Don’t use Recruiters to hire Engineers

Don’t use Recruiters to hire Engineers

A job or two ago, I was under pressure to hire up a team of engineers, but the CEO wouldn’t let me use a recruiter.   While there was some short term pain associated with that directive, it was the best move in the long term.  Once I learned to recruit on my own, I found better candidates and I found plenty of them.  My CEO was right.  He made me break my recruiter-habit and I’ll never look back.

Recruiters cost too much.

Recruiters for a software engineering opening will charge your company 15-25% of your new hire’s annual salary.  If the new hire is at your company after 3 months, even if doesn’t stay at your company after that, you still have to pay.  How much of your time is worth an extra $20k in burn?  Even the best paid founders would have to spend 200 hours recruiting a single engineer to match a recruiter fee for that engineer.

Recruiters don’t add value on their own.

I’ve never worked with a recruiter who has given me more than 1 qualified candidate for every 3 resumes they send me.   Most of the time, a recruiters ‘network’ is just doing keyword-based searches on LinkedIn.  And worse, they are shopping each candidate around to multiple companies — limiting the amount of resources they spend on your opening.  For a recruiter, candidate flow is a numbers game and not a quality game.

Recruiters dilute your brand.

As a potential employee, would you rather get an intro message from a Director at a hot-startup, or from a dime-a-dozen recruiter  that doesn’t understand (or mention) the position or company or why you’d be a fit.  The best recruiters I know get a 20% response rate on their LinkedIn messages, at my peak I was getting a 55% response rate.

Recruiters are mercenaries.

Even the best recruiters out there don’t have a deep understanding of what you do.  The worst ones will try to steal your current employees.  For someone who actually is going to spend-time with a new hire, getting them on-boarded, oriented in the culture, managing them, hiring is a game of quality.  For a recruiter, it’s a numbers-game.

Building team culture is a long-game.

There are many posts out there that confirm it; Team culture is one of the most important parts of building a successful team.  If you outsource your brand and the sourcing of the individuals who will join your team, how can you maintain a tight grip on the knobs controlling your team culture?

If you don’t know how to recruit, take the time to learn.  Your team will be better in the long term.


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