How not to approach me on LinkedIn

Recently, I have been invited to connect with a lot of people on LinkedIn and most of them were headhunters, recruiters and various HR related roles. The amount of invites from these people was really appealing to my ego at first, but it began to bother me after some time. Now, most of these invites end up in the ignore pile. These people might be asking why they received no answer from me. Well, it is mostly caused by the way they approached me and the way they used to communicate with me about the position they were offering. Some of these guys are really great in what they do and how they go about doing it. However, the quality of the recruitment process varies widely and the vast majority of these people do not know how to deal with IT people (and sometimes with people in general I guess), so I ran out of patience and decided to write this article to sum up mistakes that will cause you any further interaction with me, if you intend to connect with me on LinkedIn or any other network like that. Now I present to you my list of 10 rules not to break when approaching me on LinkedIn.

1. Do not send me anonymous invites

First of all, let me tell you, I don’t mind invites from people I don’t know. If you are fellow developer interested in productive dialog or someone outside IT looking for partnership on some cool project I would love to hear from you. But if you end up sending me anonymous invite, it will end up in ignore pile. Don’t just send a default invite with no additional information whatsoever. The only case when this is OK to do, is when we know each other (we are friends, we have worked on a project together or just talked with each other).

This becomes even more annoying when I actually make an effort and check out this person contacting me and I find title like this next to their name ‘Junior Recruitment Consultant’. I realize that everybody held junior title at some point in their careers (some people even numerous times) and there is nothing wrong with that. But even if they are at a junior position it does not excuse them. In order to become professional they have to constantly study knowledge of their respected field and follow trends set by their own industry as well as by their target industry (in this case IT).

2. Do not say hey to me

Another thing that I do not find professional and causes instant loss of my interest is saying hey to me. This may sound snobby but we are not buds (well at least not yet). If a recruiter is contacting me with an offer of any type, they are essentially doing two things:

  1. They represent
  2. They want something

First of all, they represent themselves. I like to deal with professionals and one can learn a lot about their partner just from the way they communicate. Once they lose credibility in my eyes, it becomes hard to gain it back (especially online and with the current state of IT recruitment). This also transfers onto their employer and makes me question any other interaction with them. Last but not least, it can also harm perceived image of the employer from a job posting. After all, it is in their own interest to be polite and respect cultural norms from their target region.

I have noticed that it is pretty common in Western Europe and North America to start emails with line like ‘Hi Jakub’. Well, it might be OK in their country of residence but when it comes to central Europe this might not be appropriate. We refer to recipients of our emails with title and surname ‘Dear Mr. Staš’ in the first message in Czech Republic. The same goes with Asian names – in some Asian countries family name goes first followed by a name given to the individual person so it is not wise to mess up opening line. This particular region thing is not that important to me but it shows how well they know their region of interest and also how they approach their work.

The second thing is that they are contacting me and they want something from me, whether it is my time, expertise or attention. Politeness and professional mannerism will get you far in business regardless of the domain. So if they want my attention, I want these two things from them. It is simple as that.

3. Do not carpet bomb me

I really hate this one. For those of you who have never heard of carpet bombing or do not know what it means, Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Carpet bombing, also known as saturation bombing, is a large aerial bombing done in a progressive manner to inflict damage in every part of a selected area of land.

I just love the word every in this definition since it fits in the metaphor so well. You see, carpet bombing in this metaphorical sense means sending plain generic message to all of your relevant connections and waiting to see who writes back. And this is a big mistake in my point of view. Messages like this are really easy to identify and the chances that any skilled IT professional responds to this kind of message are low.

This kind of generic messages implies that they just do not care enough (or they are desperate enough) who they will consider for the position hence the job itself becomes generic. And I do not consider myself to be a generic programmer. So if I get a message like this I will ignore both the message and the sender as well.

The irony is that two minutes after I saved draft of this rule I have been carpet bombed myself once more.

4. Do not try to call me first

Some of these guys tend to go an extra mile and call me first. Well this is an extra mile, but unfortunately in a wrong direction. Usually, they call me during my work hours which is definitely the worst time to do this kind of stuff. I will not discuss anything with them during my work hours because I have more important things on my mind when I work. What I personally hate most is when some recruiter calls the company and requests to have the call forwarded to my desk which bothers not only me but also my coworkers. And after all, do you even know any programmer who likes to make phone conversation.

Why would they even choose to call me? I prefer email for establishing a connection and context of our future communication. What makes email my first choice to do this kind of things? Email communication is asynchronous. This means I have enough time and comfort to go through their proposal carefully and I can do it when I like. Communication becomes cleaner and there is basically zero information loss (both mental and actual).

Another thing is that many postings contain message saying something like please call us for further information. I do not know anyone who ever responded and called anywhere, but your experience might differ. I honestly believe that the first phone/video call interaction should be first interview.

5. Do not try to be my friend

Considerably large group of recruiters approaches me only once in a while. This just does not require for us to become friends (or connections) on LinkedIn. There are other tools build in to LinkedIn they can use to contact potential hires without the need to make a connection. If I see any reason to become connected I will send them an invite or we can arrange this over email. I would like my network to be relevant to my field and past or future experiences and leave this kind of interaction in the realm of email. They need to realize that LinkedIn is just an online resume for many people. These people do not treat it as social network and they do not intend to grow their network. So please, respect this.

6. Do not ignore my language

One of the key parts of the job posting is a list of technologies, frameworks and languages used in target environment. This is usually the part that interests most people. However, from my experience, most HR people do not have a clue what any of those acronyms means or how each of them impacts the overall project. This is one of the best ways to recognize professional recruiter – they understand your motivation, ideas and language.

If you interview these professionals they will know what data migration, generating of JSON or its loading using jQuery means. It is most likely that they will not be able to do any of these task, but they will understand what is being said to them. Well, even if they do not know particular term or acronym it is absolutely OK, because they know enough for me to be able to explain what it is without any need to add any explanation of basics.

If they do not know the difference between front-end and back-end or try to recruit me for .NET position, when I have clearly never shown any interest or skill in this area of development, they are being ignorant. I don’t like ignorant people, so to ignore pile with them.

7. Do not feed me irrelevant or invalid information

This happens so often (not only to me but also to my friends) that I just couldn’t leave this out. Many job offers lack necessary information and even contain boilerplate text that sometimes makes them look like a joke. I tackled this in previous point but let me repeat it. It is pretty clear based on my profile / CV what I have been doing past few years and it is not that hard to guess the roles and positions that are relevant to my carrier path. So don’t ask me to change my field of work or to take on a role that is not related to my field of expertise.

It is super rare to get the exact location of the offices of proposed job. This is one of the critical information about workplace since I might end up spending hours on daily commute. Needles to say that there might be several teams spread throughout the city. Another key information missing in many job offers is salary range. Since I am selling them my time, talent and expertise I expect from them to be upfront with this. It can save us both time and needles meetings since either party might find demands of their counterpart unacceptable.

I decided to include interviews in here as well even though this topic deserves far more coverage than provided here. If they got so far as to invite someone to the interview they should make sure that they got these points right:

  • I am being interviewed for the position I applied for
  • I am being interviewed for the position that is still open
  • I am being interviewed in areas relevant for this job
  • interviewer is aware of my expectations and demands and doesn’t hear them from me for the first time
  • time and place of the interview is correct and interviewer is aware of this and on time

One would expect this is not so hard to do, but my own experience and stories I have heard from my friends proved me otherwise.

8. Do not endorse me

If you somehow managed to become my connection on LinkedIn do not endorse me if you don’t have any evidence I know certain technology or framework. This can go even further if you expect or require the reciprocal endorsement. I find this type of behavior unacceptable and also undesirable. So feel free to endorse me in any area you find my expertise useful and don’t expect anything back (just like I am not expecting any endorsements back from you).

9. Do not rely on keyword matching

This one goes hand-in-hand with carpet bombing and might be even prerequisite for it. If you are a recruiter and your candidate selection is based solely on keyword matching, you are one lazy and incompetent person. As with any task of selecting an appropriate person to hire / thing to buy you should do some research before even meeting them for the first time. Sadly this is not always true and there are so many other ways you can get relevant information about somebody nowadays. I could go in more depth here but lets save it for some other post.

10. Do not ask me to be Superman

Last thing that makes me a little bit angry and amused at the same is the list of requirements for the position they are trying to hire me for. Once again, I am not the only one to encounter this, so I believe, it has a rightful place on this list. It sometimes happens that their offer contains either mutually exclusive requirements or even requirements that are impossible for me to meet based on my profile. Yet they still try to go in for the kill and end up empty-handed.

They know pretty well how old I am and how long I have been working in the field. If the posting contains requirement for my age or for number of years with hands on experience with some framework / area of business, the least they can do is check whether my profile fits these criteria. This may sound a little funny but don’t expect to hire someone when the age requirement is under 40 and experience requires 25+ years in business. The same goes with technology related requirements. Some positions require rather extensive experience and technology stack is pretty vast. If they see I am nowhere near that why would they even bother?

I often read in these postings that college degree is a must. I understand that there are some jobs that require rather extensive academic background or a cross-disciplinary know-how. But how come I find this requirement on nearly every single job posting? Based on my experience there is virtually no difference between skilled senior developer with and without a degree. Nowadays, the quality of higher education is also questionable so please: only include this requirement where it is required. The same goes for language requirements. I have seen this so many times. English is required, yet you won’t use it once.


Now you know what I expect from you. And what can you expect from me? Well, if you’ve happened to avoid all of these common mistakes and get in touch with me, I guarantee you I will reply to you and might even become your LinkedIn connection. You will also receive my stand on the offer with an appropriate explanation why I decided to decline / request more information or interview / accept it. You will not meet with any arrogance, ignorance or any other unprofessional behavior (and I expect the same from you). If this didn’t put you off and you still want to reach out to me, well, go ahead! And if this did put you off, than good job to me because there is really high probability that your request would get ignored anyway.

Image created by Colaja – under Creative Commons (Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported)

7 thoughts on “How not to approach me on LinkedIn

    1. Of course it is not such a high number of offers. But it had got to the state when it started to annoy me. And after all, this article is not about the numbers. It is about the way you are treated. And I happened to come across both excellent and poor recruiters so I decided to put this one out there.

  1. Good points! Maybe just the point 2 is questionable. If I meet you lets say at some JUG, I would call you Jakub and I do not expect that it will bother you at all. Maybe it is because I would take you as a fellow techie, ~same generation, …

    Anyway, IT recruiters and the whole recruitment agencies without a significant added value are going to be disqualified automatically: )

  2. Yes, LinkedIn seems to be full of recruiters! At first I accepted some invites, but now I just ignore all recruiters.. unless I am actually considering or looking for a position.

    They are only interested in making a placement & getting their fee! Unless you actually are interested to consider the mixed bag of positions they are recruiting for, there is little point 🙂

  3. Interesting read, although I can’t say I agree with all of it, I’ve experienced many random recruiters contacting me, and offering work. But in most if not all occasions I was either given a number for a daily rate of pay or I was asked what my daily rate was. (I’m not sure why always ask for a daily rate rather than annual or weekly/monthly. It might be because I get a lot of offers for contract or consultancy work rather than full time).

    I agree completely with using email rather than phone calls. I always want to keep a record of everything that was said. the same goes for freelancing and working with clients.

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