Why Internet Recruiting Gives Recruiting A Bad Name, And How To Counter It

Dec 18, 2000

A recruiter from a staffing firm recently contacted me to express dismay that I write articles explaining how to do Boolean searches and other hands-on Internet recruiting techniques. In her opinion, “I don’t think I will ever see any software companies release strings of code…This information is valuable, and sharing it so liberally, just does not make good business sense.” She added, “A good recruiter is not threatened by newbies who learned to recruit via the Internet. However, it makes it a bit more difficult when unseasoned, inept recruiters that don’t know client from server barrage potential candidates with job offers that are way out of line with their particular skillsets. It allows bad recruiters to give us all a bad name.” I really do appreciate her writing me and expressing her concern, because it’s probably something many other recruiters think, and we ? individually and as an industry ? need to address it. First, it’s unfortunate because this person read an article of mine that was drastically (and badly) edited from the original version, published without my knowledge in a sister publication of the one to which I originally submitted it. What she read only described the Boolean search technique with little context. This made it seem like all I wanted was to put an atomic bomb in the hands of unsophisticated terrorists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I agree with her that all articles on this topic should put Internet recruiting search techniques in context, reminding that you should follow the relevant rules of “netiquette” (Internet etiquette) when utilizing such techniques. In this case, those rules are:

  • Contact only appropriate candidates: If you don’t have a full resume that lets you determine with reasonable confidence if a candidate is in the ballpark for a position, then don’t email the candidate until you can get sufficient information. And if the candidate is appropriate for that UNIX SysAdmin job, then just mention that position and not all the unrelated Oracle dba and C++ programmer ones.


  • Give them something of value: You are asking people to give of their time to evaluate your information, so give them something back. For example, include the URLs of a couple of cool Web tools that help improve e-marketing efficiencies or free e-newsletters that cover their field. If you don’t know what they are, do some research and find out. It will make you a better recruiter to better understand the business that your candidates are in.
  • Give them a way out: Despite your good intentions, some recipients may never want to hear from you again. So anticipate that and include a sentence at the bottom of the email like “To be permanently removed from our system, reply with the word “REMOVE” in the Subject line.” And if they do, live up to your word and remove them.

These concepts are certainly reinforced in all of my Internet recruiting trainings, though I wish I could say the same for some of my competitors. Such training firms take recruiters at all levels in their classes and inevitably equip many junior recruiters with powerful tools, who are then let loose on the Internet without knowing the fundamentals of relationship recruiting or the netiquette. But Internet training firms aren’t really the core problem. As the recruiter said in the second paragraph of this article, newbies sourcing online won’t be a threat to well-rounded recruiters and their firms. However, if those unseasoned recruiters are making things a bit more difficult for you by presenting inappropriate job offers to candidates, their ineptness is a product of insufficient training from, and high-quota pressures put upon them by, the firms that employ them. It is those firms’ responsibility to teach recruiting fundamentals, not mine. If you want to address bad recruiters giving the rest of the industry a bad name, that priority should be first on your list: mere information disseminators like me are a distant second, at best, as influencers (and indirect ones, at that) of the industry’s reputation. I shouldn’t have to apologize for writing articles describing Boolean or other search techniques: they are necessary to raise awareness and introduce people to the benefits of integrating Internet searching as part of their recruitment efforts so that they contract my training services. In other words, that’s a core marketing method for relatively small companies like mine, and – in contrast to what the recruiter said near the beginning of this article – it does “make good business sense” for me. And since the vast majority of people have responded favorably to my columns for ERE, my information on these Internet search techniques ? used responsibly ? provides something useful to recruiters in return.

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