How technical recruiting works

If you’re hunting for a job it’s beneficial to understand how the recruitment industry operates. This article explains how the technical recruiting industry functions.

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If you’re looking for a job in the Bay Area tech sector, chances are you’ve worked with a tech recruiter or have been contacted by one. There are two main categories of tech recruiters — in house and agency.

What do agency tech recruiters do?

Agency tech recruiters build relationships with hiring managers at tech companies and find skilled individuals looking for or open to new career opportunities. Technical recruiting agencies work as either split desk or full desk models. Full desk recruiting means that recruiters own the relationship with the hiring manager and the find the candidate to fill the role. Split desk means one person at the agency is responsible for finding job opportunities to fill and owns the relationship with the hiring manager, while other people on the team recruit and find candidates to fill the job openings. Either way, the tech recruitment agency takes on tech companies as clients by signing agreements with them and then actively recruit to find people to fill those positions.

Contingency vs Retained Recruiting

Agency, or third party tech recruiters work on either a contingency or retained basis. Recruiters working on a retained basis charge a fee upfront to conduct the search or series of searches. When a recruiter is retained they have exclusive rights to fill the role and have access to hiring managers and resources of the company that hired them. There may be bonuses for filling the roles faster, but since retained recruiters are paid upfront they don’t need to worry about not making money if their specific candidate doesn’t get hired.

Contingency tech recruitment firms search for candidates and are paid once the candidate is hired by the tech company and stays for an agreed amount of time, usually ninety days but could be as long as six months or a year. The flow with full time contingency placements is a recruiter has a kickoff call with the hiring manager to learn more about the requirements for the role, the recruiting agency combs the market to find a candidate that is an exact match, the hiring team interviews the candidate. If they like them they extend an offer, if the candidate signs to join the company they agency is paid a fee, usually 20% of that person’s first year salary. Before kicking off the search the recruiting firm and the tech company will sign an agreement that states the tech company will pay the fee if they hire the recruitment company’s candidate.

Contract Recruiting

Some tech recruitment firms place contractors at tech companies too. The way this normally works is the tech company agrees to hire a candidate, that candidate, or the candidate’s company is put on the recruiting agency’s payroll. The recruiting agency then bills the company plus their cut to pay the candidate. Contractors at tech companies then don’t technically work for the company they’re working for. They work for an agency or contracting firm that has an agreement with the tech company. The life of a contractor can be extremely volatile. Benefits are seldom included, the work can be short term and you can be constantly looking for your next project. Additionally, many full time employees won’t respect contractors as much as they do full time employees. Contractors sometimes have restricted access to information as well. That said, many technologists, marketers and designers enjoy the flexibility of contract work. Contract roles are almost exclusively filled through recruiting agencies or contracting firms. The hiring process can be extremely quick for contract roles.

In house technical recruiters

In house recruiters are employed directly by the tech company and are normally paid a salary, sometimes with quarterly bonuses based on if the team hit their hiring goals. In house talent teams are made up of Heads of Talent, Recruiters, Technical Sourcers and Recruiting Coordinators. In house talent teams can work with agencies on some roles, but for the most part do the recruiting themselves.

Why do companies use recruiters?

A recruiter’s job is to find candidates, sell them on the opportunity and shepard them through the interview process. Companies use recruiters because hiring managers don’t have the time or inclination to search for candidates on their own. It’s important to note that recruiters are not the ones that determine if you get the job or not. Recruiters find and represent the candidates but it’s the hiring manager and panel of interviewers that make the final say if the person is hired or not.

Companies hire to ease pain

A hiring manager feels pain at not getting things done fast enough or their team is overstretched. The hiring manager and the company’s leadership determines that they need to make a hire. Before they publish a job listing they may look internally for a candidate to fill the role and ease the pain. Indeed large tech companies have full teams of recruiters dedicated to recruiting internally for open positions, moving people between departments within the company. If the role cannot be filled internally it will go to the internal technical recruiting team if the company has one. If the hiring manager does not get results from the internal team they may allow a third party recruiting agency to work on the role. In fact, some hiring managers will ship their open job listings out to multiple recruiting agencies to fill the role. This causes confusion for some candidates where they might be contacted by three or more recruiters for the same position! It can be stressful for the hiring manager as well since many different recruiters will be trying to block of their calendars to schedule interviews for various candidates. Hiring is a lot of work, but time and effort put into recruiting and hiring can pay off big when you have people that are skilled and excellent fits join your team.

How do recruiters work?

Recruiters are brought in to ease the hiring manager’s pain. The recruiter, in house or agency, contingent or retained, must find an individual who is:

  • qualified for the job
  • has a good attitude
  • is geographically close to the company or able to work remotely or relocate
  • has the proper work authorization status
  • is interested in the company
  • open to new employment opportunities
  • fits within the company’s defined budget for the role
  • an asset to the company’s culture

If an individual doesn’t check all of the above boxes they can be passed over by the hiring team. Recruiters search through job boards, technical recruitment software and talk to lots of people on the telephone. Recruiters message people via LinkedIn, email, text and even Facebook or other messaging platforms. Some recruiters only get paid if they make a placement, while others are content to look through inbound applications that come through the company’s careers page. In house and retained recruiters work closely with hiring managers to write and define job descriptions, determine budgets, create interview process and timelines. Recruiters need to work with hiring managers to determine who is going to interview the candidates and when. All recruiters need to do tons of scheduling to find time slots for interviews. Communication is key. Recruiters communicate with the hiring team to understand job openings and collect feedback on candidates that have been through the process. Recruiters communicate with candidates to find out who is on the job market, where candidates are at in the job hunting process and determine if they’d be a good fit for the job they need to hire for. The recruiting industry is built on communication and relationships.

Originally published at

Engineer, writer and community organizer. I built Employbl to help candidates get jobs in the Bay Area:

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