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Dear recruiter: I will not help you do your job for free

I literally get 10-15 calls and emails a week from recruiters asking if I can help them to find a data warehouse or business intelligence person for an opening at a client they have.  And another 10-15 emails for positions not even close to my skill-set (many coming from keyword searches via LinkedIn).  90% of these requests are from recruiters I have never heard from before.  Something along the lines of:

“I found your blog online and thought you might be able to help out with a search I’m conducting for my client in SoCal.  This role (attached) probably isn’t for you since it is geared for someone with less than 10 years of experience – however, if you know anyone that might be interested, please put them in touch with me.”

“We have an Oracle / Transact SQL project coming up, in case you have a colleague in the market?”

“I will appreciate if you can forward this email to anyone who might be looking out for a change in same domain.”

I will ask the recruiter what kind of compensation I would receive if I gave them the name of a perfect candidate and they were placed at the client, giving them tens of thousands of dollars in profit.  It ranges from, at most, $1000 after six months, to:

“We don’t do referral fees.  The only recompense you can expect will be the satisfaction of knowing you helped your friend/colleague land a great opportunity.  That – and good Karma – which we could all use more of”.

Well, since I get 10-15 requests like this each week, I need a monetary incentive to help you out over the others, as my time is very valuable.  Good Karma won’t help pay for my kids college.  And everyone says it’s a “great opportunity”, but the reality is you have no idea since you have never worked at that company.  I know sales talk when I hear it.

I like to followup with two questions to the recruiter: If I asked you to help me find clients that need my services, would you do it for free?  Do you get a fee from the client for placing someone, or do you do it strictly for good Karma?

You want me to help you do your job with what is one of the hardest parts – finding a consultant that fits your client’s needs – and I get nothing and you get the entire fee?  If you were a mechanic, would you ask someone to help you with the hardest part of repairing a car and not compensate them?

I have spent many hours building relationships with many individuals who have various skillsets, which is what you should be doing.  And you want to skip that step and have me give you the names of these candidates without compensation for the hours I have put in networking and getting to know these candidates?  So you save all that time and collect all the money?  No, I won’t be doing the actual “recruiting” of the individual, but getting the name of a possible candidate is at least half the battle.  Pass!

Why am I saying all this?  To help you, the recruiter: If you want to find candidates, offer a large referral fee, and I guarantee you that you will get plenty of referrals.  Something along the lines of $5k after 3 months or, even better, $5/hr for each hour the candidate works or a percentage of the hourly rate (this way, both sides have an incentive for the candidate to work at the client for a long time).  At the very least, build a relationship before you ask for a referral.  Don’t make your first contact a request for a referral.

James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger (JamesSerra.com) and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.


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