One of the biggest pains in the ass for me is when job sites make no distinction between recruiters and employers. A recruiter will list a generic job opening just to get a flood of resumes to store in their database for future use.

So I have the same concern about using careers.stackoverflow. Even if the fee is "hefty" for employers to register to see resumes, there are plenty of big recruiting companies who are more than capable of paying any fee that an employer is capable of paying.

Will careers.stackoverflow make any attempt to distinguish recruiters from employers? This would probably involve doing some background research on the company before setting them up on the system since recruiters can use a variety of techniques to create the appearance that they are a real employer. Fake job listings are the primary obfuscation method I have seen them use and it circumvents the primary method that is used on careers.so to keep recruiters out.

I would love to use the site but I absolutely refuse to allow the possibility of having to talk to these sleazeballs during my job search and will go to any lengths to avoid it - even if that means missing some job opportunities.

  • I'd suggest that recruiters will have larger budgets than employers - a disincentive needs to be found that employers won't mind, but recruiters would... Oct 21, 2009 at 17:47

6 Answers 6


Well, I can tell you that I've been running a job board at jobs.joelonsoftware.com for several years now and have not received a single complaint about spammy recruiters placing fake ads just to collect resumes for their collection. I think the worst case scenario if a recruiter does this is that you get an email offering you a job that you don't want, and you delete it. That's not really the end of the world.

In addition, we can add it to the Terms of Service that anybody using the resume search feature must be searching for an active position, and must reveal the name of the employer to the job seeker in the first email.

Most important to remember is that the whole goal of careers.stackoverflow.com is to put all these shady recruiters out of business. If we're successful, nobody will need recruiters just to source resumes, because they'll go straight to the mountain: StackOverflow.

  • 1
    Definitely agree with this statement - In addition, we can add it to the Terms of Service that anybody using the resume search feature must be searching for an active position, and must reveal the name of the employer to the job seeker in the first email."
    – ChrisF Mod
    Oct 25, 2009 at 18:27
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    No, it is a big deal to receive emails offering a job I don't want, especially when this happens frequently: because I can't instantly tell it's a job I don't want. As you say, recruiters often don't care about the quality of the candidates they find, nor in finding a suitable match for the company or candidate. So I might be receiving a tip for my dream job, but I don't have enough information to tell: especially when the recruiter has no desire to tell me specifics about the company for fear of losing the commission.
    – Ether
    Oct 25, 2009 at 20:13
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    I'm concerned there may be a few reasons why you haven't gotten complaints about recruiters: 1. Maybe JoelOnSoftware's Jobs may not have picked up on the worst of the worst recruiters 2. Complacency: most people who recieve these requests from recruiters tend to just ignore them [as the default behavior] 3. The people who are bugged may just ignore this behavior and move away from the site (a big reason why I'm reluctant to use Monster or Hotjobs) 4. How easy is it to report problematic recruiters to the job site? 5. Your sample size of employers is a bit small. (~100 jobs)
    – monksy
    Nov 3, 2009 at 2:27

Joel has said:

there's an easy way to get contingency recruiters out of the system: (a) charge them money, and (b) require that they disclose the name of the company for which they are hiring.

Actually it's not quite so easy and the naivety of this statement boggles the mind.

(a) The big contingency recruiters have large budgets to find candidates. They're not afraid to pay.

(b) Recruiters just make up a company name or an entire job listing in order to get access to a database of candidates. The idea that this requirement is going to scare them off is laughable. Once they have this database, they can then make back the fee they paid many times over.

As I said in the original question, the only way to restrict their access is to do background research on every company that wants access to the system. Somehow I doubt that will happen - but if I'm paying $99/year, that's a cost that I would hope my subscription would cover. Is there any plan to do something like this? The current system is unacceptable.


One of your archnemisis’ here, a sleazy recruiter. I am purposefully not mentioning my firm as I am still evaluating if it makes sense to pony up the coin for a subscription to the resume search.

I do think that it makes sense to have a rating system, or earn a badge for recruiters that are actually helpful. I will say that recruiting firms do have deep pockets and 6K for an annual subscription is not a deterrent. I do think a rating system would be a deterrent, because firms will not pay 6k if they will be kicked off in 4 months for posting spam.

In addition, for developers/architects they are few retained firms out there. Retained firms specialize in Director level and above, it is possible to get exclusives on roles, but few firms even Google and Amazon will go retained for a developer.

Here are a few key's to finding the right recruiter, probably 3 out of 100.

  • They share the company’s name before they meet you, those that do have a strong enough and REAL relationship with their client and do not fear competition

  • They are able to have an intelligent conversation on what you do, and most importantly what you want to do next. Tell them your background, tell them what you want to do, then ask what roles are a fit. If they start jamming HTML/CSS contracts at you when you are clearly a sever side java developer who prefers full time, hang up on them.

  • Ask them questions on how long they worked with their client, the culture of the firm etc. Avoid recruiters that call all day into companies and get jobs listed, that is a company driven approach, or volume driven. They tend to send 8 candidates and see what sticks, a reactive approach. Look for a firm that partners with a firm, sends 2 candidates and looks to work with passive job seekers, those are the firms you want to work with.


This answer by Joel on the question Will agents be allowed to use careers is pretty encompassing.

There are two kinds of recruiters working in the tech industry: contingency and retained search.

A contingency recruiter only gets paid if they place a candidate. Companies that use contingency recruiters tend to use dozens of them, because it's free until they actually find someone. The recruiter stands to make so much money that it's in their interest to spam the universe trying to throw any and all candidates at the company hoping that one of them sticks in which case they hit the jackpot and make, typically, 1/4-1/3 of the first year salary.

A retained search recruiter is paid to fill the position whether or not they are successful. The retained search relationship is also exclusive, meaning, only one recruiter will be hired by the company to find someone to fill a position.

In general, you will find that:

  1. most of the problematic recruiters you have dealt with as an employee are contingency recruiters, because they are literally just looking to throw as many resumes as they can at a company, without much regard to quality, which is why they're so annoying to good candidates
  2. the companies that do not know how to hire tech employees and wish to outsource that will use retained search recruiters, who have a much higher standard and work to a higher standard of ethics--they are, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from the hiring company's own employees
  3. it is very easy to detect contingency recruiters, as they will not reveal the name of the company they are recruiting for, out of fear that you will go straight to them and they will lose their fee.

Because of fact #3, there's an easy way to get contingency recruiters out of the system: (a) charge them money, and (b) require that they disclose the name of the company for which they are hiring. We're going to do both, so I don't expect to see many contingency recruiters in our system.

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    Creating a fake job listing is an easy workaround for Joel's supposed protection against recruiters since they have no problem paying the fee. I can't believe how naive Joel's solution is.
    – Kelso
    Oct 21, 2009 at 18:10
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    #2 nope - companies that have no idea how to hire techies will use which ever recruiter has the prettiest business card. This recruiter will flood them with CVs of web designers for a sysadmin job and the company will blame the poor quality on the candidates Oct 21, 2009 at 18:37

Should we also be to review recruiters and employers similar to glassdoor.com (or link to that site)?

  • If I could vote more than once for this I would.
    – monksy
    Nov 3, 2009 at 2:27

It occurs to me that we can use the community to help police this: if a job-seeker spots a recruiter on the site, "flag for moderator review" and have them removed, just like we would remove a spammer on SO.

  • 7
    So we refund their subscription fee and they leave after downloading all of the resume data for free. Pretty good deal for the recruiter - which is why every "employer" needs to be researched BEFORE entering the system.
    – Kelso
    Oct 21, 2009 at 18:20
  • I agree, it's no substitute for screening them in advance, but there still ought to be a mechanism to report shady "employers".
    – Ether
    Oct 23, 2009 at 19:11
  • @Ether - Agreed.
    – Kelso
    Oct 26, 2009 at 19:48
  • @Kelso: agreed, but this is pretty close to what Joel announced today he will be implementing: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/29990/…
    – Ether
    Nov 17, 2009 at 7:14

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