Recruiters are a fact of life for today’s IT consultants and independent contractors, whether or not they use them regularly. It’s fair to say that nearly every competent professional in the IT field has received at least one call from a headhunter with an offer for a great gig.

Most of these recruiters can probably deliver on what they promise. But what about those rotten eggs who make their more deserving peers look bad?

Timothy Huckabee took aim at “rotten egg” recruiters in a recent opinion piece, “Be wary of headhunters when you join the contracting game.”He said recruiters aren’t adequately trained, and they don’t research the candidates in the position to ensure a good match.

Huckabee’s piece elicited a number of responses from TechRepublic members, who argued both for and against his case. Here’s what they said.

We’re not all bad
Several recruiters wrote to say that Huckabee’s views are one-sided and fail to acknowledge those recruiting firms that provide good services.

Andrew Greenberg, president and CEO of SPIREknowledge and NYCTemps —both recruitment firms for IT pros—said his agencies are run by people who have themselves been consultants. “We view everything from the perspective of the client and the consultant, always,” he noted.

Greenberg said reputable firms like his will return every phone call, answer every e-mail, and follow precisely the instructions given by a candidate as to when and how to contact them. Furthermore, they won’t enter an individual’s resume into the company database without first obtaining that consultant’s permission.

Janos Gaspar, director of contracting for Transquest Ventures—a technical staffing and talent agency—agrees that recruiters are often portrayed in an unfairly negative way. Successful recruiters fully understand the technical nature of the jobs they’re hiring for, he noted.

“Our recruiters know the difference between a T-1 and a 56K line, and they read and qualify resumes thoroughly. They are not in the business of wasting their time or their client’s time,” Gaspar said.

At Transquest Ventures, Gaspar added, all calls placed to contractors are for a specific position, for which they qualify based on their resume. Calls are then used to determine in detail the strengths of the contractor and how those fit with the job requirements.

“It doesn’t serve us well to just slam candidates into positions without keeping in touch with them,” Gaspar said. “The client doesn’t want to see a bunch of non-quality candidates, and the contractors won’t work with recruiters who don’t take care of them and communicate.”

Still, some fail the test
While a dozen or so IT recruiters responded with indignation to Huckabee’s comments, even more working tech pros echoed his statements.

Jay noted that as a candidate, he hasn’t been given due respect by recruiters or potential employers for taking the pains to go through several grueling interviews. He also noted that on several occasions, recruiters have made changes to his resume without his permission, falsely representing him to employers. “This is not a trading scenario like the NHL or the NBA,” Jay wrote. “The headhunters have to realize that they are playing with the potential careers of people.”

Robert E. Johnson agreed that dealing with recruiters can be a hassle. In the Silicon Valley where he lives, he has had to weed out the ineffectual recruiters. “Otherwise, you will spend most of your time talking on the phone, sending resumes out into the great vacuum, and waiting for interviews which never come,” he warned.

Dave Howe offered a solution to the endless barrage of calls from headhunters. Like the large directories recruiters use, he proposes a contractors’ directory with information on employment agencies, which would list the staff at each agency and note “which are most likely to have the technical skills, professionalism, and honesty to be worth talking to.”

It takes cooperation
Others expressed the belief that both recruiters and candidates are to blame for the sour relationship that often develops. Brian A. Fraize said IT pros fail to shop around for a reputable recruiter. “Many of the good ones make an active effort to post the positions they need to fill and keep their potential talent pool informed,” he wrote. “By developing your own relationship with a recruiter, they get to know you, your needs, and your skill set. They will know when the position is right for you and won’t waste their time arranging interviews for positions they know you clearly won’t want.

“Don’t just throw your resume out there and let the recruiters come to you,” he continued. “Interview the recruiters as if you’re going to hire them.”

J. Harcourt, a technical recruiter, noted that much of the criticism that consultants and contractors dole out should actually be pointing back at them. “Not all contractors behave professionally,” he said. “The same negative comments raised about recruiters can be said for many of the independent contractors I’ve encountered over the years.

“The reality is,” he continued, “in this business, personal relationships and business contacts are the key to success. Both recruiters and contractors should recognize the value each of them has in their contacts, and be respectful of the confidentiality associated with each. At the same time, trust before it is earned is important. I caution people who lump everyone into a category based on their position. It’s not a way to success and certainly isn’t fair.”
Are recruiters uninformed and oblivious to the needs of IT pros? Or do the actions of a few tarnish the reputations of the rest? To share your thoughts, post a comment below or send us a note.