Strategies for Successfully Working with IT Recruiters

As a software developer if you have a public internet profile you are probably contacted by IT recruiters frequently. Here a few strategies for working with recruiters when you are on and off of the market.

You have a few options when interacting with recruiters.

  1. Don’t respond
  2. Politely reply that you are not interested.
  3. Respond with a time that works for you to talk to them.

Don’t Respond

I have used this strategy quite frequently. Like all the strategies it has both advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage of not responding to recruiter phone calls and emails is that you can continue to get your work done and not be bothered every day, or week by people trying to sell you on a new opportunity. If you are content with your life, and don’t anticipate needing to find new work in the next 6 months or so this is might be a good strategy for you.

There are a few disadvantages to simply not responding. The first is you don’t know what types of opportunities are available in your field. You may find yourself unaware of the skill sets, and technology proficiencies that companies are currently hiring for. We as software developers should have a realistic understanding that technology changes frequently and the things we know today may not be as valuable in the coming years. Its probably a good idea to keep on top of what skills are in demand. In the last few years it seems like JavaScript, and mobile development have sky rocketed as in demand skill sets for companies. If you don’t possess one of these skill sets you might find it harder to find a job in the future when you need to. The other major disadvantage is you miss out on growing your professional network. Getting to know recruiters can be beneficial in future job searches. If they know who you are and like you they’ll likely be eager to give you inside information when you find yourself on the market again.

Politely reply that you are not interested.

This technique is in my opinion better than saying nothing. Recruiters are used to being ignored, and are always looking to make a connection with someone. Imagine sitting at a desk making phone calls all day and no one answering. That is sometimes what a recruiter’s day is like. That would be disheartening and depressing to most people. Answering the phone or an email, will at least likely bring a smile to their face letting them know at least they reached someone. If you throw in some nice words, like "Good Luck", or "Have a great week", you’ll probably be better off than just saying that you aren’t interested. This approach kind of leaves the door half way open to them, instead of just not answering it at all. I have had recruiters that I told I’m not interested in their position still invite me to lunch. The obvious advantage to this is adding someone new to your network. You still might miss out on what is going on in your field depending on what you are responding too, and you also may be missing out on your dream opportunity.

Respond with a time that works for you to talk to them.

This strategy should probably be used sparingly. It takes time to talk with people, and effort to maintain good professional relationships. But if you think you want to know what opportunities are out there, what technologies companies are using, and you want to broaden your network you should do this.

I would urge you to know what you want before you do this too often. Figure out if its money, learning, teaching, new tech, location, dress code, being on a team or not, ability to travel that motivates you. Do you want to work in a particular industry, or for a particular company? These are things you should try to figure out for yourself regardless of whether or not you are looking for a new job. Once you know these things you are better able to offer valuable information to these recruiters, and they maybe more valuable to you. There is probably a combination of things that would make you want to leave your current place of employment even if you are happy there.

When you are Actively Seeking Employment

If you are actively seeking a new IT job and wanting to work with recruiters there are a few things I recommend.

  1. Qualify Recruiters
  2. Set Expectations
  3. Work with Multiple Recruiters

Qualify Recruiters

If you are seeking employment there are likely some criteria you have a new job. Your job when speaking with a new recruiter is to figure out if they can help you to find the job that meets your criteria. The simplest way to figure this out is to ask them. For example, if you want to work in New York doing .NET MVC development for an advertising company, then you need to ask the recruiter if they have ever helped anyone find that type of job in that city, or any where near there. Take the opportunity to interview them as if they were going to be someone working for you. Ask about their experience, and about the job market. How many people have they placed recently, in what fields, and what locations. What salaries should you be able to expect for the role you are looking for. What is trending in the industry? Make sure that you are comfortable working with this person. You need to be able to trust this person.

Set Expectations

Something you may notice if you have worked with any local recruiters is they want to know all about your job search. They want to know what other companies/recruiters you are working with, what companies you are interviewing with, what your previous salary was, etc. You should know you don’t have to tell them these things. During my last job hunt I explicitly told each recruiter I was working with what I would and wouldn’t tell them. I did not divulge any companies that I was interviewing with, nor any other recruiting firms, or agent names whom I worked with. I said if there is a conflict with something you are proposing I’ll tell you, other than that, you don’t need to know. I may tell you if I receive an offer from another company if I’m waiting on you, but I may not. Please work with the information I have given you. I did say I may or may not be working with other recruiters, but that shouldn’t concern you.

One thing I didn’t do, but will do next time, is set expectations about communications. I prefer at least daily updates. If you said you would do something, and I haven’t heard that you did it, I’ll probably be calling you. I want to know when and how things progress, and if a day goes by with no progress, I want to know that and why. If I don’t hear from a recruiter for two days then I may not choose to work with them again. Establishing preferred communication protocol is a good idea as well. You may prefer emails, texts, or phone calls. Let them know. I prefer phone calls when actively looking and emails, when I’m not.

Work With Multiple Recruiters

Recruiters from different companies even in the same city will know about different opportunities. The last time I did this, I think I found about a dozen different opportunities using three recruiters with only two duplicates. If you can work with and manage three to five recruiter relationships at once that will likely net you more interviews. Also this allows you the option of disconnecting with anyone who isn’t responsive or you don’t feel is working for you. Someone recently said there are more recruiters than there are software developers. It does often seem that way. In a lot of cities there are definitely more jobs than there are developers.


The next time you get contacted by a recruiter think about how you should respond, your dream job may be out there waiting for you to find it. A recruiter will likely be the one to introduce you to it. No matter what you do, try to stay positive, and be polite. Kindness goes a long way, even if you are unhappy with the service being offered and need to disconnect with someone just be nice about it. It’s always a good idea to evaluate your current job and see how it fits with your life and career goals. At least once a year you should consider making a list of what you value most in a career opportunity. It might help you decide which strategy to take the next time you get contacted by a recruiter.

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Adam Wright is a technologist specializing in software development using Microsoft technologies.

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