What It’s Like to be Recruited

by Gordon. 21 Comments

252 Recruiter Emails

Roughly three months ago (in the beginning of March), for a variety of reasons, I decided to put my resume out there on the interwebs. Here I chronicle my experience being a software developer on some of the most popular and widely used job channels.


For some context, I was doing research on an idea I had (now GroupTalent) and was also willing to entertain the idea of flexible interesting mobile projects. My resume included the following:

  1. B.S. in CS and Math
  2. SDE at Microsoft
  3. YC Founder (Team Apart S’08, now defunct)
  4. Misc. consulting
  5. Independent app development (iOS and Android)

My objective read:

Seeking freelance or short term contract iPhone and Android development positions.

I posted this resume on Monster and CareerBuilder. I had also previously created a profile on StackOverflow careers and GitHub jobs. Additionally, and importantly, I had indicated that I would be willing to relocate.


To relate my experience, I will begin with some numbers and then move into a more anecdotal portrayal.

Over the course of the roughly three month period after posting my resume, I diligently labeled all incoming emails from recruiters in GMail. Thankfully, I also use Google voice, and was easily able to identify and count calls and voicemails from recruiters. The numbers I am about to give exclude the numerous automatic emails sent from these sites; they all represent contact from actual people (or at least present themselves as so). The screenshot at the beginning of this post would suggest that I had received 252 emails, but this number is from when I began drafting this post roughly a week ago.

As I write this, all in all I have received: 266 emails and 96 voicemails. This roughly equates to 12.7 emails and 4.3 voicemails per workday. There were also some additional calls that I actually answered or that didn’t result in a voicemail. My Monster.com profile was viewed 261 times and “saved” 37 times. My CareerBuilder.com profile showed up in 343 searches (presumably by employers), and was viewed 31 times. My profile on StackOverflow careers was viewed by employers a whopping 1 time and had 3 search hits. GitHub jobs doesn’t appear to reveal any data of this kind.

The emails varied immensely in personalization and adherence to what I was actually looking for. My CV’s objective of short term Android and iPhone projects functioned as a mere leitmotif or not at all. My overall impression was that many recruiters simply do blanket keyword searches for terms such as “java”. Interestingly enough, many recruiters reached out to me on the premise that they found my resume on other sites such as Dice that I had never even created a profile on. It turns out that most recruiters do not even interface with the job sites directly, but instead use 3rd party software which crawls all the job boards for them.

Employers ranged from small startups to large corporations, the average being somewhere in between. The companies also included the likes of desirable A-Companies such as Amazon and Zynga. The split of jobs that were local and those which required relocation was about half and half with perhaps a few more on the relocation side.

Most recruiters were either head hunters or part of 3rd party staffing companies, but many were internal recruiters as well. For the first week, I actually answered all incoming calls, but this eventually became unmanageable. I used the opportunity to hear them out and also sometimes give them a reverse pitch on GroupTalent for feedback. Some recruiters were actually extremely savy people who wanted to build a relationship with you. Others were pretty abrasive. My favorite conversation was with the recruiter who actually suggested that I take a job at a mega corp while I still could since everything was going to be outsourced in the near future anyways.


According to Joel Spolsky, most good developers will never even be exposed to this situation since they will never be on the market. Combine this with the fact that everyone sucks at hiring and you have an industry that is basically a crap shoot. I also wonder if companies realize that many of their candidates are acquired through pseudo-spam.

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have used Monster a few years ago and did wind up with an excellent consulting gig that was very flexible, but my experience was similarly noisy. I consider myself at least a decent developer and believe that good developers are on the market or are at least willing to entertain new opportunities. I predict that in the coming years the demand for top talent will be even higher and companies will need to resort to new ways to find and incentivize developers. While the experience I have presented here can vary, especially for new grads and developers travelling through reputation or word of mouth, my goal here was simply to give some perspective.

What is your experience being recruited?

  • http://articulationstudy.posterous.com/ david karapetyan

    Thanks for sharing. Although your credentials are probably above average the numbers you posted should still be a pretty good benchmark for people looking for jobs on sites like Monster and CareerBuilder.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dennisgorelik Dennis Gorelik

    The economy is in early recovery, so demand for developers is very high right now (and will be even higher for the next few years). That explains recruiters’ activity.

  • http://dok1.myopenid.com/ Daphne O’Keefe

    If you really want a lot of hits, try creating a profile on LinkedIn. Focus on the Summary which is keywords. A senior ASP.Net developer with strong SQL Server skills will get at least one contact every day.

  • http://twitter.com/mightycv Rob Eastham

    Great article. Anyone thinking about getting their resume out there should check out a new app that I’ve been working on. It’s aimed at hackers/developers and integrates with github, stackoverflow and hacker news. It also makes it really easy to suck data you’ve already entered into LinkedIn into your MightyCV. It’s in private-beta at the moment but if you or your readers are interested then you can sign up for the private beta at:


    Here are a couple of example MightyCV’s:

    http://robeastham.mightycv.com http://mohit.mightycv.com

    • http://hempton.com ghempton

      We should talk sometime. We are doing very similar things with grouptalent.com.

      • Kieran

        Like to join that conversation as well, private beta at the moment but beta goinf public soon http:www.roleconnect.com

    • Andrew

      how can I get an invite to this service? andrew@thesoundofit.com

  • isaac stone

    Last time I talked with HR I told them I had 3 years MySQL experience and their very next question was “have you every used M-Y-S-Q-L?”

  • http://allenc.com Allen Cheung

    I’d second LinkedIn as another source of recruiting spam/contact, although the savvier recruiters will start finding you on LinkedIn, then find other sources (for me, it was through my blog and Quora profiles) to contact you. It’s also pretty easy to separate the completely generic spam from more serious inquiries, to internal recruiters who actually are interested in seeing whether the person would fit more than just filling a req.

  • http://twitter.com/laran laran

    I was looking for a new job about 2 years ago. I found a good job and promptly took down my resume. I’ve gotten at least two emails and/or email every day since then. 

  • http://rohitnair.info Rohit Nair

    I was looking for internship openings a few months back. I never posted my resume on any of these job sites because I knew I’d get spammed. Instead, I short listed a few companies and applied via their website directly. I also looked at forums like Hacker News for job listings. The latter was especially effective as most of the listings are posted by managers and not recruiters. This ensured a high quality of responses, and since I had shortlisted these companies in the first place, I didn’t receive any spam either.

  • Stone


  • http://esm.logic.net/ Ed Marshall

    Your experience mirrors mine, both in terms of volume and quality.

    You mentioned “willing to relocate”; in my experience, it doesn’t seem to matter if you check that box or not, recruiters will still ask if you’d be willing to move for a position. I’ve also noticed a distinct lack of reading comprehension; I call out a particular point (unwillingness to work in a particular location) several times in my resume, in capital letters and bold face, and yet the vast majority of contacts are about positions in that location.

    From their perspective, “it doesn’t hurt to ask”, and I’m sure some are benchmarked by the number of calls they make. But from the candidate’s end, it’s just annoying, and the annoyance escalates with your level of industry experience (as you start to match more keyword searches).To date, only a single position I’ve held has been landed through an external recruiter, and in that one case, I actually knew the hiring manager and company from a previous role (they were a customer), but just didn’t know they were hiring. When something doesn’t get you results, or gets you negative results, you stop doing it; as such, I’ve given up on 3rd-party recruiters, and I’m much happier for it.

  • Logan

    Had this pretty funny and obviously spamming approach some time ago, I loved the fact the recruiter didnt even change the ‘opportunity’ job description title in his attachment from ‘Generic’. http://bit.ly/mui4Yz  

  • Cody

    I agree with a lot of the comments on here.  Like any profession, recruiting has its fair share of poor or mediocre performers which can make life very frustrating for jobseekers. As an IT Recruiter myself, this presents a challenge in overcoming the industry stereotype, but also a great opportunity for myself and my company.  My mission is to create long lasting partnerships with the candidates and clients I work with, and this can only be done by high quality service on both sides.

    Yes, I am using this board for a bit of self promotion, just as some of you have done with your apps, but it is because I truly believe I can provide a superior service.

    If you are interested to connect and discuss your current or future career goals.  Our website is still preparing for “launch”, but feel free to contact me at cody@rockitrecruiting.com    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702100 Tim Chan

    Monster and CareerBuilder tend to spam like there’s no tmrw but I’m curious what those stats look like for Stackoverflow and Github.

  • catherine

    You mention new ways to incentivize developers – what are some things you’re looking for that aren’t being sold/pushed to you now? 

  • Anonymous

    This convinces me that hiring is broken.

  • Pingback: Living Untethered

  • Tim Tait

    I have a BSc in Comp Sci and over 5 years exp since then as a professional web developer.

    I hve had countless recruitment agents ask me if i have every used CSS. one wanted me to explain what I used it for other than layouts. Um. Everything.

    I had to tell one that I had ‘xHTML’ exp because I only had HTML listed.

    But my absolute favourite. I have a little bio at the top of my CV stating that I had just moved to thecountry and I was looking for work in theIT field. One guy called me and said – well I don’t call our work ‘the IT field’ I call myself a ‘digital creative’.

  • E.

    Interesting…I have to say, my experience with job hunting is completely different from you guys. I live in Calgary, Canada.  City of about 1 million in population with a decent IT field, mostly in web and business development.  As for me,  10 years of experience with embedded systems, linux and wireless devices.  I’m also fluent in Java, know a tad about mobile app development.  Overall, past work experiences have shown me that I’m a better then average developer.  Still, finding a job is as painful as it can get.  

    I’ve got my resume professionally written and reviewed many times.  I have a full LinkedIn account with my picture and a clean Facebook account.  I’ve been in the seat of a job seeker twice in the last 5 years and both time, all I could hear from my resume on Monster.ca was crickets singing.  Let’s not even talk about the viewing.  

    I even sent numerous internship requests to specific companies and did not even get a single reply.  The process is so frustrating that I thought many times of changing line of work completely.  I read someone saying that job prospect is going to get even better, well, I’m waiting for it to just recover.  Or maybe I should post on monster.com instead…