Hardscrabble 🍫

By Max Jacobson

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How to reduce recruiter spam

January 5, 2023

If you work in the tech industry, you may get a lot of emails from recruiters, and maybe even the occasional cold call.

In times of abundance, we like to complain about this. It can be genuinely annoying to be spammed, even if it is a bit of a humble brag to complain that so many people want to hire you.

So, how to reduce the amount you get?

Let me back up a little and give some context for this story… Back in November 2013, I registered hardscrabble.net, signed up for an email account on Fastmail, and promptly tried to retire the gmail account I had been using since 2007. I was bought in to the idea that you need to own your own domain, and avoid being locked in to services that may not stick around.1

But I had a problem… even if I want to stop using my gmail account, the rest of the world is still going to keep emailing me at that address, because it’s still in their address books. I was prepared to take on the tedious task of updating all of my own accounts on various services to use my fancy new custom address, but I had no way to update the address books of my aunts and cousins.

Over the years, emails to my old address mostly dried up. But I still got the occasional recruiter email there. This surprised me, because my new address was listed publicly in several places (linkedin, this blog, my github) and my gmail wasn’t listed publicy anywhere I was aware of.

So, several months ago, I started replying to any recruiter emails sent to my gmail with something along these lines:

Hi Molly,

I’m not currently interested in exploring new job opportunities, but I’d love to ask you a favor if you have a moment…

Where did you get this email address? I’ve been trying to retire it for a decade (I list a different email address on LinkedIn for example), but people continue to email it, so I assume it’s still listed somewhere. Or is it in some database? If so, would you mind telling me what service you’re using to source candidates? I don’t mind being in a database but I’d love to perhaps update my info there…

I’ve been curious about this for years and if you can help me resolve the mystery I would be in your debt and might even be able to refer some candidates who are actually on the market 😉

All the best, Max

I was basically lying about referring them candidates but I felt like I needed to offer a back scratch if I’m going to ask for one. And it worked! These recruiters were super nice, and were happy to answer the question, which I really appreciated.

Here’s an example reply:

Hahaha, thank you for the response Max and this is probably the most fun I’ve had with “not interested” emails!

We use GEM in addition to LinkedIn for our recruiting efforts - it is relatively newer compared to LinkedIn but I think it’s been a pretty popular software since a few years ago and to my knowledge a lot of companies are utilizing it. I managed to remove this particular email address from our database so you shouldn’t receive any outreach from my team (unless we switch for a brand new software maybe?) Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure where GEM pulled this email from, but it looks like they’ve listed a few more: redacted. Let me know if you’d like to remove all of them - happy to do so as well!

Here’s what I learned: there are a whole bunch of companies out there which are scraping the internet for data and then selling that data to companies. And they all offer a flow to opt out2.

Here are some examples:

And then in the interest of naming and shaming, here are some services recruiters cited which do not seem to have a publicly-discoverable page to opt out of having your data sold:

Opting out on those pages reduced the amount of recruiter spam I’ve received.

And then here’s the punchline to this blog post: I got laid off yesterday and now I need to start thinking about a new job search, and my inbox is crickets. Whoops!

  1. Almost a decade later, gmail is still holding pretty strong I have to admit… 

  2. Which I assume they are legally required to do? Not sure… 

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