If you’re a software developer, technology professional, or computer programmer working with an IT recruiter, trust is a critical component to finding the right position and ensuring that you aren’t mislead. In this highly technical area, it’s very important to distinguish a qualified recruiter from a hack. It’s a difficult area, because technical competence is not what you are really evaluating, but rather the recruiter’s overall honesty and competence.
The first thing you want to do in this situation is to establish a baseline of normal behavior. Talk with your recruiter about some of their recent IT projects with their clients – or even just talk about the weather, sports, or recent news. Anything that allows you to get a read on your recruiter’s normal behavior. Remember anything unusual that you see or hear. Try and note the way that they talk, the way they tell a story and the expressions on their upper and lower face when they’re telling you about the position. These are all things that change under the stress that occurs when people play with the truth. Once you have a feeling for how they behave when relaxed it’s time to start asking questions about the job they are representing.
Ask specific questions about the job. What are the details of the contract associated with the job? Can you see a copy of the contract? What is the salary and benefits of the job? Watch their upper and lower face when they answer your questions. Listen not to what they say, but how they say it. You are looking for are micro expressions of true feeling. These are little glimpses of emotion that can be anything from pursing their lips(indicating an increase in stress) or rolling their eyes(indicating boredom). Ask for personal details, not corporate ones – for instance, ask about the individual hiring manager’s personality, not just for stock information that anyone could find out from a company website.
The other thing to listen for is the total content of the story that you are being told about a job. Liars often start with portions of truth and then embellish the story. Coming up with good detailed truth is hard, and if your recruiter was good at doing this without becoming stressed they would be a fiction writer or a professional poker player. Chances are they’re not very good. What you want to listen for carefully are the portions of your recruiters dialogue about the job that have uneven development. They may be extremely vague or just giving you a list about certain aspects of the job, indicating that either they don’t know the details or they are lying. When a portion of the story is underdeveloped ask follow up questions about that section. Try and get details anyway you can, but don’t let on that you think they’re lying. They may admit that they don’t know and direct you to the company for the details.
They also may make up lies about the job so that you take it (they do after all get paid on commission). Here are a few verbal cues to look for that make it likely that you are being mislead. The first is confusion between I, We, and they. People telling the truth will stay consist with using I throughout a story but if your recruiter is playing with the truth they may throw in a we when they normally would have said I. Another verbal cue to look for is confusion between the past tense and the present tense. A good example comes from a famous child abduction turned murder case. The mother in the case reported her sons had gone missing after she had been car jacked. But in her statement she also referred to her child in the past tense rather than the present tense. She said “he was a good boy” rather than using the present tense “is”. The police later found the boy murdered and convicted the mother. The last thing you’ll want to look for verbally is qualifiers such as “like”, “kind of” or “I guess”. Studies have shown that liars use qualifiers 4 times as often an average speaker. If your recruiter says to you that you’ll be making “like 60K a year” or “my guess is that your employer matches your medical insurance payment”.
The bottom line is to establish the normal behavior of your recruiter and then look for signs of stress in how they look, how their description of the job and client sounds and by examining what types of words they use.
The ideal scenario is that you discover an IT recruiter that is both honest and highly knowledgeable about the industry and company at which they are representing you. Especially if you deal with technical projects and have a lot of assignments and downtime, a very well qualified and respected IT recruiter can be a lifeline to consistent and progressively more challenging work.