Working with a Recruiting Agency: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When I started my most recent job search, I had little motivation to prepare for interviews. I ticked the box on LinkedIn that said I was looking but that was about it. Of course, that meant recruiters started pouring into my inbox. A couple were recruiters for specific companies but most were third party recruiters that worked for recruiting agencies. Until my own experience, I’d heard some very strong, negative opinions about third party tech recruiters in general, but since I was early in my search I thought it couldn’t hurt to give them a shot.

Getting started

I responded to an email, answered a phone call, and the next day they had me into their office for a little meet and greet to see what I was looking for and what projects I had worked on in my career. They gave me a rundown of some of the companies they were working with, tried to sell me on some of them, and got my feedback on which of those I might be interested in. They didn’t pressure me to apply to any companies. Their team seemed kind and I happened to know their team lead from high school (I’m sure this biased me toward him). It seemed really fast but just like that I was working with a recruiting agency.

The Good

The best part by far of working with this recruiting agency was that they got me interviews fast. I was dragging my feet about preparing for interviews but this put a fire under my butt. Getting phone screens, interviews, and coding challenges scheduled is the easiest way to be motivated to prepare for them. My agency got me interviews quickly and forced me to start getting serious. This in turn made me more prepared for interviews with companies I had applied to myself, with no agency intervention. Since my agency sometimes made it sound like I could have a job in a week or two, I got serious about applying to other companies, mostly companies I had pinpointed as places I’d like to work but I had justified to myself that I would take more time to prepare my resume and interview skills.

The Bad

During this particular job search, I landed a job with a company (Chewy Inc.) that was referred to me by my recruiting agency. I originally thought the agency would do most of the salary negotiating for me were I to get an actual offer but when the offer came in and it was time to negotiate, yours truly was the one doing the heavy lifting. While we reached figures I was happy with, I wonder how much higher my compensation would be if my recruiting agency weren’t getting a cut of the deal.

Another downside to working through a recruiting agency is that it adds another level of complexity to the scheduling and coordinating issue since it’s simply one more party to involve. Each of the companies I was interested in had their own recruiters that would then work with my recruiting agency. Because of that, there was this weird dynamic where I’d coordinate with the first party company recruiters on scheduling then the agency recruiter was a little bit out of the loop and would try to play catchup. It was this constant thing where the agency recruiter was emailing me about my schedule and then trying to get the next round of interviews scheduled. Mostly it seemed like unnecessary work for the agency, making these calls for no reason. Which leads me to the ugly…

The Ugly

Recruiters are infamous for being pesky, annoying, salesy, etc. Well for me, this didn’t stop when I started working with them, it had only begun. One of the team members I was working with was nice and calm, playing it cool and working with me at my own pace. My primary point of contact, though, was more pushy. He called me, sometimes multiple times a day, to try to get things scheduled or find out how a phone screen went. It felt like it was getting a little out of hand at some points, especially when a company recruiter asked me for my availability for an interview, then the agency recruiter talked to me a couple hours later and asked me for the same availability.

I’ve seen blog posts about working with several different recruiting agencies and somehow using that to your advantage but I couldn’t imagine the coordination headache that would be. One agency was more than enough for me in this regard.

The agency recruiter would also ask about other companies I was interviewing outside of their agency. This was often and annoying. It seems they’re fearful of not placing you at a job so they’re always checking in on other opportunities you have and if you have final round interviews with other companies.

Recommendations

When all is said and done, I’m happy with the experience I had working with a recruiting agency. The team I worked with was nice and at least seemed like they had my best interest at heart, plus I landed a job from the process. On the flip side, there were headaches with coordination, some salesy recruiters, and ultimately a lingering curiousity of how much higher my salary would be had I not worked through a third party recruiter. Additionally, while I got a lot of interviews very quickly, I think that’s just what happens for Amazon (or other FAANG) employees.

Most important is that I learned a lot and found out what I did and didn’t like about this process. I mostly enjoyed the experience and saw benefits from it but I don’t truly imagine I’d work with a recruiting agency in the future. But only time will tell I suppose 🤷‍♂️. I hope my experience gives you some insight into whether this is something that’s right for you or not.

I’m happy to answer any specific questions you have about my experience or about the agency I worked with, feel free to reach out via Twitter, email, etc.


Note: During this job search process I was leaving Amazon so my experience was likely different because of how this appealed to potential employers.

Published 5 Feb 2020

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