As a person who actively builds teams for many years, I can share with you what's the first thing that happens after I publish a new open position post/ad (in social media or on specialized job boards): nearly instantaneously, I get contacted by ... no, not by enthusiastic candidates, but by 10+ "helpful" sales(wo)men from various outsourcing companies / body-leasing shops or recruitment agencies who'd like to "support" / "help" / "aid" me in my distress.

Some claim to have 260 kg of developers available on the spot, others brag with referrals from various "corporatty" clients and there's ofc a big bunch of them who just approach with an ol' good cajolery (how they admire the company I represent or myself - even if clearly they don't know anything about me - except my tagline & current position in LI).

Yet, somehow I resist to get lured - I NEVER use outsourcing agency services. Is it because I'm resistant to sugar-coated sale-speak? Well, I hope I am, but it's not the main reason.

Reasons to say 'no'

First of all: I really want to have full control over who I work with - it's a clue of successful team-building.

It starts with the message I form (to the candidates) - WHO do I look for, WHAT do I offer, WHY one should consider working for me. I don't believe this can be "outsourced". Of course, there's a category of professionals (true mercenaries) who don't care about "that fluff" - but in 97% of cases they are not the ones I'm looking for. Their motivations are too shallow (purely extrinsic) - I don't believe they can make a difference (the kind of a difference I mean).

Then it's about the recruitment process itself - proper probing of attitude, aptitude, potential, mindset, aspirations - in general: cultural fit. I believe (& I shamelessly admit it) that no HH w/o experience in Engineering will verify a candidate better than myself (or another seasoned Engineering Leader with strong team-building expertise). This matter is just too contextual (being good for one company doesn't mean being any fit for another one)!

And again - I realize that the job market is so hard that many companies will accept nearly anyone with two good hands & basic syntactic knowledge of their language of choice. Sorry, I won't.

Call me picky - it's not like I care.

The blame game

In fact, I believe that both HHs & Contractor Agencies had a big role in breaking the (job) market:

  • HHs are responsible for the vast majority of LI spam - it's damn hard to get your specific, well-aimed & narrowly targeted message visible at all in that ocean of garbage
  • the disproportion between demand and supply is so high that market stays permanently dysregulated - the brokers are elevating the rates & there are too many desperate companies who keep feeding them
  • agencies are convenient for Engineers who are actually keen on frequently "jumping between contracts" -  no big commitments (like long-term responsibility), still decent money, option to swap projects (/clients) & hereby pimp up the CV (more tech terms in employment history); but as a side effect, those Engineers learn more syntax, but far less true engineering - they rarely work long enough to feel the consequences of their choices (which in a long term could make them a Senior Engineer / Architect / Engineering Leader)

I'm a dedicated advocate of a "skin in the game" concept - to truly motivate people to give their best, they need to feel that their personal success is directly associated with their employer's success. Reaching this kind of deal is significantly harder to achieve with 3rd party employers (at most - it can be optimized for a particular, well-defined, local goal - aka "set goal-related incentive" - which actually can be very dangerous.

Aligned? Not really.

Another reason is purely commercial - you're not the only client of a HH or  Outsourcing Agency. These companies think about their business, their KPIs & goals - the same candidate could be offered to several client companies (you and ... maybe your competition) and who gets offered where is decided following very simple criteria:

  • which company could pay a higher rate (hereby increasing agency's cut)
  • which company offers the bigger chance of success (e.g. is more likely to accept the candidate)
  • which company is more promising in terms of a long-term business relationship (there's a chance to push more "meat" there)

For me, such criteria are pretty much a deal-breaker.

Just to be clear - it doesn't mean I'd never use any external help. Quite the contrary. When it comes to "build VS buy" decision, I do believe that everything that doesn't qualify as a part of our core domain(s) should & has to be "outsourced" - either by using off-the-shelf-product (SaaS or on-premise) or having a product developed (& maintained) 100% externally by the 3rd party (preferably a seasoned & trustworthy software house, not a bunch of random folks).

But when it comes to whatever that has a direct impact on our competitive advantage, I want only trusted & hand-picked fellows on board. And it's us to do the picking - recruitment fellow engineers should be a core competence & key skill of any Engineering Leader.


P.S. Funny thing is that of the few truly competent & successful headhunting companies I know (they usually have quite narrow & precise specialties) not a single one needs to spam anyone or directly market their services to random people on the web ;P