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28 September 2006

Robert Half Sucks Inc. So against my better judgement, I go to an "interview" with the temp/recruiter firm Robert Half Inc.
The recruiter phoned me, even though on my resume, I indicate that email is preferred. But that's OK, some people call anyway.

The caller is from Robert Half, Inc. He proceeds to tell me how big and wonderful Robert Half Inc is. (How is this helping me to get a job?).

He goes on to explain how he's "technical" and understands me and is not like other recruiters -- from his description, he was some sort of sysadmin for (apparently) windows boxes at some sort of not-college (elementary?) school. And he went to [local school with a very poor reputation]. (How does this help determine what RHI clients need the kind of work I do?)

He starts blowing smoke up my ass about how he will manage my career for years at RHI. (WTF? Dude, I don't know you from Adam, except I already get the impression you're an idiot who will irritate the fuck out of me.) And blah-blah-blah.

OK, I say when I can get a word in edge-wise, but what positions are you trying to fill?

Now I should note, just about every other recruiter is able to tell me this. Some of them have more information than others, but most are able to email me at least a brief description of the position.

This guy says, sure he'll do that, as soon as I "register". What's that, I ask? Well, you just go onto RHI's web site and fill out this information. I say, you mean the same information tat's on my resume which is right in front of you and prompted your call. Uh-huh, he says.

I ask, what would registering obligate me to? Oh, it's not a non-compete he assured me. He's "technical" too he reminds me, and knows all about non-competes.

Would it be an exclusivity deal preventing me from talking to other recruiters? Oh, it's definitely not a non-compete. That's different than exclusivity and doesn't answer my question.

But OK, so what does registering obligate me to? Oh, it's not a non-compete! Yeah, yeah, you told me that.

OK, what does registering do for me? Oh, once you register you'll be a Robert Half Consultant!

Huh? I don't want to be an RHI Consultant yet, I want to know about the position he's trying to fill. The specific position. Do you have Java/J2EE/SQL positions, like the ones I list under experience on my resume? Or better, C++ positions?

Oh yes we do have those! Just register!

I say, no, I don't want to be a Robert Half consultant unless Robert Half has a position I want to fill. So email the details of the job, ok, and I'll look at it.

Oh no, he can't do that. After all, he had to register, so why can't I? Because I'm not asking for a job with you, because I know nothing about the job. But everyone registers, he says, well, great I tell him, if the job looks good I'll be sure to register.

Finally I say, just email me, OK, and end the call.
posted by orthogonality 28 September | 18:10

So he emails me... a link to the place to register. With the subject line "Greetings..." That's a red flag. It tells me nothing, it doesn't help me sort through my inbox, and I hate the mis-use of ellipses.

Some hours later he calls back, and explains how he's done so much for me: he called back the last client he placed a C++ job with, and they want more C++ people. And he wants to send them my resume, as soon as I register. And I should feel guilty and obligated because he's done such hard work to place me already is the obvious subtext.

Wait, I didn't ask you to do that, I think. You'll be getting a third of whatever you bill them for the work I do, and you're doing me a favor by calling your client to fill a position? Dude, that's your job.

I explain to him that I've been getting a lot of recruiter calls and email, and I really don't have time to recapitulate what's on my resume, re-typing it into RHI's form. I suggest if doing so creates no obligation for me, there's no reason he can't type it, but I'm a bit busy right now. I'm glad to send him a hard copy of my resume if that helps him.

Well, he suggests, why don't we meet in person. I'm a bit taken aback. What can we do in person that we can't do on the phone?

But, I already had plans to meet another recruiter for lunch (the other recruiter offered to meet me at the restaurant of my choice and pay for lunch), so I was gong to dress up anyway. So, OK, I could meet him at four, if we could talk about a position. And if I liked the position, if it looked like a good fit, then I'd be glad to "register".

So today, after an excellent lunch of scallops on the other recruiters' dime and a good discussion of what I do and what his firm does, I drive twenty miles roundtrip to RHI's office, arriving as scheduled at 4pm.

Recruiter dude is meeting with somebody else; receptionist lady takes me to a PC where I can "register". I explain I'm not there to register, I'm there to talk to recruiter dude.

After I wait 15 minutes cooling my heels, recruiter dude (who looks about all of 24, with an ear-to-ear grin and a tight suit and clammy handshake) tells me he'll be just five minutes. 15 minutes after that, a different young man shows up. No explanation what happened to the recruiter who'd been promising to manage my career the rest of my life.

New young recruiter asks me why I haven't registered. I explain, you have my resume, what more do you need? well, your rate and a list of all your past work and your education and references and....

(Now I've got some great references. But to keep them great, I make a point of never giving them out until I want to be submitted for a job. The references may be great the first time some recruiter calls, but after ten have called, my reference is going to thoroughly hate me for abusing his time. The referrers are doing me a big favor, and I'm not going to ask them to take calls unless it's for an actual job I want.)

Well, how long will registering that take, I wonder? He tells me about thirty minutes. I neglect to point out that's how long I've been waiting already. I explain, look, I was told I'd be meeting with first recruiter dude, to talk about a specific C++ job. I have no objection to filling out stuff after, but I'm not buying a pig in a poke.

2nd recruiter dude explains he can't show me any jobs, he can't talk to me at all in fact, until and unless I register. Did 1st recruiter dude tell me he'd do that? Yup, I say.

Well, I'll need to register before they can talk to me at all about anything. But I can look at their open jobs on the RHI web site. I'm dumbfounded. I can look at the jobs on the web site, but they can't talk about them.

I thank recruiter dude #2 for his time (yeah, I should have thanked him for wasting mine), and left.

Thorough waste of time. And I should have gone with my gut. The initial recruiter sounded clueless on the phone, he talked about how great Robert Half Inc. is rather than about what I do or what his clients need, and he's blowing smoke up my ass about how he'll manage my career for years.

Anyone else have experience with these guys? Should I have just registered?

posted by orthogonality 28 September | 18:11
No, I think you did the right thing. A lot of "technical recruiters" are just scammers. They have wasted a lot of my friends' time, too.
posted by halonine 28 September | 18:18
Should I have just registered?

Follow your heart. And by that, I mean don't let slick talk convince you to do something that you know will only end badly. Maybe this one time, it wouldn't have, but do you really want to take that chance?
posted by muddgirl 28 September | 18:20
It sounds like, if you'd have registered, someone would have probably rung a bell and the recruiters would have all high-fived each other.

No, you definitely shouldn't have registered. The fact that they were giving you such a hard sell doesn't really fill me with hope. From the sounds of it, they don't understand developers, They probably will send your resume off to every Tom Dick and harry & they will give exactly the same hard sell to potential employers. (And that won't end well).

Plus they probably cost an arm and a leg.

You probably know this already, but have you tried looking at the Joel on Software job listings. I love what Joel has to say on Job Listing sites. (That last link also has a coupla links to other "cool" job listing sites. (e.g. 37 signals, etc)
posted by seanyboy 28 September | 18:28
It actually disgusts me that they tried the old "pull him into the office and we'll force him to sign up" shtick. It's an idiotic old school sales technique and the fact that they're trying to pull it in a new-technology job situation makes me think they're completely out of date.

Actually, scrap that. I'd maybe go to them if I wanted another job programming COBOL for a huge organisation with a HR department filled with idiots.
posted by seanyboy 28 September | 18:35
Unfortunately, what you saw was pretty typical of the way these used car salesmen operate. You were totally right to stick to your guns. As I've said twice before, the vast majority of technical recruiters are idiots.
posted by matildaben 28 September | 18:37
They weren't recruiters. They were commissioned sales people. Now, I realize that's what recruiters are technically in sales, too. But these guys were no more qualified to find you a job than they were to sell you a house. They were just drop outs from technical jobs trying to make a living off the technical job market.

You did the right thing.
posted by Doohickie 28 September | 18:43
And, I realize that Robert Half sucks, but is Robert's other Half pretty cool, or what?
posted by Doohickie 28 September | 18:44
ortho, I worked for RHI for several years back in the 90s. Good, solid, long-term assignments. Not the greatest pay, but I was working on servers and networks instead of doing help desk, so it was a step up. It eventually got me to the point where I was an FTE for a consulting firm that placed me in some really nice positions, like a long-term one at CNA. Unfortunately, the crash hit, and they laid off almost all their people outside their website and intraweb groups, meaning nuts-and-bolts guys like me were on the street, along with the guy who developed their Microsoft-derived Company Name Project Cycle System for them. Hmph. Well, there was plenty of that cold shoulder going around.

So I go back to RHI and my old recruiter, who used to lurrrve me to death to clients, and who I made so much in commissions for. I thought I was progressing down the path to a client situation or two, when all of a sudden they pull a switcheroo on me and have me come out to their suburban office, where I don't want to work anymore, and meet with two vapid HR types -- who then instead of a friendly get-to-know-you, proceed to give sandbag me with a "combat interview" where they fine-tooth-comb every word in my resume. At the end they had me doubting the stuff I was best at, I lost my cool, and they never called me again.

RHI can go fuck themselves.
posted by stilicho 28 September | 18:45
they pull a switcheroo on me and have me come out to their suburban office, where I don't want to work anymore, and meet with two vapid HR types -- who then instead of a friendly get-to-know-you, proceed to give sandbag me with a "combat interview" where they fine-tooth-comb every word in my resume. At the end they had me doubting the stuff I was best at, I lost my cool, and they never called me again.

Definitely disloyal asses, but why?

Why do you think they did this? What did the fine-tooth combing consist of? Did they question its veracity or its effectiveness?
posted by orthogonality 28 September | 19:58
The name Robert Half brings back fond but distant memories. I worked directly for their old Accountemps division from the late 70s through the mid-80s, almost three years total, and getting hired 'perm' twice from their temp assignments. I had good luck with them and a couple other temp firms, back in the day when my quick learning and NON-specialization put me at the top of a lower class of office drone. The last time I went looking (in '92) I was starting at a higher level and Half was getting less and less pleasant to deal with. I got one more temp-to-perm gig through a different agency (one that didn't do much 'higher-up' placement) and held on tight to it for 10 years until my disabilities knocked me flat on my ass.
posted by wendell 28 September | 20:30
orth - chip meet shoulder
posted by funmonkey1 28 September | 21:02
The only thing I might have done differently in your shoes, ortho, would be to go far enough along into the registration process to get a look at the fine print on whatever they wanted me to fill out and/or sign. Might get a clearer picture of just what kind of nonsense they're trying to pull. I'll bet it was an exclusivity thing.
posted by mediareport 28 September | 22:51
media, I might have, but it's a web form, with each page validated before you can continue. I didn't want to type in my real info, and I didn't want to waste time putting in fake data.
posted by orthogonality 28 September | 22:55
No, you shouldn't have registered. The employment market may not be as easy as it was 10 years ago, but there are plenty of places to go where they'll treat you like a person with valuable skills, instead of just a warm body that can type keywords into a web form.
posted by cmonkey 29 September | 02:50
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