A few weeks ago I received a nice email from a 20-something Long Island native who is now a college junior in the midwest, and he was interested in learning more about technical recruiting as a possible career choice. I've been recruiting for almost 20 years, and this is a rare occasion.
I had to explain to him that one doesnt get to choose to become a recruiter. Recruiting chooses you. Or more accurately, when it's unclear how you can feed yourself holding a liberal arts degree and a 2.3 GPA, you may end becoming a recruiter.
Recruiting (on the agency side) might be a target industry for shall we say "higher achievers" if they knew about some of the perks of the job. One can make a good living, work and live almost anywhere where you can get a phone signal and an internet connection, and enjoy quite a bit of flexibility.
The downsides? There are a couple. If I had to pick one, I guess the worst one is that at least 75% of the technology industry will absolutely loathe you and think you should be put to death just for the simple fact that you are in the recruiting industry, regardless of whether you are one of the good ones or not. They don't tell you this in the job interview.
I've done a lot over the years to try and stand out from the others in my field.
I've behaved well, which is the most important thing, and I give away lots of free information for job seekers looking for insight on unusual situations or just the scoop on companies and markets. Thousands of people reach out to me for a quick tip, and I always try to respond if I can.
I've written over 100 articles across several sites about hiring, interviewing, resumes, etc, including many pieces that exposed recruiting tactics and how to avoid being burnt by recruiters. Remember that TV show a few years back with that magician that exposed how illusions were really done, and he had to wear a mask for fear of being murdered? It's not quite that, at least yet.
I published an inexpensive ebook (just cracked the top 200,000 on Amazon — my mother would be proud — get it for $2.99 while supplies lasts!) that gives step-by-step details on how to get a job, and also shares tips on handling recruiters.
I ran a large Java Users' Group for 15 years, giving away countless books, conference passes, and several tons of pizza. I've got pictures on my company website of me with tech luminaries (though if I'd known I'd be publishing those pics, I'd probably have learned a second camera pose and worn a better assortment of shirts).
I openly advocate for lower recruiting fees - which I think will contribute to better recruiting behavior - on my recruiting company's website. On the front page.
I participate on other popular tech sites like Hacker News and moderate a Reddit group (/r/cscareerquestions) dedicated to helping answer questions about tech careers.
I'm not quite the Mother Teresa of recruiting, but I'm trying.
And even after all that, people are generally inclined to think the worst of me and everyone else in our industry.
If I do my job well, somebody gets a job (which they likely feel is better than the one they had), a company grows with a new hire, and I make a couple bucks. So that's nice. It doesn't always work out that way, and in recruiting the highs are high and the lows can be pretty low.
A quick test to determine a good recruiter - do they want to get to know what you want, or are they only interested in what their client wants?
Be nice to the recruiters. Or at least some of them.