Recently, I posted a job listing for an iOS Developer position at Karbon. We've received some great applications so far, and it has been a lot of fun to read résumés and look at the amazing work folks in this field are doing.
Yesterday, my business line rang, and on the other end of the line someone asked if I was still hiring for the iOS Developer position. I confirmed we were. “Great! I have a great applicant and I would love to discuss his qualifications with you.” Ugh, I thought. Recruiter. I made it clear we weren't accepting applications from recruiters, which I had to say several times because of the arguments coming from the other end of the line, and then I hung up. Before I did, I said, “If the guy you're talking about feels he'd be a good fit for the job, tell him to apply directly.” This did not go over well.
I'm not a heartless bastard
I know it can be hard to find work, and I know why people turn to these firms. In fact, I've done it myself in the past. In 2003, after being hounded by several recruiters because of a résumé I posted on Monster.com, I decided to give it a shot and see what they could do for me. I learned enough in the two weeks I spent with various firms to know I would never want to deal with recruitment agencies again for finding work or for finding employees.
The most offensive thing recruitment firms tend to do is lie. They ask job-seekers for plain-text versions of their résumés and then they modify them to fit the necessary skill-set for jobs they'd like you to go after. They usually claim they need plain-text versions for email convenience, but I was once accidentally Ccd on an email a recruiter sent on my behalf to a design agency, and they had modified most aspects of the document, including programming languages I knew and various bullet points for recent positions. They even changed dates on certain job entries to make it look like I had worked longer at places I hadn't.
I assumed this was something unique to this one recruitment firm, so I stopped working with that particular company. But, shortly after, I was asked an odd question about some of my experience in an interview and realized another firm had done the same thing. The better a recruiter can make your résumé look for a job, the more likely they are to get paid.
And that's another thing: Recruiters often tell you to ask for more money than the position is offering. I would frequently hear something along the lines of “the position pays $65k, but I think we can get you $80k, so don't worry about it.” At first, this sounds terrific–more money!–but then you realize the recruiter only wants you to get a higher salary so his/her cut, which is usually at least 30% of your first year's salary. If you accept that $65k/year job, your recruiter's firm is going to make a cool $19,500 off the deal. Is the 20-30 hours they spent helping you find a job really worth that much? Considering most recruiters found me via hanging out on Monster.com, and most of the jobs they found me where also available there, I'd say no.
I want to talk to you, not someone else
When you deal with recruiters, you put a middle-man between yourself and the hirer, and the middle-man is purely concerned with getting as much cash out of the deal as they can. They're not on your side–they don't care about what you want to do or what you're interested in–they just want you hired ASAP. This is not conducive to long-term happiness.
These days, between Monster.com and similar services and various job boards, if you want to find job listings it's pretty easy. When you apply directly, you're able to truly represent yourself and make a fair amount of money that goes directly to you. You win, and the employer wins.