I was due for another Google interview mail it seems. I have to say I wasn’t expecting it, but this week I had a follow up to my polite mail from 6 months ago that said “No thanks, I’m not looking” asking if it was still the case.

Normally I welcome this little bit of ego stroking; it’s always nice to be wanted. Except that’s not really the case, is it? It’s an invitation to interview for something, not any indication that you’ve done more than tick some initial boxes. Google mails inevitably ask me if I’d like to work in SRE. It’s always SRE. No one ever emails and asks if I want to work on self-replicating nanobots that will roam Mars searching for the perfect spot to build a beach house.

And that’s where things fall down. If someone currently has a job, then emailing them out of the blue to ask if they want to come and interview for something vague is hoping that they’re either looking, and just haven’t come to you yet, or not looking but unhappy enough with their current role that all they needed to start was an email asking them to submit a recent CV.

For the former, if you’re Google, do you really think that person doesn’t know where to find you? For the latter, you’re being quite presumptuous, aren’t you? The act of updating my CV my be some effort (actually it’s usually not, because the stuff that’s not on it is the stuff I can’t talk about because it’s not released yet, or stuff that’s specific and thus wouldn’t go on a CV for a vague job spec). Even if it’s not the act of interviewing is potentially a waste of time for both of us, if the role isn’t clear.

One argument used is that people will be placed according to the skills they show during the interview process. That’s fine from the employers point of view, but if you’re actively trying to get some interest from people who are gainfully employed you really need to grab their attention somehow. I can’t remember the last time I had an unsolicited email interview offer that actually wowed me, or indeed even showed more than a passing sign of tailoring a spec to my profile.

When I was running Black Cat I made a point of always replying to unsolicited CVs. How polite I was depended on how the covering emails were worded (a Word document with nothing else was likely to get short shrift, something well targeted in a Linux friendly format would normally get some comment about how we weren’t hiring and were unlikely to be, but if that changed it would be mentioned on the website), but I felt people deserved a reply - I have been disappointed by not receiving responses myself to what I considered well targeted job inquiries.

So far I’ve so far taken the same approach with mails from corporate recruiters (less so with recruiters that are associated with recruitment firms, rather than directly with the companies they are hiring for), but I’m starting to feel like changing that stance. Candidates are told to tailor CVs to the role being applied for, provide a decent cover letter, and in general make companies want to talk to them. Companies who are sending out recruitment emails should be held to the same standard. Even assuming you do a basic phone screen first, I can probably expect to need to take a day off work assuming that goes well. You need to convince me I can justify that before I’m going to feel like engaging at all.

(And if I’m honest, based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely to happen. All of the things I’ve considered have come from conversations with people I know directly about companies they own or work for, never some random contact via email. I try hard not to think of recruitment mail as spam, but I can how that line of thought follows through.)

I should apologize to Google here. They got mentioned as an example, but I don’t think they’re particularly bad. I did interview with them at one point, and made the decision not to continue that process after deciding a different, more certain, path was better for me. So I’ve displayed interest. And in response to my reply today of “I know where to find you, so please assume I’ll do so if I change my mind.” they’ve said they’ll make a note on their records.