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Developers & Recruiters: Managing the Relationship

Posted on Jan 19, 2015

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For one reason or another in my entire career, I have helped to mentor others in professional development and educational topics. I think this comes from getting involved in educational environments within a few years of starting the "real job." Over the years I have shared a lot of information with others that over time I have been able to see the benefits. A recent situation locally got me thinking about some of these topics and I decided to create a new category here on the blog around "Professional Development" to help share some of these tips and tricks. In this first post, I'm going to talk about something that can be created very sticky situations and that is the relationship between developers and recruiters. Although applicable to other industries, my thoughts and experiences are based on working with IT recruiters which seem to have a few different needs/styles than others.

Why This Topic?

Before I dive into the specifics of this post I thought I would provide a bit of background. This topic is something that I think is very important due to the nature of the world that we are in. As software developers we have a true advantage at the moment there are far more jobs available than there are quality resources in the market. (This is at least true here in the Midwest.) As such, the recruiting market is cut-throat at best, and at worst there are no words to describe.

With this transition in the past few years, wages are going up which is fantastic. However, there is a downside for many of us and that is that recruiters are often becoming vultures. If you are not watching your back all of the time it can create a very sticky situation. In the past year, I have seen situations arise that have resulted in at least three very hurtful situations, two of which, resulted in a person becoming unemployable.

As such, I wanted to simply put out a few key lessons learned over the years when it comes to recruiters and managing your professional identity.

Handling the Contacts

Based on my back story, the recommendations that I have for this topic might be contrary to what you would expect. It is highly likely that you will be contacted by more recruiters than you can handle, and you might not even be looking for work. In my case, at times I have had more than 20 different recruiters contact me in less than a week.

Rather than doing what many people do, I do not ignore the contacts but I take a methodical approach. In my case, I have a standard form response that I sent do recruiters that reach out about things that do not meet my needs.

Good Morning(Afternoon)

I appreciate your contact. At this point in time, I am not in the market for a new opportunity. I will gladly retain your information and details around the position and pass your contact information along to anyone that I know that could be a good fit.

Should my situation change I will gladly reach out to you in the future

The key here is that I do respond to them, however, I dismiss the position that they have reached out to me about They could follow-up with a more detailed question, which again could be handled with a form letter if you want.

A response though, in my opinion, is important to do with any of these contacts. You never know when your situation is going to change, and you never know when you might want to cast a net out and say "Hey, I'm looking for ____." When that day comes there is nothing wrong with having a few more contacts in the address book!

Selecting Those You Work With

Aside from managing the incoming requests from recruiters, you may have a need to select the recruiter(s) that you are going to work with. I compare this selection process to that of the same you would do when interviewing for a job. Interview the recruiter and make sure that their processes, their code of ethics, are aligned to those of your own. In some markets you only want to work with a single recruiter, here in the Des Moines area multiple recruiters might be necessary for good placement. A few key things to validate when determining that you are working with a recruiter.

  • Will they commit 100% to only sharing your information with your consent? (Ask this question and RUN if they deny. This is covered later)
  • Will they commit to following your requests when sharing positions. For example, if you only want full-time direct hire will they ONLY send those to you? Or will they continue to send you things that simply waste your time & theirs?
  • Will they disclose the company names to you PRIOR to submitting your resume for consideration. (If not, I strongly recommend avoiding them.)
  • What is their policy if you have been presented by another agency, or on your own to a potential future situation.

Getting an understanding of how they work is paramount. Some recruiters try to "Stake Claim" on their resources and the above questions will help identify if the organization you are working with could be leading you to a future of problems. I strongly recommend working with as FEW recruiters as you can, however, know your job market as some recruiters although large will focus on a single large employer in an area.

Managing Interviewing & Potential Placement

Regardless of if you are working without a recruiter, or with multiples, it is important for you to manage the interviewing & potential placement process. This is a piece of advice that I was never given but have learned more in the last 6 months just how important it is as I helped a junior developer through some career progression.

Each and every time that you are submitted for a position, either through a recruiter or individually record the following information.

  • Company Submitted to
  • Submitted by (Self, or full recruiter information)
  • Date/Time submitted
  • Submission Method
  • Job title submitted to
  • Contact Information of receiving party (If you can)

Record this information EVERY TIME. Every application you fill out, every opportunity that a recruiter mentions that they might "float" your information past. This is not something for "Interviews Only" but truly all potential opportunities. Additionally, be sure to retain this information for at least a few years. This is important as some recruiters like to circle back and "stake claim" to a candidate that might have been presented for something else within a company a long time ago.

When you receive information about a potential opportunity, look back to see if you have been presented to that organization in the past. If you have, make sure that you will not be causing problems by being presented again. Depending on the situation, you might want to get written proof from the prior presenter that it is acceptable for you to work with another. Is this a royal PITA? Yes, it is 100%. But it is far better to be prepared then for other problems to arise that could result in problems.


I understand that this post is a bit outside of the "true technical" content that normally comes here. However, I hope that you found it helpful and that it can help you avoid sticky situations. Feel free to share other recommendations below! If you have topic ideas as well, by all means, please let me know.