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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.
Similar to Gmail's Pop service where other email accounts are automatically pulled to Gmail Inbox periodically, shouldn't Google Voice consider implementing a pop feature to aggregate voice messages from T-Mobile, AT&T and our other voice messaging systems?
Then the universe would lock up and crash, then it would have to reboot.
I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.
I really have to say that I find them really unprofessional to deal with. Maybe there are so many candidates chasing the jobs that the agencies don't have to work for their commissions. I've applied for a few jobs and for a few I've asked for some confirmation or feedback but it typically results in nothing but one-way communication from my end. Has anybody had that experience as well? Right now, I see the agencies as not much better than trying to ask staff at B&Q where I can find products in their stores.
How long does it take to send a confirmation message? 30 seconds at most? I could almost long for the old days when you sent a CV in the post and you had to go to their office while they sifted through the pile of job listings. At lunch time you'd race to the nearest telephone box and call them or they'd arrange to ring the telephone box at an exact time and you'd hope it wasn't occupied by some git with halitosis or a smoker leaving foul odours and spittle on the handset. It wasn't ideal but it usually worked better than it is now with those unprofessional tampons who sit around doing bugger all.
"I do not have to forgive my enemies, I have had them all shot." — Ramón Maria Narváez (1800-68).
"I don't need to shoot my enemies, I don't have any." - Me (2012).
I deal with a few that are pretty good. They're polite & responsive, and generally seem to care.
But you've probably seen my posts in the lounge over the past few months where some moronic recruiter pissed me off. Other than the few I mentioned, the rest are not much better than car or insurance salesmen.
It does seem that most companies now prefer to go through some kind of staffing agency. I also remember the days when you mailed in your resume to a company and they would send back a letter.
I have one Indian woman who is a recruiter somewhere in Virginia. I'm in California. She has called me no less than 6 times with some form of ASP.Net job, and each time I tell her I'm a Windows developer, not an Web Developer.
Last week after one of her ASP.Net emails I wrote back and told her not to ever contact me again.