Looking for ambitious tech recruiters

18 Oct 2013

ninjaI'm one of those techie people that you're always trying to sell. I've worked heavily for several years on "Back office" development. My code kung fu is impeccable and I can riff out Metallica's master of puppets whilst hacking away on your client's latest project.

That's right, I'm a [insert tech] rock star ninja.

Now, ever since I received my first ninja star, I've been getting emails from you. At first it was quite flattering when I found myself targeted by a recruiter. I felt proudly validated that my skills stood up against the rest. I'm not an imposter, I've been recognised as able and competent in this field, and someone wants me!

However, it doesn't always stay this way. As the volume of emails increases we all soon realise that the content is horoscope generic, and that we're not that special candidate after all. I once got major props from an agent after they "read" my linkedIn profile. They proceeded to suggested I'd be perfect for this new Ruby role they just got in. I'm not in anyway against learning Ruby, but considering they were looking for someone with extensive experience with the language, and i've not even "hello world"ed in it. Learning is exactly all I'd be doing for some time.

I know your intentions are good. You've been so kind in letting me know about tons of great opportunities over the years. So I wanted to show my gratitude by repaying you a small favor. You see, it's become apparent that some of these very emails are frequently disregarded by developers. Yeah! straight to the trash. They're scrutinised (because we're good at that), criticised and on occasion shared amongst the community for a good ol' giggle. I know! We can be mean. We just can't help but find it hilarious when someone confuses Java with JavaScript. Bwahahaha, idiots.

So I've composed some pointers to help you reduce the chortle factor and get your email taken seriously.


Not bother with targeting. It doesn't matter what industry you're operating in. If you're blindly sending emails with no regard for relevance, then it's a strong possibility you'll end up on a block list.

There's no questioning that the demand for talented developers is greater than ever. The first contact you make with a potential candidate needs to be engaging, professional and accurate.

If someone isn't right for a role, don't pursue them and remove them from the distribution list. Do this work before you email them. Your client is paying to find the right fit, honour this and write emails as if you're working on their behalf. Not as an opportunity to bulk up your contacts list.

Remember, each irrelevant email is an opportunity to be added to a block list. Get it right.

Waaaayyy too much blurb. You know when you get that call from a number you don't recognise. You go ahead, take the gamble and answer. You're then stuck listening to someone natter on whilst you struggle to express disinterest. All the while trying to maintain a friendly rapport. Yeah, that! Don't let it happen.

Obviously this isn't exclusive to the recruitment industry, the same tactics are used generally with most cold calls. Before they even dial they have a lengthy precomposed spew they must chug up before any human-like interaction can occur.

This applies to both calls and emails. Get to the point. You're not the only recruiter to have contacted us. When we see an email from you and have decided to take the bold step of opening it, there are only a few things we want to know: Is the role of interest, am I a good fit and is the compensation suitable.

If I wanted to read a story I'd pick up an Ernest Hemingway novel (I wouldn't). Sending emails like the one below are very unlikely to get read. I mean, even if we're looking for a job, we got shit to do! Don't occupy our time unnecessarily.


Pretend the relationship is personal. I'm not suggesting you can't establish a relationship with candidates, but please don't try to engage by over emphasising the details of your weekend. Stay professional and on topic. If they're communicating with you, odds are you have a role that interests them. Get a feel for the candidate before you digress onto something they're really not interested in. If they're not up for your banter, then you're just annoying them.

Stop looking for a rockstar. You might think you're boosting our ego (somehow? - cos we all wanna be rockstars?), but this actually just makes us laugh. Seriously. Sorry.


Using large salary ranges (£30k-£75k). We know what you're trying to do, and we know these roles aren't real. And if it is real, then it looks like a fishing line, so please be more specific.

Pretending the candidate is ideal. Personally I'm a little more forward than most. However I've overheard some discussions where a candidate can be a little more timid and somehow you've hooked them in conflict of maintaining politeness and getting you off the phone. I understand that agents are essentially salespeople, and with that comes the standard pushy tactics. But remember this is potentially someones career you're discussing. Many don't want to come across rude and will find it difficult to respond. So it's very important you listen for any hesitation from the candidate and be realistic about their suitability. That is what your client is paying you for afterall.

zend_whatBlindly listing trending software/frameworks. If both yourself and your client aren't technical. Please, please, please don't just stick a bunch of tech acronyms or keywords down and hope for the best. You're really not going to fool anyone. It'll give off an amateur vibe and you certainly won't get the response you're after. Run the specification by someone that does have a background in technology. If there's no one in your organisation that does, I'd suggest outsourcing this to someone that has. It really wouldn't take long. And you'll benefit by being taken seriously.

Further to this be very careful what you do list. If you're too specific then you're likely to give off the impression that the candidate will simply be supporting an existing stack. If this is the case then you should communicate that, but if it's not, don't make the role look like it is.

This is part of a job specification I've genuinely received:

"Zend 1.11 is the implementation reference using PHP 5.3, Doctrine 2.2 ORM using the Bisna Zend adapter, Gedmo Doctrine extensions and Twig templates using the Zwig Zend adapter"

We're not expecting you to be technology kings (or queens) but you really should do your homework. Don't list anything in a spec until you understand what it's used for and can discuss it on a basic level with candidates. Don't let this be you:


Distorting the job specification either on purpose (to attract contacts rather than candidates) or accidentally will lead to more time wasting for both yourselves, your client and the candidate. There's always the potential for information to be lost in translation or misconstrued between your client and applicant, or just simply left out. It's these details that could trigger a snap decision not to apply from your applicant. Take as many details about the role as you possibly can and portray every relevant part. Do not send out vague or desolate specifications that skirt around the details.

Don't manipulate the salary range specified by your client. I've seen this a number of times. And it just leads to more time wasting. It can be that the job appeals so much to a candidate that a pay cut would be acceptable, but don't hide this information from them. Or hope that you can spring it on them at the last minute and they'll happily play along. Discuss your clients budget in detail before hand and don't advertise any higher (or lower) than they're willing go.


So there it is. I hope you can take something out of what i've listed here. If you're nice enough and I have time I'll be happy to proof read your emails. If not, there's a ton of people out there that can and I'm sure I can put you in touch with one.

Best of luck with your next mail out, may your candidates be interested.

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