UK Software Consultant Nightmare: The IT Recruiting Agents
Working as a .NET software consultant in UK, I spent ages with the IT recruiting agents on the phone and had suffered their tricks. So, in this post, I thought of educating my software consultant colleagues of the agents’ sneaky tricks and dodgy tactics.
Recruiting agents, especially in the current credit crunch, are having less ‘productive’ work to do due to the reduced demands in the market, so they are spending more time wasting our “software consultants” time and resources rather than doing their actual role which is, obviously, recruiting!
Below are some of their tricks, tactics and some commonly used phrases on the phone:
1 – “I need two references from your current and ex employers”
This is the most famous phrase that you will hear and probably if you are a software consultant in UK then you know what I am talking about.
When: This happens after the agent does the sale pitch for a non-existing job. The job miraculously matches your skills, highly paid, in a location near you and the client is willing to train you for the skills that you don’t have.
Claimed Reason: His client, which is mostly a blue chip or a company that he can’t give its name at the moment, requires the references to validate your suitability.
Real Reason: As you have already left your current job, then there might be a vacancy in the company, so the agent will call the reference and offers him/her some candidates that match the used technology as you have already told the agent everything about the projects and used technology.
Implications: Your references will get TOO MANY cold calls which will put you in a bad position and in the worst case you will lose your references.
What Should I Do: You should only give a reference, if asked, after a successful interview with the company and to the employer, not the agent! So, you could apologise by saying that you cannot do it as your references are getting too much calls from recruiting agents. Don’t go with the “I will give you two references but promise me that you won’t contact them for marketing purposes” route.
Always remember that you are the sale, if he hires you then he gets the commission, otherwise he won’t, so he needs you! If the agent insists on having the references, then ask to end the conversation as the agent is not serious and he doesn’t have any vacancy.
2 – “Are you currently lined up for interviews?”
The idea is that you are a pro and you should have many interviews at the moment so you should be telling the agent ‘Yes’ and that you are in demand (this is what he wants you to say to get to his next question).
When: This question is usually proceeded by “How do you find the market?” This part of speech usually happens in the beginning of the conversation.
Claimed Reason: The agent is chit chatting with you and wants to know what you are doing at the moment.
Real Reason: The agent wants to harvest the current vacancies and offer them his candidates; you are not a sale to him as you went through another agent.
Implication: The agent might call the interviewer and push his candidates. In the worst cases, he might call the interviewer and claim that you have a bad reputation and the interviewer shouldn’t interview or hire you.
What Should I Do: Answer with “No”, if the agent asks why, you could tell him that you have just started searching.
3 – “What employers did you submit your CV to”
When: This is proceeded by that “We have a lot of vacancies and we will be sending your CV to [put big number here] of employers and we want to make sure that your CV haven’t been submitted to that employer.”
Claimed Reason: You don’t want the employer to get a duplicate submission of your CV as this will give an unprofessional image about you.
Real Reason: Yes, You guessed it!
Implication: Same as the previous point.
What Should I Do: Don’t go down the route of giving clues about the companies that are of interest to you, note that the agent will be pushing for clues if you refuse to give the company name and details. If you give clues then a colleague of the agent will call you later and offer you the same job that you gave clues about and expects you to say “I have already applied for company X, so please don’t put me forward for this.”
4 – “I have a Vacancy for You [sale pitch goes here], I will tell you the full details this [time goes here]”
This is just for harvesting your details and buy some time to keep you out of the market as long as possible as if you get hired by another agent then this agent lost the sale!
5 – “I will put you on the phone with the employer who wants to keep his details hidden”
Probably, the employer will be a colleague of the agent who will try to extract the reference information from you as now he is the employer which you assumingly trust more!
6 – “Oh you have worked at company X, I know [false name] from the HR department, who do you know there?”
Well, probably you know the reason behind this question by now which is information harvesting. Just refuse to give a name or give a false name.
7 – “He is on the other line”, “He is out of the office”, “He is in a meeting”
This is what the receptionist will tell you after you call the recruiting agency, giving your name and reason for call when asking for a specific agent.
You probably are calling after you have submitted your CV to discuss this matching vacancy further with the agent. But the agent has posted that FAKE ad to harvest CVs and has no time to waste on the phone with you. Good luck trying to get him on the email as well.
8 – “What is your current rate at your current employment?”
In the case of a software consultant, they want to try to squeeze down your rate to get a higher share themselves.
I believe that this question should only be asked after explaining the job they want to propose to you so you could decide your rate based on the given factors.
If you have been asked for your previous rate, ask what his proposed role is paying and what is it about.
9 – False Job Ads
The majority of posted ads on famous job sites like jobserve.com are fake! Their aim is to harvest CVs:
- To be ready when they get a client.
- Because they don’t want to post information that will lead their competitors to the client, so they will contact you and tell you that this vacancy is taken now and they have these new vacancies.
10 – Threatening of blacklisting you if you are not going to cooperate
Agents might get very rude when you refuse to give information and will start threatening of blacklisting you and tell other agencies how bad you are.
In this case I would beg the agent to blacklist me as I will be more than happy not to get contacted from agents from the same nature.
11 – The Job is Posted Else Where But With The Real Company Name
Agents might go as far as copying a direct employer’s posted ad from some where, change the employer’s real info into vague ones, then post it as if it is their own without the employer’s consent and even though, in most cases, the employer has mentioned the phrase “strictly no agents.” The reason might be:
- Using a good targeted ad, written by an experienced employer and use it to harvest CVs for the agent’s own benefit, i.e. to be used for other jobs.
- Will take the CVs, filter it, then send it to the employer to show him that “we are a good agency” and we can get you good candidates.
12 – Removing Your Contact Information From the CV
Now the agent called you, agreed with you, and is going to send your CV to his client. The next step is removing any contact information or anything that might lead to you before sending it to the client.
Why? You probably know why! He is an agent and since he is working in an enviroment that is ‘unsafe’ where you can’t trust anyone, he assumes that this also applies to software consultants. What a shame…
13 – Agents Might Push You for an Interview for a Job that Doesn’t Meet Your Skills
- Maybe to send as much candidates as possible to the employer
- Who knows? It might work! After all, the agent isn’t the one who is wasting his time, it is the candidate and the employer!
Ask for a phone interview at first if you are not sure of the requirements or if you have any suspicion. This will save both your and the interviewer’s time.
Frankly speaking, it might not be the agent’s fault, it might be that the employer did not supply the agent with the full requirement.
Honest to God Words to the Recruiting Agents
For the honest recruiting agents, I am sorry that these practices, which are employed by some agencies, have ruined your reputation and please note that this post has no intention of generalisation. For the other types of agents, these are my words to you:
- Don’t insult our intelligence by using cheap tactics, because if we work as software consultants then that mean we are intelligent enough to perform such a job.
- Stop wasting our time to harvest information as we really have more important things to do.
- Stop using these phrases: ‘brilliant’, ‘fantastic’, ‘I’m going to pass your CV to my colleagues’, ‘we have [employer quantity]’, ‘leave it with me, I’m going to take it from there’ and ‘you have a fantastic CV’.
- “Largest TV Group in Europe” means Sky and “Europe’s biggest B2B media company” is RBI. Come on guys, Britain is too small for this, could you make the ad description more vague please? This is so easy and software consultants are not dump, you know.
- If you are honest and not a time waster then please display your phone number, that shows more consideration to the candidates.
Advice To the Software Consultant
- Don’t give your real phone number to the agents as they will keep cold calling you every [set amount of time] to harvest information and update their database, use a pay as you go phone if you are job hunting.
- Same goes for email, use a different email for recruitment as you will get loads of irrelevant emails with apologies in the beginning if this is irrelevant.
- Educate your colleagues with the tactics mentioned in this post as we should all stand against such tricks and have a better, mature and more professional recruiting environment for software consultants in UK.
Finally, I am happy that I wrote this post and shared my experience, and nightmares, with the rest of UK’s software consultant colleagues. If you are a software consultant in the American market, then let me know if you have a similar experience. Please let me know if I have missed an important trick or if you had a bad experience. If you like it then please Digg It and Kick It.