Low-rate recruiters – The bane of my existence

There is nothing more annoying to me in my profession than getting calls and emails from recruiters who are looking for senior-level BI people at ridiculously low rates.  A common example: they want someone with 10-years experience in BI to work in NYC for $45/hr, no expenses paid.  Seriously?  I get 3-10 such requests each day.  90% of the time the recruiters are from India.  They will email you as well as call you.  They love to put “URGENT” in the job title.  And if you make the mistake of replying to an email of theirs, you can expect they will call you immediately and continue calling until you pickup, no matter what time of day it is (somehow they got my home and cell phone and would call both numerous times).  Many times their English is poor and their phone numbers are disguised to show as coming from the US (New Jersey seems to be the most popular one, where they have “headquarters” there with outsourcing centers in India).  They make telemarketers seem like angels.

Most of the time their email does not tell you what the pay rate is.  If you ask, they usually reply “Rate is negotiable please let me whats the rate you are looking for?”.  If you insist they will tell you, and you can expect the rate to be no better than half of what the average going rate is.

My advise is to immediately delete an email from an Indian firm or hangup if they call (but beware they sometimes use fake English names).  The few times I have expressed interest were complete wastes of time.  They always want your resume (no doubt they have a quota to obtain a certain amount of resumes each week), and always want you to fill out a bunch of useless info (i.e. name, address, visa status, expected hourly rate, etc).  And to top it off, many of the jobs are nowhere even close to my skill set (“You are a perfect fit for the opening we have for a K2 developer”).  They never bothered to actually look at my LinkedIn profile, as you would then know I am nowhere near a “perfect fit”.  Sending out these boilerplate template emails is no different from spam.  Often these emails will have a unsubscribe link that will take you to a webpage that looks just like the graphic below, with a different company name and color, but everything else is the same, leading me to believe they are all working under the same company:

Untitled picture

Unfortunately these recruiters are all over dice.com now, making it that much more difficult to filter through the job listings to find jobs worth applying for.  Many times you will see multiple postings of the same position from different Indian recruiting firms (just the other day I saw 13 postings on dice for the same exact position).

These recruiters are very bottom-level people who make tons of calls a day to try to find someone who expresses interest.  When that person is found, they then hand you off to their “manager” who will try to convince you to allow them to submit you to the client at some crazy low rate (a recent recruiter asked me if I would be interested in taking a contract in Minnesota, no expenses paid, for $40/hr less than I am making now at a local client.  He knew what I was making and that I did not have to travel, yet he still tried to convince me to let him submit me).

These firms from India are offering low rates because there are so many layers of companies taking a piece of the rate.  Here is a typical scenario: A US company wants to hire a consultant/contractor, so they have a US staffing firm try to fill the position. That staffing firm can’t find someone, so they sub-contract out to a large staffing firm in India. That large staffing firm then sub-contracts out to a smaller staffing firms in India, and on-and-on.

If contacted by one of these recruiters, the first question to ask them is if they are working directly for the client.  If not, they are one of many layers and the hourly rate will be low.  I see similar abuse at large consulting firms offering a low salary.  Those firms pay a low salary and then bill you at triple (or more) what you are making.  The result?  Lot’s of junior programmers doing senior level work.  That is why so many projects fail or go way over budget .

I asked a recruiter who has been in the industry a long time about this:

I’ve actually worked for a few Indian firms and your assessment is pretty accurate.  Sometimes there are many layers to a deal and that destroys the margin.  But sometimes they may just be recruiting for a client that doesn’t care about quality talent and only offers poor rates.  To work with those types of clients, some staffing firms take the approach of throwing as much “bleep” against the wall and hoping some of it sticks.  That takes very little recruiting talent and it is more of a numbers game than anything else.  But you get what you pay for, and the clients that provide these low bill rates usually get the lesser talent (or the talent that is sponsored on an H-1B until that person gets their Green Card).  I hate to stereotype, but foreign national firms are usually the ones that are willing to churn through the “low rate” business, that is why they are the ones always contacting you about low margin stuff.

I’m not a fan of working with these types of firms.  There is very little accountability, a lot of turnover, and it gets pretty greasy when everyone is fighting over a nickel.  When I first got out of school and didn’t know any better, I went to work for a firm like this.  I will say this, it was a great way to get experience and I learned a lot during my time there – it helped me get to where I am today, so I can’t bash it too hard.  At this point in my career I just choose not to work that way any longer.  But if you take me as an example of the experience level of people who work in that space (I had none to very little when I worked there) it is a good reflection of the type of people you’re connecting with.  They don’t know very much about the business, the client, the details of the opportunity, or the staffing industry for that matter.  They are basically reading you a job description word-for-word, and that job description was spit out of a vendor management system where the staffing firm has no inside knowledge.  Not much value there – but there is a market for this type of business and so you’ll continue to see it…

More info:

I’ve Reached an Unfortunat​e Conclusion About Indian Recruiters

Indian Recruiters – What Is Wrong With This Country?

Why do recruiters suck so bad?

About James Serra

James is a big data and data warehousing solution architect at Microsoft. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
This entry was posted in Consulting, SQLServerPedia Syndication. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Low-rate recruiters – The bane of my existence

  1. Jeff Campanella says:

    James – thanks for your blog entry this am, sub-K resource allocation has been an annoying part of the talent acquisition for 20 years or more. Skills are commoditized to the lowest common denominator – finding least-cost resource – so scraping the bottom of the tech barrel remains viable for many companies. The business model of aggregating foreign national firms into a pool, everyone throwing their hats in the ring, and churning out low bill rate/low-quality talent has proven to be profitable enough to be a mainstay for decades, so they must be doing something the market finds of some value.

    Honestly, there is little difference between barrel-scraping cheap resources with many layers of margin being taken, and Big 4 firms backing up the bus at the local college, filling it with ‘associates’ that still smell like beer, and charging $300/hour. Economies of scale will weed out this model when it’s no longer sustainable.

    I’m no fan of the philosophy…but it works, or companies would stop using them!

    Best wishes!

  2. Arif says:


    Good Post! We all have experienced it I agree with you on the their practices and frustration of 100 phone calls in a single day. But I used the situation for my advantage, when they call me,I tell them what I am looking for (which is usually 50K more than what I am currently making) and they actually went out and started looking job for me all over the place, within month guess what they came back and I ended up adding up 50K more in my salary. So as a BI Consultant (business minded one) I care about my bottom line and you can use them to your advantage. Give them your requirements in terms of work & dollars and let them do the searching for you (all the time!). Bottom Line, I see them as a workforce working for me for my benefit.
    Tip: Don’t give them your phone number and keep communicating on email until they actually come up with what you are looking for.

    • James Serra says:

      Hi Arif,

      Thanks for the comment. You make a good point with how to handle them, but these low-rate recruiters would never be able to come close to offering a rate in line with a senior BI person. Seems like you found a few recruiters who were reputable and not part of those that I am referring to in my blog post. In that case, they can be your own personal workforce!

  3. Dominic Adamczyk says:

    Hi Jeff,

    A very interesting post indeed. Sounds like your inbox is swamped with these e-mails.

    (Note: I’m a recruiter, but don’t hold this against me)

    I’d like to add some insight from the recruitment side of the fence if I may.

    Low-rate recruiters (in my opinion) have their place in the market as you say being the bottom-level feeders. They will be paid low margins and with this in mind you shouldn’t really hold it against them for this “spray the market” approach. They probably don’t even care about the job due to the low level position and therefore you’ll never get a decent service.

    It sounds like their database is pretty awful too. They haven’t secured any accurate information as to your technical skills, pay rate, location etc and therefore won’t be able to send you relevant jobs. (Although this is where you have to make a decision on whether you help them to tailor their search in the future and provide them this info)

    Specialist recruiters (who I’m sure you know a few) will have an up-to-date database with your correct information and will also keep in touch with you continually via phone and meeting you face-to-face (which I appreciate overseas recruiters will find more difficult to do). Therefore they will contact you with relevant and interesting roles at the right pay rate and location.

    These people get paid to make sure their data (candidate base) is better than anyone else in the market and in turn they make more margins from their clients. They care. Therefore the difference in the level of service you will receive (should / will) be different.

    As one of the comments stated, you should take advantage of them if and when you see fit. You never know, that one “perfect role” may be the next call you take.

    However, I completely understand that 99/100 calls won’t be and is this worth your time? Probably not…

    Feel free to get in touch if you have any comments

    • James Serra says:

      Great comments, thanks Dominic. The specialist recruiters are definitely worth my time, and I talk/email to 5-10 per week. I have gotten many jobs through these types of recruiters who care about their work. I’ll respond to recruiters who take the time to read my LinkedIn profile and send me job opportunities that are a match and are at the appropriate pay range. Low-rate recruiters are a complete waste of time and you should never engage is conversation with them unless you want a good laugh. Prime example are two emails I just got a few minutes ago:

      SQL Subject matter expert (SME) 8+ years experience: I asked about the pay rate and the reply was “we are looking in between 50 to 52$/hr on C2C or 40 to 42$/hr on W2”

      And this:

      “I am very pleased to be writing to you today to introduce a job opening we are aggressively recruiting for Informatica MDM Siperion Architect. Based on an on-line resume, I believe you may be qualified for this position”

      Really? No where in my “on-line resume” do I even mention Informatica!

  4. Scot says:

    This is why Dice and Monster are dying. Linkedin is a powerful tool. A good recruiter and consultant should eventually find one another. I advise people not to deal with a recruiter with less than 5 years of experience. If you have a city you are interested in, find 3 to 7 recruiters that make up that market. Think of a recruiter as a mutual fund we all have a basket of goods (clients) and each one is a little different. Also if you know of a good recruiter you should write a recommendation on linkedin. This will help future technologists avoid the “low end” recruiters and reward the ones that broker the deals that benefit everyone.

    • James Serra says:

      Hi Scot,

      Thanks for your input. Like your analogy to a mutual fund! Now if I could only add a filter to my email that blocks recruiters with less than 5 years experience 🙂

  5. Rizwan says:

    I agree with your blog. I keep on getting messages from recruiters from India who consider me a good match for Pearl, C++, and all languages which I have never worked and they want me to go to a different state.

    In regards to specialized recruiters, I would say they are worth it. My first job was through a recruiter and when I made a transition into SQL, a local recruiter who took time to meet me in the office and provided the opportunities he was working on. He asked me rate and tried to negotiate with the client. The client was not willing to meet my rate but the recruiter was able to negotiate to get me an extra week of vacation and sign on bonus.

    It was a pretty good deal. That position helped me to move on to different SQL roles at a larger company.

    So in my opinion, specialized recruiters are worth it and they respect your time and value.

    • James Serra says:

      Good feedback Rizwan and I agree that there are many recruiters who are worth it. I have used recruiters dozens of times to find excellent jobs. And the good recruiters will know the industry and the terminology, and will push back on the client if the client is asking for a pay range that is not inline with what the market rates are. So part of the recruiters job is to educate the client on what the correct market rates are for the talent level they are seeking. The low-rate recruiters will do none of that.

  6. I have been told by knowledgeable people in the staffing industry that some of these “New Jersey” shops actually only want your resume – not you. They will then change the name on the resume from you to any of their candidates that they will then submit (using your resume!).

    I have also heard of the practice where companies will conduct interviews ONLY to satisfy the legal requirement of ensuring they attempted to reach out to American candidates so that they can then apply for a green card. I strongly suspect I participated in at least one of these interviews, but I’m not certain and it doesn’t matter regardless.

    Consulting is often a racket and it reminds me of the AC/DC song – “It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wan’t to Rock and Roll”.

    I am an FTE now and while I make less hourly money, it’s a steady paycheck and I don’t miss any of the slime routinely found in the consulting world.


    Good luck!

  7. Mahesh says:

    This is also a direct result of poor U.S. visa/immigration policies for skilled labor, which is off in serving its objectives with lots of ambiguity and redtapism, etc and has fostered growth of unscrupulous body-shopping firms.

    There is one easy solution.. both Corporate and Candidates can owe to work ONLY with direct client or tier1/primary party. These multi-layer 3rd party recruiting firms will automatically vanish.

    Now-a-days USCIS is rejecting visa applications if there are multiple layers are involved in business contract on the context of employee-employer relationship rule (http://www.h1base.com/visa/work/H1BemployerEmployeeRelationshipRule/ref/1577/); but it will be more effective if corporates & candidates themselves adopt the model directly.

    I m a visa holder in U.S. past 15 years from India, and went thru same kind of hassles, but got positive result after posting some clear specifications on my resume at dice and monster – like only contract with direct client or primary vendors, min $ rate, location, etc.

    By the by, you must also protect yourselves against identify theft, etc which can be exploited from anywhere in the world.

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  9. Jon says:

    I have run into this situation as well and would like your input on my current circumstance. I was laid off five months ago from a major corporation I worked at for 10 years. I primarily worked in Cognos but just before the layoff was the functional Lead for a datamart we created in Business Objects. I also have 7 years of experience as a BI lead primarily pulling data directly from SAP or using SQL against oracle databases. Long story short, I have become frustrated because all of the employers want more hand on business objects experience. I did however interview with an employer who is very interested because of my overall experience and it would be a good opportunity to get more BOBJ experience. The rub is this… I previously made $96K base salary and the recruiter for this new position wore me down to $44/hr. I am confident that I will get an offer, but the commute for this job is a bit rough and I feel like I was low-balled by the recruiter. I confirmed the $44 rate as they requested, but I wonder what the markup is and if the employer is aware. If I get an offer do you think I will have any room to try and move on the rate? The commute is rough and when considering I now have to pay for my health insurance and the other benefits it’s like taking a $15K pay cut and spending an additional 10 hours a week commuting. If it were a month after I was laid off I would have passed or not thought twice about trying to renegotiate the rate. Any thoughts?

  10. Pingback: Winner of the worst recruiter of the year! | James Serra's Blog

  11. Quality engineer says:

    AMEN!!!! So true. I couldn’t vent my frustration any more eloquently.

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  15. OverwhelmedbyIndianRecruiters says:

    Oh my goodness. I thought I was the only one who suffers this nonsense. I get a lot of calls from them too. So this is my experience. I get several calls for the same position at the same time via email and phone calls. It seems that they are watching or get a notification of a new positions from these job staffing portals (not sure what they use) and they are quick to call people. All their job emails are all marked as “urgent”. When they call you, they ask if you are the job market, the minute you say yes, they jump into briefly telling you about the the job and ask you if you are interested and to reply to their email. I finally got smart and interrupt them to first ask them the job title, location and pay and stop talking to them if the position, location or pay is not what I am seeking. I thank them for their call but it will not work for me. I would say that about about 98% of the times its not what I am looking for. Usually, the location is not anywhere near you (this matters if your profile on job boards says nothing being open to other areas (the jobs are usually across the country). I also noticed that the second you tell them your rate, they immediately quote you back a lower rate, usually $5.00 to $10.00. I mean they do it so instantaneously; makes me think that they are instructed not matter what you lower the rate period. Just seems too intentional to me. Just for fun I tested this theory, since I get a bunch of call about the same job…I give then different rate and they immediately give you a quote you back a rate that is $5.00 to 10 dollars different. Most will haggle and insist that you agree on the rate. When they call, they want to immediately read their email and response, when I mean immediately, I mean now, while they are on the phone with you and they just simply demand you do it. Oh yeah their questions via email you need to answer if you want to apply for a position, I find extremely annoying and for in some cases inappropriate. For instance ask for you DoB, last 4 of your SSN, full name as is appears on your passport, and GPA. The one with the GPA question, I had to reply to them and give them an ear about the ridiculousness of asking for GPA and how that is not a gauge for performance. I can see this being a question later on as a background check or something like that, then I would be okay. Can you imagine if American recruiters acted like this? I have never gotten a job that resulted from Indian recruiters. I do no wish to insult Indian recruiters, I do finds this behavior ruthless and extremely unprofessional. American recruiters do not act like this. The jobs I have gotten have been from the American Specialized recruiters. I still need a job, nonetheless.

    There is a documentary made by the author of The World is Flat, it’s about the outsourcing of IT jobs to India. He goes behind the scene of call centers in India. In the video you see Indian employees given what I would describe as “western culture immersion training”. They work on improving their English, they are trained on the culture and nuances of the westerners, etc. Perhaps these recruiters need the same kind of training for HR Staffing Industry.

  16. Anon says:

    I think regardless the Indian recruiter simply does not get any notice by employers, and how would their payroll work with them anyway? They cannot give you any legit information about their companies for onboarding.

  17. Jayden says:

    I had been through all you comments.
    I respect all your views, however I just wana ask if you ever got chance to speak with some one who got employed due to a recruiter (to whom you say SUCKS).
    Its just the matter of time and luck.
    Nothing personal but would like to state that recruiters are not fake, its just that if they get some bad feed back about the consultants they don’t want consultants to know that directly.
    Trust me it will kill your moral and confidence.
    I think every coin has its two faces, recruiters are for helping us. They work to get us placed.
    We can help them by letting them know the mistakes they are making so that they can be aware of that.

  18. Lou says:

    Two years after you posted this original blog, the same unsubscribe page still exists. Also to note, that if you go to the recruiters web site, often the job search function does not work, shows the same 1- jobs as another recruiter from India who has contacted you, or the jobs have timestamps that are actually years in the past. The first thing I do is use the unsubscribe feature to determine if the company is bogus or part of the resume mill that must be huge (like you said, same unsubscribe webpage). What is interesting is that there is a lot of pretty cool looking web page design done by this parent company. I wish I could find the article I read about the parent company, but the man who owns it is incredibly rich and these resume mills, who don’t even know about each other (often the person calling you actually believes they are working for an earnest company, which is the sad part) are only just part of his “empire.” I don’t know why I let these companies get under my skin so much but I do. Beware of any company asking for your social security number to boot – which they will do if you happen to send them your resume, or the last 4 digits!

  19. Peter says:

    ” Many times their English is poor and their phone numbers are disguised to show as coming from the US (New Jersey seems to be the most popular one there with outsourcing centers in India). They make telemarketers seem like angels.”

    In addition I am seeing names being disguised also ….
    e.g. Kenny instead of kanhaiya

    The recruiting industry for professionals is being tainted by this

    • cezar says:

      I researched this subject and Indian off-shore companies are now changing and adding new domain names as even the FTC or BBB has no power over these companies. The Indians are also become smarter and using American names such as Bob or Smith. I automatically delete when it sounds too generic.
      I never give out my phone number unless it’s a USA or European recruiter i know and trust.
      I have over 132 filters (and counting) on my email that will automatically delete anything from India (or pretend USA firm). You also need to understand that they are using tactics to falsify phone numbers in the USA. For instance (and i will leave out NJ), if a call comes from Philadelphia, you might just be surprised. I have blocked certain area codes and even states from allowing to call my phone.

      I can share more strategic ways to fight off theses annoying Indian based companies. It took a very long time and energy to learn how to screen them out but i can share these copywrited / patented ways of getting them out of your email and VM.

  20. Melissa says:

    Hello James,

    As an Admin Assistant, these tactics truly infuriate me, because they are basically lying. The job postings for my career path are often agency sourced from off shore firms who I can hardly understand taking good jobs that should be local English speaking recruiters opportunities to solicit to me. I know what the salary ranges are for direct placement although the specific solicitation is one not listed and yet they keep low balling even the lowest margin. For instance a pay range is $16.25-21.78/hour and they try to put me in at $17 with over 18 years of expertise. I argue, they say $18, we put a candidate in there for an interview at $17/hr yesterday. I’m like really? Next time, I will call a local recruiter about the opening and see if they can see anything. I’m ok with not going for top dollar, I still have room for growth, but they are taking the potential $3.78 from my pay check.

    There are excellent US based global agency service provides like Roth Staffing, Kelly Services, Office Team and many more that have been in business for decades. I wonder how they operate over seas when recruiting for global positions outside the US? Do they use unscrupulous methods to acquire candidates?

    With Best Regards,

  21. JerryG says:

    Hi all
    The US job market is flooded with Indian recruiters calling you for jobs that have nothing to do with you skills meaning they read your resume and did not have a clue about what you do. Mostly, this happens when you post on Dice. For me it has truly become a waste of time responding to jobs on Dice. Why is it that, only Indians call you referring to Dice, is it because they have Indians in their management team ? I don’t see much response which makes me believe that, some one is holding my resume from sending to the rightful employer. Everything happening in US job market is un-comprehend able. Please write to your congressman and ask for help to stop this menace.