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  • Working with a Recruiter

    [09.18.07]
    - Marc Mencher

  •  Another great service recruiters provide has two complementary parts: honest feedback and savvy spin control. Recruiters get frank feedback from the company you're interviewing with and in turn can clean up any mess you may have gotten yourself into. For example, one recruiter represented a well-qualified candidate with a bad attitude gleaned from past work experiences -- not Russell Crowe telephone-chucking bad, but ugly enough to leave a bad impression. The hiring manager passed up the candidate. Upon hearing the rejection, the recruiter called to find out what went wrong. Because of the recruiter's strong knowledge of the candidate, Mr. Attitude got a second chance (and another interview). This time, the interview was a success and Mr. New Attitude was hired.

    In the same vein, because recruiters take their fee from the company and not you, they'll know which companies are likely to be financially stable. That way, you won't have the experience of moving from San Francisco to Austin to see your position get cut two weeks later. Recruiters can also use their knowledge to inform you of unadvertised and unique opportunities. (However, if Take-Two is looking for a programmer to do something "Hot Coffee-esque," politely decline.)

    Good recruiters will also be able to determine your salary level compared with those with similar skills. If you've had trouble in the past negotiating salary or benefits, a recruiter can help. They'll know all about vacation time, stock benefits, bonus percentages, office perks, and how far to push a salary negotiation. If you're wondering why your less-qualified office mate has a better compensation package than you, it's probably because there was a strong recruiter negotiating the employment package.

    Recruiters from the Dark Side
    I bet you're thinking, "Wow, these people sound like they offer a lot. Why do some recruiters seem to have a mixed reputation?"

    Professional, ethical, and well-established recruiters play the game as I've outlined it above. Any bad reputation recruiters get comes from certain head-hunters who steal your resume off Monster (please avoid posting your resume there to begin with) and scan job ads, search for buzzwords, and throw your information around carelessly, often without your permission.

    Another river of criticism flows from the game industry itself. It's a hiring war in our market, with high demand for highly qualified talent. It's lame, for sure, but management will badmouth recruiters because they can't afford to have working-level staff leave their current jobs. These are the managers who, ironically enough, use recruiters to manage their own careers.

    How to find a good recruiter
    The best way to find a good recruiter is through word of mouth. An established firm should be known and have a reputation in the industry. Looking for a job can be a confidential thing, I know, so turn to the people you trust in the industry (this is part of what a mentor does) and don't be afraid to use the internet to your advantage. Well-established recruiters appear often in industry publications like Gamasutra.com, GameDaily.biz, and others. A web search for "game jobs" or "game recruiters" is also a good start.

    How to work with a recruiter
    As many successful managers who bash game recruiters could tell you, establishing and maintaining a long-term relationship with a recruiter is one the most beneficial connections you can have -- and it's simple.

    If a recruiter contacts you, keep these three steps in mind:

    1. Be flattered. No one recruits a loser (unless his name is Max Bialystock, but that's another story).
    2. Be helpful. The first call is usually a polite request for more information about you, so be open to answering some questions. A recruiter has no incentive to leak sensitive information, so feel free to speak honestly. If you're uncomfortable talking at work, simply ask for the recruiter's number and call from home.
    3. Be nice. As the saying goes, it costs nothing to be polite. Always remember that if you're not looking for a job the moment a recruiter calls, you may need a new gig in the future, so keep the torch away from the bridge. You'll be remembered fondly when that job you've always wanted opens up.

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