Recruiters have a tight hold on tech jobs these days, for a few reasons. But mainly that tech jobs are hard to fill and they pay substantially more than jobs in other fields. But for those reasons, the market becomes saturated with recruiters. They sound amazing, on the phone. The offers are phenomenal. 342k per year with benefits? Sign me up. That later will get watered down to around 65k with Dental.
The jobs are normally very exaggerated
Excuse Me Ladies, Phone Call For NASA Jobs During my last year in college I thought I was amazing. Not even done with my last semester and already my phone is ringing off the hook. "Excuse me ladies, phone call for NASA jobs", is what I would say. So turns out, I wasn't going to get any of these jobs, because I didn't have 15 years experience with jQuery and I wasn't certified to maintain IBM mainframes and I'm pretty sure I'm not qualified to work for NASA. How hard could it be. And I think this is a mistake that so many people make when they're first starting off in their careers. A mistake that could very likely, lead you to give up the job hunt and go back to school for a few years, like many many many people I know. So let me dive further into that.
Matchmaking is not the most accurate
So during my senior year in college I spent an insane amount of time on the phone talking about interviews and future job prospects, and I thought, I was pretty hot $h1t, if you will. Now let me be clear, I was a pretty crappy web developer. My computer science curriculum consisted of 2-3 programming classes, 1 database class, and a mixture of logic and circuit design classes and my resume stated so. Read more about that here. Most companies, unfortunately, aren't looking for "Fresh Graduates!". Some definitely are, but from what I've seen, it's pretty rare. So Pro: you will get many many interviews if you reply to every recruiter you encounter.
So there I was top of the world, getting all these calls and setting up "interviews" with all these strangers on the phone in between classes. What I didn't know at the time, because I was a post-college job hunting noob, was that not a single one of those companies was..an actual company. I had about a dozen interviews while in college, with "Recruiting Firms". And I say that negatively sounding right now, because it was. I got dressed up, made a nifty portfolio showcasing my class work (lame), and I would drive all over the city and meet with these people. I would hear things like "This portfolio is fantastic and this company X is going to go ga-ga for it". Ga ga they did not go, unfortunately. I also heard alot of "I don't know what any of this means in your portfolio, but it looks really pretty :) " . What can I say, I make pretty portfolios :/ . Con: Most tech recruiters, are not technical.
The way alot of recruiting companies work, is they have set salaries for their employees, and they normally get paid on commission. You get someone hired at a company, the recruiting company makes 10k (for sake of argument), you get a percentage of that as the hiring recruiter. That itself, lends to some problems. Mainly, that younger and less experienced recruiters try to shove as many candidates as possible into the hiring pool to increase their odds of landing that big paycheck. I've had that happen first hand too at previous jobs, where I had huge stack of resumes on my desk of people to interview, most of whom had never heard of a server before. Con: There will be a looong line of other people in front of you up for the job.
So I found myself, embarrassingly, meeting with actual companies who were looking for mid to senior level developers. A train wreck would of been welcome in comparison to how some of those interviews went. A recruiter once got me an interview 2 hours from where I live. The interview ended when I said "I live 2 hours from here." Con: Many job positions found by recruiters, will not match your skill set.
I was lucky, in that I figured out what was going on early on. And shortly after my last meeting with a recruiter, I built my own tool to filter out recruiting companies from job listings. I had a database full of companies and positions, and a blacklist to accompany it. And every day I scoured the webs for job listing boards. And immediately after that I began my actual job hunt, with real companies and real developers.
Finding The Right Recruiter
I normally get a few dozen emails from recruiters per month nowadays, and at it this point my eyes just automatically ignore them when I'm looking at my emails. But I have spoken to a few after some recommendations. And it's actually a pleasant experience.
There are some very talented recruiters out there, that will work with you and find you something that fits your skill level. For a few reasons. One, because if you're comfortable with the job, you're probably going to do well with the interview. Two, because the less crappy people they bring in to companies the better they look and the more repeat business they receive. I can say this, I recently Googled one of the companies that I worked with in college, and they are no longer a company. Maybe they made quick money for a short period of time, but in the long run it's just not sustainable.
The latest recruiter I worked with found me a few interviews with very high profile companies they work with and they email me periodically with relevant open positions. That's the positive spin. I've known people that have kept the same recruiter for years and continue to get good jobs from them. Pro: A good recruiter will have connections to big companies.
So that's the take away. If you're just starting off fresh out of college, I would be a little more careful about where that time is going. Driving around the city in a daze with a folder full of your midterms doesn't benefit anyone. And if you've built up a strong skillset in your career, I would spend some time finding a good recruiter to have in your back-pocket just in case.