Open Letter to Recruiters

Dear Recruiters,
I do get quite a lot of mails and phone calls from you. It is flattering to be offered new opportunities weekly, but that also means that the competition between you and the other recruiters is devastating. Fortunately for you who are reading this, there are a few quite simple things you can do that would set you apart from the rest of the lot. Oh, by the way, most of the items in this post also applies to software consultancy sales, so if you’re into consultancy sales, please continue reading.

Basic Research

I quite often get unsolicited mails on LinkedIn from recruiters. That’s great, because that’s what LinkedIn basically is about and as my profile on LinkedIn is quite complete it is possible to get a basic understanding of what I’m doing and what I’ve done even before sending a mail. Yet, every now and then I get a mail from a recruiter that looks something like this:

Dear Anders,

I have a very exciting opportunity for a skilled developer at XYZ corp. If you are interested in discussing this opportunity, please send me your Resume (or CV).

Best Regards,
John Doe

Those mails go straight down the drain because my LinkedIn profile already is a complete resume. So the first advice to set you a apart from the other recruiters is to actually read my profile before mailing me.

Reading my profile includes reading the “Advice for Contacting Anders” section at the bottom where I’ve actually stated quite clearly what I expect. Out of all the mails I do get, I remember the one that followed the advice. As far as I could find out, he hadn’t even read the advice. He just did what I expect because he was a professional.

So to set you apart from 80% of your competitors, just read my LinkedIn profile before mailing me. That’s quite simple, isn’t it? So let’s move on to some more advanced and slightly more demanding skills.

Know the Basics of the Technology

If you are recruiting programmers you should learn the basic terminology of the trade. Make sure that you understand the difference between C, C++ and C#. Learn what Java and JavaScript are (hint: they are not the same, not at all). To really impress on programmers you could learn why JavaScript is named after Java.

Also make sure that you know the most important tools and frameworks for the platform you are recruiting for. For example, if you’re working with .NET, this is a set of names that you should be familiar with.

Technology Typical Use Common Frameworks/Products
Databases (DB) Stores data Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MongoDB, MySql
Data Access Reading and writing of data from a DB. NHibernate, Entity Framework, Linq-to-SQL
Server Side Web Web applications, running on a web server ASP.NET Webforms, ASP.NET MVC
Single Page Applications (SPA) Web applications, running in the browser Angular, Knockout
Rich Clients Ordinary non-web-based applications Windows Presentation Foundation, WinForms

These are technology terms, but the same applies to basic terminology of the business, such as “outsourcing”, “taking home”. I recently had a recruiter who called me that tried to explain the position he was offering:

The company is taking home a lot of systems, bringing them in-house for maintenance and development. They are setting up a new organization to handle this.

It was not until a while later that I understood that the company he was recruiting for was a consultancy business that had just won some big outsourcing contracts, where they were to take over development and maintenance from the customers’ existing in-house IS/IT departments…

To learn the terminology looks simple, I know. But if you learn those names you’ll be among the top 5% of recruiters.

Knowing the Basics of the Community

To move on and be among the top 1% of recruiters you should also know the basics of the community and the most important sites on the Internet for developers.

  • Stack Overflow is the world’s largest question-and-answer site for programming. It has a reputation system that roughly values how good people are and how willing they are to help. Anyone with a registered account with more than 100 reputation points is ahead of most developers out there. Finding anyone with 10.000+ reputation is rare (there are only about 5.000 people world wide on that level).
  • GitHub is the main site for open source projects. If you are lucky and find an account there belonging to a potential hire , then you should ask a developer in your organisation to check the code published there. Getting hold of actual code is a better assessment of a candidates’ skills than any tech interview can give.
  • Some developers have personal blogs where they write about programming, software development projects (or rant about recruiters). Check if the candidate has a blog (use Google and check the LinkedIn profile for links) where you can read the candidates’ code and opinions. The real opinions, not the one that one chooses to mention in an interview.

If you come this far, you will be one of the top 1% recruiters and you will have a much higher chance of getting past that first phone call and into an actual in person meeting.

Some Final Advice

Finally I’d like to point out some mistakes that too many recruiters do.

The first one is to send unsolicited contract requests on LinkedIn. I’m not your friend. I’ve not done business with you. Two minutes ago I didn’t even know you existed. I don’t want to show my boss we’ve been in touch by adding you to my network. I don’t want to give you access to everyone in my network. Just send a normal mail. If we’ve gone beyond that and actually discussed more in detail, it might be appropriate to connect, but not until then.

The second mistake is to not answer questions. If I find what you write to be somewhat interesting, I often have questions. If I send you questions it means I’m interested. Do your best to answer them.

If you learn the basic technology, learn the basics of the community and make sure you are nice, respectful and polite you will be far ahead of almost everyone else. That will make me more interested to listen to you and that will make it much easier for you to find the right people.

That should not be to hard, should it? Just a little more effort and I promise you’ll see a huge increase of successful contact efforts.


  1. a very interesting article, I think most of these people are sellers who do not have a logical mind. I think we should also add : Lying to candidates = useless.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to share this information with my staff. As far as Boumen’s comment, There are good and bad apples in every industry. That’s just human nature. All we can do is to avoid the bad apples. Lying is never acceptable.

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