I know what you did last Summer!4 min read

I’m an Account Manager with Bland People Technologies and I wanted to connect with you and discuss an opportunity that I’ve been working on that I thought could be a good match with your skill sets. 

The name has been changed to protect the guilty, but this kind of lead-in dominates the emails I get day in and day out from recruiters. Or, worse yet, “I found you in our system”. I’m deleting your email right now and not reading any further.

Who am I and why does my opinion even matter?

I’m not a recruiter. I’m the kind of talent that recruiters are constantly trying to lure away to fill an opportunity with their own client, though. I’ve been in the industry for over twenty years, my name is heavily associated with the DevOps field in the Raleigh-Durham region, and I’ve got a combination of both technical and business skills that assures that I’m usually in pretty high demand. I want to help you to not waste your time or mine with these sort of overtures that are just going to hurt you in the long run. If my opinion matters to you, by all means continue reading.

Creepiness is next to godliness

I was checking you out on YouTube and caught your talk about DevOps: Year One. The solutions that you talked about are exactly what my client needs. 

The recruiter that started her email like this got my full attention. She didn’t just pull me up in a keyword search and try to establish contact. She took her time and made a smart investment. Did she really watch the video? I can’t tell from the note, but I’m surely going to have a follow-up conversation with her to see if this was sincere. I put that video on my LinkedIn profile, so there’s a pretty good chance that I was proud of that work and thought it was representative of what I bring to the table. That you watched it matters.

I have a theory, and I may be wrong, but I really suspect that the kind of candidates who are likely to respond to the spammier sort of template emails are the ones who are always out there fishing, either to hop from job to job, or just to try to get another free lunch out of a recruiter. I’m not inclined to believe this is going to be an effective approach for landing the kind of purple squirrel that you know your client deserves.

Being a little on the creepy side can pay dividends when going after top talent. As a bigger fish in the talent pool, I’ve grown weary of the same low-effort, high-dispersal sorts of overtures that look and smell like spam. The only ones who were getting through were the ones showing up and showing interest in the professional network events that I participated in, who developed rapport but didn’t try to push a position onto me until they had one that they knew I was born for.

Do’s and Don’ts

Look, I’m by no means an expert in your field. But I can tell you from my own perspective what’s effective and what’s not. I get hit up multiple times a day, every day, by people in your field that are asking me for a call, for coffee, for lunch, to simply “connect”. The overwhelming majority of the time, no response is even warranted. Here’s how you stand out from your peers:


  • Open with a specific observation about a candidates accomplishments or passions that show you’re paying attention. You’ve done more than skim their LinkedIn profile. You’ve read their blog, checked out their public talks on YouTube, or you’ve browsed their GitHub activity to see what kinds of projects they enjoy working on.
  • Directly tie that observation to something that will make the candidate’s life better. Make this first conversation about them and their needs.
  • As talent engagement expert Allison Kruse would say, “Be a person first, and a recruiter second.


  • Make the email about your client’s needs. This is about starting the relationship between you and the candidate. There is time to introduce the client’s needs after the conversation is reciprocated by the candidate, who is going to be very curious after you open the dialog so effectively.
  • Ever mention that you found someone in your “system”, or that you even have a system. To most tech candidates, it can sound like you’re talking about something as antiquated as a fax machine.
  • Lie, fib, or use false pretenses. There are common ones used by recruiters that we’re savvy to. And if we notice, we’re not going to trust you.