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Aug 10, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Have you ever wondered how the potential candidates you reach out to on a regular basis actually prefer to be initially contacted? Would you like to know how they really feel about receiving emails, LinkedIn InMails, phone calls, Twitter replies, Facebook messages/comments, and text messages from recruiters?

I’ve compiled a number of surveys that provide significant insight into how people like to be contacted by recruiters, and the results might surprise you.

Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Hiring Landscape survey is quite powerful because it is backed by an impressive sample size of 26,086 responses with global representation from 157 countries. I know, I know – some of you don’t recruit software engineers, but I think the results of Stack Overflow’s survey are likely representative of any in-demand talent pool, I.T. or otherwise.

Take a look for yourself:


Email is Preferred, LinkedIn Liked

Unsurprisingly, email tops the charts for “great” as a way to hear about new job opportunities.

However, what many might find surprising is that LinkedIn InMails aren’t hated much as some would have you believe, and actually have pretty strong ratings for “great” and “tolerate.”

Stack Overflow didn’t publish the percentages, but I’d guess that less than 30% of the 26,086 survey respondents claimed they didn’t have a LinkedIn account – this means that over 70% do. Keep in mind these are software engineers from over 150 countries. I often hear from the LinkedIn-bashing bandwagon riders that software engineers aren’t on LinkedIn. Stack Overflow’s survey data tells an entirely different story.

Also of interest is that the number of people claiming to have a Facebook account was only slightly higher than the number of people who claim to have a LinkedIn account – they’re almost equal.

Phone Calls, Facebook and Twitter Hated Most

I have to admit I was surprised by the fact that developers hated being called about as much as they hate being pinged on Facebook about new job opportunities. However, it still looks as if about 25% of the respondents said the phone was “great,” and over 50% claim that receiving a phone call from a recruiter was either “great” or tolerated.

As you can see, it appears that about 33% of developers claim they don’t have a Twitter account, which is still pretty strong representation on Twitter in my opinion considering the sample size and the massively global reach of the survey.

While the survey results clearly show that a large percentage of people hate being contacted through Facebook about new job opportunities, I know many people who successfully leverage Facebook to reach out to potential candidates. If I had to guess, I would say most people using Facebook to contact people in their target talent pool are probably not doing a very good job in their initial approach and messaging which produces not only a lack of response, but also a negative sentiment towards being approached unsolicited on Facebook.

I am not sure why so many developers would hate being contacted by recruiters on Twitter given that Twitter is a very public/open platform, and I would not think many people would think of Twitter as a “private” place like many people likely feel about Facebook. Do you have any thoughts on this?

What about Text Messaging?

We all know that text messages have a ridiculously high open rate, and I’ve been in some spirited online debates over text messaging people as a first point of contact from sourcers/recruiters. What better way to bolster my opinions than provide some data to back it up?

SIA’s 2015 Temporary Worker Survey asked participants to compare how they feel about text messaging vs. email and phone calls as a preferred method of communication about jobs. You have to be a corporate member to review the report, but I will briefly summarize the results here: In short, less than 10% of survey respondents said text messaging was their preferred method of communication about jobs, and that percentage steadily decreased as compensation increased, to a mere 1% for people making over $60/hour.

Okay, but surely younger generations prefer text messaging, right?


SIA found that less than 10% of people aged <25 to 65 preferred text messaging, with a variance of only 2% between the <25 and 55-65 age groups.


Okay, so maybe people aren’t crazy about receiving text messages as an initial outreach from recruiters. What about using text messaging for following up with candidates?

Software Advice’s 2015 text messaging report found that people prefer emails and phone calls to text messaging, even for scheduling interviews and following up. Similar to SIA, they also found that only 7% of people surveyed preferred text messaging for initial outreach from a recruiter. This is especially telling given that Software Advice’s methodology involved screening their sample to only include respondents who were currently looking for a job. I feel it’s safe to assume that for those who aren’t currently looking for a job, fewer than 7% would prefer receiving an unsolicited text message from a recruiter.


Also of interest is that 32% – 37% of the survey respondents aged 18 – 54 felt that using text messaging in recruitment was unprofessional. Check out the full findings of the survey here.

Final Thoughts

LinkedIn’s 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Survey found that 75% of people aren’t looking to make a change from their current employer, but most of these folks are open to talking to a recruiter and would consider moving jobs.

Even if you don’t recruit software engineers, you’re probably aware that they are very difficult to recruit because they are so highly in demand. However, you might be surprised to know that Stack Overflow’s survey of over 26,000 software engineers around the world found that 59% are open to new job opportunities, and 69% would consider moving jobs.

This means that the majority of some of the most in-demand talent in the world is open to making a change.

So why are they so hard to engage?

First, you may be using methods to contact them that they hate. See above.

Second, your messaging may not be as good as you think. If a highly in-demand person who isn’t actively looking for a new job receives 10-20 (or more!) messages from recruiters every day, why would they respond 1) at all, and 2) to you specifically out of all the others? If your messaging strategy effectively addresses and answers both of those questions, you’re in good shape.

Lastly, I would not use the above data to suggest you should never call someone because surveys show most people prefer email, or that you should not use Facebook or Twitter to reach out to potential candidates. The reality is, beyond the safety net of email, you never know what any particular person’s preferences are for being contacted (phone, Facebook, etc.), and using the phone and social media can be a great way to humanize you, allowing you to stand out from faceless “just another recruiter” status to a real person who has earned a response.

image credit: Scott Knudsen

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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