Interviewing is a job in of itself. And the interview process for engineers is particularly grueling. I wanted to share how to get the most out of working with a recruiter. By the way, you’re going to notice a recurring theme – transparency.
Do: keep me updated.
Candidates often worry about how often or how soon to contact their recruiter. Engineers aren’t always sure what’s okay to share with a recruiter either. Can sharing too much jeopardize your chances of getting the job or impact salary negotiations?
If you have an update or your situation has changed, it’s usually a good idea to share it with your recruiter. If you are in final stages with other companies or receive an offer, let me know. I can expedite the process for you. In fact, letting me know could lead to the best-case scenario for you: multiple offers to choose from.
Which leads me to point #2:
Do: complete the interview process before making a decision.
The reason behind this one is actually personal. I almost did not interview for my current position. I was happy with an offer I was expecting from a different company. As it turned out, moving forward and learning more about hatch was the best decision I’ve ever made. Lesson learned – don’t accept the first thing that comes your way and it’s always worth a conversation.
I see this most often with engineers who are still early in their career or still building up their interviewing experience. Interviewing is like dating – you have to see what’s out there! The best way to determine fit is to go on an onsite interview.
Any companies you are interviewing with should understand that you would like to finish the process with all prospective employers. I would be very weary of any recruiter or company who isn’t willing to allow you to do so.
Do: share what you’re looking for:
This is especially true when it comes to salary (I could write an entire blog on salary negotiation alone). For some reason, the idea that you shouldn’t be upfront about salary requirements will not go away.
Many job candidates seem to think that they’ll be able to get a more competitive offer if they hide their salary needs. I cringe when someone tells me they want the company to offer what they think they are worth or market value.
Hiding your salary goals is likely to backfire on you. You will almost always be disappointed. Being candid about the salary you are targeting cannot hurt you. If you have a number you are looking for, I will do my best to get it for you. My hands are tied otherwise.
And to answer another common question – How do recruiters get paid? The answer is, it depends. At some staffing firms, the recruiter gets paid based on a percentage of your annual salary (no, it does not affect your salary/offer – recruiting fees come from a different budget). This is a model hatch I.T. has moved away from since we specialize in startups and prefer to function as long-term partners. We designed our Scale recruiting model with regular, predictable costs that save startups 20-30%.
Do: tell me what you don’t want.
If something doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry about saying no. You will not hurt my feelings. My goal is to find your dream job – not push you into something that isn’t for you.
Do: ask questions.
Probe away – there is nothing you can’t ask! This is especially true when interviewing. Companies very much appreciate when you take the time to research them. They want you to ask questions about the problems they are trying to solve. They want to know you’re interested in their culture.
In fact, if you don’t have any questions, that can be a red flag. You should be selective about the type of company you want to work at. Companies don’t want you to arrive and then decide you’re not a good fit.
Do: be open-minded.
The best way to know if a company is for you is to have the conversation with them. Worst case: you got some interviewing practice under your belt and made a great connection. If you’re not interested after chatting with them, no worries. Please don’t think you’ve wasted anyone’s time.
When you’re talking to a company, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. The company will understand that. What happens when you’re open-minded and inquisitive might surprise you. It is not uncommon for a candidate to start out lukewarm or on the fence about an opportunity and be incredibly pumped after they interview. (I’ve also seen the reverse happen, and that’s ok too.)
Do: be honest.
Do you have a skeleton in your closet, such as a questionable social media presence or criminal history? Did you leave another company on bad terms? Are you worried that your skills and experience aren’t a perfect fit for the role? Are you underpaid in your current role and concerned it may skew salary negotiations?
If you tell me upfront, I can get ahead of it. Inconsistencies always come out throughout the interview process. If there is any chance that the company will stumble across any hidden issues online or during reference checks, let me know in advance. That way, you’ll have a chance to give your side of the story. I might even be able to help you prepare and talk through what to do about it.
It’s just not cool. If you’re no longer interested, no worries, let me know. We’re professionals and this isn’t Tinder – there is no excuse for ghosting.
You can say something simple, like “thank you for your time, but I have decided to pursue another offer.” An email will do. That way, I won’t waste your time by following up with you again.
DON’T: apply to the company we messaged you about directly.
Also just not cool, but not for the reasons you think. We are transparent with company names, salaries, etc. A lot of recruiters don’t provide this information upfront for this exact reason. Yes, if a recruiter messages you about an interesting role that aligns well with your background (meaning they clearly took the time to review your profile) and is transparent with you, it’s only right he/she gets credit for introducing you to a worthwhile opportunity.
Bigger picture though – when a company, especially a startup, is assessing hiring needs and resources, it’s important for them to know where their hires are coming from. That way, they can budget and plan for the future.
DON’T: think you’ll get a better salary by applying directly (you won’t). Here’s why:
I understand some engineers don’t like working with recruiters. Some might think that working with a recruiter reduces their chance of getting an offer or a competitive salary. Neither is true.
First, recruiting fees come from a separate budget and are already accounted for. Second, I can negotiate on your behalf and will likely be able to get you a more competitive offer. I have behind-the-scenes knowledge of what your competition looks like. I know what the average market compensation is and what the company is willing to pay – and I’m invested in you getting the job.
If I’m the one that brings an exciting opportunity to your attention, please appreciate that I’m being transparent with you. I’d love the chance to work with you on it, and I may also have other roles that are interesting to you beyond the one I messaged you about. For example, there are many roles that companies don’t post on their websites or job boards, but I may know about them (this is especially true of earlier stage startups).
DON’T: play hardball or try to pit companies against each other.
Again, this will likely backfire on you. Please don’t tell me you are looking for a base salary of $150k and then when we get to the offer stage, tell me you need $200k. The only exception to this rule is if you have an amazing reason, like another offer for $200k. I have seen it happen!
Games like this will look bad. They’ll put a bad taste in the hiring manager’s mouth. I’ve seen candidates get nixed for less. The reason I ask about salary upfront is that the company needs to know whether they can afford you. They have budgeted a specific amount for your role. There is usually some flexibility, but not that much.
DON’T: act like money is the end-all-be-all.
Money is important – I get that. But, haggling too much or asking a company to compete with other offers can make you look greedy. It can make you look like you are all about the money and don’t care about the company’s mission. Companies don’t want to hire someone who can easily be bought and will leave after 6 months for a better offer. So don’t be that person.
I work with startups that have highly competitive salaries, great benefits, engaging missions, and incredible futures. But if working for the highest bidder is all that matters to you, startups might not be the right fit. Larger corporations are a better fit for you and there is nothing wrong with that!
DON’T: accept an offer and then A) not show up for your first day or B) accept another position.
This one should go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen several times. Don’t sign an offer letter if you are going to keep interviewing for something better. Don’t accept an offer if you have no plan to leave your current job.
There is no better way to burn a bridge – it is a small world and it will come back to you bite you. Not only are you burning the bridge with the recruiter, who will never work with you again – you are damaging your reputation and the relationship with the company. It’s okay to say no if something is not for you. If you’re on the fence about the offer, decline it.
DON’T: be arrogant or rude.
I know you are good at what you do. I would not have messaged you otherwise. Of course, confidence is great and important when interviewing, but be careful about crossing the line – you don’t want to come off as superior. No one wants to work with someone who is difficult, and I’ve seen companies decline a candidate for this reason alone. It’s not attractive. Please leave your ego at the door.
Communication and transparency are key when interviewing and working with recruiters. We will return the favor! I hope this helps if you are ever in the market, and if any of these came off as harsh, it wasn’t the intention.
Most people don’t know how to work with recruiters (I didn’t!) and aren’t sure what to share, what not to share, and how to navigate the interview process. Please use us as a resource. Yes, this is our profession but we have your best interest at heart – that is why we do what we do!