you have any career or recruitment questions for Rose to answer next week, comment on our page on LinkedIn, tweet @VerifyCommunity with #AskRose or send them over to [email protected]

Read her other articles giving insight into the recruitment process at http://www.verifyrecruitment.com/blog/