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I have now gone through this process ~2.5 times:

  1. A recruiter from a company contacts me.
  2. I ask what projects they have that I could work on, and if those projects use the technology stack I'm interested in working with, since that is the deciding factor if I am interested or not. I make it clear that the only reason I am thinking about changing jobs is because I would like to work with a different technology stack.
  3. They dodge the question but say we can talk about it over lunch.
  4. I puzzle it into a busy work schedule, make an excuse at work, and take time I don't feel I have to spare in order to meet them for lunch.
  5. Several times at lunch, I repeat the question. They give me long-winded responses to my question but don't answer it. I listen politely as they talk a lot about how great the company is, telling me things I don't care about. I reiterate that the only reason I'm considering changing jobs is to work with a different tech stack. At the end of the meeting, they say they would like to schedule for me to meet someone else who they claim will answer my question.
  6. I end up telling them I would like to stay with my present employer.

I feel that I am already firmly communicating that I want an answer to this question if I am going to take my time going through their recruiting process. If I make a threat that I won't continue talking to them until they answer my question, I'm worried that I'm being rude.

Since I'm a programmer and negotiating is not in my skillset, I would very much appreciate a script for how to word this.

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    I am a software engineer too. Whenever I am approached by a recruiter about a job opportunity, I always ask for a position description, which 99/100 details the technology stack being used. When it doesn't, ask your questions and decline to meet until you know the role is definitely of interest.
    – fubar
    Oct 13 at 7:13
  • 58
    Are you sure these recruiters actually have a role in mind. Sounds like they just want to add your to the portfolio. Oct 13 at 7:29
  • 33
    @GregoryCurrie I think what's happening is that recruiters are assigned the task of recruiting people who have some list of skills, but they don't know anything about the actual projects. They want to complete their recruiting tasks before forwarding me to someone who actually knows about the projects.
    – lala
    Oct 13 at 7:39
  • 6
    @GregoryCurrie it sounds to me like they just want a lunch on expenses, but I'm cynical like that and don't have a very high opinion of the few recruiters I've dealt with
    – Chris H
    Oct 13 at 15:46
  • 19
    @lala In addition to that, it's common for recruiters for tech positions to know so little about the underlying technology that they don't really understand what you're asking. Very few will openly admit that, though.
    – bta
    Oct 13 at 18:50

11 Answers 11

259

Bear in mind the recruiter is being rather rude by wasting your time, certainly more rude than a simple rejection saying you're only interested in moving in order to work on a specific technology stack.

Tell them something along the lines of:

"Thank you for your interest. At the moment I'm only interested in moving to a position where I'll be working on X, Y and Z. Can you confirm if I would work with those technologies in this position?"

If they dodge the question, just say "Thank you, but I'm not interested in pursuing this. Let me know if you get any roles that feature X, Y and Z"

None of this is a "threat" or rude, it's just simply factual.

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    +1000; and don't forget a job interview goes both ways. If they don't fit your standards (and this script is a very good tests for that kind of standards), then they failed the interview, not you.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Oct 13 at 8:21
  • 9
    I just ignore recruiters. Never have had a recruiter a NOT waste my time. Had one recruiter offer me an interview to the same company twice for the same low paying crap job I declined the minute I saw what was involved in the work. It also had a supervisor who could not even give me 5 minutes away from watching his people on team chat. Supervisor was a control freak or his employees were hopeless without him.
    – Donald
    Oct 13 at 12:02
  • 55
    To me it is a red flag to not answer a direct question - and this applies to anything, not just recruiters.
    – Peter M
    Oct 13 at 13:08
  • 4
    @lala A contract recruiter will make it easier to get an interview, you won't be in a pile of resumes. A direct recruiter will make it MUCH easier, you're talking directly to their HR. Oct 13 at 17:41
  • 6
    I would agree with everything here, except one thing. Never tell a recruiter the answer you want to hear to a question. When you do - then they just give it to you, whether it is true or not.
    – Joe
    Oct 14 at 15:48
82

I have a different take on this than the other answers.

I think it is important to realize that a recruiter is almost never a technical person, and that beyond the highest level ("we use Java") they aren't going to know the layers of a technology stack. It is also important to realize that at any firm larger than a few dozen people, there are often multiple roles open, on different teams, working on different projects, and using different stacks. The recruiter doesn't know which of those teams might find your resume interesting, and want to interview you.

Therefore, the only people who you can answer if a "project[] use[s] the technology stack I'm interested in working with" are going to be the members of the project's team. Someone on that team is exactly who they are offering to introduce you to at the end of step #5 above, but you are ending the process without having that meeting.

Now, you might ask, why can't that meeting happen earlier in the process? One of the purposes of using a recruiter is to save the technical staff from spending too much time on the recruiting process, and to do certain non-technical parts of the process first (at your meeting with the recruiter they probably discussed the company's products, the size of the company, its history, etc.).

Anyway, this is a fairly common practice, in use by many companies. Admittedly, it requires you to invest some time before you meet with a technical person, who can then answer your technical questions.

You are, of course, free to decide that this process wastes too much of your time, and refuse to speak with firms that follow it. But by doing so, you are going to significantly limit the number of places you will be speaking with. In turn, you will be lowering the number of opportunities you will be presented with, and lowering the "value" (however it is measured, be it compensation, using technologies you are interested in, etc.) you end up extracting from a job.

This is just the way that system works at many places. You can play along, or not, it is your choice. But shutting down a very common path to finding opportunities just lessens the value you'll end up receiving.


As an aside, you mentioned "I'm a programmer and negotiating is not in my skillset". Different people have different strengths, of course, but to be successfully and happily employed as a programmer requires more than just knowing how to program a computer. There are other skills to work on, and "negotiating" (it actually sounds like this isn't really formally negotiating, but more like just having discussion) is one of them.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 16 at 11:55
5

Firstly, I don't know where you are so my answer is based on experience with recruiters in countries where I've worked, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The culture in recruitment may be different where you are.

Secondly, is it possible that the reason you struggle to communicate that you're only interested in certain roles because you've taken lunch from them and feel obliged towards them in some manner? Because you're not, and a lunch for a recruiter is simply a cost of doing business.

There's a a couple of reasons why recruiters are contacting you:

  1. The skills they are seeking matches with the skills they believe you have and;
  2. They believe you are looking, or a least considering, a shift.

It's not uncommon for recruiters to cold call, especially if you've recently started in a new role and you sent your CV/resume to a number of agencies in your job search. They're essentially harmless though!

When recruiters do contact you, have a little script prepared for yourself that you're comfortable saying. It can be as simple as:

"Thanks for thinking of and contacting me, I'm happy in my current role and not considering a change. I'll be in touch again when I am looking."

You could change this to make it clear that you'd consider a role if it did involve the tech stack you want to work on:

"Thanks for thinking of and contacting me, I'm happy in my current role and not considering a change, but I could be tempted if you had a role that > > was working on this tech stack. Otherwise I'll be in touch again when I am looking."

You also should prepare a response if they propose a meeting (or lunch) instead of just answering the question:

"I'm currently very busy at work. Can you please go back to the client and confirm if they're using tech stack X, and if so get back in touch and we'll go from there."

Recruiters are just like any other agent working on behalf of a client, they want to present a number of suitable options to their client. They know it's a numbers game and won't be offended if you simply say you're not interested.

There's other things you can do when they contact you, ask what Resume or CV of yours they have and if they have you as currently seeking work. If that information is outdated, tell them what they should be looking at instead.

Overall just remember they're just doing their job diligently by contacting you and would rather know earlier rather than later if you're not interested for any reason.

5

Just tell them

Seriously, just tell them that you want to know details that are relevant to you (like the technological stack) before you accept the invitation for further talks.

Keep in mind that most recruiters have merchant mentality. Your time doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter to them if you're a good match or not and how long are you going to stay in the new company. The only thing they care about is the 'sale', and getting their fee. Such recruiters will gently ignore any input from you and will continue as they haven't heard anything.

Unfortunately, you yourself are the proof that such behaviour make sense. You don't take your question seriously and accept the invitation although you haven't received any details. One of X candidates take the offer even although it contradicts their initial statement. And for the recruiter, each them is 'sale', which is worth wasting the time of all other candidates.

Refuse the invitation, unless you get your questions answered. If the recruiter keeps ignoring your questions, it's one of those guys, and just ignore him. You haven't lost anything. They are not doing that because they are stupid, but because you wouldn't be interested if they'd answer your question. It's the reason they insist of you getting engaged in the recruitment process, so that it would be harder for you to say 'no' because of time and energy invested/wasted.

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  • Yes - consider that the recruiter is a sales person. If they can't convince you they have a great product to offer, then they probably don't. If a car salesman offers to sell you a vehicle, you say you need a pickup, and they won't tell you if it's a pickup or sedan, would you even keep talking to them, pressing for details? Oct 14 at 15:51
  • 1
    @DonBranson not quite, they don't have any pickup, only sedans, so they keep saying they have a car that exactly match your expectations, if they have little clients and a lot of time, imagine their determination to try, as long as the chances of convincing someone are low, but above null. Oct 14 at 19:03
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What others have already said is well and correct, but there is another aspect of this in regards to security.

Social engineering.

Social engineering deals with retrieving this sort of information (current projects of a company, in this example) for a competitor (it doesn't even have to be a company. An individual could steal the intellectual property of a company by seeking out any information they can on what is being developed and developing it before the company at hand), which may be what your question comes off as to a recruiter. There may even be a company policy explicitly denying the transmission of this sort of information to anyone who has not yet been hired and is, therefore, not yet a part of the company you are applying with.

Keep this in mind when applying for future jobs and please remember not to get too frustrated. These people have jobs as well. It is their duty to protect their company.

To keep this on topic and directly address your question: If you don't have social skills then blind guess it. The only way to get this information without being a part of most companies is by social engineering, but you must somehow prove to the person you are talking to that you are worthy of the information that you are requesting. The baseline is: if you can prove, somehow, that you won't be sharing the information you obtain in any way that won't be harmful to the company you are submitting an application to, they will- typically- provide the information.

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    I find it unlikely that the tech stack in use is considered sensitive information.
    – Casey
    Oct 14 at 15:27
  • It very well might not be, but that isn't something that can be changed, if it is so.
    – wanwandrew
    Oct 14 at 15:29
  • 3
    In my experience (mostly consultant roles, so it may be special), when going through recruiters, the stack is advertised (sometimes to an absurdly detailed degree, like the specific version of some tools), but the name of the company may not. The specifics of the job are almost never told.
    – Davidmh
    Oct 14 at 18:26
  • I know. It is important, however, to remember that- at least, legally, y'know?- companies are regarded as "bodies" themselves, meaning they are treated (in very specific cases) as humans. As humans can be paranoid about the information that they share, so too, can companies. I wouldn't immediately think that the stack (programming languages used, right?) would be considered confidential, but while obtaining a networking degree I took a class involving policies and procedures which involved the CIA triangle (confidentiality, integrity, and availability) so I thought I could lend my knowledge.
    – wanwandrew
    Oct 14 at 18:45
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If they are contacting you then just be firm. Don't take the conversation beyond a few minutes on the phone or one or two emails before giving up on them. Don't agree to longer conversations, or meetings if they don't have what you want.

Recruiters who reach out to you have one goal: harvesting your resume/CV or application. They might not even have a open position right now.

Of course if you are out of a job or need one now then how much leeway you give them will change.

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    I don't know how region or industry specific this is, but it is my experience that companies will hire anyone and everyone who knows what they are doing. Even if they don't have a project for the hiree right now, they assume something will show up. The problem is they want to hire people and then figure out which project to place them in and I'm trying to negotiate doing it the other way around.
    – lala
    Oct 13 at 12:40
  • @lala Are you doing contract work by any chance? Oct 13 at 16:06
  • @user3067860 In my industry and region, most jobs are contract jobs between a company that provides workers and a client who contracts them. So yes, but the contract is between my employer and a client, not between myself and a client.
    – lala
    Oct 13 at 16:22
  • @lala My area, as well--and we have a lot of small sub-contracting companies, too, so you might end like me, on a team where you are the only person from your company. It's really different from what a lot of people might be familiar with, so you might want to add that into the question. Oct 13 at 16:28
  • I have been a "contractor" my entire career. I have been been a w-2 employee placed on contracts with other groups. I have also been involved with hiring people for contracts. Except in the rare occasions when hiring an intern we have had exact requirements for an exact contract to fill, we have never hired unless there was a position available. They never would hire somebody and then wait to see what opened up. Oct 14 at 10:30
2

After reading other answers, Im going to answer this one a slightly different way.

  • You don't want to waste time, annoy a recruiter, or poison possible future openings.
  • The recruiter isn't technical.
  • The possible employer has technical secrecy to consider.

I'd handle it more like this - a conditional interest, conditioned upon stack, rather than a blunt ultimatum. It may still not work but feels a better bet.

The recruiter's job is to find a possible employee. They have access to a client as their principal, who engages and pays them. If the agent feels a need to ask something, that has more power than if you do.

If you sound lukewarm, they have low motivation to meet your questions, rather than move to next on their list.

So I'd answer the recruiter, more like "That sounds really interesting! I like the sound of it! Can you check something for me though? It's a technical question though, you'll need to ask the team leader I'd be working with." Get a "yes", which should not be too difficult.

Once you get a yes, then ask, "My next role, I want to use stack X. Can you ask your client, if that's what I'd be doing, or what stack they'd want me to use?"

This way, you have shown engagement. If the recruiter was serious that you seem a match, and you have explicitly asked them to bounce a question off their client, they are more likely to do so, than if you ask them themselves (they don't know).

Then try to get to next stage, and if offered next stage, before accepting, remind them of this question, "I'd love to. But I need my stack question answered. Can you ask the client and get back to me? Thanks"

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  • @Kat - done that
    – Stilez
    Oct 16 at 17:28
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Don't worry to much about if you are being rude or not, I worked for a recruitment agency recently for around 4 years and I had to deal with hundreds of candidates daily among many other tasks and recruiters expect the majority of the candidates that they contact to either be uninterested or impatient with them. Recruitment consultants will always try to book an appointment with the candidate face to face because it makes it easier to sell the position to the candidate, Read the candidate's body language and adapt how they are going to sell that position and the candidate is more likely to agree and accept to a position in person rather than over the phone. More often than not the consultant won't have much knowledge in the industry for the position they are selling to you.. they just know how to make it sound appealing to you so they hit their targets (Like you said they didn't answer your questions regarding technology stacks, Because they didn't know anything about it, Hence having to say they would get someone else to contact you to answer your question)

When the recruiters contact you (personally I would say).....

[YOU] Do you currently have any projects that use "******" technology stack as that is all I am interested in

[REC AGENT] We have loads of positions currently/coming up, Would you be available to meet up over lunch to discuss?

[YOU] My availability is very limited so I am only accepting business meetings
that would be of interest or of use to me "EG - technology stack", Do you currently have any projects that relate to "****" technology stack?

[REC AGENT] Yes and we have many more opportunities/contracts coming up in that field, We should meet to discuss them... When would be good for you to meet?

[YOU] If you could send me the project specifics via e-mail i will get back to you with my availability, But please make a note on the system that I am ONLY interested in "****" and unless I otherwise express interest in anything other than "********" I would appreciate not being updated on them!

Some thing like that.....

  1. You only make appointments for serious subjects
  2. Can they clarify project details before the conversation goes any further If they can't or won't
  3. ask them to e-mail the project details (that involve your preferred technology stack) over to you. If anything is suitable you'll let them know your availability

Don't let them waste your time.

0

If you considering changing jobs, don't use recruiters. Just refuse their offers.

Take the time and read job offers! Skip the ones lacking the technology stack, and concentrate on these, which promise suitable tech stacks. Then review them and apply to the best fits.

Even then, it it likely you won't work with the technology stack or only part of your time. Companies have so many legacy systems that must be maintained. Modern tech stacks look attractive in job offers. You have to find out / make sure during your interview, that you are only interested in these tech stacks.

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    I disagree with this answer and would have downvoted it if I had the rep. This answer seems to entirely skirt around the question. OP is not seeking a job but, rather, being contacted by recruiters. The OP does not want to spend time pursuing anything and is specifically seeking to minimize any extra time spent if the job offer is not explicitly targeted to a specific technology stack.
    – Beau
    Oct 15 at 0:04
  • @Beau If he is not interested he could just block recruiters on LinkedIn or delete any incoming message. OP is willing to squeeze in a lunch date. Reading job offers is the better way in his situation. Periode.
    – usr1234567
    Oct 15 at 6:22
0

I refuse to meet a recruiter face-to-face, even over Zoom, until they answer my questions in an email. Good recruiters respect that.

If they don't answer my questions, I don't reply. Unless they ask why they haven't heard from me. Then I copy-paste my unanswered questions.

If they are repeat offenders, I block them.

In tech, it's a seller's market. Far too many positions open for the experienced labor force available.

I should add that recruiters are in it for the commission, not your happiness. If a job sounds interesting but the recruiters are acting coy, they have usually already given me the location and the job title. So I just google the job myself and contact the company directly if the posted job looks interesting.

The recruiter is interviewing to work for you. If they flunk the job interview, move on to the next candidate.

0

I do know the phenomenon you are describing.

There is a whole generation of tech recruiters who think "programmers are fungible" and that specialization in software engineering does not exist. You need to make it clear that you are only interested in certain kinds of jobs and that they are literally wasting their time if they approach you with anything else.

My advice is the following:

  1. Understand most recruiters are not particularly technical.
  2. Reply to their email or LinkedIn message by politely explaining hard criteria you need to consider a new position and ask for a job description of the position they are trying to fill.
  3. Do not get on the phone with anyone who does not produce a job description that meets your criteria listed in 2.

Basically just don't get on the phone with anyone if they have not told you any details about the job and the details matter to you.

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