Software Engineers: Embrace Recruiters on LinkedIn

Jan 20, 2018

For some reason, I was bombarded with connection requests and recruiter InMail this week on LinkedIn. For a moment, I had to suppress the temptation to be mad - a little nugget placed somewhere in my subconscious over the years by disparaging colleagues who loathe recruiters and love to talk about that fact. For as many interactions I have with recruiters I read at least as many posts by software engineers lamenting the very presence of those interactions.

Don’t they know I already have a job?

Don’t they know I’m not interested in moving across the country?

I only connect with people I’ve met in person…

I’m here to tell all my engineering friends: maybe you should embrace those relationships. Maybe, just maybe, this view of recruiters is just a bit myopic.

Recruiters have huge networks

A recruiter's network

Consider this, recruiters are perhaps the most well connected individuals on LinkedIn. If they are a technical recruiter, then they are likely connected with an order of magnitude more engineers than yourself. They’ve probably placed people who are now managers, directors, any maybe even VP’s or CTO’s, and they likely have a great relationship with those individuals because they helped get them a job.

For those of us not looking for a new job, but are rather looking to expand our personal brand, the reach of a recruiter’s new network is immeasurably valuable. When anyone on LinkedIn likes a post of mine, or shares it with their network, the reach of my personal brand expands far more than anything I could have done personally. Likely there will be a recruiter who shares this very blog post, which will then place it in front of a set of engineers that I could have never reached otherwise.

Recruiters get promoted too

Yes, it’s easy to look at a request from some fresh-out-of college recruiter and think to yourself “this person does not add any value to me right now”. That thinking is so incredibly shortsighted, that I just had to whip up this visualization to explain why:

A recruiter's career path

That very same recruiter who is personally reaching out to you right now, may one day become an executive in a company you value very much. Good luck forming a bond with them 20 years down the road. But maybe, just maybe — if you’ve struck some rapport when them and massage that relationship over the years — they might remember you when you are gunning for that newly minted CTO position at their table.

I spent a few minutes this morning and went through some messages from recruiters that have contacted me, unsolicited, on LinkedIn over the last 3 years. From a sample of just 35 recruiters (there were many more), here is what I found:

  • 71% (25) were promoted
  • 74% (26) have moved to a new company
  • 4 now hold a title of “Director” or higher
  • 1 now holds the title of “Vice President”

Go through your own LinkedIn message history and count up the number of recruiters you’ve ignored over the years — it’s not hard to imagine what kind of relationships you’ve left on the table.

What you should be doing

When a recruiter sends you a message on LinkedIn, instead of ignoring it you should respond. If you are not looking for a job, be frank. A simple response, even if it’s confirming that you are not interested, will set you apart from all your other colleagues (and competitors) who would never stoop so low as to respond to a recruiter.

Good luck to everyone out there forging a career path in software and to all recruiters helping us along the way.

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