How to Find a Great Software Engineer Recruiter

Software Engineering Apr 4, 2022

Connecting with the right software engineering recruiter to help you land your next job is invaluable.

Tech companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon hire thousands of employees per year.

It's common practice for companies to use recruiters (either contractors or in-house) to help them keep up with industry trends and find qualified software developers.

Nevertheless, the experiences that many software engineers have with most recruiters aren't that great. Many can be downright unhelpful or annoying to work with.

But that doesn't mean there aren't great recruiters out thereโ€”far from it. You just need to know where and what to look for!

Building positive relationships with knowledgeable and well-connected tech recruiters can benefit your career for years to come.

Whether you're a junior developer or a senior software developer, having some reliable recruiters in your corner will never be a bad thing.

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Read on to learn how to find a recruiter that is responsive to your career needs and can help you find excellent software engineering jobs.

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

What Does a Software Engineering Recruiter Do?

Job recruiters are either hired or employed by companies to match qualified candidates with open positions.

Recruiters can be independent contractors, members of an agency, or they could be employees of the companies themselves.

These distinctions could influence how recruiters work with you and the quality of the experience working with them.

Given how in-demand quality software development talent is nowadays, companies routinely will turn to tech recruiters to help them find qualified candidates and engineering talent.

However, they can also serve as representatives of potential candidates to a hiring manager and keep candidates informed on the hiring process status.

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

How to Find a Software Engineering Recruiter

Finding a tech recruiter to aid your job search is not all that difficult. Finding a GREAT one is.

If you have a professional career and a LinkedIn profile, your inbox may already contain messages from various recruiters.

However, job recruiters have a bit of a bad rap. This is especially true with software engineers, considering the positions are typically complex and highly technical.

You'll undoubtedly experience tons of recruiters who simply don't understand the role enough to know what they're talking about. Such recruiters may offer you irrelevant interviews or roles outside your particular expertise.

Finding a great tech recruiter who knows their chops and won't waste your time can be challenging.

At the end of the day, there are only four major evaluating factors you need to determine if a recruiter is worth working with. These are:

Responsiveness

First and foremost, a great recruiter must be responsive to you, your questions, and your desired engineering position.

Ask yourself if this particular recruiter is willing to communicate with you regularly.

Your recruiter should respond to your emails if you're looking for an update, even if they don't quite have one yet. Some recruiters may reach out to your regarding some position and then seemingly vanish without a trace.

These kinds of flaky recruiters are not the ones you want to work with.

Not only should your tech recruiter respond to your communications, but they should also be responsive to your particular career needs.

For instance, if you are looking for work as a front-end developer, the recruiter shouldn't be pushing full-stack or back-end engineering positions your way.

Specialized in Tech/Engineering Roles

While being receptive and responsive to your needs is a must-have quality in your technical recruiter, they typically should specialize in tech and engineering jobs.

Ask any software engineer and they can probably relate to dealing with pushy recruiters that had no idea what software development roles they were trying to fill.

This can be amusing if, for example, a recruiter was reaching out to you about a web developer position despite being, let's say, a DevOps engineer.

More likely than not, though, this will be annoying for you or make you feel like these people would waste your time.

A recruiter specializing in filling tech roles is probably the best bet for aspiring software developers.

Such individuals are much more likely to understand the job openings in question and the qualifications they require.

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Narrow Focus on One Particular Position

Many commission-based (or contingency) tech recruiters may be only concerned with filling one or two particular positions. They're not going to help you on your entire job search.

They may reach out to you but may quickly disappear or stop communicating with you if you are not receptive to the job they want to fill.

A great recruiter (or at least one worth working with and keeping within your professional network) will still want to learn more about you, even if you are not interested in this job opening.

Perhaps something down the line will come up that is a better fit.

Solid tech recruiters will still want to learn more about you and your professional goals to get in touch in such situations.

Provide Career or Job Seeking Advice

You should always seek out a technical recruiter that can provide you some valuable career or job-seeking advice.

Great software engineering recruiters will always do this.

Whether that means suggestions on changing or updating your resume, how to best perform during your interviews, or what software development career paths you should consider.

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You should be wary of those job recruiters who won't or seem uninterested in giving you tangible advice. Unfortunately, this type of technical recruiting may be more focused on their commission than actually finding you an excellent job for you.

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

If you can find a software engineering recruiter that fits into all four of these boxes, then there's a good shot they can find you a solid engineering job.

Nevertheless, this may take some time to do. You'll inevitably have to wade through dozens of bad, lazy, pushy, or clueless recruiters before you find those worth their salt. Engineering recruiting isn't for everyone!

While it may seem like a headache (we understand that the job-seeking process can be stressful enough as it is), finding and maintaining professional relationships with quality tech recruiters can benefit you for years to come.

After all, some years down the line, you may be looking for another engineering job, and you'll know just who to call when you do!

The Two Types of Software Engineering Recruiters

There are only two kinds of job recruiters: retained and contingency recruiters.

Each will treat you and the hiring process differently.

Retained Software Engineering Recruiters

Retained recruiters are directly employed by the companies that they are recruiting for. Therefore, the name "retained" suggests that they are salaried company staff members.

These recruiters are much more concerned with their organization's interests and finding the best possible fit for the jobs in question. They work alongside a hiring manager or managers to fill job openings.

This contrasts with contingency recruiters (see below) who essentially work on commission. They may be more concerned with getting paid compared to retained recruiters.

Generally speaking, retained recruiters are typically some of the best software engineering recruiters to work with, considering their salaried position at the companies themselves. Their entire day-to-day job is technical recruiting for the company they work for.

Recruiter horror stories (where they may waste candidates' time or harass uninterested engineers) are a dime a dozen. However, these stories rarely, if ever, involve retained recruiters.

More than anything, a retained recruiter will learn as much as they can about you can screen you thoroughly so that neither the company nor your time is wasted.

They typically have a more thorough understanding of the work environment and job requirements than contingency recruiters.

As such, you can expect retained recruiters to be capable of finding the best possible fit for a software engineer position.

However, the flip side of retained recruiters is that the roles they can offer you could be somewhat limited.

Of course, they will be limited to a single company, that being the company they are employed by. They can't help you with the pains of technical recruiting in the rest of your job search.

Not only that, they may be more challenging to get in contact with than contingency recruiters. Nevertheless, you can still typically find them on sites like LinkedIn or company directories, where you can reach out about finding a software engineering job.

Contingency Recruiters

Cyborg by Nina Markaryan

When you think of a job recruiter, there's a good chance you're thinking about contingency recruiters. These technical recruiting folks are hired by companies or agencies to fill open job positions.

Unlike retained recruiters, however, they are not employees or members of the organization. Instead, they are commission-based contractors.

Because of this commission-based structure, so many people find working with recruiters difficult.

Contingency recruiters don't get paid until you accept and start a job.

You will likely need to be patient in searching for a great recruiter among contingency recruiters. The priority of a contingency recruiter is getting their commission.

As a result, it's not uncommon for them to push irrelevant or unwanted engineering jobs your way.

Unscrupulous contingency recruiters likely don't have your best interests at heart. They may give you bad advice, like not pushing for a higher salary or quickly accepting the first job offer that comes your way. They may not also be familiar with industry trends in the IT industry as a whole.

For instance, they may think your AngularJS project from 7 years ago is still relevant to the most recent version of Angular (14.0.0 at the time of writing).

However, keep in mind that there are plenty of great contingency recruiters if you're willing to work through some duds. Suppose you remember the four evaluating factors we mentioned earlier. In that case, you should be able to gauge the quality of a recruiter reasonably quickly.

Questions To Ask Your Software Engineering Recruiter

Once you find a few software engineering recruiters you may want to work with, it's vital to ask them plenty of questions, especially if they have a particular role in mind.

Here are some examples of what you could ask:

  • What programming languages, frameworks, or libraries are used by the company?
  • What important technical details do I need to know regarding this position?
  • Do the software development teams prefer a particular methodology, such as Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, or Kanban?
  • How much of this engineering role consists of development or maintenance?
  • How large are the development teams I would be working on?
  • Who does the position report to?
  • What is the company's culture like?
  • What is the potential for career growth at the company?
  • Does the company promote or provide additional education (seminars, hackathons) for their engineers?
  • How extensive is the interview process? How many stages does it consist of?
  • What is the level of compensation for this role? How negotiable are the salary ranges?
  • Could I speak with the engineering team members before my interview?
  • Why did the job become available?
  • What are the technical experience or skills required by the hiring managers?
  • Why do I seem like a good fit for this role?
  • Are there any potential problems regarding my past work experience or something in my resume?
  • Is this a remote position?

What Software Engineer Recruiters are Looking For in Candidates

These top skills are what recruiters want to see when they talk to you for a position.

Communication Skills

Strong communication skills are essential to any role. How you communicate and share your vision for a product or engineering project is key.

Recruiters want to know that by moving you to an interview, you'll be able to talk fluently on your area of expertise with the company.

Make sure your SWE resume is well written and that your cover letter is clear and concise.

If you write for a software engineering blog, be sure to include links to posts as well to help show off your written communication skills!

Always Learning

Software engineers need to stay up to date with the latest trends if they want to work in tech.

Frameworks and programming languages are changing all the time and knowing only a single language from a decade prior won't help you stand out.

Show off side projects to your recruiter and talk about things you're doing to stay current.

If you built an AngularJS side-project years ago, try to update it to the latest version of Angular or even convert it to VueJS. Your recruiter wants to know you're not stuck in your ways.

Strong Portfolio

Your portfolio is one of the best ways to show off the projects you worked on in your current job or in the past.

Show a recruiter the side projects you've built, open-source projects you've contributed to, or things you're building at work that are making a business impact.

You can feature these projects on your GitHub profile or on your personal website.

Enthusiasm for the Role

Lastly, make sure you're enthusiastic about the role a recruiter is talking about!

No one wants to hire someone who isn't excited about what they're building. Even if this is your first job and you're using it as a stepping stone, try to show some interest in the project.

Ask your recruiter questions about how the project might grow in the future. Ask if there are more opportunities for you at the company if the project or product succeeds.

Best Staffing Agencies to Find Software Engineering Recruiters

Suppose you want to skip many of the headaches or hassles of finding a tech job recruiter.

Luckily, you can work with a reputable staffing agency to help you.

There are tons of them out there for all different jobs and industries. But here are our five favorites for finding a software engineering job:


Robert Half is one of the most famous and prestigious staffing agencies globally.

First founded in 1948, Robert Half has steadily grown to become one of the largest recruiting firms.

It specializes in a wide range of industries, including tech.

In addition, you can upload your resume on their website to receive personalized job recommendations. Their recruiters will help advocate hiring managers at your desired companies on your behalf.

Motion Recruitment is one of our favorites because of its specialty in some of the most in-demand tech jobs and skills.

For example, suppose you're a software developer looking for a specific niche or area of expertise, such as mobile development, UX, DevOps, machine learning, etc.

In that case, you should consider working with Jobspring Partners (now Motion Recruitment).

Unlike other staffing agencies, software developers can find highly specialized and knowledgeable recruiters with Motion Recruitment.

Triplebyte is a fascinating staffing agency that is also well-known amongst the big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Dropbox.

Keep in mind, Triplebyte seeks to be one of the most trustworthy recruiting platforms for some of these tech companies.

When you first apply as a software developer, you will have to pass some initial technical interviews.

Whereas other staffing agencies will simply ask for your resume or some basic information, only 3% of TripleByte applicants make it on the platform.

While this certainly sounds intimidating, just remember one thing. Software developers that make it onto the TripleByte platform will have an easy time finding a lucrative and fulfilling jobs.

Insight Global is a technology staffing company out of Atlanta, Georgia.

This is a notable addition to our list, considering how fast the company is growing.

Insight Global claims that they "relentlessly pursue opportunities for others because when we all work together, anything is possible."

The company hosts an extensive job board and has a team of consultants that can help you find your next software engineering gig.

TEKsystems

TEKsystems is another massive agency on our list of great staffing agencies.

The company primarily works with IT and Tech recruiting and has served some of the biggest tech companies globally, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.

So if you're looking for a software engineering position at a FAANG or comparable company, consider using TEKsystems.

Interview Prep for Software Engineering Roles

Once you find a worthwhile recruiter, you should get some software engineer interviews lined up pretty quickly.

Here at Exponent, we have plenty of interview prep and resources to help you ace your upcoming interviews and get the offer.

Check them out here:

๐Ÿ’ฌ Practice with sample Software Engineering interview questions

๐Ÿ“– Read through our Software Engineering interview guides

๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™‚๏ธ Rehearse your behavioral and interpersonal skills with our interview practice tool.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“ Take our complete Software Engineering interview course.

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Anthony Pellegrino

I'm Tony, a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. I write about interview prep and career planning for Exponent, but I also write about climate change, tech, and, politics.

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