When the economy slows down, the basics of job hunting can change. The current, pandemic-driven downturn has impacted how third-party recruiters have sourced and selected candidates (and worked with hiring managers). That could end up having a sizable impact on how you hunt (and find) your next job. 

For example, even though the demand for skilled technologists rose slightly in December, hiring managers are still being cautious and selective about who they hire, to the point where recruiters are reluctant to submit a candidate who doesn't meet all the criteria in the original job posting. 

If you’re planning to use a recruiter to find a new job over the next few months, you may need to adjust your expectations and approach. Here are some things that tech job hunters need to know about working with recruiters right now.

Not too Fast, Not too Slow

Last year, when initially responding to the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers slow-walked decisions on filling open positions, explained Dean Iacovetti, president of technology recruiter Vanta Partners. Once employment levels stabilized, most managers then tried to speed up the hiring process, but things haven’t returned to the pre-pandemic pace. 

Landing a job takes time, effort and patience. “Each step in the process takes a bit longer,” Iacovetti added. “Candidates, particularly those at an entry-level, should expect to wait in the pipeline for a longer period of time.”

Expect a More Thorough Vetting Process

Before the pandemic, recruiters felt a tremendous sense of urgency to present a strong candidate to a hiring manager before they were snatched up by a competitor. 

Now many recruiters insist on conducting additional phone screens to thoroughly assess a candidate's hard and soft skills and cultural fit for the position before deciding to submit their résumé. Also, because recruiters can only submit two to three candidates for each job, they are less likely to present a technologist who’s in the final stages of the hiring process with one company to multiple potential employers.

“In many respects, it’s back to basics,” Iacovetti said. “We’re spending more time with clients and candidates up front and using a deliberate, methodical approach to make more precise matches.”

Quality Over Quantity

When skilled technologists were in short supply, if a candidate performed poorly or failed to prepare for a traditional or technical interview, recruiters would focus their efforts on improving the candidate’s performance for next time. Today, recruiters and hiring managers are less forgiving.

With fewer opportunities, and interviews and assessments moving online, recruiters spend a lot more time prepping candidates. Recruiters also insist that candidates follow best practices, pay attention to details, and practice on their own before the interview. In other words, there are no mulligans, no second chances or do-overs—be prepared.

You Need to Check All the Boxes

Managers are more reluctant to compromise on hiring criteria, and recruiters are less likely to push for more realistic requirements or submit mediocre candidates.

These days, a potential employer is going to check you out online before they agree to an interview, advised Ryan Bradshaw, director of recruiting for Apollo Technical. If your profile is incomplete or outdated, or your project portfolio looks a little sparse, the hiring manager will go with the candidate who provides consistent information and has experience with all the must-have requirements.

Some hiring managers remain suspicious of extended employment gaps, frequent job changes or the reasons you were laid off. Remove all doubt by volunteering to provide references, code samples and side projects as proof of your abilities, Bradshaw advised. The last thing you want to do in a tight market is give an employer any reason to turn you down.

The Onus is On You to Follow Up

Despite the recent uptick in technology jobs, recruiters are still flooded with calls from unemployed professionals looking for jobs.

To make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity, you should return messages to recruiters as soon as possible. Andwhile you don't want to seem like a pest, touch base with your recruiter once a week and be transparent about your goals and activity. Developing strong relationships and staying in touch can ensure that you are top-of-mind when the best jobs open up. 

Be Realistic

Unless you possess a high level of technical expertise and in-demand skills, you may not have the luxury of waiting until things get back to "normal" or the perfect job comes along. Fortunately, many jobs can offer at least some of what you want, whether it’s an opportunity to work with a particular tool-set or within a certain industry.