No cold calls!!!

This is something that is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve written about this before. Because it keeps happening, I’m writing about this again.

I often get requests to connect from people I don’t know. I will only connect with people with whom I have some kind of established relationship. It’s so bad that I put this note prominently at the top of my LinkedIn profile.

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.

I especially hold a strong contempt for spam recruiters. For starters, I once had a bad experience with a spam recruiter. There are also many documented cases about spam recruiters being bad for professional development. And their queries are often downright insulting to me. They make absolutely no attempt to get to know me or what I want; all they do is look for buzzwords in my LinkedIn profile or resume. Any connect request I receive from a recruiter I’ve never heard of gets deleted immediately.

Granted, just because I don’t know you doesn’t mean I won’t connect with you. However, you need to give me a reason as to why I should connect with you. It doesn’t have to be much — even something as simple as, “I enjoyed (meeting/talking/listening/whatever) to you at (user group/activity/party/whatever). Can we connect?” is enough for me to at least acknowledge you.

There are a number of people who think that just because we have friends or groups in common that they can just connect with me. The fact is, if I don’t know who you are, and you don’t tell me how we’re connected, I will not connect with you. Just because we’re part of the same user group doesn’t mean I will connect with you. Several user groups and activities I’m in often have numbers of people whom I don’t know. You need to tell me we’re in the same user group. Do not make me have to work to figure out who you are.

I am very particular about this, especially in this day and age of identity theft and data security. It’s one thing to be asked a favor, but it’s quite another to be taken advantage of. There is a difference.

Networking is about relationships. Tell me what our relationship is, and I’ll be happy to connect with you, even if I don’t know you. But if you send me an unsolicited connect request with absolutely no indication as to how we’re connected, chances are I will delete or ignore your request. Don’t send me a cold-call connect request with no explanation as to how we’re connected and expect me to connect with you.

When does a request for info become spam?

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.

Ranting my frustration about connect requests

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…

<Rant>
  • If I don’t know who you are, tell me how we’re connected!!! I get a lot of LinkedIn requests from people whom I don’t know from Adam. Some might be people I’ve met from my user group or at a SQL Saturday, but if I’m not friends with you, I didn’t invite you to connect, I don’t interact with you on a semi-regular basis, or we don’t have some kind of common relationship (more on that below), chances are that I’m not going to know or remember who you are. I do NOT connect with random strangers that I don’t know. If you tell me how we’re connected, then I will be happy to connect with you. But if you send me a cold-connect request with no explanation whatsoever — or worse, send me a message where you kiss my ass without explaining how we’re connected (I’ve had that happen before) — then there is about a 98% chance* that I will delete your request. (And if you try to kiss up to me, insult my intelligence, or try to sell me something, that shoots all the way up to 100%.)

    (*If I recognize where you’re from, then there’s a slight chance that I might at least retain the request, not delete it altogether. But if I don’t know you, I still won’t connect until you tell me who you are. Don’t make me have to work to figure out who you are.)
  • I am NOT in a contest to see if I can get the most connections. So you have 3000+ connections. That’s great. But if you ask me for a recommendation, will I know anything about you? Networking is about relationships. If I need a favor (for example, let’s say I lose my job and am looking for a new one), are you willing to help me out? Or are you looking for something for me and are not willing to give anything back? If the answer no to the first question and yes to the latter, then don’t even bother with me.
  • We don’t have to be friends. We just need to have something in common. I don’t expect to be buddies with all my networking connections. Many of these people I will likely not recognize if I bumped into them on the street. Some might even be people with whom I have some kind of conflict. But if we’re both members of the same “family” (e.g. my alma mater, my fraternity, my gym, #SQLFamily, etc.), then I’m more likely to connect with you. If we’re friends, great, but having a networking relationship with acquaintances is okay.

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.

  • I will NOT relocate. If you try to sell me a position that requires me to move, consider your message deleted immediately. I have a home and a life. I have roots where I am, and I will NOT pull them up unless I desperately have to do so. I will NOT even look at any message that tells me about a job in someplace I’ve never heard of or located hundreds of miles from where I live. Every time I see a message like that in my inbox, it goes straight into the trash. I won’t even bother reading what it says.
  • Don’t even bother contacting me about sales or help desk call positions. Although I’m open-minded enough that I’d look into nearly any job depending on the circumstances, there are some positions in which I have absolutely zero interest. I have no interest at all in any type of sales associate or help desk call* position, and I state that very clearly in my LinkedIn overview. (There are a number of other positions as well, but those are the ones about which I get the most emails.) I don’t even know what on my resume says that I have any kind of interest in either position.

    (*I might consider a position that involves managing or supporting a help desk, but again, it depends on the circumstances.)
  • No growth? No dice. I’m always looking to grow. That doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the ladder (although it could mean that). It means improving myself, learning new skills, and possibly even furthering my education. If you don’t offer that, chances are that I won’t budge.

Having gotten that out of my system, I do have some points for legitimate recruiters (some of whom are my friends).

  • I am not actively looking for a position (at least not as of this article), but I do look passively. If something that looks interesting drops in my lap, I’d be stupid to at least not look into it. And if it’s something that works for me — whether it’s an increase in salary or an upward move — then who knows?
  • No, I won’t relocate, but… I do enjoy traveling, so I give bonus points for a position in which I get to do some traveling. Also, I would consider a position where I can work from home full-time, even if the prospective employer is located hundreds of miles away.
</Rant>

Okay. That’s out of my system. I feel better now.

The bane of unsolicited recruiters

If you are a technology professional, chances are you’ve received the emails.  They usually look something like this:

To: Ray_Kim@MyEmail.com*
From: SomeRecruiterIveNeverHeardOf@somecompany.com
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.