Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· jwwest

I am not a collection of bullet points

I'm not shy about sharing my frustrations with recruiters. Not the kind of internal recruiter, but rather recruiters from places like Teksystems or Cybercoders. These guys are headhunters looking for a quick placement on an open req, often without any particular relationship with the hiring company.

Since I've been a freelancer for the past two years, I've recently updated my resume to a more functional format. This type of format emphasizes key skills and experiences, and eschews the standard, boring reverse chronological work history. I like it because I have a very wide range of skills, and I think it's my greatest feature.

I've had a pretty friendly relationship with a certain recruiter at a certain big firm over the years. Typically if they ask, I'll slip them my resume and give them some of my time to talk: after all, I'm always open to opportunities. So when a recruiter contacted me about my availability and resume, I was more than happy to send along my brand-new functional resume. Really, I put a lot of effort into it, and I'm rather proud of it.

See, I feel that resumes are just conversation starters. I jot down a brief overview of what I can do, and maybe a few places I've worked, and if it looks like I may be qualified, you - as the hiring manager - give me a call to find out more about me. The job hunting process is really all about conversations after all. And honestly, there's some things one can't easily put into the resume format: stuff like goals (outside of the pithy "To obtain a position in the blah blah blah) and ambitions.

The problem I've found is that the big recruiting firms just want an inventory of your skills and a list of places you've worked, in reverse chronological order - of course. It feels they could care less about you as a person, but define you as your profession matched against a datapoints. Five years SQL? Check. Two years at Big Co? Check.

So when the new recruiter emails me back, asking me for dates and bullet points and at what company I used exactly what, I got more than a little annoyed. It's not her fault, she's a perfectly nice person, but it's representative of the industry as a whole. Everything must be weighed and measured with very little care about who you are as a person. Do you play around with Rust on the weekends? Well, you didn't use that in a job, and the requirements don't mention it so that's useless. Are you a polyglot that uses several languages? Well, unless you have 2 to 5 years in one specific language/platform it's useless to mention it. Can you pick up languages quickly, but have never used Java seriously before? Don't try to apply for a Java position through these guys because they don't care that Java is easy to learn for someone that already knows how to program.

The last part is what really gets to me. Recruiters don't care about the knowledge behind developing software, they only want to know about the tools you use. Can you imagine not hiring a carpenter because he only has experience in fiberglass hammers and not wood?

I don't know what the lesson here is. I know that I want to feel less like a piece of meat lining up to get measured.