Update: I’ve made some edits to have a better tone for this post, thanks to some feedback from Hacker News. I hope this post helps some folks. And sincere apologies if some of it is a bit rough.
Recruiters get a pretty bad rap among software engineers. Mention recruiters to another engineer and an inevitable eye-roll or knowing chuckle will follow. While it might be fun for us to enjoy all the attention and dismiss recruiters as a whole, we know that recruiters play an indispensable role in our industry. That said, this sort of disdain for recruiters is not completely without its causes.
Personally, I almost never reply to a solicitation from a recruiter, whether they work for a firm or internally at a reputable company. I’m not alone in that. Most experienced engineers get several solicitations a day, and for one thing it would simply be too much to reply to everyone. We’re lucky, in that we get to choose who to reply to, if at all.
So in order to help you all (and in turn, us engineers) out, here are my do’s and don’ts for recruiters:
It makes a difference if you’ve read up on what skills I have, however briefly, and can quickly mention why you think my skills might be a good fit. We get a lot of cut-and-paste emails, so the recruiters that take the time to write something personal stand out.
Keep it short
Like I said, we get many solicitations coming our way. We do try to read through these. At least I do. But like any email, if it’s too long we’re more likely to skim it, and might miss something important.
Give us the details up front
Being deliberately vague by saying something like, “I’m working on a couple positions you might be a fit for”, is probably not the best tactic. It really helps if you mention the important details, like company name, position, location, and salary if possible.
Understand our needs
If we do begin a dialog with you, and I discuss what I’m looking for, don’t try too hard to shoehorn me into one of your open positions. If it’s not really a fit, it saves us both time by moving on. I’ll also remember that honesty in the future, and will be more likely to reach out when I’m looking again.
Have some passion
Passion is attractive. If you really believe in the product and the team, show it. Let us know what’s so special. Believe me, we want to see that. No one wants to work for a boring company.
Use my personal email
This is a bit of a sneaky tip, but I’m actually more likely to respond to you if you email me directly, rather than through LinkedIn or some other network.
Mention a referral
If someone referred you to me, mention them. This will make it far more likely that I respond, especially if I’m fairly close with that person.
Misunderstand our skill set
If I hear anything about you looking for “ninjas”, “pirates”, “rockstars”, “samurais”, or anything of the like, I’m just going to assume you’re looking for a new saturday morning cartoon character and not an engineer. Grow up.
Unless we’ve explicitly set up a time to talk, DO NOT CALL.
This goes along with understanding my needs. If you’re not listening to me, and instead trying to put words in my mouth about what I’m looking for, and what kind of job I need, then I won’t be working with you for long.
I shouldn’t have to explain this. If you mislead me in any way, like pulling a bait-and-switch with some job description, I’m long gone.
If we had a good conversation a few months ago, by all means, follow up. But if you call and email me 10 times in two weeks, and I haven’t replied, then please stop it.
Be a bit technical
If you can talk software a little bit, it’s actually nice. I know this won’t apply to most recruiters, but knowing a bit about what we do instead of treating us like a bag of keywords, won’t hurt at all.
I know this post might seem as though I’m complaining about a good thing. Believe me, the fact is not lost on me that as an engineer I am lucky to have many opportunities presented to me. I’m simply trying to share what it’s like from our perspective on what I think works, and what doesn’t. As developers, we very much appreciate getting contacted, but we’ve also grown a thicker skin to many of the tactics that some recruiters use.
I hope that some of these tips will help the recruiters out there build more productive relationships with their clients and not be seen in such a negative light. Best of luck.