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: 4141

Comment by Feargall kenny on August 10, 2012 at 9:59am

great post amy. candidates should really be able to opt in or out of recruiter interest and guide the pitches they receive from recruiters by providing details on what they are interested in when they are open to it.  I created www.hiresignals.com to partially deal with that.

What is interesting with linkedin's premium Recruiter product is that it actually encourages mass non-customized inmails so this is going to get worse for Ted before it gets better

Comment by Theresa Hunter on August 10, 2012 at 11:42am

Ok maybe I missed something here.  What are the two types of emails you are talking about?  Would love to see them.



Comment by Zachary Sines on August 10, 2012 at 12:44pm

Great post and interview.  I love this stuff because it shows us how we are doing.  Almost QA on a product line...which I am sure Ted wouldn't appreciate me saying.  It is hard to get every single one right, but making a conscience effort goes a long way.  Most candidates are like Ted.  Smart, whitty, and knows what they want.  They ARE smarter than us, because they do work that most of us cannot comprehend.  However, what makes us successful against this is recognizing we are wrong and correcting the flaws.  Making ourselves better.

This is good stuff and should be kept in mind by every recruiter.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 10, 2012 at 1:05pm

Thanks Zachary!

@Theresa - if you click the hyperlink early in the post "In an email sent to “recruiters who aren’t trying that hard”, Ted tells us where we get it wrong" you'll see Ted's letter to recruiters.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 10, 2012 at 1:06pm

Thanks Feargall - lucky for Ted he doesn't hang out on LinkedIn :)

Comment by Theresa Hunter on August 10, 2012 at 1:20pm

Thanks Amy.  I clicked the link.  Interesting take on email both the 1 and the 2.  I guess if you send either one of those you are more looking at numbers versus the quality of the candidate.  I hated doing email blasts as it was so easy for someone to hit delete.  I know making phone calls and trying to reach people one at a time is not reaching the masses but I felt I got a better chance of either talking to my next great candidate or getting a referral.

Comment by Bill Schultz on August 10, 2012 at 1:26pm

If your email is attached to your linkedin account, you're hanging out there.

@Feargall- I do think it is possible to send a mass inmail without the feel of it.   None of my candidates feel that I've sent them a template.    See my last blog: http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/writing-a-compelling-...

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 10, 2012 at 1:33pm

I think it's still possible to reach quantity without completely destroying quality. What Bill talks about in his blog looks nothing like some of the stuff Ted shares in his letter. Most candidates aren't dumb, they expect you're going to try to reach more than one web developer. It's the completely irrelevant stuff that he's talking about. I don't like it either. I get emails for technical jobs in Tampa or those dreaded life insurance sales ads all the time. Delete.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on August 10, 2012 at 1:40pm

You are right but think about it.  Would you rather hear about something you might slightly be interested in than getting something in the mail about it.  I guess what I am trying to say is if I am slightly interested in pursuing other opportunities I would be more interested in hearing it from a human than getting something in a email about it.  Also if the person you sent the email to is not interested it is to easy to hit delete than to refer it to a colleague.  I guess I am just old fashioned I like reaching out and talking to people.  I am not saying I "never" send emails but only after I have tried to reach them by phone first.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 10, 2012 at 3:31pm

@Theresa I understand where you're coming from but I get 10-15 voicemails a day and that's just my work number. I would much rather receive an email - if it's interesting I'll schedule a phone call (most likely after hours) to discuss. If you're cold calling me (yes even about a job that might be perfect for me) it's an immediate disruption to a day that's already scheduled to the max. The odds are not in a recruiter's favor to catch me on on the phone at a time that's good to listen besides the fact that most recruiter pitches suck anyway. I still call candidates but in the hopes of getting a commitment to a second scheduled call. I never expect to discuss the position in the first call because they're rarely in the right place or frame of mind to have a serious discussion about changing jobs.


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