Stop the Recruiting Spam. Seriously.

Spam (1)No matter how awesome my day happens to be, as soon as I open my personal e-mail, it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’s all downhill from there. Seriously, nothing pisses me off – or depresses me – quicker than simply opening my own inbox. I should know better by now – after all, the important stuff goes to my business e-mail, anyway – but for some reason, I’m still a glutton for punishment after all these years.

As soon as I open my inbox – no matter what time of the day (or night), I’m inundated with recruiter spam. That doesn’t make me unique – after all, recruiting junk mail is as ubiquitous as those ads for cheap imported Viagra or getting hit up for a bridge loan by a Nigerian prince – but as a recruiter, it makes me a little depressed. It’s also infuriating. Don’t believe me, ask pretty much every job seeker out there.

If you’re in recruiting, or even tangentially touch the employment industry, please, from one recruiter to another, I have one simple request. Please stop sending out bullshit e-mails about employment opportunities. They’re not only obnoxious, they also keep good recruiters from good jobs from getting through to good candidates because they’re pretty much preconditioned to immediately disregard any e-mail even alluding to job opportunities.

Why Do I Have To Write About Recruiting Spam Again?

quixoteLet me be clear: e-mailing prospective candidates is obviously an inevitable, and integral, part of any sourcing or recruiting strategy, so I’m not saying never to send job related e-mails. And if you’ve got to automate them, that’s OK too, provided you have the right system and relevant opportunities.

The ones I’m referring to are the ones that are the recruiting equivalent of “Hey, You Won A Million Dollars” or “A Loved One Has Died and Left You Money.” The kind you roll your eyes at, mark as spam and wonder who the hell is dumb enough to even open those things. Like, seriously.

But I get the same kind of spam from recruiters pretty much every day. Take this one I just received from CyberCoders, one of the worst offenders, who feels the need to shoot me one of these recruitment crapvertisements at least once a week. In this case, I screwed up and e-mailed the recruiter back to request they remove me from whatever lead list they bought this month. Big mistake.

Trying to unsubscribe from these job-bots is like fighting a hydra – you cut one spam account off, and two more pop up in its place.

I mean, I should feel bad for the recruiter whose branch manager (or whoever the hell happens to be in charge over there) forces them to send out this BS as part of their process. I’m sure they have no say in whatever the company tells them to do to present opportunities on their behalf to generate candidates – even if, assuming they’re not an idiot – they know that the only response they’re likely to get is pissing off their lead list.


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This is verbatim, if you can believe it.

“I am a recruiter here at CyberCoders who specializes in placing Lotus Notes Developer Candidates as well as similar positions in Reston, VA and other locations nationwide. I am e-mailing you in case you think you would be a great fit for the position listed below. Please check out the link and apply if you are interested in hearing more about the job. :)”

Uh, last time I checked, it was your job, not mine, to determine whether or not I’d be a great fit for the position – that’s what they pay recruiters to do. Second off, there’s no way I’m clicking any link that’s sent via Spambot – I’m not an idiot. And the little smiley face? That’s the icing on the BS cake.

Of course, I actually get these spammy job related e-mails from PEOPLE I ACTUALLY KNOW.

Here’s a perfect example:

“General Dynamics IT Seeks a Principal Contracts Manager with TS/SCI and Poly

General Dynamics Information Technology seeks to hire a Principal Contracts Manager (TS.SCI with Polygraph required) in Herndon, VA qualified candidates must possess a minimum of 8 plus years of experience, and full knowledge of working contracts in the IC.

To view the full job description, please click on the link below.

Also – If you refer a friend I end up placing at any of my open jobs, I will give you an iPad for the referral!

This position is for a Lotus Notes Developer in Reston, VA.”

 Yeah, I received this little ditty on a Friday – and it kind of killed my attempt to finish the week off on a high note. I’m keeping the perpetrator’s identity anonymous, since they’re a “friend” in the industry. Of course, a real friend would never show such a disgusting lack of professionalism or ingenuity. I know this person – they’re better than this. But is it their fault? Should I blame them? If not them, who?

I decided to find out what was going on.

Who’s Really to Blame for Recruiting Spam?

spamLike I said, I know  this cat, and thought that there was no way in hell this was a tactic they’d ever consider using themselves. So I replied to their e-mail from my personal account and pretty much told them as much. Of course, that ironically went directly to a junk folder (their spam filter is apparently better than ours), so I did something shocking for a recruiter: I picked up the phone and gave her a all.

She was a bit taken aback, and when I spoke with her about it, she seemed taken a little off guard. But her surprise paled to mine when I heard her response. You know what she had to say for herself? She said, “Sometimes one slips through. Most people just ignore it.”

Lovely. So this is where we’re at now? Automation and scale have completely replaced personalization and relevance in recruiting? Have our systems and processes become so dependent on these SPAM campaigns that major organizations and mom & pop shops alike have diluted our profession and eroded our value – and experience – at finding the right resume or fit for a job?

Now, it’s just keyword matching and volume – throwing shit to see what sticks, more or less. Hey, if you’ve got the right word in your resume or social profile, I guess that means you could be qualified, right?

Nope. That’s not even close to the truth. Instead, this response from a former manager (and current friend) to the spam he consistently receives from lazy recruiters really hits close to home:

“Recruiters fill up my LinkedIn inbox, my email, and my phone voice mail trying to fill a position without knowing anything about me or even speaking to me. No matter how you want to put your neat little spin on it, recruiters deal in volume and I would venture to guess the vast majority do a poor job at assessing skills necessary for a position.

Mention you have maybe a couple of years experience working with Java on your resume (but if the recruiter did their due diligence and read the thing, they would have noticed it was 10 years ago), and you’ll have them contacting you for a “Senior Java Developer Position”. Say what? I don’t really do Java anymore. Didn’t you at least read the whole resume. No you didn’t.

Don’t misunderstand this to mean I don’t like recruiters or don’t use them, because I have in the past and may in the future. They are necessary to turn to when I am ready to make a change because the few I know really well and trust have their finger on the pulse of the current job market for our industry and will help me make that change or move into that new opportunity (a.k.a., they will help me find that next job).”

Seriously, this was one of the best responses I’ve ever read. #TrueStory

Recruiting Spam and Reputation: What’s At Stake

less is moreMy point is this: if you’re part of the recruiting spam problem, then you’re doing it all wrong. And you’re not just killing the reputation of recruiters everywhere, but you’re killing your own professional reputation, too. After all, your name is attached to every one of those lazy form e-mails you use to fish – and likely that link bait will come back to bite you someday. I wouldn’t want to be remembered that way, and I’m pretty sure that with a limited pool of qualified candidates and connections, that’s not how you want to be remembered, either. No freakin’ way.

Nope. I want to be remembered for engaging candidates the right way. I’m not interested in wasting their time simply because sending out automated e-mails and hoping for the best is easier than actually rolling up your sleeves and doing some real recruiting. Sure, it takes more time – and more effort – but then again, everything worthwhile does. And if you’re a recruiter, then nothing is more worthwhile than connecting with the right candidate.

I know that this will fall on deaf ears – it’s false hope to think that somehow, recruiters are suddenly going to become less lazy or that the spam will cease (or even abate, a little), but maybe, just maybe, it will at least hit a nerve to make someone have pause – or pangs of guilt – right before hitting send on their next campaign.

Of course, I wouldn’t count on it, but hey, a guy can always dream, can’t he?


Derek ZellerAbout the Author: Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliancy. Currently, he is a Senior Sourcing Recruiter at Microsoft via Search Wizards.

He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines and technologies. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, military and college recruiting strategies.

You can read his thoughts on or or his own site  Derek currently lives in the DC area.

Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • BFLY

    Recruiting has changed so much in the last 20 years. The problem is the industry itself. The initial pay of those starting in the industry is completely behind the times. Because of this, managers of staffing firms are forced to hire the “he fits the suit” person vs. someone of talent. These people have no tact, no clue and no consultative ability.

  • Telling recruiters to stop sending ‘spam’ (like legitimate 6 figure job opportunity descriptions requiring PhD backgrounds) is a little bit like telling Doctors “Don’t make your patients wait in a waiting room”, or telling Lawyers “Don’t keep charging clients Retainers before you do any work for them.”

    Case in point: I just spent two weeks on a search using no email at all (we were in the midst of changing hosts and didn’t have the option) and I recruited two candidates. Using email, that was the same number I recruited in one day, once our email system was back up and running.

    Another case: My colleague worked on a search for nine months for a client that he has had for 25 years (he has collected a couple million $ in fees from them, by now). He found no candidates in that time that were even interviewable. He asked for my help.

    Within two weeks, I found a candidate who was an outstanding match, who was then hired. If it works, why put it down? Was that a “spray and pray” approach? Obviously not, or it wouldn’t have solved the search… by the way, the position was open for two years before my colleague got the assignment.

    In any case, everyone hates spam. I agree. Recruitment Emails need to be targeted as well as possible. I go through my email lists and clean them every time I use them. I have complaint rates like 1 complaint per every 40,000 emails. People tell me that they really enjoy receiving my emails and that I have ‘the best job opportunities’ they know of. I just placed someone by email recruiting that I’ve known since 1995, but had lost contact with, so it’s not like emails are all going to strangers or inappropriate people.

    Personally, I think having a Harvard Post-doc (for example) telling me how much he appreciates getting unsolicited email from me about an incredible job opportunity, tells me that I am doing something right. Calling that kind of email ‘spam’ is probably inaccurate. I think that the examples you gave, Derdiver, were pretty much spammy, because they were poorly targeted, but I also think that UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) recruitment techniques are very valuable. Perhaps improvements can be made by devoting time to the study of email marketing techniques, and wisely applying them… maybe not to fault the Medium of communication, itself, but the style or content, which is the real problem.

    Good article! Good topic.

  • Rob McIntosh

    Derek – Nice post. Unfortunately as one person commented in your original article, if this approach works then the likelihood of things changing are slim. There is a large section of the marketing industry who jumps up and down with a 3% industry avg. response rate. While I agree this is far from optimal and we all see the negative press these approaches produce, the issue of too many people in the recruitment industry wanting to play the numbers game to produce the results their bosses are holding them accountable for. Heck, I know one corporate recruiter at a large software company who tripled the hires of their peers. When you look under the cover of how they achieve the results they do, at the core of their approach is mass mailing of their own database/network knowing that playing the numbers game will produce the outcome they are after and quickly. So on one hand they receive praise and recognition for their results but on the other hand they are perpetuating the problem.

    • I seriously question whether there really is any problem at all. I have had engineer and scientist friends in the high-tech community for twenty-plus years who tell me that they see nothing wrong with the email approach, and they are top industry players — great guys.

      The last time I saw someone claim that software engineers were getting “flooded” with email (see ) I did the math calculations, and it turned out that these guys were averaging only one email received every 93 days. Enormously exaggerating the amount of offers and contacts received.

      I’ve been doing this for ten years and it works very well — as long as it isn’t the only avenue of approach. I also extensively use social media and my own database of previously collected resumes, society memberships, cold calls, etc.

      The “negative press” has been almost entirely false and total garbage. I’ve confronted some of the authors of these articles and they are too scared to reply — being completely unaccountable is the only solution for them getting caught in their own stupid lies.

      It seems like there is a division in the recruiting industry of people who advocate use of email, and those who don’t. Pick your side. You make your own bed. Now, go lie in it. My business is booming, so I guess (after ten years of email) that it is working, and actively fosters growth.

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  • Trevor Bailey

    Recruiter spam is the bane of my life. Recruitment is incredibly lazy… Jacob Littlestone from Modis Recruitment is the worst culprit:

    Hi [insert name here],

    I hope you had a good weekend… here’s a job that bares no relation to your qualifications and experience.

    Creepy recruiter

  • Guest


    • I thought that I was the “King of Lazy Spam”… so who are those imposters Jacob Littlestone and Alexander Loveridge? On penalty of your head, I insist upon truthful answers.

  • Guest

    Alexander Loveridge from Computer Futures – king of lazy recruiter spam!

    • Matt Charney

      Wow that’s a very specific call out. Ha.

  • Julian Cook

    You might want to take a look at . The biggest offender seems to be Job Diva and this site talks about how to set up filtering to handle all the headers to screen them out. Great article.

  • queenofmeanie

    For years I have been bombarded with the IT Recruiting spams for foreigners. First of all I can do my own coding. I do not need to hire anyone. I have told the same recruiters time and time again to cease and desist and they have refused to do so.

    I want to know and no one wants to tell me is how they obtained my email address if I never contacted them in the first place.

    Everyone needs a job, but stop bothering me about trying to find Ashok a job. Try hiring a veteran instead.

  • Regina

    I am not a recruiter. I am a IT recruiting spamming victim. For several years, I have been inundated with spams from every IT firm in the country. 99.99% of the spams are recruiting jobs for people in India and Pakistan.

    The emails are sent to my personal email account and requests to cease and desist immediately are constantly ignored. I have had my email account for about 17 years and the arrogance of recruiters demanding that I close my email account is appalling.

    I know that recruiters have to survive in the business, however, recruiters need to respect spamming victims as well.

    Prohires Powerhouse contacted me and asked if they could add my email address to their mailing list. Twice I said no. The next day I was hit with over 75,000 spams and counting. It took me months to clean out my email account and as soon as I cleaned it out, I was was hit with an additional 211 pages of emails from independent recruiters who obtained my email address from Prohires Powerhouse.

    Do I have to take the take and come to some of the offices and make my demands clear in person?

    What is it going to take for H-1B recruiters to leave me alone?

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  • Basiclife1

    My LinkedIn profile mentions that I know Java but would never accept a job that requires it. You’d be stunned by how many Java job offers I get.

    If someone can’t take the time to read my profile, I see no reason to take the time to make my response polite…

  • Scott McGregor

    Thank you! For saying what I am roasting in! F**king recruiters are making my job search impossible. I get 1,000 hits on my searches on Indeed and have to go thru to find REAL JOBS versus recruiters trolling for new signups for jobs that don’t exist.

  • Scott McGregor

    It’s not just spamming – it’s trolling for email signups from non-existent jobs that bugs me! “Project Manager $400 per day contract position” yeah right, you get them from time to time so you leave up the ad to get me to signup so you can upsell me your career advancement courses for $399.

  • richardlawrence like to spam me everyday and I am sick of it

  • Mary Johanssen

    Recruiting agencies are the scum of the earth. I send my resume, get a phone interview then they contact all my references, get great references and that’s the end of it. No interviews, just bullshit that the agency is looking for work for me. I notified one agency of a new qualification to add to my skills and had “oh, we don’t deal with that kind of job” the new 2 weeks later I see the same agents name on an advert for exactly the kind of job they denied doing. Oh yes, spam. I get lots of irrelevant job postings sent to me with the tag line “if this isn’t suitable for you, pass it on to anybody you know that might be interested”. Seriously… is that Agency really telling me they’re lazy fuckers?

    • Thomas Johnston

      Mary, here is (are) my two cents.

      I have some recruiters that insist that they must talk to my references first, even before they submit my resume to the client. Initially I took that seriously, until my references were barraged with calls, It was awkward, and annoying, to say the least.

      Since then, I tell recruiters that I will give them references only when a firm offer is made. Some recruiters say they have a “policy” so they can not forward my resume to the client. Then there are others who say “Fine, we won’t contact your references, but still need their details now” (does the even make sense?). In any case, I don’t back off or give them references anymore, until I have a firm offer,

      Believe me when I say this – If a recruiter has faith in your resume, he will convince himself and the client that he doesn’t need to speak to the references at the initial stage, Anyone who says otherwise is a liar, or doesn’t believe what you say on your resume. i would never speak to such a recruiter again. Period.

  • DeeCee

    I have started to think it is an AT&T application, either official or unofficial. So many spam jobs I get seem to refer to something I’ve said in a cell phone conversation or searched online, but they are always foreigners, never appropriate jobs and seem to take the place of the targeted calls I should be getting and used to receive daily a few years ago. Most commenters I have seen on stories such as these are older workers, I’ve wondered if that is the case too. Much of it has come through a referrer called who has the hallmark of sending useless spam under many company names, perhaps to justify an H1B or to take the place of the real positions which are being diverted elsewhere. Resumes which are sent to these people end up in a black hole and nothing ever comes of them. I never respond.

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  • Sneha Gupta

    I had been getting mails for a recruiter – me in bcc , no mail content, just 1 attachment with details about the company.
    When I asked them to stop spamming my mailbox, this is exactly the ‘Senior Recruiter’ had to say – “Please delete ur details in Dice..We are paying for dice and using. Sory for ur inconvenience. Delete details.”
    I am infuriated. Can they ask me to delete my details from a job portal? Can anyone please suggest if I can legally take any action against them for writing to me like this?

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