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Most of them want to just 'talk-and-bark' on the wire including the confidential and important details but are hesitant to put something in black and white and get it liaised through their SMTP. Is this an indication of their inertia/laziness or some sort of shadowy gesture?
Pretty sure it's because they feel they can "sell" you the job better (and maybe to gauge your response). Also because their understanding of the job changes over time and they can verbally tell you about those changes without having to update the (insanely inaccurate) job description. I suspect your other theories have some merit as well.
Is this an indication of their inertia/laziness or some sort of shadowy gesture?
I am going to suggest an alternate hypothesis ... than those I interpret as implicit in the other replies to your question ... although, I think, all the viewpoints, in the other responses, could be factors in what you apparently experience (which, for me, lacks enough detail for me to really have a strong sense I understand what you are experiencing ... for example: what does "liaised through their SMTP" mean in this context ?).
I'd limit my hypothesis in scope to the contemporary U.S.A., simply because I am not aware of other countries' laws, and the extent to which "danger of litigation" is as "acute" as I believe it is in today's America, which I believe has, correctly, been described as a "highly litigious" society.
So, to bring this down to earth, I'd propose a possible major factor here, if what you experience is within the context of American software recruiting, could be very simple: fear that written responses/documents could be a source of lawsuits, legal harassment, etc.: or, if what the recruiter wrote to you somehow got back to the company they were discussing: it might cause problems for them, perhaps lose them a client ... because the written word can so easily be mis-construed; because someone at their client company might feel they had improperly disclosed confidential company information ?
I'd also propose that there may be some qualitative differences in interaction with recruiters, as you "go up the scale" to higher-paying, senior positions, where you must have a documented, excellent, track-record of real-world achievement, to be even considered ... compared to entry-level positions.
I once had an American friend of mine "screwed" out of 50k US$, because he took on a major project for Apple through their major out-sourcing "buffer company;" the project authorization was signed off-on, in writing, by a senior-level Apple executive. Payment was withheld after a dramatic failure of the software in a major Apple public event; he could have sued: the major-outsourcer for Apple bluntly told him that if he sued, he'd never get a contract with Apple again, because his potential suit might cost Apple "face" (and possibly a senior executive a job ... and he made a vast amount of money sub-contracting for Apple over years). He chose not to sue, and to eat the loss of US $50k. The business he did with Apple, over the next years, more than made up for the loss: it's a dog-eat-dog world out there ?
And, last, but not least, taking the "darkest possible" view, one might consider professional recruiters, who make their money off commissions, and are independent of the companies they recruit for, as being, as a "class," naturally gifted bulls***t artists (a skill absolutely necessary in their "profession" ?).
but are hesitant to put something in black and white and get it liaised through their SMTP. Is this an indication of their inertia/laziness or some sort of shadowy gesture?
Recruiters that are any good are people persons. They make money buy building relationships. And long lasting ones. So they probably like talking more on the phone and face to face.
I would also suspect that they are not detail oriented. Their job probably doesn't require the same level of detail that something like programming does. Thus they need not be precise in communications of any sort.
Just as important the work they do is not black and white either. They might hear on Tuesday from their contact that you are the best interviewee the company has ever seen but then hear back on Wednesday that the company is 'going in a different direction' or 'still looking' or even 'scaling back'. Until they have the contract it isn't set and they deal with that reality every day unlike your that probably only deals with it at most every couple of months. So they tend to keep things indefinite.