IntroductionTech Recruiters are, for the most part, massively overpriced and often under-deliver. You can easily pay £10-20K+ in commission once you recruit somebody via the Recruiter and, naturally, you probably don't know their fit until around 3 months at which point the Recruiter is still owed the full amount of commission even though your new recruit might leave or be given their marching orders.
The market is tenuousThere is therefore a very simple fact: Tech Recruiters are mostly clinging onto their lucrative market but could very easily see it disappear very quickly with the right disruptor. I haven't seen that disruptor yet but I have seen the rough end of trying to recruit and although there are some new approaches, I don't think any (that I have heard of) have a broad enough approach to offer a solid alternatvie just yet.
The current industryThe current industry, for the most part, is like a bunch of used-car sales people. Recruiters are largely pushy, not very knowledgeable and act like over-paid pen-pushers who are skilled in making telephone calls. I have experience of these people who are set to make a fortune from me but treating me like they are doing me such a massive favour that they can be overly pushy, have very poor tone ("Why haven't you called me back yet..", "The candidate has loads of other offers..") and are really not adding much value to my experience. The CVs we are sent are anything from completely irrelevant (do you want a Python Developer for your .Net position), through to basic box-ticking but not much else.
Why does it work then?Why does it continue to work? Two reasons. The disruptors have not disrupted properly and secondly, it is the path of least-resistance for job seekers: call a recruiter and sit back and wait for the offers to come in.
We don't often know what we wantI think a large part of our failure to disrupt is that we don't have many good objective measurements of what we want. If you were employing a doctor, you would have a definition of a doctor, you might ask about years of experience and specialism but otherwise, it would be a simple chemistry interview in many cases.
The software industry is way behind. We started with a concept of "clever people write software" with little more regulation that that and we haven't changed the philosophy despite there being so many more developers now that clearly the profession is no longer reserved for the intelligent but attracts all sorts of people who might be self-taught, professionally educated or graduates.
Also, my experience is that developer interviews rarely feel well thought-out. You might get a technical test (or not), a logic test (or not), a personality test (not usually), some basic questions and then an offer (or not). I have rarely seen strong job descriptions that encapsulate the essence of the company and the role in a way that can offer a good review process foundation.
The DisruptorsI have seen some disruptors in recruitment but they largely (as far as I know) boil down into two camps. The first simply seeks to make the current process more efficient and cheaper with automation, standard (but well-written) job adverts, which might help attract people but doesn't usually offer anything different in terms of filtering candidates. In fact, I have never been asked anything specific by recruiters that would help them decide the type of person I am and the type of experience I have other than a few (usually useless) keywords that they can match a job with like ".net" or "Java".
The second type of disruptor uses hackathon type events to try and separate the good from the bad. This is much more useful to certain employers and is sometimes hands-on, in as much as you might go and watch the event, talk to candidates etc. but unless you add this to a good interview, you might end up with someone good at hackathons but is a pain to work with or who does things their way rather than choosing concensus over opinion. They also take time to scale since they are usually attendance events which would work well in London or San Francisco but not so much in Aberdeen or Wuppertal.
How do we disrupt?First of all, as an industry, we should have a measure on all of the skillsets that make up a Developer (or, in fact, most other tech positions). These include basic metrics like years of experience, specialist knowledge, soft skills like team work, personality types and management style as well as dimensions that are harder to measure like aptitude and flexibility. Once we know these, we can then decide what can be measured and how.
We then then to understand how these vary depending on seniority. If someone is new to the industry, there are certain skills I would simply not require like management, which can be taught if necessary. On the other hand, for me, a Senior must have management skills and an understanding of big-picture issues. I would expect a Junior to do what they are told but I would expect a Senior to tell me what they think needs doing.
What we could then do is build up a picture of a candidate using a range of techniques (questions, interviews, abstract tests etc.) to then allow a company to match to both their general requirement but also specifics that change in each organisation. I might not want a free-thinker in an Enterprise environment but in a smaller company, this might be eactly what I need. The tests should ascertain not just e.g. "10 years of .Net experience" but the detailed understanding within that. Dependency injection? Unit tests? Devops? New Language Features? Basically, a whole load of detail we could ask a candidate to show.
The $1,000,000 question is why would a candiate put themselves through it? Firstly, for the best candidates, it would be easier to prove what they are worth in comparison to others in the system but also it is something that could be done over time for people to learn what they are good at or not and allow them to target their training resources to areas they are weak in. By the time they want to leave an existing position, they should already have a higher and more balanced score.
Maybe I'll build it tonight!