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Recruiters and Assumptions: Where’s the Line?

Have you seen Silence of the Lambs, or just heard this expression? (Sorry, it might offend a few people.)
When you “assume,” what happens?
You make an “a**” out of “u” and “me.”
Sounds true, right?
In technical recruiting, it is more true than almost anywhere.

The explosion of the tech stack
In the last 5-10 years, the tech stack has gone crazy. This is good for productivity and the ability of companies to get projects done, but it’s made the technical recruiting space very complicated. It used to be that a new skill set would develop over a 3-5 year span. Now, oftentimes, companies need a skill set that’s only been en vogue at other companies for six to eight months. You need to find someone from a specific sub-discipline that’s essentially nascent existence-wise.

It’s very challenging. We get it. We’ve worked with hundreds of technical recruiters and companies looking for all types of roles, from conventional (C++) to far more nuanced (advanced personalization models).

The shortcut some recruiters take
… is the assumption. We all are guilty of this to some degree.
Let’s say you see “JAVA” on a resume. You assume it naturally flows to “Javascript.” (It does not.)
Or — and this one is a bit more nuanced — you’ve heard and seen online that Python basics are somewhat similar to Ruby basics, so you think you can “fudge” a candidate with a background in Python over for a Ruby role. You assume it’ll be close enough and the rest of the team can get him/her up to speed.

The problem with assumptions in technical recruiting
Hiring managers, project timelines, and budgets all require the person to have the specific skills to begin contributing right away. Otherwise, there’s a ton of brushback, fire drills, and issues. No one wants that.

What’s the better answer?
Step 1: Don’t assume.
Step 2: Talk to the hiring manager about what they want/need and make notes. Summarize those notes in a one-pager. Confirm you’re on the same page.
Step 3: Continue to not assume.
Step 4: Talk to people currently in your company (on the team this open role will join) about what they need, and specifically what skill sets and areas they’re lacking. Ask them some questions they might ask to assure technical skill.
Step 5: Again, do not assume.
Step 6: Do some of your own research on this role, where it’s being hired, and anything you can find about how they’re vetting the skill set, new as it may be.
Step 7: Again push assumptions to the background.
Step 8: Consider contacting a third-party technical vetting service to make sure the technical side of the hire is being evaluated comprehensively.

But, are there times a recruiter should assume?
There are moments where the assumption has some logical value, but the assumption should be backed by some type of conversation or search for broader context.

A classic example is resume gaps. Oftentimes sourcers/recruiters see them and assume “Oh, this person was out of work during these two years.” That is a reasonable assumption (you can trust in your gut and ability to read a resume) but you still need to verify the information and the context of it. Was it due to a family member being sick? Was there some professional assignment they didn’t list for some reason? What’s the full story?

In terms of technical skills, if something isn’t listed but related skills are, don’t simply assume “Oh, this person lacks this skill.” Ask. Ask what they know about it. Turn it into a discussion around where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished. Trust your gut but verify it too.

The bottom line
Never make assumptions as a technical recruiter. It just leads to trouble. Work the steps. Work the system. Talk to hiring managers. Communicate. Follow-up. Understand what you need. It’s going to end much better for all.

Amrut Patil

Amrut Patil
Amrut is a seasoned software development professional with over 12 years of experience in designing and building the architecture around mobile applications. Amrut has worked across different technologies and different business verticals. He is passionate about learning new technologies.