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Headhunting in 2016

I received yet another headhunting attempt and since it's a great example of things done wrong I thought I'd share some things about it and some messages I've gotten on LinkedIn. I really don't understand how some of these people stay in business when they work like this.

Email From Headhunting Company


I hope you are well and do not mind the approach again.  We have been in touch a few times and i am conscious it is the summer period so new jobs may not be upper most in your mind!

Yes, your company has contacted me several times. From the emails I haven't deleted it seems at least five times, not always you. I have also replied to your company.

Summer period? That doesn't affect my interest in new jobs. Might for someone, so I guess that's ok. And yes, I do mind the approach for the reasons I'll explain here.

I am not sure whether you are able to cnsider any new roles at the moment but our Helsinki offices has a number of roles open currently for either iOS or Android Developers.

Well, where did you get my details? In some places I quite clearly say whether I'm interested in new roles. But that's not the problem. The problem is: you don't even ask if I'd be interested in relocating to Helsinki. I do not live there. I have lived there, but have no plans to return. Why does your spam list say that I would be there? Also do you know that I work with iOS and/or Android? It might be obvious from some places that I do with at least one of them, but this might just be a random thing.

And I have responded to your company explicitly saying that I'm not interested in relocating to Helsinki. Why isn't that in your spam database so it would save my time? Probably won't your time since you most likely automate all these emails.

The applicable person should have:

  • Strong object-orientated software design and programming skills
  • Good understanding of concurrent programming
  • Good problem solving skills
  • Familiar with Android and/or iOS SDK - experience in both is a big asset
  • Proven experience in Android and/or iOS app development
  • Experience in C#/C++
  • Good understanding of basic data structures and algorithms

"Object-orientated", I'll let that pass. When would anyone want a person with weak problem solving skills? Or without understanding of basic data structures and algorithms? If you have proven experience you kinda have to have these. But then again, copypasta programming is very popular. But in general, it's an ok-ish list of what they want.

If this could be of potential interest, happy to have a discussion to go over this role and others that we have. 

Look forward to hearing from you and have a great summer holiday!

Now here comes the major problem: how could this be of potential interest? Seriously. This was the whole email. How can I be interested in something I'm not told about at all? What would I be doing? iOS and/or Android development, obviously, but what? LOB? Boring banking stuff? Game development? Contract work for random companies? Cutting edge application development for a crappy startup?

What would I get? You want those things, what about me? Are you thinking I'm so desperate that I'd jump to the first chance of getting a new job? Do I get a good salary? Off-site working possible? What tools I'd use? Can I choose my own environment? Hardware? What kind of processes are in place? Who is the customer?

All this makes me think they just need a developer and that's it. They don't want a specifically good one or anyone with a specific skillset. Just someone who needs a job. That's definitely not me.

Of course I could find some positives here, but it's just by accident: since they don't tell anything about the position (if there even are specific ones) there is no usual babble of competitive salary (well, duh), great teams, how the whole company is so fun and wonderful, how they spend all their freetime together in addition to work time, yadda yadda.

I'm also pretty sure that if I was interested the next step would be "could you fill in this document with things we'd like to know" even though they're the ones getting paid to headhunt and willing to do the work. I've had it several times. I should not be required to do their job in addition to my own.

Headhunter That Cares

As a completely opposite example I can show this simple message I received on LinkedIn and had no trouble answering them immediately:

Hope you are well. Just wanted to check if you would be keen on going back to Helsinki eventually? As I have a position there you might be interested. Let me know and lets be in touch.

Here the hunter clearly shows that they know I have worked in Helsinki, haven't worked there for some time now but it's completely ok to assume I might be only temporarily abroad. The message is short and to the point, so I responded saying that I'm not planning to return in the next few years at least. They can mark me as a not possible candidate and that's it. Neither of us wasted any of our time really. But if I was planning to return, I could've gotten the information.

Another LinkedIn Hunter

I'm looking for a developer for X, almost a guru. The customer is one of the biggest in the Y market and X is becoming more and more important in their field.

Would you be interested in more details?

(Translated from Finnish)

Yes, I was. I'm not a guru in the X mentioned here but I have experience and interest. Field Y matches with my past and interests so a good catch. I did have to reply though that I am abroad and will be, otherwise it might've been interesting.

They did still try to get me more interested and suggested having a phone call about the thing, but that hits another of my personal bad points:

I Don't Like Calls

If you want to give me more information, please do. But don't expect that to happen on a phone call. Not when we're just seeing if we'd like to play together. If you approach me with "a possibly interesting offer" and I say I might be interested, please have a suitably detailed explanation prepared in written form. You can send it to me, I can read it when it's suitable for me and can then reply if I actually am interested in it.

Only after this step would I have a live discussion with you and talk more about myself and your offer and what we might do together. This is especially important since I'm not actively looking for a new job. It wouldn't change it much if I was, but I might agree more easily to a call.

In General

I really hope headhunters would at some point understand that especially in the IT sector they really need to up their game. They need to invest time to see what the candidates actually have done, what they know, what they might want to do etc. You can't go on with the attitude that "our customer needs three developers, so I'll just find three developers." We all have different strengths and weaknesses. You want a Java backend developer? Sure, I can do it. It's just that I don't want to and therefore I'm not specifically good at it, so you really should look elsewhere. You want a .NET developer who can handle both backend and mobile platforms? Sure, I can do it and have quite a lot of experience and interest so I would be a good candidate for it. These things matter a lot.

Usually the messages I receive do have some relevance to my experience, but too rarely they show any effort in checking my past. They're easy to dismiss, sure, but I'd rather not get the messages like the first one. It's plain disrespectful and wastes my time.

And of course I have to add that I don't consider myself to be anything special here. It's not like everyone has to cater to my specific needs. But I do think most if not all developers would prefer to get concise information and a show of effort from the headhunters. You know, being professionals like the developers they try to hunt also are.

I'm also happy I haven't received anything as horrible as this person.

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