I regularly get emails from recruiters trying to get me to change jobs. Unfortunately, many of the emails are not very good, wasting my and the recruiters’ time. So here are 5 tips for recruiters on how to write a good email, as well as some advice for developers.
Tips For Recruiters
1. Supply and Demand. The market for software developers today is special. If you are a decent programmer, you can pick and choose where to work. Demand far outstrips supply, unlike for a lot of other professions. Understanding this (inverted) balance of power is crucial. As a recruiter, you have to sell the job to the developer, not the other way around. It also follows that developers that respond to recruiting emails are helping the recruiter as much (or more) as the recruiter is helping the developer.
2. Be Specific. When presenting a job opening, be specific. Which company is it, what technology stack are they using, what are the unique selling points for this role. Just writing vaguely about a “fantastic opportunity” wastes time for both. I know what I like in a company, and if those criteria aren’t met, I can say no right away. Setting up a phone conversation just to tell me what the job is does not change that.
3. Be Personal. When contacting a developer, make an effort to tailor the mail, so it doesn’t just look like a generic form mail. For example, refer to something you have seen from the developer on for example GitHub, a blog or LinkedIn to show why you think this job would be a good fit. “I noticed from your blog that you enjoy working in Python” can be enough to show that you have put some thought into why this might be a good fit, as opposed to just randomly contacting as many developers as possible. This is flattering for the developer, and increases the chance of getting a response.
4. Respond. One sure way for a recruiter to look bad is to not acknowledge a reply. If I take the time to respond to your email, even if the answer is “No thanks, I am not interested”, the polite thing to do is to send a mail back. It can be as simple as, “OK. Thanks for responding. Let me know if you change your mind.” Also, answer back quickly, to show that you are on the ball. When there are few ways of telling if a recruiter is any good, the simple action of responding instantly makes you look better.
5. Checking Back Is OK. Even if I am not open to switch jobs right now, that can change. It is OK to check back once a year or so, given that the job opening is relevant.
Reminders For Software Developers
We Are Lucky. In a lot of other professions, applicants compete for jobs. In software development it’s the opposite – companies compete for the developers. This is good to remember sometimes, in case you feel annoyed with recruiters. Being presented with job offers is a good problem to have. Besides, they are only doing their jobs, so there is no need to be rude.
Better Bargaining Position. If you are contacted by a recruiter about a role, you are in a much better position to negotiate salary and benefits than if you applied directly. You already have a job, so if the offer isn’t interesting enough or good enough, you can just say no.
Almost all recruiters that contact me find me through LinkedIn. I think this is a good feature of LinkedIn, but almost all first contact is through a connection request. I only use LinkedIn to connect with people I know, so I have no interest in adding random recruiters to my network. But I am happy to mail/message them back instead. The few that don’t find me via LinkedIn usually mail me directly. One enterprising recruiter from Google even found me because of my review of “How Google Tests Software” on Amazon.
I have changed jobs many times in several different ways: replying to a job ad, contacting companies directly, via former colleagues, and via a recruiter. When I ended up being recruited, it was the second time I was contacted by that recruiter. The first time, two years earlier, I was very happy where I was, and was not interested in changing. The second time I was still very happy there, but I was open to seeing what else was available. As it turned out, the opportunity was quite exciting, and I was happy to have been contacted, since I would not have found that company by myself.