The Ups and Downs of Recruiters

Last night I saw a tweet fly by about a new book coming out that was all about the technical resume. I found it fitting since today I want to start promoting my first-ever class on the same thing. They mentioned it includes advice from 200+ recruiters and managers.

While I’m sure that book will be fantastic, I want to come back to the topic of recruiters for a minute.

It is virtually impossible to look for a job and not bump into careers. They put job positions out on every site, they get your name from referrals, and they call every few months to check-in.

Before I go further, when I mean recruiter, I mean one that works for a recruiting company whose purpose is to help companies find talent. Many larger companies have internal recruiters, and that is not who I’m referring to.

Unique Placements

Many companies exclusively work with recruiting agencies. That means the only way to get those positions is through a recruiter. So, a way to widen your search is to engage with a recruiter. They will begin to feed you offers that you may not have seen anywhere else.

When they do mention positions, you’ll have to ask questions, since they usually don’t know what they are recruiting you for, so they’ll ask until you say yes to something.

Employer Relationships

Recruiters maintain active relationships with their employers. That means they can often get an inside scoop on what is going on in the company far better than you can. They’ll know someone is on vacation, getting a promotion, behind on a project.

They can use this information to expedite the whole interviewing process as they know the people to lean on.

Those relationships mean they can also be a backchannel to get feedback on your resume or interview. That is invaluable when so often you hear nothing.


No other way around it, recruiters work fast. If you tell them you’re interested, they’ll have a packet on that company’s desk that same day sometimes. They’ll hound that company about getting that interview scheduled until they do.

For people without a recruiter, you may not hear anything for several weeks, but with a recruiter, you’ll hear back usually within a few days. That’s incredible.


Switching gears, most recruiters don’t have any background or education in development or technology. Over time they learn to match resumes and preferences to positions, but that’s about it.

You might think that surely they go through some limited training on the domain, but in my experience that isn’t the case. You can’t expect them to know what jobs are a good fit for you based on your skills.

Perilous Preparations

Recruiters love to give the same advice your parents do about getting a job. Show up in business attire with a notepad and pen fifteen minutes early. Have copies of your resume.

Most of this advice is harmless, but many tech companies don’t like the formal dress code and find it jarring. I’ve been told on numerous occasions that if I showed up wearing a suit, “It wouldn’t have gone well.” That was after a recruiter scowled at me as they escorted me in for not wearing a suit.

Let’s now talk about resumes.

Recruiting agencies will change your resume.

Read that again. They will change your resume. The most harmless version is taking your resume and put it in their standard format. Less harmless is removing years of experience. Less harmless than that is adding bullets to your experience and editing other ones.

I have seen each of these personally.

Now, here’s the funny thing. The employers don’t realize this is happening and most candidates don’t either because they never see their own resume after the recruiter sends it in. Something I’ve done for years is tracked mine down and compared it to my original. That is always surprising.

The bottom line is that recruiters offer a unique set of benefits in your job search, but there are strings attached. Know what they are before you engage in making sure you have the best chances possible.