Recruiting Needs to Burn

Dramatic much? Yes, I am, but I also speak the truth. I have been in the technical recruiting space for over a decade and I’m waving my white flag.

But, before I get too deep here, lets talk about the survey results.

I conducted an informal survey about the state of recruiting last week and right before I hit publish on this post, 560 engineers had completed it (70% completion rate!!!). I can’t get most engineers to keep their calendars up to date, but I can get 560 folks to complete a survey?! I was shook.

The number of people willing to give their time to complete the survey tells me almost as much as the data did. WE ARE ALL SCREAMING FOR A CHANGE.

Almost no one is having a positive experience being recruited. And if they are, it’s because a recruiter was simply forthright, helpful and didn’t low-ball them on salary (pretty low bar).

The #1 phrase referenced in this survey was that engineers did not appreciate when recruiters didn’t ‘do their homework’/’look at their work before reaching out’/’know who they were’. Y’all this was referenced at least 200 times.

As for ‘dream experience’ almost everyone (more than half) prefer to find a job through their own network.

Findings – We’ve got major problems.


Y’all are perpetuating techs homogenous culture with your frame of mind.

How does one get into the ‘network’ to have work to put out to the ‘network’ enabling them to become someone a recruiter could even ‘do their homework’ on? It’s a vicious cycle that let’s a very small number of POC in.

Honestly, we need to change the way we find jobs entirely if we want to be as inclusive as we claim.


Burn it down.

The reputation of the recruiter is past the point of repair. The things candidates desire from a job search process and how recruiters are trained/what they are even able to give (ie recruiters aren’t engineers) is incompatible.

At some point organizations need to revamp the recruiting function. Hiring managers should lead recruiting for their own teams (they would have to be given the time to do this) and work in step with a people partner type who understands organizational dynamics, can balance the needs of teams vs leadership, are pros at communication, etc. I’m not saying there aren’t good recruiters out there, I’m actually saying that the best recruiters are ALREADY those people partners, just with a different title.

In the current world state it’s necessary to push ourselves to discomfort to enable change. And I wonder, is leaving recruiting ‘as is’ just another way for us to secretly/unintentionally(?) block out those who aren’t ‘in our network’ now?

6 thoughts on “Recruiting Needs to Burn

  1. David

    This goes well beyond engineers and applies across the board. Also, it’s as much a reflection on current corporate culture stagnation, bias and the diversity challenges. Ageism is one of the last Isms that everyone will face and needs to be addressed. Lately it must be recognized the purpose of interviews and that fact a company is needing to fill roles with fit, which isn’t necessarily someone’s that excels at interviews and tests. Experience should count. ATS scoring is feckless.

  2. Jeffrey Paul Coleman

    Jill, thank you for writing this!
    your career thus far indicates you are one of those ‘best recruiters’ who could choose to be a people partner internal to an organization and leave it at that.
    your decision to make this survey and say what you have here indicates you aren’t simply calling for others to get out of their comfort zone, you are living it!
    People Partners who put their necks on the line to help create more inclusive teams and a more inclusive industry, they’re not only recruiters who have earned their weight in gold (when it comes to performance AND trust) but also recruiters who have chosen to disseminate rather than accumulate power. I have nothing but respect for someone like you. Thank you for writing!

  3. Anonymous

    I completely 100% DISAGREE with this. You are painting all recruiters with one brush.
    Recruiting does not “Need to Burn”
    Yes, there are bad recruiters who spank out blanket emails to dozens of people without even looking at their profile, but there are also recruiters who take time and effort to HELP people land their dream jobs.

    Yes, we get paid, we get commission, its a “salesy” job, but at the end of the day, we help hiring managers in finding the best talent on the market.
    We help candidates find their ideal roles, change their career and change their lives.

    If you think we are a “Pain” or that our “reputation is past the point of repair”, then maybe its a good thing that you are waving the right flag.

    We may not be everyone’s first priority; but at the end of the day, we are just humans working to make a wage, and in the meantime helping others make a wage. If you don’t like it, fair enough, but this post is a joke.

    1. jillwohlner Post author

      I think we are actually agreeing on a lot of points here. Ive been a recruiter my whole career, so I def think were humans trying to make a living. I just think that our talents could be used even more affectively if the process was set up differently.

  4. Spencer

    Jill, thanks for writing about this topic!

    I like your call for hiring managers to play a bigger role in recruiting for their own teams! I agree that in aggregate, there’s no forward path to save the tech-recruiter reputation.
    I know several HMs who prefer to hire “in-network” and see similar messages around LinkedIn occasionally. I’m not convinced that there’s an inclusive way to do this. Hiring in-network is kinda like hiring for “culture-fit” – you’ll end up with more of what you’ve already got.

    Looking forward to seeing where you take this.

  5. Chris DeLuca

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m a developer, and have had many experiences with recruiting. While I met a few well meaning people, the overwhelming majority had incompatible goals to me.

    Also agree on the diversity issue: the recruiting cycle as it stands perpetuates what companies think they want to see, which is a very narrow type of person.

    I think recruiting can exist like this because there’s money in the industry, when many other professions, especially the younger you are, are being gutted financially. That class-gap is pernicious. If there were more opportunity throughout the economy, there might not be as much need for sidecar-industries like technical recruiting.

    Anyway, a bit of a ramble, and I hope I’m not being mean-spirited towards recruiters. I really appreciate your article; it really resonated. Thanks.


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