On Recruiters: You’re doing it wrong

Jun 11, 2015 | 3 minutes read

Tags: blog

Like anybody with a background in technology, I’m inundated with unsolicited emails from recruiters. Most recruiters demand a sizeable percentage of annual salary for successfully placing a candidate, so it can be a very lucrative industry. The average Software Engineering salary in the Boston area is $85k[1]. A particularly effective head hunter charges as much as 25%[2]. That’s a potential $21,250 payout upon successfully placing a candidate.
With such high stakes, it baffles me just how shitty a job most recruiters seem to do.

Recruiters - you’re doing it wrong.

Do some research
Why do you insist on sending me job postings such as

  • SuperSenior .net Developer, $250k+
  • Java EE Developer in hot startup, 5% equity guaranteed

It’s been 5 years since I’ve programmed anything serious in Java. I’ve never programmed in .net. I’m also a little doubtful of your dubious inflated compensation subject-bait.

Worse still, we’ve all seen a job posting with a gem like this inside..

* Minimum 8 years Node.js experience

Check your macros
I’ve received far too many emails that read

Dear Cian,
I see you've been at Feedhenry, acquired by Red Hat Inc. for 4 years now. Have you considered a change?

Oops - looks like this recruiter’s email macro plucked my employer from LinkedIn without even checking the final email.
This beaut' came from a Fortune 500 technology company.

Tell Me Who’s Hiring
This might seem a little obvious, but if you’re hiring for a “Well Funded startup in the Mobile App Management space with slick offices in Boston’s Seaport District”, I can probably figure the company out myself. Tell me who’s hiring, I can Google them, and increase your chances of a reply ten-fold.

Customise Your Emails
I realise it may not be feasible to customise every email you send to a potential suitor on LinkedIn. I’m sure an email macro scales much better, but make some effort to make your email sound individual.

At least glance at my website. I’m always polite enough to reply to some email which talks about how much fun the recruiter had that one time in Ireland.

Take Rejection Well

Dear Cian,
By now you must have seen my previous emails regarding the position at Acme Systems.
Please offer me the courtesy of a reply if you are not interested

You’ve sent me the unsolicited email. Don’t get snarky when I don’t reply.

Employers - Recruit In-House
Here’s an interesting alternative - don’t use a recruiter at all. If you’re a startup in early stages of growth, just have your engineers seek out good potential candidates within your network (IRL)[3], or indeed on LinkedIn. Ask if they’d like to grab a coffee. I’m always up for grabbing a coffee with a fellow techie, and it’s lead to some of the most interesting job offers I’ve had.

Employees - Apply Direct
Find a company you’d like to work for, and apply direct. A company should have much more leeway to pay you a higher salary when a recruitment agency isn’t skimming their percentage off the top.

The only recruiter I’ve ever seriously engaged with

  1. Contacted me about a highly relevant role to my skillset.
  2. Clearly didn’t use a macro
  3. Told me the name of the company in the first paragraph
  4. Complimented me on my photography, and talked home-brewing. Personalised the email to great extent.

I replied, met with the CTO, interviewed, and ended with an offer. Why has this only happened in one of the many thousands of emails I’ve received?

All of these points seem painfully obvious to me, but yet these simple steps are almost exclusively ignored. You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your own time.

[1] http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/boston-software-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IM109_KO7,24.htm

[2] https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/12/04/boston-area-tech-recruiters-battle-for-talent/IICvqL32d5ZRINB8Gp0LpJ/story.html
I suspect 25% is at the higher end of the recruiter compensation scale.

[3] In Real Life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_life#Distinct_from_the_Internet