What Candidates Really Think – A Cautionary Tale for Recruiters

We’ve all done it. Sent off that form letter email to a dozen or more “qualified” candidates. Maybe it’s an InMail, maybe you actually found someone’s personal email address. You’ve drafted what you think is a rather clever pitch and have shot it through cyberspace hoping a fabulous candidate will see the wisdom and value in writing you back. This guy did.

Ted Goas is a Web Developer who gets roughly one email a day from technical recruiters. That’s right, every day someone is trying to get his attention about a job. Here’s a guy who knows a little something about recruiters’ email habits. Ted has pulled back the curtain on how candidates feel about our lame attempts at the new cold call. He decided to write us a letter. In an email sent to “recruiters who aren’t trying that hard”, Ted tells us where we get it wrong.

Seriously, this dude is doing us a favor. When I read this article I couldn’t help but fist pump, shout “yes!” then almost immediately hang my head in shame because I know I have sent a Type 2 email. And I’ve been called on it. In attempt to redeem myself and try to protect my fellow recruiters from themselves, I sent him an email (personally written to him, of course). Explain yourself, Ted! We have questions! We want answers! Ok not really. It was more like star struck me asking for his autograph and could he please please please let me interview him for my blog? So yeah, Ted, being the super nice and classy guy that he is, agreed to answer a few questions.

Me: You get lots of emails from technical recruiters – how many? Daily? Weekly? Out of those, how many get categorized as Type 1?

Ted: Monday - Friday, I usually get about one email a day from technical recruiters. (I have no idea how I got on so many job boards, do you?) Out of every five, I'd say that one is a Type 1 email. Another two are "Type 1.5" emails, not great efforts but not terrible… example: they read very poorly, but at least the job is relevant. And another two are Type 2 emails, ones that fail on two or more of the four points I wrote about.

Me: Do you ever get responses when you reply with a link to your letter to Type 2 emails?

Ted: Never. Ever since I published my recruiter article and began sending it to the worst offenders, I track the link I send using goo.gl or bit.ly. Not one of these links I reply with has ever been opened. However, I understand it's hard to see the actual link behind one of these shortened URLs, which might be taken as a malicious link.

Me: Does where a recruiter works (large established agency, small independent, corporate recruiter) make a difference good or bad?

Ted: Makes no difference to me. I've had success with independent recruiters as well as one from Robert Half Tech. I feel most comfortable working closely with a small number of recruiters, but I don't know many of them and realize I have to meet recruiters somehow.

Me: Recruiters make a lot of noise about so-called “passive” candidates – in other words candidates that aren’t on job boards or actively looking for work. What’s your reaction to recruiters labeling you as such and trying to get you interested in their opening? Flattered? Annoyed? Depends?

Ted: I think most of our industry can be labeled 'passive'. For Type 1 emails, I'm flattered. I always respond with my current status and explain what I'd be looking for if I ever left my job. For Type 2's, before deleting the email, I note the sender and take these companies less seriously if I encounter them again.

Me: How willing are you to pass along referrals? Most recruiters are trained to ask “who do you know” especially if you as the target candidate aren’t interested. Will you give up names and contact info? Why or why not?

Ted: I am willing, sure, but referrals typically don't work out for me for a few reasons:

  • I can vouch for a friend to a recruiter, but I usually can't vouch for a recruiter I just traded an email with to my friends. In this case, I usually just pass the recruiter's info directly to a friend and let the friend decide. If I get to know a recruiter a little more, I'm more comfortable passing contact info to them.
  • Most of the industry friends I speak with most often are freelancers or run their own agency. They're usually not interested in being 'placed' anywhere, but rather are looking out for their next client / project.
  • Most of my "Internet" friends live in other areas of the country and in other countries, ruling out any local, on-site position.

Crap. We’re in trouble, recruiters. Job seekers are smarter than ever and starting to see through our bullshit. What to do? Well, we’re to do exactly what we say we do. Treat our candidates like the professionals we think they are and need them to be. Send emails that we, if we were the candidate, would care to read. And for the love of all that’s holy knock it off with the spam.

What if you’ve already sent this email?? You can always do what I did, when I got called on it by a very high level manager at a very large Seattle area company. Apologize profusely, offer to buy him a beer, and never EVER do it again.

Views: 4139

Comment by Noel Cocca on August 9, 2012 at 1:12pm

I love this type of info Amy.  Great post.  I utilized the same approach when I started a division dedicated to creating recruiting direct mail.  It helped knowing what the candidate reads and throws out. Thanks for this!

Comment by Amber on August 9, 2012 at 1:23pm

Thanks, Amy! I rarely "mass email" candidates, but this was very good information on what sort of things to keep in mind when I'm calling or emailing someone about a position.

p.s. In case Jerry reads this, I thought I would copy a piece from Ted's message:

But there's another problem with LinkedIn: I don't hang out there. I don't know many designers or developers who do. We hang out in places like Twitter, Dribbble, and Github. These sites are usually more up-to-date on things like skill sets and work availability. Recruiters have a better shot in engaging people on sites like these. In fact, my present employer lured me away from a job I liked with an @reply on Twitter.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 9, 2012 at 1:23pm

Thanks Noel! Ted wrote a very cool response to recruiters that wasn't the usual complaining. He actually tells us how to get it right and where to find people like him. Then, he was even willing to exchange multiple emails with me to help me put this post together. Very cool dude and I think more representative of the candidate population than we give them credit for. :)

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 9, 2012 at 1:31pm

LOL @Amber. That's right Jerry - we've identified the ONE GUY who got a job thanks to Twitter. :)

Comment by Bill Schultz on August 9, 2012 at 2:43pm
Good insight. I think the best thing a recruiter can do for a candidate is know a lot about the position and company. Ted is saying know more about "me" and I get that. I just don't see how that helps him much, besides keeping his inbox clean.
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 9, 2012 at 4:57pm

I hear ya Bill - I think Ted's point really is send him emails that make sense. He's a dev guy getting sales trainer jobs, etc. It's ridiculous. I think some recruiters go too far the other way and overthink the sourcing process. Ted (and I would say most good candidates) don't care much about what your specialty is, the size of your firm, inside / outside, just send a reasonably professional email about a real job or at least a real desire to network and have a clue. Just one. :)

Comment by Stuart Musson on August 10, 2012 at 8:59am

 LOVE this line the most out of the article: "Job seekers are smarter than ever and starting to see through our bullshit. What to do?"

As I have felt that the recruiting bullshit has been around for many many years, lying to the "gatekeeper" to get to the candidate when we only had the phone to get in touch with them but now with all the mass e-mail ATS, Social Network and other tools makes it soooo easy for the less than professional recruiters to do what they percieve as their job (notice I did not say Career, that was on purpose!). This causes the professionals in this industry such headaches when contacting candidates like Ted Goas. He and others have to weed through the crap thrown at them when it does not take much to actually investigate and send a personalized email.

Again Amy a great topic to write about!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 10, 2012 at 9:15am
Exactly Stuart! Ted gets a good one once a week so clearly we're not all bad... :) I thought it was important to note that he (and I'm sure other candidates) take note of where these recruiters work and judge the company/agency accordingly. Not a big deal for the independents but makes you wonder if your coworkers are making you look bad. :)
Comment by Stuart Musson on August 10, 2012 at 9:20am

"makes you wonder if your coworkers are making you look bad. :)" - Too bad there is not a "Like" button here because I would press it.

Comment by Amber on August 10, 2012 at 9:49am

Like this point you made, Amy! Ted (and I would say most good candidates) don't care much about what your specialty is, the size of your firm, inside / outside, just send a reasonably professional email about a real job or at least a real desire to network and have a clue.


And even if you are not sure someone has the qualifications - and without knowing they are even willing to consider looking at a new position - why not say that when contacting them? I have always had great success, the chance to "meet" great people, and learned tons of stuff by telling them I don't know if they have all the qualifications or the interest in a potential change. Guess what? They usually just tell me what I need to know, what they want to know, sometimes (often!) teach me the reason why a water/wastewater engineer is not the same thing as a water resources engineer and even sometimes point me to others they know that might be who is a good fit.



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