An open letter to an IT recruitment consultant

Dear IT Recruitment Consultant,

For the purposes of this letter, I’m going to assume that you are one of the tiny minority of members of your profession who have some integrity and ability. Unfortunately for you, you have chosen a career with a deservedly dreadful reputation. Most IT recruitment consultants are no better than a combination of pimp and double glazing salesman.

But you’re not one of this majority. You can have a conversation with me where I don’t need to explain everything to you in words of one syllable. Repeatedly. And you have a unique source of amazing candidates unavailable to any other recruitment consultant and who would be just perfect for me.

So how do you get to talk to me?

Well this is where it gets difficult I’m afraid. You know that you’re one of this tiny minority, but I don’t. And unfortunately all of you claim that you’re different from all the rest. How do I tell the difference between someone who really does have a brain and the vast majority who just claim to?

Well, I’m sorry, but there is exactly one way to achieve this, and that’s to be good at your job. It’s a long, slow path, but eventually someone I trust will recommend that I talk to you. And if I need to, I will.

What you absolutely do not do is call me. Or e-mail me. Or try to link to me on LinkedIn (especially not by lying and claiming to be my friend or an ex-colleague in order to avoid paying LinkedIn). Or try to get in contact in any other way whatsoever.

My problem is not that I don’t know enough recruitment consultants. Nobody who has spent more than a few years in IT can possibly fail to know many (many!) recruitment consultants. I have found a small set that I trust, respect, and will work with again (you see – I do know that some of you are different).

I don’t want to be introduced to any more. There are too damn many of you, and most of you aren’t worth even the 60 seconds of my time it takes to tell you to go away. Not that it ever takes 60 seconds, because you always have to followup and tell me why I’m wrong about you and you’re different from all the rest. And ignoring you doesn’t work either, because you’ll just try again. And again. And again.

I will never do business with any recruitment consultant who cold calls. Ever.

So please stop? Please?

8 Responses to “An open letter to an IT recruitment consultant”

  1. 1 YASEMIN BRETT July 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Paul, this is a fantastic letter and i completely understand where you are coming from. You are right; all of us rec cons have the same old schpeel; realistically we are all selling the same service and there are no usp’s that differentiate one consultant or agency from another. The difference comes with the consultants personality and whether they actually do what they say they will and to be honest alot of this is in conjunction with timing. From a personal point of view i am a lot better during the intial calls i make rather than after i have had 10’s of people who tell me to ‘go away’ as that becomes very disheartening and often generates a degree of desperation to achieve something and hit targets. That is where a lot of consultants will promise the earth in panic and quite often not deliver. From the other aspect, again timing is important. A lot of people are alot more responsive and receptive before they have had a million calls from recruiters!
    Everything you have described about how we can talk to you is very similar to the majority of people we deal with but more often than not we as consultants are told to explpore every option and try whatever means necessary to start a conversation and get a foot in the door. Having been on all sides of the fence when it comes to recruitment i can certainly sympathise with everybody but unfortunately for you this is a situation that will not change due to the large population of recruiters within the industry and of course when there are that many people in the mix you will always get annoying, rude and generally crap one’s! One trick you can you is give a false name as the person who is responsible for recruitment; if you always use the same name it will get around and as soon as someone calls to speak to that person you know they are a recruiter and can fob them off! (i’ve used the name guy sparx before!!) Alternatively you can redirect them to one of your trusted recruiters and i’m sure they will be more than happy to talk to other recruiters and work out a 2nd tier agreement offering a shocking rate that no doubt hardly any recruiter will work to!
    All in all you are not alone in your opinions but for some reason i felt a need to respond as a loyal consultant who is determined to raise the bar of recruiters within the industry and therefore show my appreciation of your frank yet honest letter.

  2. 2 paul July 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm


    I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy. If you choose to work for a company that insists that you cold-call to achieve your targets, that’s your problem. I’m not going to feel any more pity for you than I would if you chose to work as an e-mail spammer or scam artist.

    Regarding your suggestion that I should give a false name to catch cold callers, I really can’t see the point. For some reason, many of us feel the need to use this kind of thing as a fig-leaf to hide behind to avoid being “rude”. I have no problem with being rude (not that I consider it rude to tell someone exactly what I think of their behaviour – if you’re rude enough to cold call, you deserve everything that you get).

    Ultimately, unfortunately, the fault doesn’t lie with the cold callers. The fault lies with those who respond do business with them – the practice would die out almost immediately if it wasn’t effective. Unfortunately, although I can dream of a time when everyone would be sensible enough to refuse to talk to cold callers, I’m not holding my breath.

  3. 3 Martin Anderson July 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Looks like you have almost the exact experiences that I have with it recruitment I have found only one recruiter who is not a numbers obsessed shark in my 13 years in the industry. He and his company go out of their way to support community efforts like local user groups and groups and has a much longer term view of how successful recruiters should act. The trouble with the likes of Yasemin is that this sort of car salesman act is driven from her upper management so it is insulated from the constant rejection and irritation and unlikely to change. New recuitment folk are 10 a penny so why bother investing in them when you can burn them out with short term focus that makes the company money.

    Great article.

  4. 5 david barratt September 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thankfully there are enough nice clients out there, that most of us can choose to work with and so avoid the rotten/self important ones like the two above.

    • 6 paulbutcher September 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      You are, of course, welcome to your point of view, David. But I would ask you to consider what makes someone who is fed up with receiving unwanted and unsolicited calls, being lied to, and having polite and simple requests ignored “rotten and self important”.

      Is it possible that the individual who *makes* the unwanted and unsolicited calls, fails to listen to, and lies to their prospective clients, is the one who’s rotten and self important?

      • 7 david barratt September 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm


        As a CEO of global Network advertising agencies, I have been a client of recruitment agencies over a number of years. Just as in advertising, in recruitment I come across arrogant and opinionated people who like using their ‘perceived power’ to put down people who are just trying to earn a living.

        I firmly believe one attract the clients one deserves and I advise anyone in any business to find ‘nice’ clients to work with. For good clients, service people will go through brick walls. Leave the difficult clients to abuse someone else.

  5. 8 Barry Cranford September 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a recruiter was not to try to get everything on the first call, instead treat it as the first time you will speak to a client in a relationship that will last for years. It was about a year into my recruitment career and changed the way I approached my role for good.

    Infact it became one of the principles that I launched my company around. I am now the Managing Director of RecWorks (founded in 2006). We often hear feedback like this. It reminded me of the recruitment report in Kernel last year:

    Our approach to new business generation at RecWorks is to give back to the community, get to know as many people as possible in the process, then ask them to let their friends and employers know about us. Every client we take on becomes the result of a recommendation.

    We have been practicing this for the last 6 years, since initially getting involved in Tech User Groups in London. As an approach it has served us extremely well. The less appealing side of this approach is the length of time it takes to break even. It is an extremely long term approach, it means helping people and building trust over time, sometimes for years before they are happy to recommend us. This works perfectly for us, we’d always walk away from a placement to preserve a relationship but in many recruitment environments there is a great deal of pressure to get results sooner rather than later.

    The positive aspect of this approach is that the relationships we win are always extremely strong. Our clients tend to trust us from day 1 because someone they know (or often 2-3 people they know) have given us a strong recommendation. I know a lot of recruiters are starting to work this way and have a feeling the industry is moving more toward this.

    Our focus has now moved on to finding more and more creative ways to help people and plug gaps in the industry. You can see an article for Hacker Jobs that I wrote recently which explains how I believe that tech recruiters can actually be a power of good in the industry:

    Barry Cranford

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