Who Cares About You – Who Do You Know?

Not long ago I  was brought into a Twitter conversation related to one of my pet peeves when it comes to candidate messaging.

As you can see below, a recruiter left a comment on Jess’ blog trying to recruit her.

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I’d actually like to give the recruiter some credit for at least thinking outside of the box by leaving a comment on her blog, but this is a particularly weak recruiting email, and I do not ever recommend sending job descriptions with required skills, no matter how brief, in initial outreach efforts. However, that’s the topic of another post entirely.

What I want to zero in on is what Daniel (CEO of Greenhouse) called out:

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Who Cares About You - Who Do You Know?Click To Tweet

The reality is that this kind of “If you’re not interested please pass this along to your colleagues” approach is disingenuous.

You’re kind of cute – would you like to go out sometime? Wait – before you respond, just in case you say no, do you have any hot friends?

If you are really interested in a specific person, you won’t ask if they have any “hot friends” before they even respond to your initial approach. If you’re on the receiving end of this kind of recruiting approach (which I have been), it’s pretty obvious you’re only getting an email because you came up in some recruiter’s search results, not because they are specifically interested in recruiting YOU.

Think about it for a moment.

If someone is so quick to try and move on to your network without even waiting for you to respond, it was never really about you in the first place. So what’s your motivation to help out the recruiter in this situation?

Also, do recruiters really believe people will pass an unknown recruiter with whom they haven’t even exchanged words with along to their colleagues? I’m sure it does actually happen from time to time, but it’s highly unlikely for obvious reasons if you think like the person on the other end rather than a recruiter.

Ay, there’s the rub.

To a recruiter, it can seem to make perfect sense to think, “Well, if they aren’t interested or available, and they aren’t likely to respond because of such, I’ll just ask them to forward my information to anyone else they might know that would be interested or available.”

I mean, why not at least try?

I’ll give you 2 reasons.

  1. People like to feel wanted, important, and special. When someone seems to be genuinely interested in you specifically, it makes you feel special. Receiving an “If you are not interested, please forward this email to someone who might be” message doesn’t make you feel wanted or important, and it certainly doesn’t make you feel special – the recruiter is already trying to move on to your friends before you even respond. Also, this kind of approach makes people feel as if they were scooped up in an email blast with a ton of other people (and 9 out of 10 times, they probably were), so it was never really about any specific person – anyone will do.  That makes you feel about as special as getting a letter in the mail addressed to you “or current resident.”
  2. When someone receives a request from an unknown (and therefore untrusted) recruiter to be forwarded on to their colleagues, why would they forward on an unknown and untrusted recruiter to their trusted network? What’s their motivation? What’s in it for them? Have you really done anything to earn the privilege? As I like to say, “They don’t know you, they don’t owe you.”

Scumbag-Steve-Recruiter-How-not-to-ask-for-referralsIt is absolutely critical for recruiters to leverage empathy and make an effort to understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of (sometimes countless!) recruiter outreach efforts and how most people think and feel about recruiting messages (and requests, such as to be forwarded on to colleagues) in the first place.

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I’m feeling generous today so I will let you know my secret method for understanding how people think and feel.

Ask them.

I know – really outside the box! 🙂

Seriously though – take the time to ask the people you speak with what they think about the messages they get from recruiters (what they do and do not appreciate) and how they feel about requests from recruiters to be forwarded on to their network before they even respond. Be sure to ask them under what circumstances they would actually consider referring a recruiter to their trusted network. It will help you better understand your target audience so you can be more empathetic and thus more effective in your engagement and referral request efforts.

The Bottom Line

I simply want to put an end to recruiters using the “If you are not interested, please forward this email to someone who might be” approach in initial emails/InMails.

I firmly believe that your initial outreach effort should be solely about the person you’re interested in recruiting – not about being passed on to their colleagues.

If you reach out to someone a second time (which you should if you don’t hear back after your first effort) and you still don’t receive a response, they might not be interested in engaging with you. Respecting and recognizing this, when you reach out a third time, you can let them know you were genuinely interested in engaging them specifically, but given your multiple attempts and their lack of response, you realize that perhaps now isn’t the right time for them to think about making a move. Having said that, you could then politely request that since they presumably aren’t interested, they forward your contact information to anyone they know that might be interested in taking the next step in their career and learning more about the opportunity you originally contacted them about.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on the approach I detailed above?

Have any insights/best practices to share?

With more than 20 years of experience in recruiting, Glen Cathey is a globally recognized sourcing and recruiting leader, blogger (booleanblackbelt.com) and corporate/keynote speaker (9X LinkedIn, 9X SourceCon, 3X Talent42, 2X SOSUEU, Booking.com, PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen, Enterprise Holdings, AstraZeneca…).

Glen currently serves as a Global Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation for Randstad, reporting into the Netherlands, focusing on data-driven recruitment, AI and automation.  Over the course of his career, Glen has been responsible for talent acquisition training, process, technology, analytics and innovation strategies for I.T. staffing and RPO firms with over 100,000 hires annually, and he's hired, trained, developed and led large local, national, global and centralized sourcing and recruiting teams, including National Recruiting Centers with over 300 associates.

He has earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park and is passionate about people, process (Lean) data and analytics, AI and automation, strategy and innovation, leadership and performance.



8 Comments on “Who Cares About You – Who Do You Know?

  1. Totally agree. I think the emails asking for referrals before someone even says no feel very spammy. The best responses I’ve ever received were when I let candidates know specifically what is was about their profile that made me reach out.

  2. Hey, but it seems like “a recruiter” didn’t want to hire specifically “Jess” – she/he just wanted to fill the position in a fast manner. It makes a little sense to me because of desperation. This is probably won’t be a good example, although a person who is thirsty is asking for water in the same time asking where he can get water else. Of course it isn’t good recruiter’s approach, but it is definitely not worth to make an article about it 😉

    1. Stan, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I stand by my decision to take the time to write the post to get recruiters to think before they spammingly ask for referrals before even getting a response back from the person they spammed in the first place. The bottom line is that recruiters should not spam for any reason, least of all desperation.

      Check out the sentiment from a potential candidate’s perspective (source here): http://bit.ly/1zdvKzT

      1. Great article Glen and great commentary Stan. I think both Stan & Glen make valid points here. No doubt the recruiter’s tactic and wording in this instance can use improvement. However, I think Glen might be overly critical and might overly analyzing the issue. As Stan points out, the recruiter does not appear to be trying to recruit Jess (again, no argument that the tactics and wording could be much improved). Assuming the recruiters true goal was to get referrals from an influencer (Jess) and not to actually recruit Jess, we must judge her based on that goal rather than as an effort to recruit her.

        It is important to respect when a recruiter is functioning as a marketer (trying to get the word out about the job opening) versus acting as a salesman (actively trying to recruit a specific person or group of people). When acting like a marketer the message needs to be broader and strike a delicate balance between the 2 extremes of being spammy or too salesy than when a recruiter is is being a salesman for a specific job opening to a specific person or group . There are obvious faults and consequences with both extremes. Much of Glen’s article seems to be grading the recruiter on efforts to “sell” Jess on the job, when that does not appear to be the recruiters goal. I agree 100% with Glen that recruiters should always try and target their messages as much as possible and wait for answers when trying to recruit someone before asking for referrals. However, as mentioned previously, the recruiter in this instance does not appear to be trying to recruit Jess, and therefore she is not being judged appropriately. The recruiter should be critiqued as a marketer rather than a salesman.

        1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. However, I respectfully disagree.

          The opening line of the message is, “I’m trying to fill a contract position in Hoboken, NJ. Please contact me ASAP if you would like to pursue further.”

          Jess is a UX pro, presumably why the recruiter took the time to find her specifically given the role the recruiter referenced.

          If the recruiter were really in “marketer” mode and they weren’t trying to recruit Jess, they would not have said anything to Jess specifically (e.g., hello Jess…) – it was a comment on her blog, not an email to her. Simply leaving a comment on her blog about the fact that they were trying to fill a position (poor marketing/sales verbiage, btw) would likely result in Jess seeing the comment as well as anyone reading Jess’s blog, presumably other UX/UI pros – which wouldn’t be a bad idea. If the goal wasn’t to sell Jess on the opportunity, why address her specifically and ask her to contact them ASAP if she would like to pursue further?

          1. Thank you Glen.You and I are in full agreement that her wording could use improvement. In my opinion, it is clear that the recruiter’s true-primary goal is to market to Jess rather than to sell to Jess. That is different than saying marketing is her only goal. Clearly the recruiter hopes Jess happens to be interested and to be a match. However, I believe it is clear the recruiter recognizes that it is unlikely Jess is interested/a true match as demonstrated by the recruiter immediately asking for referrals. If the recruiter was truly trying to sell the position to Jess, he/she does not make much of a sales effort at all.

  3. Recruiting is about building relationships with
    candidates, hiring managers, etc. As a recruiter, you have a brand that you are
    showcasing when reaching out to any of those people. Spam email/shotgun approach
    is not the way to build your brand, develop relationships or a network! Nice
    article Glen!

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