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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.

If you're looking to relocate to an unfamiliar market, finding representation with expertise in landing jobs in your new location could be the key to a smooth transition.

"Let's say you live in Texas, and your significant other gets a job at Brown and you know you're going to be moving to Providence," Wright says. "And you don't know anybody in Providence — that's a good time to talk to somebody up there rather than search blindly."

Finding the right fit

Having work come to you — rather than going on the hunt — may sound appealing, but what's the catch? Blink Reaction's Laszlo points out that working with a talent agency often means they'll ask you to commit exclusively. That is not always the case when going the recruiter route.

"They want you to sign some sort of agreement," Laszlo says. "If it's an outside agency, they don't get paid unless they fill an open position. But there's nothing to say you have to agree with that. I don't know that your odds improve if you talk to more than one, but that definitely goes on. If you tie yourself to one agency, then I think you're definitely limiting the scope of your potential job search." (One recruiter I spoke with warned that while speaking to more than one rep is smart, allowing more than one to represent you will backfire. If a client gets the same résumé from more than one source, they won't hire the person because of the potential conflict.)

Bridge Technical Talent's Wright says anyone representing you should be taking the long view. There are a number of red flags to look out for.

"Obviously they are only as good as the jobs [they can offer]," Wright says. "Also, do they have technical knowledge? Do they seem like they know what they're talking about? Are they trying to shoehorn you into a job that's not right for you?"

This is a relationship business, not a sale — if the agency treats you like a commodity, it'll probably end badly.

"This industry doesn't always have the best reputation," says Wright. "But when you get going with the right people and they're advocates for you, it really does work very well. A lot of times, I'm talking to people and when they finish talking to me, they say, 'You know what? Where I'm at right now is not so bad,' or 'I'll call you when I'm ready.'"

The shifting nature of software employment

Another significant reason to rethink your approach to finding employment can be found in the changing nature of software employment itself.

"The line has blurred a lot in the last 25 years," Wright says. "There are definitely people who are straight-up contractors and people who prefer to be permanent. But certainly the recession has made development more project-based. More people now flip back and forth between both."

 

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