i'm on the fence about good recruiters who pave the road with good intentions

As described in another “headhunter nightmare” article, I had a brief opportunity to work with a recruiter who was a friend of someone I’d worked with at PriceGrabber, and consider to be a good friend. So, I had no hesitation at all replying to an introductory Email that my friend sent to myself and “Melanie” (not her real name), who runs her own recruiting business in the Los Angeles area.

Melanie has a long list of incredibly positive reasons that make her one of the recruiters who I’ll actively contact in the future if I ever find myself in need of a job. She’s bright, witty, has a LOT of connections, and seems to have a genuine sense of wanting to satisfy the needs of her clients AND the engineers she’s trying to place in open positions. She’ll readily admit that she charges lower-than-industry-average commission rates to help the small businesses she works with, and she was even willing to pick me up for a job interview and drive me back home afterward.

So why am I writing a “headhunter nightmare” article about her? Despite her work at finding me a position, it was with a company who is known in the industry for having a high turnover rate because of several management-related problems. She is friends with the VP of Engineering in the company, and went to great lengths to find information showing how the company is actively trying to improve its image as a workplace. In the end, though, the company misrepresented itself to her, therefore she also misrepresented the company to me.

My understanding was that the company was a firm who developed computer security software, and that my role would be to work on the web engine of the E-commerce site. The VP of Engineering also told me that the company was working on a plan to, in the very near future, convert the entire structure of the E-commerce engine from Mason/Perl to Ruby on Rails. Wow, a company willing to train their staff on RoR, it seemed unheard of.

In reality, my first day on the job was “can you change a phone number on this page”, “can you change our SSL provider’s logo”, and some other menial task I can’t remember. Melanie called that evening to ask what I thought of the job, and I told her I already kinda hated it, but to call me again on Friday to confirm. Friday was the same story. I was told a week into the job that the Ruby on Rails project was a MINIMUM of 8 months in the future, if it happened at all, (there was no guarantee). Oh, and they didn’t actually write the security software they sell, they license it from some other company in India, and re-brand the software under several different names and manage at least a dozen “micro-sites” to promote the products online and on TV. And my job was only to manage those micro-sites. Whenever they got enough traction on a name, they’d run with that one going forward.

So who was to blame? Melanie, for not having a clear understanding of the job to present to me? Or myself, who went in blindly, trusting the friend of my friend, and not asking enough questions about what the job really was, what the company really did, and getting a time line on paper for the Ruby project? The VP for mis-representing the company and engineering roadmap? All of the above?

I write this article as a warning, that even though your recruiter could be the most awesome recruiter ever, who has genuine respect for both the engineers and the companies trying to hire them, don’t let that keep you from asking VERY thorough questions. The recruiter can have the best intentions in the world, but if they aren’t aware that the job is that bad, they can’t give you 100% of the information you need to make a smart decision.