Monday, September 30, 2013

IT jobs and out of state recruiters

It would be completely legitimate to mistake my adventures in IT job hunting for little more than thinly veiled hit pieces.  In a way they are but only to illustrate the antics of the bad players. 

Reality check!  You really need to take off the rose colored glasses and stop taking job-seeking advice from 1963.

Make no mistake, the people you're interviewing with are not your, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen.." or anyone else with your best interests at heart.  

They're in it for them so you'd better know what's in it for you because giving your 2 weeks notice 3 weeks into the job is too late to do your due diligence.

It's not like I'm actually endeavoring to end up on American HR's Least Wanted...

I've just been (un)fortunate enough to collect the evidence from the worst offenders.  I'm not saying that everyone you'll ever interview with is out to screw you but everyone has an agenda and whether or not you want to satisfy it is a personal choice.  It's only fair that you have all the information before you sign on the dotted line.

Thing is, you rarely get the dossier before you get to the conference room so try to pick up your hints from clues in the job posting.  An overly aggressive tone is obvious with words like "Professionals Only" or "Must have" before every sentence.  What may not be are terms like "24/7 environment"  That's not boasting about their uptime, they're expecting anyone they hire to submit to that availability.  At least you know up front but better run organizations don't require indentured servitude. 

Only James Bond is on call 24/7 and I can guarantee you're not going to have near as much fun as he does...

It gets trickier if it's a blind phone screen.  You have to listen for the clues.  Are they reading questions out of a book? Is there more than one person on the call?  Is the demeanor friendly or have you felt more warmth from your last visit to the DMV.  Is every question answered with a question or a string of rehearsed responses.  What if you go off their script?  Do they seem annoyed, combative or deflect the query?  In that kind of scenario I wouldn't ask about covered parking.

Of course defenders of the HR and recruiting professions will tell you every story has 2 sides but when it comes to job interviews it's not about them it's about you.  The key attribute any hiring manager wants to see is submission.  They're the boss and it's their game but it seems more often than not they're not playing fair.

All the HR pundits will give you sage advice about being the most attractive candidate but in the end it may as well be admonitions from your mother....

"Sit up straight!, mind your manners! Eat your vegetables.."  Great advice....if you came to adulthood after being raised by wolves but useless otherwise.

Thus we come to my latest, "Hit Piece"

First some background.

I received a phone call from an out of state recruiter for a local position that was to last for 7 weeks.  I usually don't give much weight to out of state recruiters mostly because they rarely have a good relationship with the potential employer.  That's why I don't usually bother with them.  Their relationship with hiring managers is critical to your success.  If they don't have one,you may as well be applying to a plain old Want Ad and throwing your unemployment checks in the trash.

Out of state recruiters are little use to you in prepping for the interview because all they know is what's printed in the job order.  It literally turns into seeing which crap sticks to the wall by sending a parade of hopefuls into the interview process.  It's a roll of the dice based on a punch list of skills and questionable reasoning.

On the other side of the equation (aka: the hiring manager,) it doesn't say much for the company's selection process if they can't be bothered to be a more active participant.  The selection of an agency that has no local presence was likely based on 2 glaring factors that never work in your favor. 

First,  they're probably cheap, as out of state firms can underbid local firms due to low overhead.  All they need is an Internet connection and a phone to do their job.   

Hey! Cheap is great for stuff you buy by the pound but unless you wanted to be treated like a bag of walnuts, it's not going to go well for you.    

Second, it shows the employer has little interest in you as the candidate or any candidate for that matter.  They're just  looking for a warm body that won't make too much trouble (In this case "Trouble" is defined as having a soul).  If that's you, well, you probably stopped reading at the second paragraph and are busily sanitizing your web cache before anyone finds out you came here.  :-)

Against my better judgment, I went ahead with the phone interview.  Fortunately, it gave me a splendid example of how broken the process is.

It began with this email... (names changed)

Hi (candidate),

Thank you for submitting over your resume for the Windows Administrator position in Phoenix, AZ.  I would like to discuss the opportunity with further please call me when you have time to chat.


I called, went through initial screening and received this...

Hi (Candidate),

Thanks for your time today and for your interest in the 7 week contract position with (company).  I am having our Technical Engineer Tom (techguy) give you a call today at 10:00am PST (11:00am MT) to discuss the technical components of the position. 

Please confirm that you have received this email and are set to speak with Tom.  After your conversation with Tom we will get you submitted over for the position and hopefully have next steps very quickly.


Which got me to the tech screener after sending the confirmation.  Apparently I passed muster with "Tom."

Hi (Candidate,)

Could you do a phone interview tomorrow between 1 and 3?


Which of course I made sure I was available for.  I was sent an email with a phone number and conference ID.  The hiring manager couldn't be bothered to call me, instead I had to play with the voicemail system just to talk to him.  Not a good sign, I felt like I was on a treadmill...

Voicemail jail aside, I thought the call went well and lasted about 30 minutes.  He threw a surprise question about working weekends (the first I heard of it and another sign the recruiter had never spoken to him)  but other than that there was nothing out of the ordinary.  What was strange was no technical questions for a very technical job.  It was as though we were just going through the motions.  I tried to keep it light and friendly and the manager seemed to respond well but he wasn't exactly a "touchy-feely" kind of guy.  Oh, and his name was "Hans" and he spoke with a bit of an accent. Achtung baby!

Still, I could have been wrong so I let the recruiter know I thought the interview went well and waited to hear back.  I had no contact information for "Hans" so the whole "thank you" note was impossible.  Although I guess I could have shown some initiative and hacked their phone system to find him...Nah, Sorry HR gurus, I guess I failed you...

So imagine my surprise (not really) when I got this back the following Monday.

They have decided to pass, here was the specifics feedback from our client.  Hope this helps with future interviews!

“Spoke to "applicant" and was not too impressed. He was 5 minutes late to the meeting, no apologies and overall a fairly familiar approach to the conversation. Little too much for an interview, don’t think it will be a good fit to what we need.”

Ok, first off, I wasn't late by the clocks I was looking at and apparently this guy takes being friendly and responsive as "familiar."  

Geez, sorry Kommandant!

It could be a cultural conflict or this guy's just a jerk.  I can tell you that out of hundreds of interviews I've had in my career I can count on one hand the number of people that have responded this way.  In most cases I've found people like this usually end up in a padded room at some point in their lives.

This also shows how detrimental it can be when a recruiter doesn't know their client.  Remember I talked to 2 screeners before getting to the final screening with the client.  There were no issues and I didn't act any differently with "Hans.". 

Here's my email response...
Really?  Didn’t get that read from him during the conversation.
Also didn’t realize that being personable was a character flaw. 

I wasn’t any different with him than I was with you or your tech screener. 

This was supposed to be short term anyway so he shouldn’t be looking for somebody he has to babysit.

Ah well, this is why I generally don’t like large IT organizations. 

Too many insecure managers caught up in their own inflated egos.  

Thanks anyway.

Here's the final proof of why you should never deal with recruiters that don't know their clients.  The email I got back after I sent the above...

Hi (candidate)

Sounds like he is pretty formal guy if that was the situation.  I do not know him personally sorry this one did not work out!


I'd like to say I was sorry too but I can't.  I'm not looking to marry the guy just work for him for 2 months.  Not only did he lie but he let his ego get in front of his judgment. 

In the end it was the perfect confluence of bad recruiting and bad manager.  Learn from it!

You need to stop beating yourself up over things that you have no control over.   IT is rife with screwed up people and lots of them end up in management. 

You can't fix stupid so don't try and just move on to someone who can hold up their end of a conversation. 

Come to think of it, that's good dating advice too!

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