Re: Recruiters

Subject: Re: Recruiters
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- YAHOO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 00:05:08 -0800

---Patrick Warren <pkwarren -at- CSI -dot- COM> wrote:
> I now use a modified version of the employer questionnaire located
on the
> TECHWR-L Web page. I formulated specific questions for the
> and also questions for the recruiter/agency to ask the potential
client. If
> they are serious and professional, they take the time to answer these
> questions, if not, I don't take them seriously.

I don't want to get in the habit of defending contract agencies, but I
do have to say a few things in defense of the recruiting process. My
company recruits a lot of writers (as well as programmers, database
developers, etc.) It is very hard to find people with good skills.
The questions at for prospective
employers are pretty good.

However, in the case of contract positions, many times the
agency/recruiter has very little information about the job. This can
be seriously exacerbated with a recruiter who is completely
non-technical. This is one of the reasons the recruiters at my
company are all full-time contractors as well.

Here is a typical call from a client looking for a contractor:

CLIENT: Hi, Mr. Plato, we have an opening for a tech writer here.

ME: Great. What's the project?

CLIENT: Well, we need support and user documentation for this new
product we have. We're going to beta in six hours (exaggeration for
humorous effect) so we would need someone pretty quick.

ME: Okay, well we have lots of great candidates. What kind of user
documents are we looking at here? On-line, printed? Do you have
templates for the material? Any particular tools you want to use?

CLIENT: Well, like I said, we're going to beta in, well it's going to
be five hours now. So we need a senior writer here in the next ten

ME: Well, what kind of software is this? It it Windows-based? I know
your company provides network monitoring software, is this the new
release of Service Clammer 9.0?

CLIENT: Well, kind of. We need someone who knows how to triaxilate a
node component array inside a binary multiplexer using ORCA 4000. It
would be nice if they had 19 years of experience. Did I mention we're
going to beta in, oh, it looks like it is back to 5 hours now.

ME: (exasperated) Okay, any ballpark on rates?

CLIENT: Well, we really need an experienced technical writer who can
work well on his/her own and handle multiple conflicting directions.
We were looking for someone in the $13 to $16 an hour range.

You get the idea. Clients are notoriously vague about their needs. In
fact I would estimate that a good 75% of the job requests I get, the
client really has no idea what they need or how much it will cost. I
had a client, and I am not kidding about this, ask for one of our top
consultants for $15 an hour. This is a person we usually bill at $65
to $85 an hour. This company had no clue that writers actually cost

Moreover, when it got to tools, technologies, and deliverables they
were hopelessly lost.

Ultimately, a good agency will help make some sense out of this chaos.
Unfortunately, most agencies can't make sense out of their own chaos,
let alone their clients.

I guess what I am saying is, give the recruiters some slack.
Sometimes they are as much in the dark as you are. Push for an
interview with the client and ask the client the tough questions.
Most clients will accept just about any rate you can dream up for a
contractor with good skills, a professional attitude, and a good set
of hard questions.

Also, do not expect an agency to reveal the client's name or company
until an interview is setup. Agencies get jobs ripped out from
underneath them all the time. They have to protect themselves. Believe
me I know this issue real well. I have had people interview with a
client under the guise of a contract through my company and then go
after the job independently without me. Oooo, I wanted to kick 'em.
That is such an unprofessional thing to do. Unfortunately, there
isn't much you can do about that.

Well, good luck with the recruiters and agencies.

Andrew Plato
President / Principal Consultant
Anitian Consulting, Inc.

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