Recruiters: Tech vs. CS

I just received my first job invitation, through LinkedIn – from a recruiter looking for a front-end developer who is willing to relocate to Germany and work for a bunch of apparently cool bio.scientists. He uses phrases like: “No doubt I am recruiter number 101 to promise you the dream role…bla bla bla…. what if I could say….actually I know these guys, I have known them for 4+ years….” or “I can honestly say if there is even 1% of you open to a new role, than let’s chat.”

Well, that caught my attention! I mean, it’s a little too casual even for my standards, but he clearly tries to make the job interesting to me and clearly wants me to get in touch.

Obviously this job is way ahead of me, and I am nowhere near taking a role as a JavaScript frontend-dev. But why I am writing this is because want to share the difference between recruiters that offer Customer Service jobs (whom I had to deal with for years now) and the way you get spoken to when they believe you are a developer.

To compare that, I want to paste in some snippets of InMail I received over the last years of recruiters trying to find anyone willing to take the “exciting new opportunity” (= boring, poorly paid CS role) with them.

“I have currently Customer Service Agent role available in challenging, fast-paced environment” – which means: “First of all, my English sucks. Second, this job is, as most CS jobs, is geared towards meeting strict targets and you are expected to work fast and take your breaks exactly when they tell you to.”

“I’m currently recruiting for a number of German speaking roles based in Dublin area. “

CS roles in Dublin are full-time roles within a stressful environment, and usually have a ridiculously low salary. (I worked in Dublin full-time for 27,000€ a year in a successful start-up company and just made enough to maintain a small, 700€ studio apartment in a quite dodgy area of Dublin. However, some of my colleagues there used to work for Lufthansa in Dublin, paying them 19,000€. Yes… nineteen.thousand.euros. In order to live in the center of Dublin, you need to shell out around 800-900€ for a decent room.

And finally the obligatory add-on to every cs recruiter email.. If you aren’t feeling low enough to take this job, then help me find someone who does, please:

“If this is a not opportunity for you but you know somebody who might be interested, would be great if you forwarded them my details (I operate €200 referral bonus if your friend is successful) “ –  saying: “We just need to fill that role. Now. With whomever.”

Also always such an attractive job feature:

“It is not necessary to have prior experience in these domains as the company will provide you on job training.” – meaning: “I didn’t even read your profile, and I just thought I offer you a job that won’t challenge you the least – and that for a minimum wage. You’re welcome!”

I love Ireland – I really do. But the job market is a disaster.

Speaking of applications… today I have received by far the most encouraging feedback-email to a job I applied to (and was rejected). It was for a home-based customer service role for a small company that offers paid WordPress plugins. I actually think it’s worth reading it completely, so I pasted it below.

Even though he sent the same email to everybody who applied (but included his notes about my application which I think is awesome), I think he really hit the nerve of everyone who is on the job search and gets a rejection: We want to know why. (Not the case here, but… especially when we clearly meet or even exceed the job requirements. You get declined, but the job is still online. WTF?)

He also shares his insights into the recruiting process and why recruiters often fail to reply.

So. Dan is my hero for today. And reading what the candidate did who finally was chosen for the job (A 2-hour work from home cs job, btw) is quite surprising. That shows that even though there is a high demand for people working in tech, you need to know that your competition is excellent!

Eliane ♥

A few weeks ago you sent in an application for a customer support role for our WordPress plugins.

I am really sorry that it has taken so long to acknowledge your email, and ultimately to hire someone for this role. Unfortunately I chose not to progress your application to the interview stage when I received it. There were close to 400 applications many of which were very strong, and to be honest I was overwhelmed by the level of interest.

I did promise to reply with feedback to all valid applications received before the deadline, and this is my attempt to (finally) do so. This is a standard email I’m sending to all unsuccessful applicants, but it does contain some notes that I made that are specific to your application.

I hope you understand that this is the only workable approach to issuing feedback given the number of applications!

I do want your application to not to be a waste of time for you, so I hope this email helps. You perhaps send a lot of applications, so I have copied the contents of the job advert at the bottom of this email as a reminder.

The first thing to remember is just how many applications recruiters will see. I need to see that there may be something relevant about you within the first six seconds of opening your email. My approach is highly likely to throw out some promising candidates, but unfortunately this is the only way I can process all the applications. To immediately cut down the number of applications to process I would:

1. Not proceed if the subject line did not match the requirement I stated in the ad (in fact, you probably won’t be reading this if so, as I would have deleted it)
2. ANY English language issues (glaring grammatical errors or misspellings) I would reject. Again, this is just as a filter to reduce the applications.
3. If it was not obvious that the email included a link and description of your favorite WordPress project as required, I would reject.
4. Any received after the deadline were immediately rejected UNLESS they made pointed out that they understood this but really hoped I was able to accept it anyway. (Until a few days later when I was definitely too far down the path of interviewing etc.)

Once it was apparent that there were a lot of strong applications with relevant experience, regrettably I decided to reject any that didn’t clearly have some customer support experience in a technical role. I imagine there were some people who did have this but had the fact hidden beneath waffle about how they first used a computer when they were 8 years old.

The very best application (which didn’t ultimately lead to a hire) had very clearly researched me and my business and wrote an enthusiastic email that referenced facts about me, explaining what he liked about the business, and how/why he would like to work in it. I took him to the ‘next stage’ which was to ask if he could produce a sample FAQ question for a plugin, he didn’t just email me his answer, but actually set up a WordPress site showing how it would look alongside the rest of my existing FAQs. This showed his technical ability again, on top of the question I’d asked. I just could not refuse him an interview.

Below I have copied the notes I made for your application. It may not be complete feedback, but I hope that at least it shows the key themes that presented themselves to me when I read your application. The notes may not reflect reality at all. As described above, I can only process what I see immediately, so it is entirely possible that I rejected the very best candidates without realising.

There is no point correcting me on these notes. I fully understand they may not reflect the true you.

In the notes, WP stands for WordPress, and CS stands for Customer Support. There was space for WP and technical experience which may be blank if I didn’t get to the point of making any comments in those areas for you.


Very promising, but others perhaps had more directly relevant WP CS experience.

WordPress experience:
Tech experience:

Please note that these notes do not necessarily reflect my official position on you or your application. They were entirely made for internal use and therefore may not have their usual English language meaning.

Of course, I would love to help further if these notes really confuse you, but for the same reasons as outlined above, I am not really able to reply to 400 queries about these applications! If you’re really not sure why you failed to stand out to me, I really recommend you find a friend who speaks fluent English to read through and help you understand how it comes across.

Finally, I know it is a common complaint that recruiters fail to reply to all applications. I now know why! And I would certainly try to automate the process more if I did it again. There is no need to be disheartened by silence – there are many reasons why there just isn’t a good fit. I think the best approach for a relatively highly-skilled job such as technical customer support would be to make a small number of well-researched applications, understanding what level you are really at, and how to convey your abilities and enthusiasm quickly in the application. For a small number of applications you can go ‘above and beyond’. The applications I received that were simply forwarding a CV ‘for my perusal’ were truly wasting their time and mine.

Even if you don’t believe you have any relevant experience, it doesn’t need to remain that way. Some applications pointed to really helpful support they had left for free on forums such as WordPress’ community support. There is no barrier to doing that.

Best of luck with your career, and thank you again for applying. I really appreciate your interest.



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