Wednesday, Apr 25 2012

An Open Letter to IT Consultants

Written by

Dear Consultants,

We all work for money. You do and I do. Just as they sing in Cabaret, “Money makes the world go around.” This is not to say that is all we work for, but when it comes down to basics, we all need a little cash to make life easier.

Often enough, a technical recruiter will call a talented, skilled professional and come to find the person on the other end of the phone is not so amenable. Yes, a recruiter does make money from filling a position, but so do you – you get a salary, and the recruiter makes theirs. But recruiters are not looking to make a quick buck by filling position fast and making the highest margin off of you, recruiters work to find the right fit between the consultant, the recruiting company, and the end client. Recruiters are the liaison between you and the client company; we are both your agent and your cheerleading squad, here to support you.

Recruiter, sourcer, middleman, matchmaker, puzzle master, treasure hunter – we are all of these. We scour the job boards, dive into the depths of databases, and wait for approval on LinkedIn Groups just so we can find a few people who may have a minute to speak on the phone (and maybe read that email we send too). We spend a vast majority of our day searching out people, sending emails that go to junk mail or bounce, and leaving voicemails that will never get returned. When we do get you on the phone, we know your time is valuable and we only have a moment to gauge your interest and tell you about the opportunity. Recruiting is a job full of rejection and so when a recruiter finally gets you on the phone for more than a few minutes, we are hopeful that you will be that perfect fit. But we do not want to waste your time or our time. And the client companies that use recruiters do so because they do not want to waste their time either.

Those client companies alleviate their hiring time in a few ways. If they are still small enough, HR or the hiring manager can directly handle the influx of applicants, but Ed Struzik of IBM says the percentage of large companies using applicant tracking systems is “in the ‘high 90%’ range” (Wall Street Journal). The way around this is for a client to use a company like Armada to do the search and response, instead of keyword-searching automated systems that intake thousands of applications for a single opening.  When you are submitted to a position by a recruiter, it’s a smaller candidate pool and if you are working with the right recruiter they will have direct access to the manager making the hiring decision.

We read your resume at a glance (Business Insider Careers), based upon keywords or desired job titles. If your resume has enough highlighted words, or something else catches our eye that fits the role (or personality of the hiring manager and team), you have made it past the 6 second yay-or-nay! Sometimes it’s another 30 seconds or a minute, but we have to make a decision fast. We call, fingers-crossed, that you will be that shining star who will fit the client’s team and fix all their problems. It is a high hope and rarely filled but you one of the best judges of that.

Now, I did not say you are the best judge of your fit for any given role, just one of them. Initially, it is a two-way decision. A recruiter may see technologies or project descriptions that relate to the open role, but that does not mean you are the best fit. You may be interested because of the project details or the client name, but that does not mean you are the best fit. It comes down to honesty.

You have to be honest with the recruiter. If you do not have the experience the client needs, or cannot answer a question asked, be honest with us. If you do not feel this is the best opportunity, you have something better in the works, you have a long vacation planned, or you highly value working from home, let us know – we can only cheerlead for you if we know why we should. Give us your drivers, your wants and needs. Hopefully they line up with the opportunity at hand.

But this honesty goes both ways. If the recruiter does not think you are a good fit, for whatever reason, we are going to phrase it as nicely as possible. Even though you have the theoretical skills that can transfer between roles, it may be a personality or environment fit that we know is not going to work out. Every job description is targeting the perfect person, but if you can meet 75% of the skill needs, 20% is flexible. The other 5% is the toughest discussion, and the weightiest component of the consultant-recruiter relationship: rate.

Client companies want high skill for the lowest price, and consultants want the highest pay for the level of skill but both are not possible. One of the many fits recruiters have to find is rate. Hourly, salaried, W2, 1099, corp to corp — that is just the logistical aspect that changes with each role. You have a number, the recruiter has a number, and the client company has a number and often one or more will not align. Asking the recruiter to give you the highest amount possible is never a good way to start of the conversation and it doesn’t server our client or us to tell you. If asked what you are currently making, or most recently made, it is not to push you down from there but to gauge your salary history, the market value of your skills, your needs, and your expectations of where you want to go. No recruiter wants to cut your pay so much you can no longer afford your mortgage but you are not going to get a salary increase with each role you take.

Every role has a different budget that the recruiter must work within. Just as we help eliminate the automated resume reading programs, we also help gauge the market for the hiring manager. Your bottom line may be the reason the role is not a fit but that is not to say another one in the future is not either. If the recruiter knows your bottom line, we can call you when we know your mortgage will get paid and you might be interested in the opportunity.

With that being said, the best advice I ever received was from a Chicago-based headhunter with over 25 years in the industry. He said, “Apply and forget it.”  We want you to get the role but you are not the only person we are working with and the role is not the only opening we have. By not pinning your hopes to any one role, you lighten your stress load. Let the recruiter get back to you when the hiring manager finally makes a decision; if you do not here from us, it probably is not positive feedback.

I may have been talking over the phone with the headhunter, but I know he probably winked at the same time, while flashing the salesmen grin, as if to say “We’ll call you.”

Best wishes,


Contributor: Emily, Technical Recruiter at The Armada Group