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: 3491

Tags: candidates, coldcalls, emails, recruiting

Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on August 11, 2012 at 9:06am

Enjoyed reading the post and all the comments. That last comment by Amber is very instructive. "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." I realized the impact my messages as a recruiter were having upon candidates reading them only after I was forced to seek a new job myself. The presumptive tone, half reading of my advertised resume and over reliance upon keyword searches had led a few recruiters to mistakenly identify me as a programmer instead of a recruiter of programmers and software developers. Starting with my next job, I changed how I approached candidates, regardless of the date of their posting their resume or refreshing it. I no longer assume that just because someone is ABLE to perform the job I am contacting them about, that they are also INTERESTED in performing it or even pursuing it. 

The challenge is in developing a first contact message which is respectful of candidates' time (concise), their intelligence (without the bait and switch on compensation, for example) and more curious in tone than certain (even including one's assessment of the candidates' 'fit' for the job opportunity). 

I agree with the view that most candidates really do not care about the firm you work with *unless they have a reason to distrust the brand* and really are looking to build a working relationship with a recruiter who can manage the communication and placement process with professionalism. 

Comment by sheila Greco on August 12, 2012 at 8:42am

Thank you Amy! I like it.

Comment by Janine Davis on August 12, 2012 at 12:07pm

Thanks for posting this. I went to the original open letter to recruiters on his site as well. I am thankful to say I get a great response to most of the emails I send out. It probably helps that I'm an ex-techie, but I also do exactly what you suggest above - very specific - it's incredibly obvious that I have actually read their profile. And I'm a smart ass - I would suggest infusing a little humor in your email. Some recruiters take professionalism to a boring extreme. That said, we focus on start ups, so we have have more leverage in that realm.

Comment by Janine Davis on August 12, 2012 at 12:07pm

Thanks for posting this. I went to the original open letter to recruiters on his site as well. I am thankful to say I get a great response to most of the emails I send out. It probably helps that I'm an ex-techie, but I also do exactly what you suggest above - very specific - it's incredibly obvious that I have actually read their profile. And I'm a smart ass - I would suggest infusing a little humor in your email. Some recruiters take professionalism to a boring extreme. That said, we focus on start ups, so we have have more leverage in that realm.

Comment by Amy Ala on August 13, 2012 at 2:59pm

Thanks Janine - good point. You really have to know your audience. The way you would approach an accountant, for example, probably in no way resembles an inmail you might send to a level designer for an opportunity at a game studio.

Comment by Reema Hibrawi on August 15, 2012 at 5:49pm

Great post Amy! What an interesting guy. It's great to see what the other side is thinking. I can understand his frustration in getting emails clearly not for web developers i.e. Paid Search Director? What's great is he's not just ranting and cursing all recruiters everywhere but giving a clear, concise, and focused breakdown of where it all goes wrong. I'm also a little starstruck now too. Thanks for sharing! 

Comment by Amy Ala on August 15, 2012 at 8:22pm

@Reema - exactly! That's why I was so impressed and had to write about him... he was pretty darn cool considering no one would blame him for ranting against us like so many do. :)

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on February 10, 2013 at 3:47pm

@ Stuart Yes so many poor recruiters give us pro's a bad name, dont get me wrong we probable not all perfect but those Type 2 emails actually made me cringe! @Amy Great article, thanks. 

Comment by Amy Ala on February 11, 2013 at 12:36pm

Thanks Marie-Clara! Obviously there's a big difference between a well written "general intro" sort of email, and the kind of crap Ted (and others like him) are being subjected to. I'm in the final stages fo recruiting a web developer and he told me he gets pinged by recruiters EVERY DAY. Most of them are crap, just like what Ted's receiving.

I think that sometimes in our desire to cast a wide net we just don't THINK about what we're sending... a few weeks ago I got an email at my WORK EMAIL asking if I was interested in a 2 week recruiting gig. What is it about my profile would indicate that I would leave my current employer for a 2 week role? I asked the question and after some hemming and hawing the "recruiter" said well it could go longer! Thanks but no thanks. :)

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