The first part of consulting is having the initial meeting with the client. Using the Consulting Process, you identify the client’s problem, and determine if you are capable of fixing it. Not currently being with a firm causes me to scout for work (pouring through a TON of emails and phone calls, not all leading to work). A lot of time, I have to go through recruiters, and find the whole process a waste of time, especially when I learn the client wants a full-time & on-site W2 employee and is not at all interested in a telecommuting contractor, needs another skill set, or I cannot fit them into my schedule.
For some reason, the majority of recruiters cannot answer these questions because they cannot fully make those decisions for the client, get insecure because they cannot answer me (or don’t understand the question with the new outsourced ones), and re-iterate the job requirements as if that will answer my question. We all know how inaccurate job requirements typically are. Thus, I’m resolute that to answer my questions I’ll have just play the game so I can get directly at the client.
Most of my work since 2003 has come from referrals. This can be from my name in some open source code, LinkedIn , client/peer recommendations, and my blog . Every so often, though, there are some cool clients behind "recruiter walls". A recruiter is typically a person who’s role is to find a qualified candidate on behalf of a company. While usually part of a firm, I’ve met those who go it alone. Like people, some are cool and some are as dumb as rocks. If consulting is slow, the cool ones get my business. If consulting is hot, the cool ones get my referrals + personal recommendations if any.
Whether cool or dumb, both pose a significant time sink in determining if the client will lead to a paying gig or not.
For example, a lot of the people I work with either are the client themselves, or are sub-contracting me out. Both can give me clarity, quickly, on what the gig is about. This allows me to identify if the gig is something I do and if I have time to do it. Recruiters typically don’t have the full story, though. Some are even mis-informed. Some questions get answered incorrectly when trying to get a feel for what the client wants, and some questions take a day or more to get answered. While a minor annoyance, some clients actually think you are well informed about what they are doing before the first interview based on the assumption the recruiter told you everything you need to know. In this day and age when email can be shot off in 2 minutes, allowing you to go about your day whilst it gets processed and answered by the other party, it’s still time consuming and not very productive. Time is money, so naturally it’s frustrating to me.
Examples include identifying if the client really wants Flash, or would Flex be a better fit for them? Do they really know what they want? Do they support telecommuting? Do they have an existing team? Do they have existing software that needs to be fixed or are they looking for something new? Do they need code muscle or a full project lead?
Imagine the above questions either never getting answered to your satisfaction, incorrectly answered, or never answered at all. Add to this some recruiters nowadays don’t eve speak good English… huh? It’s like this drawn out state of reconnaissance purgatory where you struggle to gain even a decent clue. It’s so much easier just to talk to a client directly and/or whatever client manager I’m going through if I’m being sub-contracted.
So far, I’d say it’s about 60/40 with more clients & peers contacting me directly for work than me actually going through a recruiting firm. Additionally, not all firms are the same. Some know the above, and get me in contact as quickly as possible. Others are on the opposite end of the spectrum going so far as to do a pre-interview to ensure I actually know what I’m talking about and have the experience level the client wants. My hope is the latter will go away as my past client list grows.
The reason all of this matters is that in the end, just because I perform a client interview doesn’t mean I’ll actually get work. Part of the Consulting Process is determining the clients problem, and if you can solve it. Not every client needs the skills of Jesse Warden. Some want a Flash Designer or illustrator. Some think they need to convert their AJAX based web app to Flex when in reality, Flex won’t fix their issues and their problems lie elsewhere. Some I just cannot fit into my schedule. All of these things are pretty easily determined within a 30 minute phone call (sometimes it can take days). Yet getting to that initial client meeting is a very drawn out affair.
It’s not always so bad. One particular recruiter that I’ve know for 4 years has been very prompt and forthcoming with info about potential clients. Other recruiters have established relationships with their clients so are pretty knowledgeable of their client and the team they are recruiting for. This is especially true if the recruiter actually works for the company they are recruiting for.Â This only gets better with time with the good recruiters as they learn about you, your skill set, and where it applies.
I’m just curious if others have found the same, and what do you do? Is this just the way the game is played? So far, the only way I’ve found to expedite things is to establish a good relationship with the cool recruiters, and get really good at reading between the lines of job descriptions. It still takes time, but ends up taking less later.