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I recently saw a post in a Facebook group that I manage for a user group to which I belong. She was brand-new to the group, having joined just hours (maybe even minutes) before she posted.
She turned out to be a recruiter. I won’t say too much about her because her firm is one with which I have a very good relationship. That said, I’d never heard of her, which made me wonder how new she was.
It also made me question her motives for joining the group. It’s one thing if she joined to become an active member of the group or to network, with which I have no problem, but it’s quite another if her sole reason for joining is to post online job solicitations — something with which I take issue. Since she seems new, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. I sent her a PM, explained my relationship with her firm, and asked if I could assist.
It made me think: when do job solicitations become spam?
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about recruiter spam, and, of course, I’ve written extensively about networking. Those of you who are inundated with recruiter emails or postings know how downright aggravating it gets. Unless we’re actively looking for a new position, we have no time or patience for responding to the deluge of messages about which we couldn’t care less. And it’s only once in a great while where we come across one that looks interesting enough to look into it further. And for those of you who think these things are harmless, I once had a bad experience with a spam recruiter.
I do give leeway if the message is from a recruiter or firm that I know. As I’ve written before, it’s about relationships and trust. If a recruiter that I know asks me if I know someone with a certain set of skills, I would be happy to refer someone to him or her, and I’ll be more likely to take their job search requests more seriously. But if the recruiter is someone I don’t know who cold-calls me asking for a referral, what do you think the chances are that I would give one? In all likelihood, slim to none.
So in my mind, the difference between a referral and spam is the relationship. If the person who posted that request already had a preexisting relationship with our group, I’d be happy to see the post. But that she posted nearly immediately after joining the Facebook group has me questioning her motives. Establish yourself before you go looking for favors.
Postscript: As I was winding up this article, the recruiter to whom I sent the PM responded to me, and in doing so, dropped the name of someone I know. I now trust her a bit more, and I feel a little more comfortable with her posting.
I’ve written some articles about spam recruiters. To put it very bluntly, spam recruiters are evil. They do not work for your best interests; they are just looking to make a buck. And it’s a pervasive problem. Do a Google search for “recruiter spam” and take a look at all the hits that come up. Quite frankly, I hate them. I’ve had bad experiences with them. I’ve done plenty of ranting about them. Every time I get an email from a spam recruiter, it goes right into the trash.
“Okay, Ray,” you might say. “We get it. You hate recruiter spam. So what do you think makes a good recruiter?”
That’s a fair question. Let’s talk about that.
I’ll say that I have a number of friends who are recruiters. I have very good relationships with many of them. There are many good recruiters out there who make good networking contacts. I can easily drop them a line to say “what’s up?” Every now and then, they’ll send messages like, “I’m looking to fill such-and-such position. Can you help me out?” If I know someone, I’ll gladly pass names along. If I have a good relationship with a recruiter, I make sure that I maintain it — even if I’m not actively looking for a new position.
So in my mind, here are some of the things that make a good recruiter.
These are some of the characteristics that I feel make a good recruiter (and if you have any more that I’ve left out, feel free to add them below in the comments section). Good recruiters are good people with whom to establish relationships — even if you’re not looking for a job — and may very well be some of the best networking contacts you could have.
This article may seem to go against one of the things that I preach in my ‘blogging presentation, and that is to avoid frustrated rants and “getting it out of your system.” Maybe I should be a little more specific. One should avoid mindless rants in which you angrily spew your passions without any thoughts, and in which you say things that you’ll later regret.
Yes, this article is a rant. However, it is not without thought, and there is a purpose to this post.
As many of my regular followers (both of you) are likely aware, I write and present primarily on professional development topics. I’m not as technically sharp as I once was, but I still contribute to groups such as PASS and SQL Saturday in the form of “soft” topics that are of interest to industry professionals. I’ve started using this analogy during my presentation introductions: “when it comes to my relationship with PASS and SQL Saturday, I’m the professor at MIT who teaches English Lit.”
Among other things — and if you follow my ‘blog and my presentations, you probably already know this — I write a lot about networking. These days, networking is the lifeblood of one’s career path.
However, there is a difference between networking and connecting. Therein lies the heart of my rant. I’ve written before about people who don’t give a crap about actual networking, as well as spam recruiters.
I still get connect requests from these people, and it frustrates me to no end. So with that…
And I have a special rant regarding spam recruiters. I hate spam recruiters passionately. (I once had a bad experience with a spam recruiter — if you really want to hear more about it, I talk about it in the link.) They give legitimate recruiters a bad name. All of the above bullet points about connecting apply, along with these points.
Having gotten that out of my system, I do have some points for legitimate recruiters (some of whom are my friends).
Okay. That’s out of my system. I feel better now.
Over the weekend (specifically, while I was at SQL Saturday Philadelphia), I received two different LinkedIn connect requests. The two requests were polar opposites, and I thought they were worthwhile writing about in this article.
As a technical professional, I often receive “cold-call” connect requests or emails. I am very wary and picky about with whom I connect; indeed, I’ve written before about spam recruiters. The problem has become so pervasive that I included this note at the top of my LinkedIn profile summary: “If you want to connect with me, please indicate how we’re connected; otherwise, I will ignore or delete your request. I do NOT accept unsolicited connect requests from people I don’t know.”
In my networking presentation, I include a section on “how to break the ice” — that is, how to initiate a networking contact with someone you don’t know. The two requests I received were perfect case studies as to what to do — and what NOT to do.
I’ll start with the one that describes what not to do. I received a “cold-call” connect request from someone who sent me the following note. Keep in mind that I do not know this person.
“I’m always looking to build my network with great people and would be delighted to have you in my network. I hope you’ll consider connecting!”(name withheld)
If you’ve attended my presentation, or if you’ve downloaded or perused my PowerPoint slides, you’ll know that I include a section of what not to do. This person’s email checked off one of the boxes in that category: brown-nosing/sucking up/kissing up. The message was canned, impersonal, and insincere. Not only that, but she gave absolutely no indication as to how we’re connected or if we have any kind of (business) relationship. She gave me absolutely no reason for me to connect with her. “Wanting to build my network with great people” is NOT a reason for me to connect with you!!! Not only did she not give me a reason to connect, the tone of her message insulted my intelligence. This message is a perfect example of how NOT to establish a networking contact.
(And in case you’re wondering, I deleted this person’s request immediately.)
On the other side of the coin, I received this message from someone who attended my SQL Saturday presentation this past weekend. Again, I did not know this person. However…
“I really enjoyed your presentation on technical writing at SQL Saturday today! The tie challenge was a really interesting way to get the point across. I’d like to stay in touch and maybe pick your brain about tech writing again at some point in the future.”(name also withheld)
(Note: the “tie challenge” refers to a demo in my presentation. If you haven’t seen my presentation, I’m not telling you what it is. You’ll have to attend to find out! 🙂 )
To the person who wrote this email (if you’re reading this): nice job! The message was sincere, complimentary (“I enjoyed the presentation”), referred to specific things (so I knew she attended my presentation; therefore, we have a connection of some type), and asked to potentially continue a conversation (“maybe pick your brain”). This is a perfect example as to how to initiate contact and break the ice. I was happy to connect with this person, and I did.
(P.S. I might use your message as an example the next time I give my networking presentation!)
If you want to establish a networking contact, you need to be sincere and give the person a reason to connect. Make the person feel valued. This applies to any networking situation, regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or online. Following this guideline will ensure that your networking efforts are much more successful.
I had some things happen just within the past week that reminded me about the power of networking, and just how well-connected I actually am.
At my CrossFit gym last week, one member of the racquetball club (which occupies the same building as the CrossFit gym) and whom I knew from a previous job, told me he might be looking to move on. I told him to connect with me over LinkedIn, which he did.
The other day, another friend from another former job also told me he was looking, and was wondering if I knew anyone whom he could contact about opportunities. I told him to email me his resume, along with an email and phone number where he wouldn’t mind being contacted by recruiters, and a quick description of the position he was seeking. I took his information and submitted a referral to several recruiters I know, most of whom said they would reach out to him.
And last night, I was contacted by my fraternity chapter, telling me that one of their recent graduates was looking into a technology career, and was wondering if I had any insights. We connected and chatted via email, and I told him to connect with me on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Additionally, about a month ago, I signed up for a mentoring program, also organized by my fraternity, and I was assigned a pledge (I believe the politically-correct term they’re using these days is “membership candidate” — sorry, I’m old school) as my mentee. A little while ago as I was writing this, I made arrangements to meet with both of them tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll be taking a quick day trip out to Syracuse tomorrow. (As an added bonus, tomorrow is Syracuse’s Spring Game, which gives me another reason to make the trip.)
(I have a number of other experiences involving mentoring and paying it forward that I’ve been meaning to write up in a yet-to-be-written ‘blog article, but I haven’t yet gotten around to it. Stay tuned.)
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s four different people connected to me through three different ways (well, four if you count that one of those contacts is connected through both my gym and a former job). That represents just a small fraction of my network. My network extends a lot further than that (last I checked, I had more than five hundred LinkedIn connections), which enables me to connect these people with many more.
Networking is a powerful tool when it comes to advancing your career. Whether you’re looking to make a move, learn something new, or improve your standing, you need to actively network. You never know where it might lead.
If you are a technology professional, chances are you’ve received the emails. They usually look something like this:
Subject: [Some job that doesn’t interest me] located in [some place where I’m not willing to relocate]
Dear job seeker:
I trust you are having a pleasant day!
I came across your profile, and I believe you are a perfect fit for our exciting job opportunity! We have a position for [some position about which I couldn’t care less] located in [some place where I’m not willing to move].
If you think you are an ideal candidate for this exciting position, please call me immediately at (800) 555-1212!
(* My actual email address is suppressed for reasons I think are obvious.)
To me, these emails are no different from the email spam I receive that says I need to respond to claim $1,000,000 from a bank in Nigeria. I’ll make this clear: spam is a major pet peeve of mine, and is something I hate passionately.
I came across this link that perfectly sums up why I hate these recruitment tactics. I recently performed a Google search on “recruiting spam” — and the number of links I saw was overwhelming.
Among other things, I found a link by my friend, James Serra, who wrote this article about low-rate recruiters. I also recently saw one of his SQL Saturday presentations where he talks about enhancing your career. (It is an excellent presentation; I recommend it highly.)
In his presentation, James talks about taking risks, and he told stories about how he pulled up stakes to seek lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Personally, I am not willing to pull up my roots and relocate (having said that, you are not me), but I do understand what he means by taking risks, especially calculated ones. You need to take risks to get ahead, and you need to step out of your comfort zone. (This is outside the scope of this article, and is another topic for another time.)
However, it’s one thing for opportunity (where you’d take a risk) to present itself. It is quite another when a “get rich scheme” crosses your inbox.
I once had a bad experience with a spam recruiter. He set me up on an interview. When I asked the company with which I was interviewing, he would only say it was “an insurance company.” He did not reveal much in the way of information. I only found out where I was interviewing only hours before I was supposed to interview. It ended up being for a company where I was not interested in working. After that experience, I told myself that not only was I never going to work with that recruiter again, I also would never again accept any unsolicited recruiter requests.
A good ethical recruiter will take the time to get to know you, gauge your career interests, get an idea of where you want to go, and respect what you want to do. A spam recruiter could not care less about any of this. All they want to do is make a buck, and they are willing to exploit you to do it.
I recently responded to a recruiter in which I apologized for my harsh response. Like so many unsolicited recruiting emails, he pitched a position outside my geographic interests that did not interest me. After I responded, he wrote me back to apologize, and he was sincere in his response. I had made numerous attempts to unsubscribe from his list, to no avail (a fact that I mentioned in my email to him). He mentioned that he had looked into it, confirmed that there was an issue, and made efforts to correct it. His efforts actually swayed me. I wrote back to apologize and to say that I was willing to work with him. (Legitimate recruiters, take note; efforts like this go a long way.)
(Disclosure: I am not, I repeat, not, actively seeking new employment; I’m happy in my current position. However, I would also be remiss if I did not consider opportunities that could potentially represent a step up. See my paragraph above about taking calculated risks.)
Swimming in the candidate pool can be an interesting, exciting, and even rewarding experience. Just be aware that, within that pool, you might be swimming with sharks.
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