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.