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Attention, rockstar developers: Get a talent agent

Paul Heltzel | Feb. 24, 2015
You've heard the timeworn advice: Leverage LinkedIn, post code to GitHub, bone up on the latest buzzy tech. But a little-known career trick is giving some of today's top developers an edge: Hire an agent to find work for you.

Solomon points again to his partner, who might be hesitant to promote himself — and found his salary suffered for it. "He was never going to say to a customer, 'Well, I have a degree from Harvard and I have this and that' — and neither would I if I had his credentials. But it's very easy once you have someone saying those things about you that the client will say, 'Oh yeah, he's definitely worth that.' "

Recruiters: The tried-and-true agent alternative

The newly rising agency model may not be a good fit for every developer, especially those exclusively interested in full-time permanent work. In this case, a traditional outside recruiting agency might be worth considering.

A tech recruiting firm — in contrast to an agency — gets its fee from the company hiring, not the person being placed. Generally recruiters charge a percentage from the base salary of the person being hired. That rate can vary widely — from 10 to 30 percent.

These outside agencies may be able to nail down more than a salary. They can advocate for certain perks while your leverage is at its highest point, before you walk in the door. Whether or not you're going to use a rep, negotiating benefits should be part of the discussion before you accept an offer.

"A person who is looking for an agent in a negotiation might be thinking about, 'OK, they said $70,000, I want $75,00,'" says James Wright, a partner at Bridge Technical Talent, who's been in recruiting for 25 years. "But what they might not be thinking is, 'What about an extra week of vacation? What about work-from-home days?' If you can have an ally who knows the space and knows the questions to ask and help you negotiate, it can be very helpful because there are so many variables into making a job change."

In some cases, companies who employ people to find talent won't post those positions on job sites like Monster or Dice. They have a relationship with agencies that find their tech talent; if you're interested in working for certain larger firms, a recruiter may be a necessity.

"I know for a fact companies like Disney and Siemens, they do that," says Robert Laszlo, a program manager at Blink Reaction. His Orlando-based firm is a digital consultancy that specializes in large, multi-million-dollar websites using Drupal. "They may not have an exclusive deal with an agency, but they probably have one, two, or three who act as the recruiting agency for filling those tech jobs. They're kind of the HR department for those companies, and they're doing all of that trolling of LinkedIn and random calling and so forth."


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