Any industry that attracts large commissions also attracts sharks. What are sharks? They are often morally ambiguous, generous with the truth, will promise whatever you want to hear and will keep you on the hook as long as possible. It is a heavily weighted industry in favour of the recruiters and I don't really understand why no-one has muscled in with a better model.

Recruiters get leads from a number of places. They might pay a job site for listing adverts, they might pay Linked In for contact data for people with the right job title and they might even have some kind of personal network, perhaps regular events, that they use to meet people that they might be able to sell to an Employer.

Unfortunately, most recruiters are not only not developers but they seem to have very little understanding of what makes for a good employee. What happens is they see a job advert we might post, then they ignore the sign saying that recruiters should not apply and make contact. If you tell them that they have disboyed your instruction, who cares, they lose nothing but possibly you might make an exception and then they have established a lead essentially by being dishonest.

Now suppose you are recruiting for a senior developer in .Net, they will send you anyone on their books who has, perhaps 3+ years of experience and mentions .Net on their CV. Now I wouldn't consider anyone with 3 years as Senior in anything but the recruiter loses nothing by trying it. In the worst-case, you tell them that 3 years is not enough and then they might extend this for future submissions.

The problem here is that the employer is already doing most of the work. If the only service provided by the recruiter is people with some experience in the field than all of the other traits that make someone a good match are now the job of the employer - some of which could easily be done proactively by the recruiter.

For example, what about culture fit? As a non-HR person, I am not an expert in culture but I know that certain types of people fit in with certain types of teams/companies but a recruiter should already know that. They could run a number of personality tests or base it on their previous roles. They could ask the employer about the culture of the team. At best you might specify that you only want people who have worked in a startup but that is not enough. Imagine getting 5 CVs a week, not a large number and not having an HR person, you have to spend time reading 5 CVs, formulating questions for the candidate, providing advice on making their CV better etc and potentially spending an hour on the phone with another member of staff to work out whether they are even a close fit. What are we looking for? Things that the recruiter should already know. Are they a clear communicator? Can they talk tech? Are they confident or nervous?

Now why would a recruiter want to filter these people? There is almost no immediate benefit (except possibly in reputation). If they can palm someone off on a company that isn't as careful with recruitment as we are, the employer might be 10-20K out of pocket and the employee might not last 3 months. But with reputation, sharks are experts at ducking it. You might be told, "that recruiter isn't working for us any more", which might not be true. Even if you were to find out they were, you would probably be told, "Oh sorry, I thought you meant X not Y".

So we have recently setup online technical tests for candidates with CoderByte, which I highly recommend as an initial filter. I was worried about the tests being too hard and picked 2 easy and 1 medium but yet I am already filtering people who can't even finish the easy tests in 1 hour so it saves me time. A recruiter could easily setup their own tests. Anyone who wants to be called Senior needs to pass the tests but again, why would they? Why reduce the pool of potential candidates in a market that is not massively well-served?

I think a recruiter could do this really well and I have heard of one company in America, who decided to use a management model instead of a recruitment one. You work as a Contractor, you get the company to represent you to an employer but importantly, they don't take anybody on. They test you, look at your code and interview you so that what they sell to the employer is legit. They can get more salary than the developer would ask for and even with their commission, you are still earning more.

In the UK though, I despair at the sharks that bombard us.

Perhaps a more SaaS solution would be good where some experts can review candidates on behalf of a company who cannot do it would be quite lucrative. Toptal the agency do this and it isn't particularly difficult as long as you could pay your developers as much as they would get as a developer.

Perhaps people are trying it and I just haven't heard of them...

Oh how to cut through the marketing noise of "a recruiter with a difference" and finding a company that is actually different.