June 25, 2006

Akward phone calls...

Oh, hello… what’s that you say, would I like to leave my current job? Funny you should ask this since I am at my job now! If you have not guessed yet this is a recruiter doing their job by asking me if I would like to leave my current job mid project to be placed into a position they feel I would be perfectly suited. I am in fact so perfectly suited for this position that it is of little consequence where or what the position will be. Let’s go jump off a bridge while we’re at it Karen (fictitious name of a false name of the real person calling me)! I wish I could push the sarcasm aside but when I am sitting at my desk and Karen calls me and I tell her thanks but no thanks and no more than 30 seconds later Derek’s phone rings with Karen on the other end, well how can one not poke fun.

Ok, to be fair lets establish what a recruiter is trying to do before I give my 2 cents. A recruiter is someone that might be able to assist me in creating a better future for myself in the video game industry by finding positions, which match my skills for usually more money than I am currently being paid. They are also trying to bring talent to teams trying to realize an AAA product, so the publisher is well served by recruiters in this example. So in a perfect world it looks like I am getting more money for my work, the publisher is making an AAA product, and the public is playing a great game then how can I wag my finger Steven Colbert style at recruiters?

First off as I was sort of mentioning before the phone call starts with a lie. The name given by the recruiter on the phone is rarely the real name of the person. What a great way to build trust when discussing the future of my professional career. Most already know this as well but that nice new awesome salary deal they just got you means they are getting 20% of that salary as a commission, good looking out for umm me I guess. The thing that really pisses me off is the devil on the shoulder aspect of a recruiter calling someone, temping them with more money and exciting projects while they are committed to a current project. Now all of a sudden ethics has become the issue and the recruiter does not care about ethics so the person has to go through that internal struggle of what is best for their career and family while battling the guilt of screwing over current team members. Depending on what kind of person you are this may not be a factor one way or the other but for some this can become a very stressful situation. I know when people leave in the middle of a project I get bummed because I know it is going to be all the more difficult to finish the game with the same level of polish without them. The best-case scenario is you lose a “bad apple” while the worst-case scenario is you lose a “friend” or “super star”.

The issue of money is a gray area when it comes to recruiters. Even though they get 20% they are still getting the client more as well which is a good thing. The Game Developer Salary survey and recruiters are about the only thing beyond inflation that will help employees gain a better wage. Here again I must admit some good can come from talks with recruiters. Management must hate the idea of recruiters when it comes to this because it gives the employee a bit of ammo during that next review.

The subject of unhappy employees is the one issue where recruiters make perfect sense. Under this circumstance I believe recruiters are doing nothing but good by trying to help someone leave a situation, which is making a negative impact on their life. The recruiter is the coast guard towing the lifeboat to shore after a terrible storm where rebuilding can begin.

In the end I don’t hate these people after all they are just trying to do a job but I do fear what they can do to a team that seems to gel and work well together. The constant temping of working on the next great superhero game, getting a 15% pay increase, or moving to a new location where housing is more affordable can make anyone think twice. I guess that is where being in love with what you are working on and working for a good company help to keep you on the straight and narrow, even though the calls roll in weekly.

Please let me know what you think about this because my mind flip-flops on this subject all the time.

p.s. Sorry it took me so long to update but the game is in full swing so the updates are going to be sparse.

p.s.s. The 1Up Show has this awesome Beach Boys inspired summer theme song so check it out!

2 comments:

Richard Foge said...

You nailed it with the internal struggle. It plants a devious little seed in the back of your mind and depending on the current situation it can turn into a pretty big deal for you. That's more or less what happened with me on GoW1. I'd been getting calls like that for a while and totally blown them off, but it's a numbers game for them. One of the times they call you they're going to get you when you're having a shitty day at work, and it just might be the day after the mailman told you that a house down the street from yours just sold for a boatload of money, and then you start thinking about how you really wouldn't want to raise children in LA in the first place. And by you, I mean me. Then you just say, 'fuck it', why don't you go ahead and tell me if there is anything reeeealy good out there.

It's like when a kinda normal guy ends up with a totally hot chick because all he asks out are hot chicks. At some point one of them will say yes, even if dozens say no. Their cold-calling probably gets them at least 1 interested party for every 50 or so people that they call. And it's kind of funny, because now the company that they swiped someone from has to use a headhunting firm to fill a position so these people are more or less paid to shuffle folks around.

That said, I am fairly happy with the results. Headhunters got me my gig at Sony and my gig at Zipper, (also now Sony, I cannot escape!), and they take all of the legwork out of finding a new place.

Though if you're ever looking, Eric don't bother with the headhunters, call me!

Anonymous said...

Käsityöläinen said... (my apologies for not signing in)

I would just like to point out that for a headhunter, perhaps unlike for some other recruiters, it haedly makes sense to seduce people away from their current jobs unless they really feel that they have got something feasible to offer. This is always - or should be - a matter of mediation, actual matching of the mandate held by the headhunter with the right candidate. And even if you are not currently prepared to consider changing a job it makes perfect sense to treat the headhunter well as a good recruiter will not forget you after a placement but will continue to observe the situation to to ensure that everyone is happy. A headhunter who makes scrupulous and 'un-ethical' deals is soon a former headhunter; success in the profession is based on maintaining long-term relationships with companies, and getting further references from candidates is invaluable. There are rotten apples in the industry but at its best one of the most rewarding sides of headhunting can be that - unlike in many industries - everyone can be a winner. Except, of course, the company who in the end made the worst offer to its employees.

Thus, I see good headhunting practice more as liberation and transparency than as corruption.