6 min read

Reducing Dependency On Recruiters In Tech

Problems with your staffing? I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems. But recruiters ain’t one.
Reducing Dependency On Recruiters In Tech

If I am being completely honest, I don’t like the recruiters very much.

I don’t like the cologne. I don’t like the “hustle”. I don’t like the way they (strangely) romanticize Warren Buffett, and I don’t like the often despicable tactics they use to secure their commission.

But most of all, I really don’t like that when you call recruiters out for this and they then claim this kind of behaviour is nothing they have ever perpetrated. Even though it is my lived experience with at least 80% of the recruiters I have dealt with over the last decade.

I dislike recruiters, but so what? After reading this, they probably won’t like me much either.

Regardless of my opinion on them, they are here to stay. But how did we land here, and how can we lessen our dependency on them?

The Problem with Recruiters

Technical Incompetence

Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/P05VBPvNr3s)
Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/P05VBPvNr3s)

To a certain extent, a lack of technical expertise across the industry landed us here. Recruiters are only responding to a demand we have created through our own incompetence.

In our industry people often buy technology that they don't understand, from those who barely know more about it than they do.

We have traditionally had a lot of none technical people, making technical decisions on the behalf of others who are less technical yet!

Tech managers who “wrote a bit of code once” (which in reality means they wrote awful code, many moons ago) seem to frequently end up in hiring positions, and as woefully ill-equipped as they may be to assess an individual competently,  it’s the best most businesses have.

This leaves a lot of room for confident sales folk to operate. I know I am not the only person who a recruiter has sent the CV of a Java developer for a JavaScript role while being confidently assured that they can “learn the script part”.

Not treating our staff like human beings

Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/Ismnr6WSHCU)
Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/Ismnr6WSHCU)

So many companies do not treat their staff like human beings, who have aspirations for their life’s outside their day jobs.

Employers make the mistake of thinking free snacks and a ping pong table are adequate compensations for paying your staff for a 9-5 but expecting them to work 8-6.

While these problems may not be specific to the development department, a common problem that is; developers are the last people on the production line. They often have to work overtime to pick up the slack and deal with poor decisions made further up the chain. Then often expected to forgive and forget because the project manager has brought in free pizza as if this somehow makes up for lost evenings and weekends.

It’s no wonder that developers are ready to be shuffled around for pay gains, by recruiters who make them feel like rock stars.

Continued lack of resources; because our industry is not a happy place for at least half the world’s population

Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/wD1LRb9OeEo)
The current definition of a diverse tech team. Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/wD1LRb9OeEo)

Now, people are given more opportunities than ever to learn to code. But the way we teach coding is not suited to many, and the environment in which we teach is not welcoming for everyone.

Even when we get past the education stage. We seem to have real trouble retaining women and minority groups in the industry. These are deep-rooted problems that cannot be solved quickly.

However, until we solve it, resources will remain low, and dev wages will remain high. Making the industry a good choice for those who skim money from placing developers in roles.

How Do We Move Past This?

If we can make the industry friendlier and more inclusive for everyone, we will attract more talent and raise the base standard of expertise across businesses. We will have more staff who can communicate, as well as code. This will drive down the need for recruiters and mean we have more people in the industry that have more knowledge than the average recruiter.

But making the industry friendly for all is no small task, and while we make modest gains in this area. We are not close to solving the problem anytime soon.

As workers in the industry, it’s something we all must take accountability for. To help open the industry to everyone.

By doing this, we will make the industries a happier place, and the recruiters that remain will have to be of a higher caliber.

Build Your Own Talent Pipeline

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Image Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/T5QT2bmiD4E)

The best way to avoid recruiters? Build your own talent pipeline.

Many people used the lockdown to retrain as developers, these people are looking for opportunities in tech. In the UK, there also seems to be no shortage of degree apprentices looking for placements, and the number available is only going to increase as the Tories push their agenda of work placements over the university.

As I mentioned previously, we are giving more people, more opportunities to code. It’s up to you to capitalize on this, take on juniors and give them a culture in which they can thrive, and build them in your image.

Bring people in as juniors, build their skills and treat them well. As you do this, raise their wage to reflect their value to your business, so they are not tempted to switch roles for marginal pay gains.

Build a strong culture and a reputation for treating your staff well, and you will have them queuing up to join because a large chunk of the industry still treats their staff comparatively poorly.

Retain your existing staff better by showing them that you value them and respect them

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Photo Source: Unsplashed (https://unsplash.com/photos/-ktUX4KHlU8)

If I were to say that the downstream costs of cycling staff on a development project can be rather large, this would be an understatement. You need to retain your staff as long as feasible.

To retain staff, pay them what they are worth to your business, not some arbitrary value related to other team members, or what the market dictates. The only thing that matters is what they are worth to your business.

Respect them as human beings. If they want to take a longer lunch break to get some exercise in; what's the problem? Need to leave early due to events occurring in their own life? Fine. As long as they make the hours up and get their work done. Build mutual respect and trust.

Pay the money you would spend on a recruiter, to your staff

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Photo Source: Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/rItGZ4vquWk)

I have placed two developers in my company in 2022. For these two roles, I had over 800 applicants for the role. I advertised it only via LinkedIn: Total cost to me was £130. You might assume that these were all trash, but actually over half were reasonable applications. For both roles, there were many applicants suitable for the job.

How did I get so many applications?  I offered above-average remuneration, 30 days + bank holidays Annual Leave, remote working, and a flexible working week. All these bonuses and the cost of the LinkedIn add still cost me far less than a recruiter, the staff win. And my company wins.

It remains a dark joke among developers, that most employees would rather go through the hassle and the cost of replacing you, than they would give you a modest pay rise.

If you are a recruiter who read this far…

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Image Source: Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/8RXmc8pLX_I)

I am sure you are in the 20% who are nothing like I have described #notallrecruiters.

But at the same time, at least some of you must be in the other 80%. If so; keep your chin up. I could be wrong about all this. In which case, you will have a disgraced technical lead with a decade of experience to place in a role for a chunky commission check.