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I recently happened upon an article published via LinkedIn that, while not entirely representative of job recruiters as a profession, did indirectly epitomize the underbelly of the recruiting process. The article is entitled “The Recruiter Never Called Me Back” written by Michael Pietrack and essentially underscores the lack of fairness and inequality not only in the hiring and recruiting process, but in the American workforce in general. I would relate the sense of dismay and appall I felt after having read this article. However, I have all-too-often found myself on the receiving end of the very principles, techniques and philosophies Mr. Pietrack outlines – suggesting, perhaps, this is something of a trend within the industry. And while I have worked with a number of fine recruiters, it seems I’ve had a greater number of poor experiences than positive. And I needn’t mention I am a user experience professional with a nasty habit of analyzing everything from the experience of standing in line to the experience of being interviewed.

But allow me to return to the very subject spawning this open letter. Mr. Pietrack’s article begins by freely admitting he sends bulk emails (spam) to potential applicants calling it a necessary evil of his profession. He completely ignores any ethical implications of spamming 100s of applicants and goes on to state, “Once you get an obvious bulk email from me or from another firm, here are a couple “do” and “don’t” suggestions to help you improve your success rate of getting a reply.” He then delivers a series of ironic requests to include:

  • Responding in a professional way
  • Reading the recruiter’s spam mail completely
  • Ensuring you are a good fit
  • Not asking any questions about the company or the salary
  • Not asking any questions via email

He concludes with an example of what he considers to be a professional response – a sample or draft email response. And while, Mr. Pietrack has been understandably lambasted via the comment section of his article (with nearly 500 comments), I thought it an apt example to begin this letter – an open letter to all recruiters.

I understand recruiters are busy people with many jobs to fill, numerous calls to make and leads to follow up on. I also understand you are often attempting to fill a position you know very little about in terms of the skill set it requires and the type of person who might be the ideal candidate. This, understandably, puts you in a challenging position. As a user experience professional, I am trained to understand “user challenges” and how to “engineer an experience.” I also receive numerous calls from many of you each week and can offer you a window into the user’s experience upon being contacted. The following are points you should keep in mind as you reach out to clients each week.

Be Personal

I get this a lot: Recruiter emails or calls, I take time out of my day to respond and receive nothing back – not even a thanks or “maybe next time.” Your greatest resource in business will be the relationships you both cultivate and carefully curate. You are much more likely to garner a response when you know the client or at least take the time to respond to their inquiries or reply to their correspondence. This means no bulk emails with the tag line “I think you are a perfect fit for this position.” This means no bulk emails at all (especially when you get my name wrong). Being personal also means: Don’t be shortsighted. I may not be interested in this position or qualified, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be the perfect candidate for a position that comes along next month. Blowing me off today is a surefire way to ensure I don’t respond to you the next time you contact me. Remember: I’m a person, not a piece meat you can herd into a cubicle so you can collect a commission.

But Don’t be too Personal

The routine goes something like this: My phone rings, a message is left, I get an email 60 seconds later followed by a request to connect on LinkedIn. First, just because you recruit for my industry does not mean we should be professional contacts – especially when I have not even met you. I don’t know why people think this is ok. I suppose for some, the number of contacts is more important than the contacts themselves. Doesn’t make me feel very special. Plus, when you try to connect, I have to ignore the request, which is sort of awkward for both of us, right? I do connect and have connections with recruiters whom I personally know or trust or have worked with. They are the ones who took time to get to know me and develop a relationship – the good ones. Nevertheless, an email is a sufficient mode of contact (assuming it is personal and not spam). I don’t need a phone call in the middle of the day when I am at my desk to ask me if I am interested in another position. Puts me in sort of a weird position considering I don’t want to discuss this issue in earshot of a dozen co-workers. So think about the person on the other end of your inquiry. Most of you don’t have a personal relationship with me. Try and consider that when contacting me.

Know Who I Am

I don’t write .Net code or Java. Conversely, I am not a junior designer just out of school. Ensure I am at the very least a partial match for the position before sending me a potential job “I am a perfect fit for.” I get a lot of positions sent my way I am in no way a match for and any able-bodied recruiter should have known better. But this all goes back to “being personal” and taking some time to eventually develop a relationship with your client-base rather than spamming the entire profession.

Know the Job

I realize UX is not exactly a straightforward position and isn’t easy to understand. But take some time to at least know the basics. I hypothesize this is why I receive so many position inquiries that are not a good match – the recruiter simply does not understand the profession. But you have to know the job to recruit the right person. However, I think more recruiters are motivated by the commission they receive than matching the right candidate with the right position. That is just bad business all the way around. Knowing the profession and pitching the right jobs to the right candidates keeps you from looking like a third rate used car salesman just trying to make your monthly quota.

Get Your People Connected

My phone rings. “Hi this is Kelly from Insight Global.” I answer and state I am not looking. Two hours later: “Hi this is Trish from Insight Global.” I then get an email from a different person from the same company and a subsequent LinkedIn request, of course. After awhile, I quit answering calls from Insight Global and many other companies because even when I told you I wasn’t looking, I would get a call from someone different a week later. It was obvious you didn’t sync your databases if you even have them. This is a system built to satisfy the corporations at the expense of people like me. Think about the experience of the client as well as the corporation. The client is the corporation, but it is also me – a human being. Plus, this disorganization makes you and your colleagues all look like the Keystone Cops of the industry. So connect with your colleagues and try to weed out the duplicate contacts.

Give Me the Details

I have had conversations with many of you who refuse to tell me who the company is or what the salary range is and sometimes even the industry the position is located in. I call these the “007 Recruiters.” They profusely ascertain how important the confidentiality of their client is and how they cannot reveal such [top secret] information. Why would I bother to take 10-15 minutes out of my day to phone you or email back and forth with you about a position I am clearly not interested in or is not even close to the pay range I would need? This wouldn’t be such a big deal if I were not in a profession where I receive multiple calls each week – sometimes a dozen or more. Just like you need to be able to quickly screen out applicants who do not meet the standards for the position, I need to weed out companies and positions who do not meet my requirements. If you can’t share the details of the position with me so I can quickly decide whether to proceed, then simply don’t reach out at all.

Know What the Balance Is

Who is the client? Is the hiring organization the client? Or am I? I work in a profession where there is a high demand for our services. I have a job – a good one. So it seems to me, I am the client even though I am not buying anything. I have a service that is in demand and there is a hiring organization that needs that service. I don’t necessarily need to partner with the hiring organization since I already have a good position. This means the balance is skewed in my favor. If most recruiters understood this, I wouldn’t have to write this letter. Knowing the balance changes how you approach me – or at least it should. Make it easy for me – not you. Understand this and you will have clients beating a path to your door.

Follow Up

Last point: Simply follow up with clients. Let us know if we didn’t get the position or are not a good match. And when I send you a highly qualified Senior UX Designer, follow through with them. You know who I am talking about here, Onward Search. I have known a recruiter for years who always calls me about a position, we make small talk and he seems like a real nice guy. When I finally send him a candidate or indicate interest in talking with him about a position, I always get zero follow through. The last time he did this was with a very close and good friend of mine. No follow through. No contact. That ended my relationship with that recruiter. His lack professionalism made me look unprofessional for recommending him and for wasting my colleague’s time. Follow-up also includes responding to an email when I reply indicating I am not interested in a position. Thanking me for my time in a short response is not only polite, but makes it look as though you are not simply out “hunting heads” and filling cubes.

But you know all of this because this is just essential etiquette in how we communicate professionally and, at its most basic level, simply as humans. The biggest point to remember is: If you are going to propose a position to a “user experience” professional, you should carefully consider the experience you provide in doing so. We are extremely critical of not only experiences related to software and interfaces, but in all things to include the entire hiring process. Why would I ever want to hire in with an organization where the hiring experience is substandard? What does that say for the user experience of their product? Or the uphill battle I will face selling user experience to a company that just doesn’t get it? If the interview process is completely flawed, it could very well be representative of the entire position itself. And you, as a recruiter, are part of the hiring experience. You indirectly represent the company you are hiring for. Keeping in mind some very basic etiquette, will greatly increase your client network as well as your probability of filling the position.

But, experience tells me, many of you will never understand “the experience of the hire” despite this being your bread and butter. Most of you won’t get this and will continue to chase the dollar. But one of you will get it. One of you will take this advice to heart. And at the risk of sounding overly dramatic: You, kind soul, is who this open letter is for. Go forth and multiply. Live long and prosper. And, oh yeah, feel free to give me a ring anytime or connect via LinkedIn.



Chris Kiess
Senior UX Designer


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