You’re now job hunting! What you need to know about recruiters, and how to benefit from them!

Perhaps a Congratulations is in order?

If you’re a recent graduate, as I am, then you’re just about to head out into the big bad world of the labor force! It’s really not so bad, and if you’re in the tech field, you’re in luck! There’s a ton of positions that need to be filled, and hardly enough of us to fill them! So, make the most of it! Chances are, there will be less entry level positions, but I’ve been introduced to so many, that that doesn’t appear to be the case! So, learn how to hustle, otherwise you’ll have to settle for less! 😉 If you’re more senior, hopefully my great insight into human behavior will be of some use to you. If not, then I apologize ahead of time and wish you the best!

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, what are these recruiters?

I’ve heard them called many names (e.g., recruiters, head hunters, relationship managers, etc) and all of them seem to be indicative of some part of their roles. They could be called all of these, because all of these are true. They recruit people, they hunt various locations for potential recruits–which have heads–, and they manage relationships.

These are all basic things derived from their names. I think the best thing to notice, is their language. They use the term opportunity, when referring to an available position. At first glance, it appears to be a lavish way of saying a potential job, but I think it speaks more of the profession than anything else. They are, very much so, opportunists. That being said, they are great to have by your side, though pretty dangerous at the same time. So, tread carefully.

Of course, not all of them will be fully focused on the opportunities, they will also be focused on managing a relationship. These, more often than not, are the ones you want to have by your side. They take the time to get to know you, and leave you feeling like a person; not a product. They do come in some varieties, and you will likely come across all of them, unless you desperately need to rush into a position, in which case you’ll come across the “first responders”. They’re quick, and will hit you like a wave from a bursting dam, if you’re unprepared!

bursting dam

Bursting dam.

All of the first responders seem to be third party recruiters, and will generally keep an eye, or have some sort of alert go off, when your resume meets certain criteria in a job searching site (e.g. dice, indeed, etc). Most of them tend to rush through introductions, and getting a glimpse of what you are capable of. Some of the slower third party recruiters tend to take a little longer and really get a feel for them. The best analogy I could come up with is, picking a puppy from a breeder, or a shelter. You generally don’t want one of the hyperactive ones, they will be terribly troublesome, and annoy you quite a bit. They focus on their needs, and don’t quite take you into consideration. They come to you from time to time, but it’s usually because they need, or want something from you. The later ones, the betas, at least in appearance, seem to take their time getting to know you, and maybe do take you into consideration. Those are the ones you really want to work with! If you’re interested in those, feel free to send me a tweet or message, I’d be more than happy to recommend them to you. If you’re curious about the hyperactive and less caring firms, ask, and I’ll give you as much detail on them as you would like!

Somewhere between and after the first responders and the betas are the corporate, or company recruiters. They have a stable job, and can afford to take their time. These tend to take you into greater consideration, and are as pleasant as the betas. Given that the relationship with this recruiter is only limited to the company, they don’t have to great a role, outside of the hiring process there, than the betas. I would definitely encourage you to find a good beta for those future job hunts!

These are just categorizations and analogies I used to make more sense. If you would like a better grasp of them, here’s a few links I read to better understand them and their roles. 5 Things You Should Know About Job Recruiters by Susan P. Joyce gave a good list of things to know about them, then breaking them into generic types (internal vs. external). Working with Recruiters by N-Jen gives you an even greater look at recruiters, and how a general transaction with them will go. Finally, I add this one because it focuses on the recruiters side of the transaction, 5 Myths About Working With Recruiters by Arnie Fertig. You have mine, from a non-recruiter stand point, so, I feel it’s important to get at least one from a recruiters point of view!

Here’s where you really have to use your brain!

Recruiting, especially technical recruiting, is a highly lucrative business. The sheer demand for the technical field makes this such a great opportunity for recruiters to make money. It’s also another great opportunity for the job-seekers to take advantage of their demand. Hence, the great demand for technical recruiters. Most would say they are a necessary evil, but necessary for whom? Given the great demand for the technical job-hunter, it’s in the companies best interest to shotgun job offers, and try to get the lowest bit for the most qualified possible recruit. So, the recruiter’s are not only searching for the best possible recruit, they’re also searching for the lowest possible bid. It’s true, they do make more money with the greater amount that you make, but think of it this way:

''' The recruits, in a very simple example '''
recruit_1 = 70000
recruit_2 = 70000
recruit_you = 80000

''' Each placed recruit gives the agent (recruiter)
    about 20-30% of profit, here I will give you the
    highest profit, and the competition the lowest'''

profit_1 = recruit_1 * 0.20 + recruit_2 * 0.20
profit_2 = recruit_you * 0.30

if profit_1 > profit_2:
(TAB) print profit_1

(TAB) print profit_2

This is  overly simplistic, but I hope it will give you a sense of what you’ll be getting yourself into. This is an economic game your playing, so make sure you go in with as much preparation as possible. If you’re interested in looking up these concepts, get some more information on game theory! If you’re not familiar with it, maybe you’re familiar with artificial intelligence, and a few of it’s corresponding concepts! Think of the recruiter as an optimized agent of profit! Their goal is to maximize their profit. Likewise, your goal is to maximize your profit. So, the ideal would be a zero-sum game. Both parties benefit mutually, and none will be left feeling like they pulled the short straw! This isn’t a simple take-take relationship (though I have come across a few recruiters that were more focused on the take, vs. the giving). You have to give, in order to receive. Likewise, you should expect something in return for something else.

This was the aspect of my communications with recruiters that was the most entertaining. They were constantly asking for more and more information, though only giving empty praises, and offering no opportunities. Remember, this is a game of the mind, if you place a great value on complements, then it will still be zero sum! Though, your bank account and future career may be less convincing of that fact! Don’t be tricked by complements, they could cost you thousands! I personally don’t think they’re worth that much, but if you do, then don’t feel bad when you’re paid significantly lower than your peers! If everything feels staged to you, or not sincere, that should be a big warning sign; you’re entering an assembly line! Also, be careful with what information you make available.

One of the best requests was, “Where else are you interviewing?” This is a very interesting question, because it seems harmless enough. They state, “We just don’t want to offer you the same opportunity.” That’s believable enough, but when all of them say it? It’s almost as if they’re all attending the same recruiter school, with the same phrases! I definitely enjoyed this game, because everyone would continue to say it. I went one step further, and provided as much information to them as I could for these positions. I even fished for some extra questions. They don’t like abbreviations of these companies (a dead giveaway that they’re not looking for your best interest!). What you may think is a prevention of removing collisions, is actually a fish for more opportunities. Remember that little snippet of code? Let’s say they have a recruit, that is going for $70,000, and they have you going for $80,000. They can now swoop in, with that other–potentially equally qualified–recruit and seal the deal! Or at least offer you more competition, which I am a fan of, but not when it collectively decreases our worth! Again, game theory, they can get more recruits coming in, and fill more positions with less pay, which will allow them to make more profit in the end; this will end up hurting you. That being said, if you have very little interest in the position, feel free to share it! Again, it is a give and take relationship, just make sure you level the playing field enough to keep it even, or, if possible, to your advantage!

Other tactics I’ve seen, were related were along the same lines. If you’ve noticed any tactics used, please let me know and I’ll add them here! I’ve heard some horror stories, where the recruiter would coerce you, or make it seem that you’re not worth their time. I have not had an experience like that, but if you have, I’d definitely be interested in hearing about it!


Some closing remarks, and such.

Remember, every opportunity to interview, is an opportunity to improve yourself. So, don’t be stingy with the information, but keep the ones you’re really interested to yourself! Also, make sure they’re pulling their own weight as well. Fishing for information, without providing any is definitely working against you! Do yourself a favor, and get a beta! It’ll make your life so much easier! 🙂 Also, be respectful to the recruiters, they have a pretty tough job.

As I said before, if you’re interested in getting some additional information, find me on twitter (you don’t even have to follow me, and I’ll respond!), or on LinkedIn. I’m in the Chicago area, and have been in correspondence with Chicago based recruiters, mostly. So, if you’re looking to move here, or are already here, then you’re in luck! I’d be more than willing to provide you the information to some of the great recruiters I’ve met, and also which ones to avoid around here! If something wasn’t clear, or could’ve been better covered please let me know! Well, good hunting, and don’t forget the ones you leave behind!

Review: Amazon Echo

First Impressions of Amazon’s Echo:

This was a lot bigger than I imagined; at least by twice the size! It’s not huge, but it’s definitely hefty. It requires constant power, which wasn’t exactly unexpected. It’s constantly on, and requires some sort of power. I was under the assumption that you could set the wake name to whatever you want. Unfortunately, at least for the time being, you have the option of setting the wake word to Alexa or Amazon. It’s fine for now, sucks for any family with a family member named Alexa–or oddly enough, Amazon. I even spent the week before receiving it thinking of name to call it. Somehow it ended up with typical stripper names such as: Candy, Diamond, etc. Something that was a name, but not commonly used. I hadn’t settled on name when I realized customizing it wasn’t an option; that was fortunate.

Setting it up was fairly quick. I simply followed the instructions, and in a short bit of time, had Alexa up and running. After that, I tried to match it with a few of the answers that google or siri were able to handle. It was considerably limited when it first started, which I found a little disappointing. One of it’s redeeming factors was not having to press and hold a button! There wasn’t much I used it for. Mostly for the time, alarms, weather. I assumed there would be more features added as time went on. The voice is pretty smooth, and the response time was quick. Given that the updates were all performed via “the cloud” I safely assumed updates would be continuous and uninterrupting.

After a few commands, some of which not being understood, and the consistent attempt at using Bing as a search engine, I noticed the Echo App (iPhone) had a feedback button for every command given. I tried purchasing a song to test out, which, at the time, failed. This might be of my own fault, I didn’t look much into it.


After a Couple of Months of Using:

Given how easy it is to access Alexa, I can’t help but miss her those moments when I just need the time. I’ve learned to use the Echo in a productive manner. Furthermore, they’ve consistently updated the the software; often times including a little more quirk! Living up to it’s, “Always getting smarter” claims. They also appear to be opening up to third party software–one of my first suggestions! Though, I’m sure this was a part of their initial plans for the Echo.

I used to watch CNN back in the age of cable television, and have sparsely kept up with the news in more recent news. Often times being oblivious to what’s going on around the world. It’s safe to say that the “Flash News Briefing” has come in handy. With the added benefit of not requiring my complete attention! That is to say, I can move about at my own leisure while catching up on the news! The minor issue I’ve had was the break in the news. They apparently cut off and switch to a different source of news mid sentence. It doesn’t detracts from the news, but it does make me wonder what I’m missing.

With regard to the time management, Alexa has been a huge delight. Setting up alarms and timers is a breeze! Just saying, “Alexa, set timer for 10 minutes.” or “Alexa, set an alarm for tomorrow at 8am.” That’s it! No picking up phone, setting time in app, or asking Siri to do it for you by waiting a few seconds. Eh, less work is always preferred, right? Well, it just feels so natural to ask the machine to set an alarm for me, rather than pressing a button and holding it. I think this is where Google’s glass could’ve really shined. Grant it, “OK, google” is still a bit more verbose than I would prefer, it was functional! Alexa, short and sweet! It’s really a time saver. Not just with the commands, but also with time management. I hope it would at some point support stopwatches, multiple alarms, and multiple timers! But even now it’s been pretty great.


Where I see it going:

Well, given it’s pace of advancement, and constant updates. I see this as a useful and powerful tool. Finally, the connected house of the future in it’s infancy! Haha, one thing that Amazon has done right, relative to google, is it’s ability to be practical and pragmatic. It starts with a base beta to test out with it’s people. I don’t expect this to be the last iteration at all, nor anywhere near it, but it’s a start. With google glass, it appeared as a final product, something that was way to expensive for a beta test. Siri with it’s apple watch seems a bit more what I’d prefer, though I’m not to familiar with how it will integrate itself with the rest of the house. So, Amazon does appear to be in the lead of that race. You can already connect your Connected home devices to shut off lights or power sources, along with various apps on your phone. Grant it, the Echo is only limited by it’s stationary base. I would love to see it as a full house, or a mobile device; though the battery life would be an issue. It does appear to be where technology is heading though… one device to rule them all…. ok, yeah too cliche. 😛

I did see an add to a company that is looking to do just that though. I don’t mean a device that turns into a tablet, a phone, or a computer. Something much more than either. You can have a standalone monitor, that connects to this device and morphs into a desktop, but it has all of the same applications, and the same data accessible. This just seems to be the logical place to go from where we are. Implementing has been coming in various forms. Whether it’s google’s OS, and it’s ability to access all information from one browser–which seems to be the closest to this next step in tech– or the cloud synchronizing and polymorphic websites and apps that have been showing up (apple, google). Even the entire operating systems as Microsoft’s Windows 8. An excellent idea, poorly implemented. They tried to make a desktop a tablet, such a horrible idea! Instead, make the OS shape to the platform you’re trying to accommodate. A phone is a phone, a tablet is a tablet, a PC is a PC. Take advantage of what they have to offer, and work from there! So, I hope that’s were we’re heading, because it would be much easier to have one place for all of my data rather than having multiple thumb drives, hard drives, and apps.

eLearning: StackSkills’ Productivity Management Course

The course

If you’re thinking of taking this course, I would be weary of the price on their site. It’s definitely not worth 297 that’s advertised on their course page!

I did purchase it as a bundle, totaling 19 USD. This course alone would not be worth the 19 dollars, so I’m hoping the other course is able to provide me with the knowledge that my money wasn’t completely wasted; though at this point I doubt it. The productivity hacks was the more interesting of the two courses and it was hardly that.

Why I wouldn’t recommend it

It starts off with tools that are easily found online, if one were willing to look, and then it continues with more online tools, and finally a couple of interviews that are better left for podcasts; which, incidentally, they provide as one of the additional downloads at the end.

The tools aren’t all that bad, in fact, I could see myself using them in the future. Toggl, is pretty useful now; for time management. I’m using it right now. Is learning about it worth 19USD… I don’t think so. The guy claims to have spent several compiling the lists of tools, and figuring out how to use them, but he doesn’t really teach you much with regard to how to integrate them into your life. They’re more along the lines of quick mentions. Fiverr is another one of the tools mentioned in the video that is intriguing. Apparently, for 5USD, or more depending on the task, you can outsource any of your activities! Given that someone has offered them. If you want an assignment done, or a logo created, there’s someone willing to do it! There was even one person offering to take your online course, and guarantee’s an A! Still, the person did not create this tool, and only mentioned it from time to time.

After the tools, he begins to do a few interviews. These were definitely made to be podcasts! The video quality was hardly professional, and the video player from this site was not playing the entire video. I had to pause, then continue playing it, otherwise it would finish playing the video and return to the start before the video was complete. The first interview was him talking about another series he was working on; I’m currently looking into that series. And the second was an interview with a person (Dan Miller) who works with creating mastermind groups. He was fairly interesting. The idea of a mastermind group was interesting, though the entire interview was very vague. The instructor seemed to praise Dan a lot more than he did ask him questions about what the exact tool was, and how people are to use it. It was definitely covered a bit, but he did more selling his other class, and talking about Dan’s class as well. Again, more of a fit for a free podcast than a paid course.

Overall, this class was a bust. Hardly professional, and it only seemed to be advertisement for other tools and courses. The tools are fine, and some are even useful to me now, but the course was not at all worth 19USD. Given that it was bundled, it wasn’t even worth half of that. I’ll review the second course in the following week. Hopefully it’s better than this course!

Alternative Spring Break: Mammoth Cave Restoration!

This was the group I worked with during my spring break. It is with the University of Illinois Alternative Spring Break Organization. Easily one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! The amount of team work and camaraderie was perfect! I’d like to believe that great team work is why we were given plenty of time with our coordinator to explore so much of the mammoth caves; including the Hidden River and Echo River Caves. Each of these individuals were such a joy to be around, and work with. Well, let me tell you a little more about the experience! After this pic!

Image of the tour guide and Alternative Spring Break 2014 Team.

Rick, our guide, and the entire Alternative Spring Break: Cave Restoration Spring 2014 Team. First Row (left to right): Paloma, Jasmine, Abhi, Lauren, Ari, Valeria, Rick, Cai.                Second Row (left to right): Dan (me), Arjun, Morris.                                                         Finally: Justin (Our team mate and awesome camera man).                                  

The first day was a series of touring, scavenging for food and getting settled into our living spaces. Our drive over was approximately 6 hours long. We arrived at the Mammoth Caves tour HQ and, obviously, rushed to the bathroom! Shortly after that, we were to meet with our trip coordinator, Peggy. This meant one thing… most of us did not get breakfast! And since we drove straight to the Tourist Center, we didn’t have lunch either. So, a few of the other guys and I were hunting down a vending machine, or some other form of sustenance. We did find a vending machine and food place, but needed our wallets! Most of us packed them into our backpacks, haha. Finally, we walked to the vending machines, where a short time after our coordinator called us to wait for her in the main Tourist Center. Ahh… so close. We would’ve preferred a decent meal, but a Honey Bun, some Chips and a soda is what most of us purchased. There was a little diner there, but we didn’t have enough time for a full meal. This mean the 2 hour tour inside the caves consisted of us looking for a KFC, or Starbucks at every corner! It was a really nice tour though, and that is where we first met our tour guide Rick. We finally ended up going to an Applebee’s, and ordered a bit too much! Haha, the eyes were too big for our stomachs… well, at least mine were. After our glorious meal we ended up in Walmart to shop for some of our weekly necessities. While purchasing, we did not take into account how tired we would be most nights! Haha, this will come into play in a few paragraphs.

The second day, or first work day, was a work day in a sink hole. The previous neighboring people used the sink hole as a personal dump. There… were so many soda cans in there! Though, we did find a few nifty things including: a toaster, a coffee maker, a golf club bag, an antenna, a little turkey candle holder (which became our souvenir for the trip.), and a good amount of shoes! We ended up lifting around 2 tons of trash this day, 500 pounds of which being recyclable! This was our first taste of what was to come, haha. I can at least speak for myself in saying that I was pretty sore and tired that evening. We did take a few pictures here and there. Near the end of our work day, one of our team members faced a near death experience! Haha, well, a few inches off to near death. The crew working along with us tried to remove a log that was hindering our progress using a rope and an air-force strap. Unfortunately, in the process of pulling the tree out, the rope experienced a bit more stress that it was used to, and SNAPPED! There were a couple of videos of the incident floating around; the expression on this persons face was… priceless. We definitely needed a shower after this! Well… most of us <_< You know who you are, hahaha. 😉

Our third day was the first day working inside of the caves. We headed into some of the previously unexplored parts of Mammoth Cave, and were put to some hard labor! Our task for the day was to collect pre-organized rubble from one room and move it into another room (the previously designated ladies rest room). Seems like a simple enough task, except that the rooms were not near each-other, nor was there a direct path. We placed the rubble into plastic trash bags, then carried them like little babies! Well, that’s what we initially did, before realizing it was much easier to swing them on our backs! The route was… hmm.. how to describe. Let’s start with the location of the pre-organized rubble. From there, it was around 70 yards to the first set of stairs, which had a little overhead needing to be ducked by some of us taller folks. Once you reached the bottom of the stairs, it was a bit of a low ceiling, so a little crouching was in order, the all clear to the bottom of the next set os stairs about 30 yards away. Then we reached another stair case, with… at least twice as many stairs as the previous one, and a few more overheads. This lead to a short walk from the top of the stairs to the former ladies room. Here is where we started piling the bagged rubble. This was definitely the hardest day, in terms of labor. We managed to move around 2.5 tons of rubble! I sparsely remember the end of that day, but I’m certain we were barely able to do much this evening, haha. We did manage to make a decent meal! Some quesadillas and fries!

The fourth day started off with some fun events, courtesy of the Hidden River Cave touring headquarters. They were such awesome people! They let us zip line their 300 ft zip line, and rappel from their 80 ft rappel tower? Well, it was the top of the cave’s mouth. Haha, they were so kind, they even let me hang around in the zip-line for a little while (i.e., they threw me back). Once we finished our little fun time, we cleaned some of the other cavers gear, and prepared to go in ourselves! The task for the day was *bump butta bump* surveying the caves for life signs! We ended up checking some of the survey sites and refilling some of the alcohol that is used to preserve the smaller critters. They will eventually be used for some research purposes down the line, but all we did was count and refill! Here I thought that was the end of our tour; perhaps wishful thinking after the previous day, haha! Alas, it was merely the beginning! It was a muddy and slippery journey back to this sections bottom, then we moved on to another section of the Hidden River Cave (formerly the Horse Cave). This section was… considerably larger than I had expected. There were so many different sections and loops and crawl spaces and tunnels! I’m not the shortest person in the world, but this definitely made me wish I could shave a few inches off the top! There were some places that I honestly thought I’d just get stuck in! Not to mention a few of the rocks that appeared to be held by only a mere little tike of a rock. I wanted to touch it, just to see if it would move, but at the same time I wanted to still be alive at the end of the day! I’m sure most of my comrades felt the same way! I know at least one person wanted to get out of that cave, hehehe. This was the day that really wore us out! Physically and mentally, we were drained! I may just be drawing a conclusion, but judging from how everyone just fell asleep, and instead of making our dinner, we simply went to taco bell, I think this was an accurate assessment! Ahh, and… no showers this evening! Too tired, more important things to do and all. 😛

The fifth day was one of many glories! The morning for instance held one of the most wonderful experiences we could have dreamed of! For the first time, everyone of us took a shower at the same time! Glory be to the great shower head gods! From then on, the day only got better. Not to say it wasn’t hard work, far from it, but it was such a beautiful day in Kentucky! And we worked outside all day! We were tasked with clearing out an old community cemetery that was overrun by fallen and dead trees, a number of nasty little vines and plenty of branches! Ahh, there was that mid-day sun shine, a nice cool breeze–perfect for some hard work–, a nice soft woody scent, nice ambient sounds, and great scenery! There was a watering hole for the cows a few yards away; the cows even came over to drink while we were working! And green everywhere! This was they day the let us out a bit early, and head to Knoxville, TN! We did some exploring, ate some ice cream (well.. I had the cappuccino since the place said it was their best… it was decent) visited an art museum (free to students), and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe! A good night if you ask me!

Our sixth and final day consisted of an early morning! We were off to do a radio show and be on live TV–yeah we’re big shots ;). Then take another shot at those rocks of rubble with Rick! (yes, that triple rrr was intentional) This time, we had a plan! And our awesome team work! We created a chain, and stock piled backs! It was fun and efficient! Which meant one thing! More time to explore the caves! And, this was indeed the case, though, I’m sure most of us wanted to get out of the caves and into some fresh air by this time, I believe we all enjoyed those extra explorations. So many amazing formations, and interesting tidbits of history. This was a much easier caving day than our Wednesday surveying! And probably one of the reasons it was more enjoyable, hahaha. A long day, and a lot of work! Which means! A lot of pizza! Our coordinator, Peggy, was treating us to a pizza party at Turtlelini’s Pizza and Pasta. The owner was pretty awesome, we were only getting 4 pizzas and drinks, when he decided to upgrade us to infinite drinks and access to their buffet! He also kept the pizzas coming for us! Haha, such an awesome place. And of course, one more shower!

The seventh and final day there was bitter sweet, as most of the last of anythings are. We were treated to a wonderful breakfast from our housing host, Pastor Dave. He and his group of guys treated us to delicious eggs, bacon, pie, bacon, sausages and bacon! It was a great breakfast with great company. Fortune would have it, this day was also Peggy’s birthday! We never really found out her age, but we guessed 29, haha. We gave her a little cookie cake, and hopefully some good memories! We also departed, leaving behind some thank you cards to all of those wonderful people we met along our trip. Of course, we still had to separate as a group, haha. Our 6 hour drive consisted of the usual napping, well the passengers; we hope not the drivers :P. A pit stop here, and before long we were back in Chicago! So, we started splitting off, perhaps not entirely processing the events. It’s hard to believe you can get so close to a group in such a short time, but this is proof that it can happen. And, as we part ways, I know we’ll still see each-other’s Facebook and Instagram feeds, and hand out an occasional like. Haha, but I do hope we get to hang out from time to time! It’s been great working with you guys, and if we don’t hang out again, I wish you all a great journey!

Well, I’ll just publish this now, and tag these awesome people… but first, let me take a selfie. 😉