IT Recruiters Clueless about the product they are selling

Recruiters Clueless

The article about recruiters clueless about their product was posted as comments after one of our articles.

Lack of Knowledge

So, are IT recruiters clueless about the product they sell?

One of the big problems with agents seems to be their lack of knowledge of the ‘product’ they are dealing with.

If I go to a car yard the salesperson, whilst not a mechanic, will generally be pretty clued up about his product. Unfortunately in IT this does not seem to be case.

For instance, I have applied in the past for Cobol/DB2 developer positions having these skills in abundance, only to be asked if I have SQL.

Firstly the SQL has been mentioned in my CV, and secondly and more importantly anyone looking for these positions should know its impossible to develop cobol/db2 without sql.

Job Requirements

As another example I have seen all too often the job requirements quoted as something like must have DB2, SQL, RDBMS etc.

Yet again the salesperson is showing a profound lack of knowledge of his product.

This happened with a friend of mine where his resume was rejected by an agency, because he hadn’t mentioned something that should have been a given parameter.

Even though he pointed this out the salesperson had no idea what he was talking about.

I then took it direct to my boss who organised the interview and employed him, but the rub was, my mate still had to work through the agency.

Recruiters Clueless Indeed – ITContractor Comment

You get the occasional IT recruiter who used to work in IT and who knows what he, or she, is talking about. However, these are very much the exceptions.

There doesn’t seem to be any university degree in IT recruitment.

Most IT recruiters come from other areas of sales. IT is a mystery to most of them – and a mystery most of them have no interest in cracking.

That’s how you get so many IT recruiters clueless about the product and service they sell.

IT Skills Search

It means that when a client gets in touch asking for 6 skills, the recruiter does not know that some are far more important than others.

It means that they just do a database search for IT Contractors with all of those skills.

Then they decide which of those IT Contractors to put forward.

If an IT Contractor has lots of experience, but does not have the most minor of the skills asked for, then that IT Contractor will simply miss out on the contract opportunity.

It’s a shame – but that’s the way it is in our industry.

The only way for IT Contractors to deal with recruiters clueless about what they are selling is to make sure that all skills are on their CV – however minor.

It is the Cream of the Crop who go IT contracting

Cream of the Crop

This ‘Cream of the Crop’ article is in reply to our article, “It is mainly the Office Duds who go IT Contracting” which was sent in by a reader.

Different Breed

I think that the first thing that the writer of the original article fails to understand is that it is a different breed of person who goes contracting compared to those that stay permanent.

To show how true this is, next time you hear a permie complaining about how much IT contractors get paid, point out to him or her the risks involved, e.g. the spells out of work when the mortgage and car loans aren’t being paid and wondering when the next contract will come from, and then you will see a rapid change of mind about whether they would go contracting or not.

Risk Takers

IT Contractors are greater risk takers than permies.

Permies tend to be risk averse.

Indeed, often it is a case of contractors being more confident in their ability to survive in that rough old world out there than permies – mainly because they are better.

IT Contractors at companies can even spot the future contractors at the companies where they work amongst the younger permie members of staff and which ones are not the contractor types. It’s not about the cream or the dud.

Contracting is an attitude.

All of those with 2 to 3 years experience of the business would love to get the money that contractors get.

However there some who think “That’s me. I’m good enough to get that money” and there are others who think that they are safer with the job that they have.

IT Contractors Mindset

Contractors have a different mindset. They are far more open to change – and that is usually a sign of someone of more advanced thought.

Far too many companies are stifled by the fact that their permanent IT employees are resistant to change – despite being in a high-tech field.

In fact it is one of the banes of a contractor’s life trying to convince permie Project Managers who are resistant to change of better ways of doing things.

Cream Years

It may be true that the best years of a contractor’s life are the first few years when the contractor is earning much more than those of his or her permie peer group and that the differential gets less, and is sometimes overtaken.

However, that does not have contractors taking permie jobs en masse, mainly because they are a different type of person.

It is different again in the US where often contracting is seen as a phase in many people’s careers to get them more money and experience of a variety of locations before resuming their permanent careers.

Cream Rises

I remember reading, some time ago, of a company who had psychometric tests set up that they would give to interviewees.

The reason behind the test was to determine which of their interviewees were more likely to stay at the company for a long time and which ones would be likely to leave.

This seemed to make sense and they chose those more likely to stay in the long term.

A few years later they had to reverse this policy as they found that the ones who were much more likely to leave, were indeed the ones that they should have most wanted to keep.

Cream of the Contractors

This is very true of those who go contracting.

These are the confident, risk taking, potential entrepreneurs of your business who are up for new innovation and change. These are the ones that you want to keep.

Unfortunately, most companies are not able to keep these, the potential cream of the company, and it is mainly the duds who remain in their safe environment.

No Movers and Shakers

They are not going to shake up the world. In fact their small mindedness and petty jealousy of their intellectual superiors, the contractors, is going to prevent IT contractors being able to do as good a job as they could for the company.

The fresh ideas that those IT contractors bring to the company from elsewhere are resisted by these small-minded duds to the detriment of their companies.

I think that we’ve all been there and seen that.

It is mainly the Office Duds who go IT Contracting

Office Duds

This article, about the office duds, was sent to us in reply to one of our articles. The views expressed are theirs alone and certainly do not tally with the views and experience of

Contractor Profile

It is mainly those who realise that they have no future at the companies where they are working who decide to go contracting, i.e. the office duds.

Come on!

Be honest with yourself.

You were going nowhere at the last company where you worked as an IT employee, were you?

Contracting Time

It is normally after about 3-5 years experience that IT employees go contracting.

Most IT employees get their first promotion after about 18 months to 2 years, e.g. from Trainee or Junior Developer to Developer or Senior Developer.

They get their second promotion during the 3-5 year period to something like Project Leader or even Project Manager.

Those guys aren’t going to leave the firm for a contractor developer job – which is what most of the contracting jobs are for.

They are going to stay at the firm to see how far they can go. If they do get stuck, or if they fail as Project Leaders or Project Managers they can go contracting then.

Most of the brightest and best stay permanent. The office duds smell the coffee, cut their losses, and become IT Contractors.

No Denigration Intended

That is not to denigrate IT contractors. I hire contractors myself.

Although they didn’t make the grade as employees, through having years of experience they develop into valuable developers or analysts etc. and can pass on some of that experience to junior IT employees.

They can also pass on what they’ve seen at other sites and can help you to get Best Practice in many areas.

However, they have got this expertise through doing something over and over again when the best and the brightest permanent employees are able to learn and adapt more quickly.

Useful Mechanism

IT Contracting is a very useful mechanism to have around.

Most industries are stuck with their office duds who didn’t make it.

However, IT Contracting gives the industry a mechanism where the office duds that won’t make it will look in the mirror and then leave to take up another branch of the profession.

Through working over and over again at the jobs at the bottom rung of the IT ladder they can become very valuable to companies who employ them.

IT Contracting

However, they are kidding themselves when they say that contracting pays more than IT permanent work.

It does if you are comparing yourself to someone who is doing the same job as yourself on the bottom rung of the ladder.

However, except when you first go contracting, it doesn’t if you compare yourself to someone who has the same number of years experience as you have in the industry.

Someone with 10 to 20 years experience in a permanent job is far more likely to be better off than a contractor with the same experience – and they are far more likely to get more job satisfaction and respect as a Systems Manager or IT Manager than they are as a bottom-of the-tree developer.

Office Duds Going IT Contracting

I would say to those office duds who go contracting, enjoy your first few years as an IT contractor. They will be your best. You will be earning far more money than your peers.

However, it is a downhill path after that.

Soon, you will be working for people younger than yourself – and having to take stick from them.

And then in a few years time after that, you may find that the Development Manager, or IT Manager, of a place where you have taken a contract as a developer, was someone who joined the year after you at the same company as you as a trainee developer.

The first few years are good – but then the humiliations start to kick in.

And then you find when you get to your forties or fifties that permanent Project Managers of 27 or 28 don’t want to hire you as you don’t fit in to the ‘project culture’.

IT Contractor passed 2 Interviews then told he was Overqualified

This article on being overqualified was posted as Comments after one of our articles by a reader.


Far from being told I don’t have the necessary skills for a position, I was interviewed for two different contracts last week, and both clients’ feedback was that I was OVERQUALIFIED for their respective positions, and they thought I would get bored and leave.

And this was regardless of the fact that they read my CV and I was their first choice for interview.

Why bother interviewing me if they think I’m overqualified, surely they actually did read my CV??

100% Match

I can perform both positions standing on my head, and have indeed performed both positions in various contracts for years, and that should be a bonus for the client, not a negative, after all there would be no need for training or hand-holding.

I can hit the ground running.

I was the 100% match they were looking for, but obviously that counted for nothing.

I have to ask, what the hell gives these clients the right to tell me whether or not I would get bored with their jobs?

How can I be overqualified?

It’s complete rubbish!

ITContractor Comment

This is a strange one. It must be very frustrating for the IT Contractor involved. He will be sitting at home without work and any income coming in.

He could do both contracts with his hands tied behind his back.

He is easily the best candidate.

He could hit the ground running and would be more productive, likely, than any other candidate they could hire.

Yet, both clients say he is overqualified and would get bored.

How bored do they think he is sitting at home twiddling his fingers?

Overqualified But Productive

This is a crazy situation.

Even if he did get a bit bored doing the job, what would it matter if he was able to do it properly and more productively than anyone else they could hire?

Some clients are just stupid.

Their projects deserve to fail.

This guy could have guaranteed success.

IT Contractor applies for a contract immediately on Job Board

Applies for a Contract

When an IT contractor applies for a contract on a job board they are often astonished when they are told by the agency that the position has already been filled.

This is even though the job ad has just appeared and the IT Contractor is a perfect fit for the contract role.

Here is one reader who tells us what happens in one instance when he applies for a contract position from a job board.

IT Contractor Reader Brendan Who Applies for a Contract

Dr. McLaughlin can you give me some advice on what you would do in this circumstance?

I saw a job that suited me on a Job Board and I got in touch with the agency.

The agency said that they already had a whole host of CVs for that IT contract and didn’t need any more.

They said it was first come first served (this often happens when a contractor applies for a contract).

Another Job Posted

About a week later I saw one for the same agency which was just right for me but which had just been posted.

I called them up but with the same result.

Any idea what this is all about?

Should I chase up agencies that don’t get back to me?

Dr. McLaughlin’s IT Surgery

I was almost going to say that it wasn’t worthwhile but it may just be worth one call.

It’s always possible that you slipped between the lines when they have been compiling the candidate list and when you point out you have the exact skills with lots of experience in those skills areas they may well add you to the list of candidates sent.

People can often change their minds – especially agents if they think there is something in it for them.

What you might say would be something like “I know you’ve said you’ve already selected the candidates, but it might be worth your while to take another quick look at my CV as, not only am I an exact match for the contract, but I have lots of good practical experience with those skills and not only that, I normally get interviews I go to. You wouldn’t regret putting me forward”.

Another Look

Put like this they are likely to say that they’ll take another look.

Some won’t – but some will.

They must get loads of calls from IT contractors chasing them up about job ads that are a perfect match for them when they’ve already selected the candidates.

Even if the IT contract has just come on one job board it may have been on others beforehand.

Don’t Chase

Once you’ve made yourself known to them and sold yourself in just a couple of sentences it’s not worth chasing them up again.

Of course they should get back to IT Contractors to tell them they haven’t been selected but given the choice of using a lot of their time phoning or emailing contractors to tell them the bad news and spending time looking for other contracts, most of them will do the latter.

That’s the nature of the beast.

Recruiters are always going to do what’s good for themselves.

They may be competing with other agencies and if they thought that you had a better chance of getting them the contract than others then they would put you forward.

Have Standard Sale Pitch

However, it is always worth using any call to try to sell yourself in a couple of sentences to try to get them to reconsider so it might be worth constructing a sentence or two, like the ones I did above, that you could use as a standard when you are calling agencies.

Even if it doesn’t get you back on the list for that particular contract they may remember it if your name comes up again on a search for another position.

Remember that IT Contractors are generally not good salesmen.

Salesmen usually have a standard ‘pitch’ so why not IT Contractors? After all you’re selling yourself.

Lastly, another tack that you could use would be to try to find out more information about the job – and added to what you know from the job ad, you could contact another agency, give them what you know and try to get them to put you forward.

It’s a lot of small things that this that can give you a little bit of an edge over other IT Contractors.

Downloading IT Contractors Details

If you do really want to get back at the agencies who do this then it might be an idea to report them to the job board.

After all, they are cheating the job board.

When a contractor applies for a contract, it should be a real contract as far as the job board is concerned.

They are downloading the details of loads of IT contractors that are customers of the job board when they don’t really have a job for the contractors.

The job board may take a dim view of this.

They are basically stealing leads on false pretences.

They could find themselves banned from the job board.

It might even be illegal.

Fake Job Ad | IT Agency Tricked me but REC would not help

Fake Job Ad

This article, about a fake job ad, was from reader Mace in response to one of our articles.

Systems Architect

I’ve got 10 years experience in my particular skill set and am at the architect level.

My particular skill set has very few jobs advertised and very few candidates to fill them.

The company I work for has been looking to replace me with a permanent candidate for 18 months.

With this in mind, I applied for a job matching my exact skills which was allegedly based not far from my home within 2 hours of it appearing on Jobserve.

Imagine my surprise then, that I got a response back within half an hour telling me that the agency had decided not to proceed with my application as they’d had other better qualified candidates.

Fake Job Ad Complaint

I complained to REC about Thomson Keene that it was a fake job ad.

I got the following response from Clare Walker:-

“appreciate your frustration in not being submitted for the role in which you were interested, however this in itself is not a matter the REC can address as it is a matter for a recruiter’s professional judgement as to which applicants to submit to a client in respect of any
particular vacancy.

“There does not seem to be any specific evidence that the vacancy in question was a fake job ad in any way, but if you do have any evidence of this please do forward this also.”

Advertised Salary

When I pursued my other complaint that Thomson Keene had made up the advertised salary, contrary to section 14 of the REC code (and which Thomson Keene admitted), I got an email from REC telling me that Clare would reply when she got back from holiday.

I never received a reply.


So, how do we stop the fake job ad then?

It doesn’t look as if REC are interested in helping.

Agent’s Role | Is there a role for a different type of IT agent

Agent’s Role

Many IT contractors, when they first start out contracting, when they see the words ‘agency’ and ‘agent’ think that what they have found is someone who will act on their behalf, and in their best interests, to obtain as many jobs and as high a rate as they can for them.

they reckon that is the agent’s role.

After all, it is in their interests isn’t it?

The contractors know the model of the theatre and cinema where actors’ agents are known as Mr. Ten percent.

There is also the footballer model as well where the agents look after the contractors best interests when negotiating with the football clubs.

They assume that there is some set margin which the agents take, just as they assume that the agent’s role will be to look after their best interests.

As contractors with more experience will know, nothing could be further from the truth as regards the agent’s role.

Not Agent’s Role

Agents aren’t agents as such, in the sense that the rest of the world knows agents. Any external loyalty that they have would be to the client. Their interests are in the following order:-

1. Themselves
2. Their department
3. Their company
4. The client
5. The contractor

IT Agent’s Role?

So, why do we have this model in the IT world? Why do we not have the same model as actors and footballers have?

Is it just the way it started out in IT?

Would the actor / footballer model work in IT? After all this is the most commonly used model in the world outside IT.

Would there be a role for agents who were real agents and who found work and got increases for the contractors on their books?

There would potentially be a lot of money for an agent who had a few hundred (or thousand) contractors on his or her books.

In Action

If they didn’t have work for a particular contractor they could get contact other agents who did have more work than they had contractors and split the fee.

They could also concentrate in particular skills or knowledge areas so that companies would know who to go to when they had a vacancy.

This is not to say that the current agency model would have to go. The two models could co-exist. There could be two types of agent’s role.

So, what do our readers, contractors and agents, think?

Is it a desirable model?

Would this model work?

Would you prefer to be represented by a real agent or do you prefer the existing model?

Is it better to hire good programmers or cheap programmers

Good Programmers

The article on Good Programmers is from Aussie contractor site

Programmer Productivity

There’s an interesting take on programmer productivity at Joel on Software at the moment.

Joel looks at the perennial question of whether it’s better to hire good programmers or cheap programmers.

Many of us think the answer is obviously the former, but management almost constantly opts for the latter, which means they must disagree. Joel certainly does.

Best Programmers

He founded his company on the idea that hiring the best programmers is the best recipe for profit in software.

“So, why isn’t there room in the software industry for a low cost provider, someone who uses the cheapest programmers available?” Joel asks. “(Remind me to ask Quark how that whole fire-everybody-and-hire-low-cost-replacements plan is working).

Here’s why: duplication of software is free. That means that the cost of programmers is spread out over all the copies of the software you sell.

With software, you can improve quality without adding to the incremental cost of each unit sold. Essentially, design adds value faster than it adds cost.

Or, roughly speaking, if you try to skimp on programmers, you’ll make crappy software, and you won’t even save that much money.”

Computer Science Students

He looks at some data collected about computer science students’ programming assignments to see what kind of variation he can discover in productivity.

He found that out of the top 25% of students in assessment, the fastest programmers achieved the task in an average of only 6 hours; compared to 20.49 hours for the average and a whopping 77 hours for the slowest.

That’s a hell of a difference in productivity.

But Joel sees an even bigger advantage to using good programmers than mere saved hours.

Mediocre Programmers

“The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good programmers is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce,” he says.

“Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem.


Not if they work for 100 years.”

Internal Software

On one point he makes, I disagree with him, however.

He says his theory only holds true for software companies or “internal, in-house software is rarely important enough to justify hiring rock stars”.

Take the example of internal software at a large bank with a few million customers.

This bank is dealing with millions of small tasks every day – administration, processing transactions, verifying cheques, paying staff etc.

The main aim of internal software is to make these transactions more efficient.

That says to me that better software – meaning more productive software for the end user – could save a lot of money.

Better Software

If you implement better software for verifying cheques that saves you one minute per cheque, this could add up to millions of dollars in increased productivity.

If internal software is used to increase productivity, it makes sense to do it well. The pay off could be huge.

The same holds true for external software such as a company website used by customers.

If your website brings in thousands more customers than your competitors, that small extra up-front cost makes it worthwhile.

Of course, most bosses don’t understand this concept.

They see programmers as relatively interchangeable.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Good programmers are much more productive than average programmers.

How to make heaps more money as an IT Project Manager

IT Project Manager: Charging for Performance Can Increase Your Profits

You’re a stellar IT project manager, yet you’re only making an average wage.

Well, it’s about time you make more.

This article digs outlines my approach to a performance-based fee structure. It won’t work for all clients, but for those it does work for you’ll see your profits soar.
So how can you make more money?

Simple: Structure a good deal, have a magic formula for success, take control, and use good project management software.


At all times, businesses measure return on investment (ROI) for major spending. For example, company management may ask, if we hire an IT project manager for a 6-month contract and pay them $50,000, will we get $100,000 value back. This is where your ability to take risks comes in. I call it the entrepreneurial model.

Here’s how it works. Next time you interview for an IT project managemer gig with a company you trust to make great use of your project work, don’t settle for a flat fee rate.

Instead, tell the prospective employer that you are going to make a certain amount of money for them on this project and that you want a piece of the ROI pie.

Set the deal up this way from the get-go and the higher the ROI, the more money you will make when all is said and done.

This way you have a vested interest in seeing to it that the client makes a huge return.

Although most people do not operate under this kind of model out of fear of missing a mortgage or a car payment, it is by far the most effective way I know for an IT project manager to make the most money on a job.

Sure, a flat fee is safe, guaranteed, but it’s not going to yield the kind of money you really want to make. So the next project, take the risk and reap the reward!


In conjunction to structuring a project-performance deal up front, you need to clearly state where the return is going to come from.

What are the metrics you’re going to use to measure this ROI?

Success has a number. Make sure that your key metric ties directly to the prosperity your clients reap from your work.

Your magic metric is what will yield the ROI, which in the end will yield higher returns for you.

It will also serve to gain you more confidence from your employer.

If they see a formula that works, they’re more willing to give you all the control on the project as you need, as well as agree to your cut of the ROI pie.


When I was in the business of being an IT project manager for companies, I kept the schedule under my direct control.

This does not mean, however, that I would necessarily do any of the extra work.

I controlled and directed others by assigning tasks to people with the right skill sets.

When you have guaranteed authority and control, you will be able to successfully manage and control your project and deliver on your set success metrics.


If you need help, get a good project management program.

The best program is one that can help you plan all kinds of projects from small to large-scale deployments.

I also recommend one that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office, and task-manager Outlook.

I dumped IT Contracting after 10 years & made Million in a Year

Dumped IT Contracting

This was posted by a reader after our recent article Ten Reasons Why You Won’t Get Rich IT Contracting by reader Ex Con. It’s how he made a million quid in a year after he dumped IT Contracting.

I thought it was worth a wider audience.

No Security in IT Contracting

This article echoes my own thoughts on contracting and wealth. I’ll tell you why I dumped IT Contracting.

I could never quite accept that after almost 10 years of contracting, I still had no security and could go from earning £500 a day to zero with only 2 weeks notice.

The money was good, but I could never really live to my means as I was always saving for the next downturn.

Development Skills

I dumped IT Contracting about 8 months ago to use my development skills to start a new business.

I knew if this business failed there would be a real possibility that I would find it very hard to get another contract.

8 months without an IT contract is a lifetime in the eyes of a lot of agents.

Million Pounds in a Year

Well things have gone well, really well in fact and I’m on target to make (almost) one million pounds profit this year since I dumped IT Contracting.

That makes the company worth somewhere between £10m and £20m.

I owe a lot of this to contracting.

If I were a permie, I don’t think I would or could have ever started this new business.

IT Contractor Comment

I did the same as you Ex Con. After many years in IT Contracting I never had any real money.

I decided to set up (or as it was).

The reason I did it was to have something of value I could sell after I was no longer working for it. It would be my pension if you like.

I haven’t made anything as much as you have but I do make as much as a good IT contractor.

Own Boss

I’ve now got my own business, I’m my own boss, I can do it in my own time and I have something of saleable value rather than just a limited company that is just worth the cash that’s in the account rather than a multiple of profits.

I’m very glad I dumped IT Contracting.

I could be stuck in some office somewhere chasing a deliberately too tight deadline.

Instead I’m going to have a walk along the shore of the lough now and when I come back I’ll do my Su Doku puzzle in The Times before writing and loading up my next article at about 1:30pm.