Why Engineers Hate Tech Recruiters

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For many in tech, recruiters are the bane of existence. We are the butt of bad jokes and memes. Laughed at and even shunned behind closed doors. We, recruiters are the used car salesmen or women of the human capital industry. These assumptions are bold ones. They are hurtful and wrong, or are they? Recruiters in aggregate are good people. They are hard working and love what they do. They have colorful and often infectious personalities. If you are a technical candidate, a programmer, engineer or data scientist who has a disdain for recruiters, I will challenge you that you don’t have a clue. More importantly, how do recruiters challenge and work to change the assumptions, stereotypes and generalizations when it comes to recruiters and the recruiting community? These assumptions are no different than our own. Think about hoodies and hipsters who are awkward at every turn. Chances are you might think of a young and naive 19 year old programmer or geek. You know the one who avoids eye contact all costs. Technical candidates, my generalization is no different than your own. It’s based on a couple interactions I’ve had at data scientist meetups and meetings. And yet I know it’s not true.  It’s time to change these type of generalizations for both recruiters and technical candidates.

We Need to Come an Understanding Between Recruiters & Technical Candidates

Aside from your CEO and a good engineering team, your recruiter is the third most important hire you make at your company. A CEO can’t build a technology based product unless he can code and a recruiter can’t hire candidates to fill roles if there is no funding or technology. Engineers and programmers we know that you are important, but we, recruiters are too. Good recruiters network. They build relationships. They don’t spam or blind email 357 engineers. They build relationships and immerse themselves in the culture and community of the candidates they are recruiting. Those that do are either inexperienced or clinging to the old ways of networking and engaging. I call it spray and pray, and it’s time for technical candidates to inform and educate. They build relationships and immerse themselves in the culture and community of the candidates they are recruiting. Instead of tearing each other down, we need to start thinking about building a bridge between the two communities.

The role of the recruiter is a confusing one for most candidates especially those that are as in demand as the coveted technical candidate. There are corporate in house recruiters, sourcers who research and locate potential candidates online and third party recruiters who are headhunters charged with quickly and efficiently filling a position often at a confidential company. Candidates are often confused and misinformed lumping all types of recruiters into one generalized role. It’s no different than me assuming that if you are a programmer you know how to write javascript as well as C++ code.  I’ll assume you work in quality assurance too. Isn’t all types of engineering and programming the same?  Because what you as tech talent want is to be treated equal and for us (recruiters) to be knowledgeable about your industry and expertise.  You are talking out your ass because you are lumping in all recruiters the exact same way. 

Should we care that engineers and the technical community hate us so? Yes, absolutely. The question is what are we going to do about it? The choice is up to you.

Learn more how to assess the best technical talent as part of your hiring and candidate selection process. Join us for a 12/9 webinar at 1 PM EST. Click here to learn more.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. David Lewis says

    Good post.

    I think that the problem that most engineers have with recruiters is that they feel that they are being assessed by someone who really does not understand what they do. Sure, they may know some of the terms and jargon, but it is a rare technical recruiter who really knows the work. And when they are told that they did not get the interview because of something that they lacked, it infuriates them, precisely because they know that they could do the job, otherwise they would not have applied.

    Now, that is not to say that engineers should get off the hook for not understanding what recruiters do either, but most engineers that I have ever known work hard, are continuous learners, and take pride in the quality of their work. But they have a hard time accepting criticism from those that simply do not understand their trade.

    • Mike O'Horo says

      Unfortunately, too often, “can do the job” doesn’t equate to “can get the job” due to what we call “credentialism.” A much better way to assess candidates is via work samples. If you’re interested in the topic, read “The Rare Find.”

  2. Jacob says

    I think it is the (lousy) third-party recruiting agencies that give recruiters a bad name. From the hiring perspective, posting a job opening results in a flood of under-qualified applicants recommended by a recruiting agency. From the job-seeking perspective, a recruiting agency takes my resume and tries to use it for many job openings that I’m not qualified for or not interested in.

    It seems that many recruiters don’t understand the technical terminology. They think, “Here is a technical job and a technical applicant, I’ll match it up.” But they do it at such a rate that even if a small percent work out, they make their living.

  3. renuka says

    Should we really hate recruiters? Many of us actually do. That includes me at times. However, after going through this blog, I understood the recruiter’s perspective as well.


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