Recruiter spam is so ubiquitous that there’s even an entire Website devoted to collecting data on it. It’s easy to tell when a recruiter is just spamming developers with the wrong jobs. But not all recruiters resort to email-bombing in order to meet a quota; some are genuinely trying to cast a wide net for technical talent. How can you tell which is which?
Evaluate the Email
The first way to differentiate between a targeted email and spam is to assess the email itself.
“There should be something obvious in the email targeted specifically to you, such as a brief mention of something in your own background,” said Nick Phipps, IT recruiter and director of Cloud Computing International.
An email from a recruiter mentioning something specific—such as the type of firm you work for and why a client is interested in your unique background—is much more targeted than a cookie-cutter email from a recruiter stating that a company is looking for developers, and asking for a resume.
It’s easy to write off mass emails sent to listservs or Meetup groups… but sometimes legitimate recruiters looking for talent do indeed send announcements to technical listservs or Meetup groups. (Yes, really!) This is so they can target people who aren’t necessarily looking for work. Responding to an announcement sent to a group should result in an individually targeted email from the recruiter, which you can then evaluate to determine whether it’s worth taking the next step. But if the return email is cookie-cutter, again, it’s not worth your time.
Building a Relationship
So you’ve gotten a well-written, carefully crafted email from a recruiter, and it’s targeted towards you and your skills. Before you send off your resume, it’s a good idea to think about whether you’d want that recruiter to represent you and your career and accomplishments to potential employers, said Jennifer Bensusen, technology lead and senior recruitment partner with Decision Toolbox. Ideally, that means that the recruiter will want to develop a relationship with you, rather than just hitting ‘Forward’ whenever you send them a resume.
This means the recruiter will want to connect via phone for an interview, Bensusen added. Technical interviews typically take at least a half hour, and will allow the recruiter to see whether you’re a good fit for the positions on offer.
Beware of recruiters who want to submit your resume without your prior approval. “There’ll be an unscrupulous recruiting company that’ll just [farm] you out to a bunch of people to see what sticks, and they may not even have that permission,” said Bensusen. If a prospective employer gets the sense that your resume has been dumped in their inbox without real thought, it will scuttle any chances of actually landing that job.
As Bensusen points out, recruiters should provide a legitimate description of a potential job (unless the search is confidential, in which case full details could be lacking). For best results, that means working with technical recruiters who understand your skillset and are better poised to determine if a position is a good fit for all parties.
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