Spam: it’s not just for breakfast any more, but what you may not realize as a recruiter is it could be keeping food off of your table.
Most recruiters are highly dependent on email. A single blocked email can result in the loss of a five-figure fee or the hiring loss of the top candidate. Blocked emails can be disastrous either from the receiving or the sending side. What most recruiters don’t realize is that blocked emails occur mostly as a result of the email recipient trying to stop spam. (And no, we’re not talking about that oh-so-yummy canned ham product!)
What Is Spam?
Here is partial definition from Wikipedia: “Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media … ”
“Spamming remains economically viable for advertisers because they have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. In the year 2011, the estimated figure for spam messages is around seven trillion. The costs, such as lost productivity and fraud, are borne by the public and by Internet Service Providers, which have been forced to add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions.”
The effects of the spam epidemic can be felt far and wide, but are felt most acutely when important emails get blocked because someone, somewhere thinks it might be spam.
Can I Control What Email Gets Blocked as Spam?
There are multiple distinct chokepoints to consider whether you are sending or receiving email. Any of these can be the point at which an email fails to get to the recipient as intended. Some of these are in your control and some are not. It is often difficult to determine where the guilt or innocence lies when it comes to email spam blocking. Typically when you send an email, the route that email takes is as follows:
- Your email application (Outlook, Exchange, Eudora, etc.) — this is the place you create your email.
- Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — you use this to connect to the mail server that is going to send your email out.
- Your email provider’s SMTP server — this is the mail server used for sending emails.
- Your recipient’s POP server — this is the mail server that receives emails for your recipient of the email.
- Your recipient’s email application (Outlook, Exchange, etc.) — this is where your email is received and viewed by the recipient.
When you receive email, the process is reversed. At each step of the way, spam blocking is usually enacted in some way. It’s a wonder that any email ever gets to the end user! While some of this is totally out of your hands, there are two distinct ways you can potentially control the receipt or blocking of email messages.
Pointers for Receiving Emails From Clients or Applicants
First of all, think about your attitude toward spam. Recruiters are a different breed when it comes to receiving email. Many recruiters have the attitude of “I never saw an email I didn’t like.” On the receiving side for a recruiter there may not be such a thing as spam. As a recruiter, would you rather have to delete 50-100 emails each day that are spam or potentially miss out on that placement email that puts money in your pocket? Tightening down on your spam control may cause you to miss an email from a client requesting to interview an applicant or you may be missing a rich source for leads.
The more you or your email provider put software in place to stop you from receiving spam, the higher the risk of important emails either being totally blocked or getting delivered to your Junk Email folder.
If you are using an email program like Outlook to open your email, you can control some of the spam settings in addition to training Outlook on what are good and what bad emails. In Outlook you have the option of controlling the level of spam filtering you have. In addition, when you right-click on any email, you have the option to add the sender to your blocked sender list, which moves the email to your junk folder and puts their name on your blocked list. It also allows you to add safe senders to a list, so all the mail from that individual will always be delivered to your Inbox, regardless of the content. So if you are missing emails, the first thing to do is check how your Outlook is set!
What if the Email Is Getting Blocked Somewhere in the Middle?
ISP and email provider spam blocking is the hardest thing to track down. Spam is much more than a nuisance of having to wade through junk email to find good ones. Many spam emails contain viruses, malware, or links to websites that harbor malicious software, so ISP and email providers usually have robust programs in place to stop this kind of email. You will want to be cautions of these malicious emails, too, especially if you are “letting everything through.” You can always confirm an email is valid if you take the time to look at Internet headers. Most email programs have a way to look at the Internet header, which always shows you the real sender, regardless of what is in the From address. In Outlook you can just right click the email and go to the Message Options. Here is an example of an Internet header:
Received: (qmail 19740 invoked by uid 78); 13 Jun 2011 14:08:57 -0000
Received: from unknown (HELO cloudmark1) (10.49.16.98)
by 0 with SMTP; 13 Jun 2011 14:08:57 -0000
Received: from [184.108.40.206] ([220.127.116.11:57007] helo=omr1.networksolutionsemail.com)
by cm-mr23 (envelope-from <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
(ecelerity 18.104.22.168 r(37554)) with ESMTP
id D5/49-27784-8F916FD4; Mon, 13 Jun 2011 10:08:57 -0400
Received: from cm-omr14 (mail.networksolutionsemail.com [22.214.171.124])
by omr1.networksolutionsemail.com (8.13.6/8.13.6) with ESMTP id p5DE8uQo008126
for <email@example.com>; Mon, 13 Jun 2011 10:08:56 -0400
Authentication-Results: cm-omr14 firstname.lastname@example.org; auth=pass (LOGIN)
Received: from [126.96.36.199] ([188.8.131.52:2649] helo=appsrv3)
by cm-omr14 (envelope-from <email@example.com>)
(ecelerity 184.108.40.206 r(31179/31189)) with ESMTPA
id 3D/CE-22125-8F916FD4; Mon, 13 Jun 2011 10:08:56 -0400
From: “Gopher Support” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Test message
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 08:08:56 -0600
X-Mailer: Microsoft Office Outlook 12.0
Look for the “Received From” information which will have the real mail server name and IP address that sent the email. If the domains don’t match with the “From” address on the email, you can be 99% sure it is SPAM and should be deleted — and deleted from your deleted items.
If your ISP is blocking good emails, it will help you get your point across to them if you can have the sender get you the Internet header like above and the email that shows the reason it was blocked You may find that you get into the realm of reverse DNS lookups or SMTP protocols to determine if an email is valid. Don’t let the technology deter you. These are just other ways that an Internet provider tries to protect you from spam. If you find they are blocking your emails from getting to you, and they are using spam-blocking software, see if you can remove your email address from using the filter so you get your good emails. If also helps to have a backup email address at one of the free email providers like Yahoo that you can have a sender send to if you are not getting their email at your regular address. Each major mail provider uses different ways to determine spam, so you will find that you may not get an email sent to you at your main email but it does come to your Gmail or hotmail account.
Pointers for Sending Emails to Clients or Candidates
The first red flag for most spam filters and for readers of email is something coming from email@example.com. There are two things to be aware of here. First, if you are in business, you loose legitimacy by not having an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. Ditch the Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail accounts as your main business accounts! These email sources were never meant to be used for business purposes. Setup a domain name and email address for yourself that defines you and your business. Second, emails from these sources are the main source of spam worldwide and the first emails to get blocked. You are doing yourself a disservice by using one of these for your main business account.
Next, if you send out a lot of unsolicited mailings you will always want to include the information required by the CAN-SPAM act. At a minimum, this must include the physical address of your company and a way to opt out if they no longer want to receive unsolicited emails from you. A lot of providers are looking for this information and will add you to their blacklist if you are not in compliance. AOL will put you on its blacklist if one person at AOL reports you as a spammer. You then have to go to AOL’s website and try and get yourself removed. Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail also have list that will block your emails from being delivered if for some reason you get yourself on a Blacklist.
Lastly, drop the fancy signatures with pictures, logos, etc. and opt for a clean, easy-to-read signature for your email messages. Even if your email doesn’t get tagged as spam, sometimes images are blocked and not visible to the recipient. If this is the only way for you to convey your contact information, you may not be giving your recipients a way to get in touch with you.
Below are some links if you want more information about spam.
- AOL’s postmaster page describing the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance Proposal
- Anti-Spam Research Group. ASRG is part of the IRTF, and affiliated with the IETF
- Anti spam info & resource page of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
- CAUBE.AU – Fight Spam in Australia, The Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email, Australia
- Composing abuse reports — what to send, how to send it, where to send it, and what not to send or do.
- “Computer Incident Advisory Committee’s suggestions: E-Mail Spamming countermeasures: Detection and prevention of E-Mail spamming” (Shawn Hernan, with James R. Cutler and David Harris)
- “Historical Development of Spam Fighting in Relation to Threat of Computer-Aware Criminals, and Public Safety” by Neil Schwartzman
- Mail DDoS Attacks through Mail Non Delivery Messages and Backscatter
- Spam Laws United States, European Union, and other countries’ laws and pending legislation regarding unsolicited commercial email
- Stopping Spam An article about spam in Scientific American
- Yahoo’s Anti-Spam Resource Center
- Spam Filter Comparison
- SpamWise — Tools to check your website for address-harvesting risks