On Recruiters

Early on in my recent job search, I finally decided to respond to a recruiter. For the sake of this article, let’s called her Tiffany (not her real name) from JobCo (also not the recruiting firm’s name). I never worked with a recruiting firm before so I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard a mixture and tidbits of good and bad stories, but I never understood them. Queue cautious start.

Mouse trap
It's a trap, but I want that cheese! Photo by @Skitterphoto

Initial connection

I think Tiffany found me on LinkedIn and used my listed email. Protip: if you don’t already have a LinkedIn, go build your professional profile and keep it updated! Recruiters like using the LinkedIn platform to build their network and to find clients.

Regardless, what made her stand out versus the sea of other recruiting emails? I had to go back to the initial email she sent and she very specifically wrote:

…all I do is place Javascript developers in San Francisco…

That snatched me right out of my chair. A recruiter who finds jobs and positions specifically for JavaScript and frontendy type roles? SOLD!

I set up an initial call with Tiffany to clarify what I want and tell her a bit about my background. Seems standard. She then mentioned JobCo generally likes to bring their clients into the office so they can get to learn more about the candidates and build a more intimate relationship. Sure. I obliged and we made an appointment for two days later.

The Firm

When I reached the office, I was put into a meeting room with Tiffany and she asked a series of questions:

  • What are your priorities?
  • What are your values?
  • A note: These are going to be used to help match you to companies. We are here to help you.
  • What type of industries do you want to work for? Does it matter how big the company is? Can it be in its infancy and just receiving its first seed round, or do you want a place to be more established, possibly already public? How far are you willing to travel up and down the peninsula or across the bay? Etc…
  • Are you talking with other employers or recruiters at the moment? We want a realistic timeline of your schedule.
The importance of knowing your client. Photo by mentatdgt

After her round of questions, I was introduced one by one to a series of other recruiters on her team. All of them already had a list of companies they were working with searching for someone with my background. They asked me to rank them in order of preference and if it didn’t match at all, we would leave them off the list and I would also have to explain why.

Example company pitches without giving away any names:

  • a business of collecting sports data
  • a fulfillment platform
  • client and partner relationships platform
  • patient communication services
  • intelligent security systems

Note that the types of companies and industries I wanted to work in were the following:

  • non-profits
  • cleantech
  • civil/politics
  • health, education/STEM

Didn’t quite fit, but a recruiting firm has to recruit?


It felt reassuring knowing a team of recruiters was looking and building a list of jobs and sharing them with me. The biggest hurdle for me at this point was getting my resume into the hands of someone within a company that can do something about it.

Tech teamwork
Teamwork for me! Photo by Fox

Before Tiffany’s encounter, I had cold applied to five or so different companies I wanted to work at, but didn’t get a response (except for one, which came just the day before I received my first offer letter). The timing wasn’t great. I have a hypothesis that most of these cold applications get stuck in an inbox that hardly ever gets scrubbed and they sit there rotting.

However, recruiters have direct contact with the hiring manager or team lead searching for candidates. They usually build pretty good relationships and lines of communication to efficiently fulfill their needs (e.g.: an exchange of money for talent).

I got in touch with people from companies I was remotely interested in for initial calls. That was a big win.

Rooms for improvement

The recruiting process did get overwhelming (specifically with this firm). My biggest points are listed below.

Single point of contact

It would have been nice if there was one point person to talk to instead of being passed around. I ended up having to create my own excel sheet to keep track of the recruiters, which companies they were pitching to me, and my process with each one. It seemed like I was doing most of the work. Whether or not that was intentional, it seemed very inefficient because, as I said, I had to talk to a lot of recruiters from the same firm, on the same team. Why not just have a dashboard where everyone involved can see everything happening?

Many doors
Too many doors! Photo by pixabay

So many phone calls

I didn’t like the frequency of calls. On multiple occasions, I was called randomly in the afternoon during some meetings or coffee with colleagues. The calls are usually chained as well. Tiffany would ask her colleague if he wanted to talk to me or provide updates and then went down the chain of other recruiters asking the same things. Can we please limit this to a scheduled time once a week for one person, otherwise stick with email?

All the feedback

I also didn’t like providing tons of feedback for every company I talked to. I understand this might be helpful for the companies looking to hire, but using the recruiters as a medium to relay information without the context of some conversations AND providing more details on top of that was too much. Some just didn’t feel like a good fit and it’s difficult to describe exactly what that feeling is on the spot without having the background of the conversations, and I felt pressured to provide more details even when I gave my initial thoughts. I didn’t like this and it felt uncomfortable.

Work desk
An empty notebook after being overwhelmed. Photo by JESHOOTS.com

What about what I want?

The majority of the companies pitched to me didn’t fit my values, so I felt like the team didn’t put as much care or thought into what I wanted. They had companies they needed to find talent for, and if I fit that bill, they shoved me in it.

They also kept pitching me new companies as I was continuing conversations with several. It was too much. I told them to stop because I was starting to go mad juggling research into these companies, creating notes, and writing up questions for each.


Overall, the recruiters were friendly, approachable, and helpful. They did introduce me to a handful of neat companies and awesome teams, and I’m happy I used one this time around.

I don’t think this was a terrible experience. However, I did learn I need to stand my ground and if I feel uncomfortable with anything, I need to state it straight up. The recruiters are working for me as much as I’m someone they need to fulfill the end of their duties. If I’m not happy, they need to know.

Written by Mee Cha who is probably twiddling her thumbs wondering what's next on the menu. Github | LinkedIn | Instagram

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