22 January 2016

Recruitment Antipatterns

Are you a LinkedIn recruiter? Are you getting poor conversion rates on your attempts to hire people on LinkedIn? I think I could help you out by telling you why. These are the reasons that I’m not replying to your LinkedIn recruitment message. If you do some or all of these things, you’ll be missing out on potential candidates because this stuff turns us off.


You’re an agency recruiter and not an in-house recruiter for the interested company. In-house recruiters know more about the company/position and are more invested in actually finding the right person with the right cultural fit and not just getting someone signed and taking the cut (I know, I work with some great ones at Kainos). I’m sorry, but if you’re an agency recruiter you’re starting off at a disadvantage and you’re going to have to work harder for me to actually read the whole message, so don’t phone the rest of it in: be aware of the other antipatterns below.

Scattergun Approach

It’s obvious that it is some sort of bulk mailshot and that you don’t really care enough about fitting me to this role to type something up based on my profile. People working at the same company do talk to each other and every so often I’ll see in a group chat “Hey did everyone else get that linkedin spam for Java contractors at Megacorp?”. It doesn’t make me feel like a valued and desirable potential candidate when I’m getting the exact same copy as half a dozen other colleagues.

The Template

Related to the above, the copy and paste job with the mail-merged name at the top wastes my time too. If your offer contains a bullet list of points like “Must have 3+ years experience with Java” that, if you’d read my profile before sending, you’d already see that I have, then I know you aren’t doing your research and tailoring the offer to me. Ask me something you can’t already know and provide me some information I don’t already have. It would seem unprofessional if I attended an interview and you asked me really basic questions that are answered by reading my CV, so why do it here? My personal favourite ironic twist on this one is people who ask for more years experience than I’ve got. Sending me a job offer with criteria I don’t meet is particularly wasteful.

Entry Level Job Offer

I’m not expecting CTO offers at this stage in my career but to be sending me vanilla Software Engineer offers (unless you’ve got some sort of radically flat hierarchy, in which case do mention this) really indicates that you’ve just done a basic search for keywords or techs and haven’t actually read my profile and listed experience, and that you aren’t specifically interested in hiring me so much as you are any software engineer.

Mystery Company

“We’re hiring for a Major Database And Product Company that rhymes with Boracle!”. Playing coy with the company on behalf of which you are working doesn’t add mystique and I’m not sure how it protects them, given that I can usually work it out. I want to know who it is, so I can find out some more about the company, before I decide whether it’s worth looking into in further detail.

Foot-in-the-door Sales Technique

Don’t start off by saying something trite like “I couldn’t reach you on the phone, can you provide me a number?” - you couldn’t reach me on the phone because you don’t have my contact details. Jumping in too deep too soon seems uncomfortable and I don’t want to talk to you before knowing more about you, the company, the role and the offer. Maybe this works for some people but I don’t like having awkward conversations with strangers on the phone.

Dubious Request To Connect

I think LinkedIn have actually reduced this by just making people pay to send InMails to people that aren’t part of their network, but if I get a request to connect that says “We’ve done business together at Kainos” and I’ve never heard of you, that’s not going to work.

Do My Job For Me Please

This one must be available as a default message signature in the paid version of LinkedIn from the looks of things. “If this is not of interest to you, please forward it on to any colleagues that may be interested.” Seriously though, why would I do this? You may think you’re hedging your bets or trying to get some viral spread but it makes it look like you don’t really care that much (“Well, if not you, anyone else you can think of will do”). Not only have you wasted my time but you want me to take more of my time to be a shill for a role I don’t even want for myself? This erases your last shred of credibility.

Not Everyone Is Getting It Wrong

That being said, it’s not that LinkedIn is a waste of time. Plenty of permanent employees and contractors worth hiring are there, just putting themselves out there in general if not actively looking for work. You might have more luck by avoiding the behaviours above and also trying to tailor your message a little better:

The Offers That I Read

  • Messages sent by people who are up front with the details (company name, information on the role, location, etc).
  • Messages with further links to read about the company environment, the offices, the types of products and services, testimonials from people who work there (ideally, from people doing the role on offer).
  • For me: Messages offering a permanent position. I don’t mention seeking contract offers on my profile and I’m currently a permanent employee, so I’m not likely to throw it all in just for the extra cash.

The Offers That I Consider

  • Messages that provide information on the company’s purpose and the company culture - I want to know what it’d be like to actually be part of that organisation; what motivates the people who work there; to see if I share those motivations.
  • Messages sent by people I actually know in real life that tick the boxes in the section above. People who I already respect have a huge credibility advantage over those I don’t know.
  • Messages on behalf of companies that have decent feedback on Glassdoor. If you’ve got a great offer but it’s evident from Glassdoor that people aren’t happy there or are starting to leave in bigger numbers, or that the reality of the work doesn’t match up to the marketing material, then you’ve lost. Seeing the consensus from real people (current and former) is valuable.
  • Messages on behalf of companies that have a known public presence. If the company already has people active in the community, on Twitter, speaking at conferences, writing books, this tells me that they demonstrate mastery and are interested in sharing with others.

Don’t Open The Floodgates Please

My aim with writing this is to help reduce the amount of time I and others spend reading and deleting irrelevant or unconvincing offers, and hopefully to give all the well-meaning recruiters out there the ability to target their audience better. I’m not fishing for offers - I’m currently happily employed at Kainos (they tick all the boxes, come join us) but I do get too many LinkedIn messages!

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