employment

IT workers go offline to avoid recruiters but still get jobs

Sep. 20, 2012 at 3:05 PM ET

Jade Dominguez had no problem landing a job despite ditching Facebook and LinkedIn years ago.

For the 26-year-old self-taught software programmer, going off the social media grid was hardly the career suicide that recruiters and other career experts would lead you to believe.

A San Francisco startup called Gild discovered Dominguez this summer on an open-source software website frequented by hard-core hackers. After reviewing his work, the startup offered him a job as a front-end web app developer. “This is my second full-time job as a developer and new in terms of my presence on the open-source scene. I hadn’t really been spammed by recruiters via LinkedIn because I didn’t exist,” Dominguez said.

While today most job seekers do everything possible to get companies with open positions to notice them online, a lucky minority of information technology workers with highly sought-after skills are doing just the opposite.

To avoid the constant barrage of phone calls, emails and LinkedIn come-ons from information technology recruiters desperate to find warm bodies to fill jobs, they’re hanging “Do Not Disturb” signs on their social media profiles. Some, like Dominguez, are closing their accounts altogether.

It’s a direct result of an unemployment rate for software programmers that in the first part of 2012 was 4.4 percent, slightly more than half the national average.

On Indeed.com, the job board aggregator that posts millions of jobs from thousands of sites, “HTML5” is the fastest growing keyword in online job postings, ahead of “MongoDB” and “iOS” -- all terms associated with software programming.

With not enough supply to meet demand, recruiters are doing whatever it takes to find prospective candidates, including inundating LinkedIn members with letters of introduction, posting job openings on IT message boards, and counseling each other on the best ways to overcome the objections of so-called “passive candidates” who aren’t actively looking for work.

AwfulRecruiters.com

But the more recruiters push, the more programmers and tech workers with in-demand skills or experience are retaliating by going off line, temporarily or for good.

Michael Benin, a New York application developer, had the following message posted on the top of his LinkedIn profile: “@Recruiters: Currently I'm not looking for a new position. Feel free to add me as a connection. Please do not message me with opportunities or inquiries. Thank you.”

Twice in the past few weeks, Kelly Moeller has had hot prospects take a “time out” after letting it be known they were looking for a new gig, then getting inundated with messages from recruiters about job openings.

Moeller, who manages the Boston branch of IT recruiter Vitamin T, was pursuing one woman who wanted to enjoy the last two weeks of summer without a barrage of recruiter emails before she started a job search in earnest. The woman temporarily stripped all the job titles off the work experience section of her LinkedIn profile and substituted them with “freelance” so she wouldn’t show up in the keyword searches recruiters use on the social network to unearth candidates. “After two weeks, she started to reach out to recruiters she trusted and had worked with before,” Moeller said. “But there are folks that fall off the grid who we don’t hear from again.”

Fed-up IT professionals can even use a website called Awful Recruiters started by San Francisco software engineer Sam Soffes to publicly shame companies and third-party recruiters who send too much email. “I strongly dislike third-party recruiters,” Soffes writes on the site. “Many of these have sent me ‘exciting opportunities’ for positions I am wildly unqualified for or recruiting companies that I have asked to stop emailing me but keep following up anyway.”

Flying Under the Radar

Brad Warga dealt with his share of headhunters and IT prospects as vice president of recruiting for Salesforce.com. He joined Gild earlier this year to help the startup create software that scores programmers’ abilities on the strength of the code they post on open-source sites. That’s what led Gild’s chief technology officer to Dominguez, who didn’t go to college and had little work experience but was the top Ruby on Rails developer in Los Angeles based on his coding work. “This guy was not anywhere most recruiters are. He should have been on all the radars but he wasn’t,” Warga said.

Dominguez relocated from Los Angeles to San Francisco for the job. He likes going to an office instead of spending day and night coding on his own. “I have a very set work flow, it’s a lot healthier, and I can interact with people. It’s a much more balanced lifestyle,” he said.

Initially, Dominguez stopped using Facebook and LinkedIn because they felt inauthentic. “Everyone posts their vision of what they want people to see them as instead of who they really are,” he said.

But when he started hearing advice that people had to be social networks to find jobs, and how much recruiters were hounding developer acquaintances he left for good. ‘I’m a guy who never went to college, so it doesn’t resonate with me to be told what to do,” he said. “If people tell me what to do, I won’t.”

Besides, he said, “Everybody’s looking for developers and developers can pick where they work. If you’re a developer you don’t want to get contacted.”

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