Historically, finding employment has not really been particularly difficult for me. When I’ve decided it was time to make a change, I’ve been able to do so pretty quickly. A well assembled resume, solid technical chops, practiced interviewing skills, and making connections with people seems to have served me pretty well thus far. I don’t say that to brag, just as a statement of fact.

As such, I’ve never utilized the “services” of a technical recruiter during my job searches. I’ve watched friends and coworkers use them, with pretty mixed results.

Now, when I’m talking about a recruiter, I’m not referring to the internal HR professional who works for a company you’re trying to get a job with. I’m talking about the headhunters who make their living by finding people and placing them in jobs, and then their skin in the game is to get you hired and get a cut of it for them in a finders fee.

(If this process is actually financially beneficial to the person being recruited is probably up for debate. The Freakonomics study on real estate agents is probably something to think about in this regard.)

I’m also not here to argue that this type of recruiter has no place in the process. Organizations frequently are in need of new talent, and sometimes that talent is hard to find, especially when trying to recruit people from a new region or in a skill set outside the companies normal area. I know my company makes use of them at times.

I should also make a point, just to cover my own ass, that I’m happy where I’m at in my current employment. My dealings with headhunters recently are purely unsolicited. (Part of my frustration, see below.)

That said, I always keep an open mind.

However, what I’m not really open to are the amateurs who hound me on an almost weekly basis, sometimes via phone or email, but especially on LinkedIn. I spend a lot of time cultivating a serious and professional profile there, because I use it for maintaining relationships with current/former coworkers and clients. Doing so makes me somewhat of an easy target for these headhunters.

I’m usually polite, often times more than I should be. I will typically acknowledge their message and let them know I’m not interested in whatever they’re trying to get me to bite on. Many times simply notifying them of my minimum salary requirements is enough for them to realize they’re going down the wrong path.

However, the advantage of something like LinkedIn is (assuming the recruiter is being honest) that I get as much insight into them as they do about me.

Right away, I’m turned off if they’ve not been in their profession for at least 3 years, especially if their previous job was anything along the lines of being a professional cheerleader or hair stylist. If the only thing they know about servers is that three months ago they were one at the local mexican restaurant, it’s time to move on.

Really, what this tells me is they don’t (yet) have the skills to help me. They don’t understand what it is I do and they probably don’t have the connections to show me anything that a search on DICE wouldn’t turn up. Honestly, it’s not worth my time to engage with them.

I get it. We all have to start somewhere. There was a time when I didn’t know the difference between spanning tree and an oak tree. Time and experience, training, makes us all better. Most of us started in help desk, or desktop support. We’re not usually born as systems administrators or consultants.

The problems comes when these recruiters lack experience, they look at someone with years of experience implementing award winning virtualization solutions, holding multiple and VCP certifications… and then suggest a position managing Windows updates processes.

Just like any other job, they need to do research and know the market they’re in, and the positions they’re recruiting for. In the end all it does is make them look foolish.

I can tell you all right now, if I decided to quit my job and become something outside of my experience, like say as an investment advisor, I’d probably be pretty horrible at it for a while. The thinking that somehow because I bought my first stock (outside of my retirement accounts) in $TWTR last month, suddenly I’m equipped to handle the life savings of others because it’s up $15 since I bought in? Doubtful.

I’m sure someone, somewhere, probably told them that being a headhunter was really lucrative. Otherwise why do it? I guess you can probably work from home on your own schedule, or something like that. Make some phone calls and watch the money roll in on the backs of people with actual skills and talent who do the real work.

Honestly it’s something I’m surprised some of my Get Rich Quick Scheme relatives haven’t taken up yet.

Side thought: If this was really the case, if recruiting was really a good way to make money, why don’t senior technical people (system administrators, infrastructure designers, implementation engineers) quit their jobs en masse to become recruiters? If the money was there, it seems like someone from the industry would be better equipped to find good people and point them in the direction of good jobs?

And while I’ve said that headhunters do have a place, it’s a narrow one. Again, it’s different when they work for the company doing the recruiting. It’s different if they know the person is looking for work. It’s different when I ask a friend or former coworker if they’re interested in coming to work with or for me. There is a mutual interest at stake.

But if my job consisted of sitting around cold calling people with the prospects of changing jobs, just for the sake of making a buck, I’d quickly be looking for a new job. You rarely see this type of process with other life changing things. It’s like car salesmen who flags you down while you’re driving to ask if you’d like to come by the lot and test drive a new Audi… or a realtor who knocks on your front door and asks if you’d like to buy the house down the street.

Why not let the customer come to you?

One final thought, today received a LinkedIn message from a recruiter working for what is essentially a competitor to my current employer, asking me if I could refer anyone to work for them!