Blog Recruiters, help me help you!

I am not a recruiter

Hi! Thanks for contacting me via email/linkedin/phone/etc. I’m sorry there was some confusion, but I’m not a recruiter. No, I will not help you find talent for your client/company.

It’s nothing personal, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. See, I love helping friends and even people I have not met before. In fact, maybe I help people too much- I always try to help anyone who stops me for directions (this seems to happen about twice a week for some reason). However, you’ve made it very impersonal. See, I don’t really know you- maybe we met at an event once and chatted for a minute or two, maybe you found me online.

Either way, quite frankly, I don’t give a damn about you and you haven’t given me any reason to.

When you reach out to me, the conversation is very one-sided and ultimately you’re sabotaging your own success.

The Message

Below I’ve copied ACTUAL lines from messages I’ve received.

The Intro

Hi David!

I’m looking for a Generic-Peppy-Adjective engineer/UI/UX/designer/etc at A-Company-Who-I-Can’t-Name that is doing something very exciting Which-I-Can’t-Talk-About

Please. No. You need to give me actual, substantive details here. What do you think the success rate would be of a dating site profile that just had a blacked out photo, with <Name Redacted> and <Activities Cannot Be Discussed>? Probably less than zero because you’re acting like a creepy serial killer. Seriously, I’ve seen absolutely terrifying “DO NOT TRUST ME” postings on craigslist that gave out more info. Bottom line, you’ve done nothing here that gives me a reason to care about this position.

The Generic Tie-In

I noticed you had Some experience in a Hopefully Related Field.

Stop stop stop. Again, you blew an opportunity to connect with me. I’m sure you also messaged 387 other people who had SOME EXPERIENCE. Your apparent lack of knowledge about the field you’re supposed to be recruiting for makes you look incompetent. On a side note- if you only think I have Some Experience, then why would you trust me to find someone for you??? In the end, all you’re telling me to do here is to mark your message as the unsolicited spam it is.

The Unqualified Ask

Would you be interested in hearing more about this opportunity? Was hoping you or someone you know would be interested in this position.

I really can’t believe this, but you’re only three sentences in and you’re still being as impersonal as possible. What makes you think I would be interested? I’m really happy with what I do now, working with clients to create amazing experiences for their users, and if you bothered to pre-qualify your leads, you’d know that. At this point I’m beginning to just think you’re incredibly lazy and/or bad at your job.

Can you do my job?

I’m hoping you can help me start that conversation with some people. Can you share this information around with your friends?

Okay, now we’ve really reached rock bottom. After making it abundantly clear that you have absolutely no interest in building a relationship with me, you now have the gall to ask me to go out and do your job for you?

My Reply

No. I won’t help you.

Let’s be clear, this is Your Problem, Not Mine

And you haven’t given me a single reason to give a damn about your problems. Why should I help you when I’ve got others to help that I care more about? (like the email I wrote last night to a friend about how they can get into the local whitewater kayaking scene)

You’re taking advantage of me

If you’re reading this, not a recruiter, and slightly offended that I’m a jerk who can’t spend 5 seconds forwarding an email to his contacts, it may be because you don’t know how recruiting actually works. For a long time I didn’t know how the game worked, and was a complete sucker getting ripped off by lots of recruiters as I thought long and hard about who I knew that could fit that position, was looking for a job, etc. Then I realized, I was a patsy! A recruiter can easily make $10-30k (or way, way more) if a company hires a candidate they refer. How much money did recruiters offer me for doing their job of finding someone to refer to the company? None.

You’re proposing a business transaction that makes no sense to a sane businessman.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, every message I get is another demand on my time. Being interrupted by your pointless, irrational request is doubly bad, since research shows it takes us humans about 20 minutes to recover from interruptions and fully return to the task at hand.

You’re not working to build a real relationship with me

Everything you’ve communicated to me indicates that you have no interest in learning about me, in telling me about you, or that I’ll ever hear from you again. So why would I want to invest time in this dead-end relationship?

Stop being an amateur, do it right

I hope it’s clear that this is not about me not wanting to help you. It’s that all you’ve done is send me a very impersonal, spam-like message that then implies I should do your job for you. If we can fix that, great! For example:

  • Establish a relationship beforehand I had a great conversation at a meetup with a recruiter last week and learned about how he’s trying to match people to jobs they’ll enjoy and be successful in. Moving forward, we’re going to have his company sponsor an event I’m running next month.
  • Treat it like the business transaction it is A guy who I knew in college sent me an email asking if I could help him find an AMAZING engineer. We hadn’t talked for at least a year before that, and it wasn’t going to be trivial to find someone with the expertise he needed. However, he also made it clear, up front, that he’d pay a respectable recruiting fee to me for the right candidate. Sure, he could’ve just asked me as a favor, since we knew each other, but I have a lot more respect for him because he treated it as part of his business, not charity, and was a professional about it.
  • Make it personal It’s clear when you didn’t do your research beforehand. If you show up knowing what I do, how I can help you (big hint: I run a meetup for designers), what the actual requirements are for that position, and just generally look like a competent human being, it’ll do wonders for how far I’ll want to go to help you.

Here’s a good example of an email I received about recruiting for a position where I was happy to help- we even met over coffee, for an hour!

Hi David,
My Name is George, I recently moved to Denver from Portland to take over the VP of Product Development role at A Local Company.
I’m reaching out to connect with you to get a lay of the land regarding awesome UX firms and people in the area.
In the coming weeks I’d like to engage with a UX to begin the design process for <specific details about the product>. Your expertise in the field and area would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time!

In the end, I’m not asking for a treatise on your personal life, the dynamics of the industry, large sums of cash or “I ran across your profile today – WOW!” (yes, there is such a thing as too much flattery… also, too generic!).

Just give me a reason to give a damn.

Thanks to Mike for proofreading and providing helpful suggestions.

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