Dear Recruiter

Over on LinkedIn, a recruiter on one of the Perl groups has asked for what people want from recruiters. He’s interested to hear what recruiters do that give them such a bad reputation. I thought that was an interesting question to answer, but as it might be interesting to other recruiters I’ve decided to answer it here rather than in in LinkedIn walled garden

So here are some things that recruiters can do that would make me happier to deal with them.

Understand the Industry

I’m not expecting every recruiter to be an expert in every technology that they deal with, but it’s not hard to get an overview of what things are and how they hang together. In the case of the programming language I’m most interested in, it would be nice if they could learn that it’s called “Perl” not “PERL”.

Don’t Just Use Keyword Searches

I understand that they all have lots of candidates in their databases. And I know that keyword searches are a quick way to find the candidates that will be interested in a particular role. But that method will often find a lot of false positives too. And every false positive that you contact is another person who you are potentially annoying.

Over ten years ago I spent three weeks writing Perl code that interfaced with a SAP system. I still leave that work on my CV as it’s a useful idiot filter. If I get email about a SAP role then I know that it comes from a recruiter who doesn’t read CVs.

By all means use a keyword search to find potential candidates to contact. But read their CVs before emailing them.

Answer Your Email

Is it really so hard to answer email? Oh it’s fine when you first get in touch with me. If you’re trying to sell me a role then you’re happy to answer email almost instantly. But if I’m emailing you in response to an advert you’ve placed on the internet then probably 80% of the time I never get a response. And if I phone to chase up then you’re always “on the other line” and you never call back. You may have decided that I’m not right for the role, but it would be useful for me to hear your reasons.

The worst time to not get replies to emails is when you’ve sent my CV to a client and they’ve turned me down for some reason. Over the seventeen years that I’ve been a contractor there are probably twenty jobs that I’m still waiting to hear back from. Of course I’m not holding my breath. But it’s just rude not to give feedback.

Make Notes

Something like this happens regularly. I get an email from a recruiter asking if I’m interested in a role. I reply saying that I’m currently very happy in a contract that doesn’t end for another three months. The next week I get another email from the same recruiter asking if I’m interested in a different role.

If I tell you that I won’t be available for three months then you should read that as “don’t contact Dave about new contracts for at least two months”. Why is that so hard to understand? And, no, I don’t really expect you do remember who I am from one week to the next, but surely it’s not too hard to have a “do not contact before” note somewhere on your records.

It’s almost as bad when it’s different recruiters from the same agency who contact me. Surely they share these details on a centralised database. Don’t they?

Learn English

We’re supposed to have a professional relationship. So you should be communicating in a professional manner. And that means taking care over your writing. Perhaps I’m not typical but it takes me a great force of will to read past “Hope your well” at the start of an email.

Just a few suggestions from me. I’m sure other people who read this will have their own pet hates. Please feel free to add them in the comments.


  1. Funny, I was just contacted by a recruiter for an exciting position, “right here in San Bernard, California. (For those who don’t know, I live 18 hours from California. By air).

    Dave, I think if you left out SAP from your CV, you would not need to filter those morons and I am not sure how easy or difficult is for an outsider to understand the PERL vs Perl argument. I see “PERL” in a lot of places. As an outsider, who has not spent ages in the “Perl community” how could I know which source to trust?

    1. Well, firstly, removing SAP from my CV isn’t really an option given the huge number of out of date copies that are stored on recruiter databases. (Actually, that’s another good point – don’t use a CV that’s more than two years old).

      But, more importantly, what I mean by “idiot filter” is that if someone sends me a SAP role then I can almost certainly ignore any future email that I get from that recruiter.

  2. Actually I’d start with not lying.

    “We’ve got a great role for you” “I have a close personal relationship with the client” “They’re interested in someone else but if you drop your rate you could get it” etc. Recruiters get a bad name because so many use low quality sales techniques to hook up any possible candidate with any possible job. Which means that when good, honest recruiters come along, clients and candidates are less likely to believe them.

  3. I’d quite like it if I stopped getting ‘fantastic permanent opportunities’
    I’ve been a contractor for over 10 years. I’m not going to take a perm role, especially not a junior one, in the middle of nowhere for a very small salary

  4. My peeves are:
    1. I know its a no!, but get back to me and give feedback.
    At least constructive criticism.
    They will ask for your fb, then I never here from them. I would say about 50% of the time.

    2. Initial conversations can be done w/ email. I can answer all you idiotic questions through email. I usually filter them out through email first. The last thing I want to do is talk to them.

    3, I like to know how long the position been available. I’ve worked for places where all they would do is interview for a position. I worked for places that would interview and have no money in the budget for the position.

    4. Even though its a bit of a nuisance, I rather deal w/ a recruiter then
    the company and there website. Of coarse if you get the contact through real networking that’s the best. If you out of work then
    you have nothing but nice things to say about the recruiters. :)

    No offense recruiters.

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