Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· chews

Clever gentlemanly recruiter, or spam from a conman?

So talentbin with a mix of scraping and api access crawls sites like github and google plus picking out interesting things developers do and where in the world they do them. In a world were software development is the official cool career of 2013 it's kinda nice actually to be in such high interest. But ego stroking aside, with the data comes interesting uses and I have had a few experiences I will hypothesize as clever almost phishing like attempts to lure developers onto their hook for a new gig elsewhere.

And honestly, this is almost a win win for everybody, the geek gets a better job, the recruiter gets his/her cut of the geek's first year. Everyone is happy? Well not really, and if left unchecked we could an artificial pricing bubble in developer salary, which on a crazy level will influence company valuations in the long run as they raise money in the early days to basically pay for talent till the idea takes flight.

Ok so back to con.
The all together too well written email that goes about flattering you.
Here's one I got.

Greetings, how goes the wild world of Chris? 

My name is Recruiter and I’m with a recruiting company called RecruiterCO, on a team that specializes in placing open source developers here in LA. I actually stumbled across your github and thought it looked impressive; not to mention anyone publically displaying their work has a certain pride in what they do.  I liked seeing the amount of coffeescript you seem comfortable with.  If you’ve had your ear to the ground, the current LA market is hurting for good programmers such as yourself.  If you, any clones of yourself, or anyone you might know are interested in hearing about opportunities, I’d love to be in touch.  All my contact info is below (linkedin included).  Again, we specialize in open source placements so if you want to avoid the problems demonstrated by a recent Dilbert(href) we’d love to help you out.


Tools like Talentbin make it easy for recruiters to mine for geeks based on skill and location, rub is we cant really opt out. Then all you have to do is write a flattering email, put in some variables for template token replacement and you are off to the races. With a typical recruiter making sometimes up to 30K per hire, it's easy to see how these guys aren't really that different than Nigerian 419 scammers. Except, the only one getting scammed here is the highly abstracted investor. But like everything in life it's a game of numbers, but I wonder how well this really is working?

I'd have to imagine well, cause this is the 3rd email I've gotten like this in just a few weeks from different companies reflecting different traits exposed in my github profile. Nevertheless, it feels like such a subtle sell, that the desire for reciprocity in flattery masks the true intention of the note, that I am a product he wants to sell and make a commission from. No different than a house or the credit-derivative it gets packaged into. The point I seemed to lose sight of was that I am an asset in a marketplace, and smart tools can be used to extract the asset(me) and sell it to someone else. More data, even if I am the data (and dont like the fact that I am), is important, and armed with lots of data you can make money. Here was just one example.

So recruiters are going to continue this spearphishing approach to getting developers. I just feel it's gross, and as an entrepreneur who is both a marketer and someone who has had to pay developer salaries, I am angry and annoyed. As a geek, I'm a bit impressed at the solution of the problem and the clever use of our tools. As a philosopher, I don't like the idea of using technology to manipulate people so directly.

Wow, lot's of interesting lessons... in one gentlemanly email, but I guess it's healthy to remember that sometimes a gentlemen is a just a thief made rich.

Forgot to include the subject line... it was "Random Question". Looking back at it I remember seeing a post about the openrates of emails with subject lines like that.... Then I remembered reading this from another post on HN.

1 Response
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I know things may be very different in LA, and get it that California is the tech capital of the country.

I recruit nationally though, and would like to offer some remarks. My company does have a commission program, but it is not based off of trying to lower the salary of the worker. It is a set amount, for every placement we make--so we are not at all incentivized to slash salaries for workers with a given prized skill set. We are rewarded for finding a good match for both parties that results in employment.

The other thing is that whether it is a recruiter, hiring manager, HR person, or small business owner--whoever is hiring you does so with the understanding that their business will profit from you. When a business no longer profits from your position, that position gets eliminated. Whoever hires you gets paid, in part, to do so. I think people make this mental distinction about recruiters that is really misleading when you look at the big picture.

That being said--I understand, and do not approve--of "Technical" recruiters behaving in very non-technical ways. I think that the response of IT professionals to some of the industry behaviors is as good a reason as any to up our technical game. Me personally? I have candidates tell me every day that they can tell I have done a lot of research on the positions and get the technology and really appreciate it. I suppose all this to say there are good apples out there, who enjoy making a good match between people and jobs.

over 1 year ago ·