A recruiter contacted me with a pretty vague request. It's somewhat phrased as follows (modified to avoid arousing too much suspicion):

Software Engineering Opportutnies @ LinkedIn

Hi, we identified your LinkedIn Profile as being a direct match for a search for a position I'm doing across LinkedIn. I'm contacting you to determine if you'd be interested in confidentially looking at this position with us. I hope to hear back from you soon.

I am looking for a job. However, I don't know anything about this job, this recruiter, or how my profile is a direct match. So should I be interested and ask for details, just in case it's an actual opportunity, or am I just setting myself up for disappointment or more spamming? Is this basically the equivalent of spam?

How should I respond to these messages if I'm looking for a job, but am not sure what a recruiter is trying to communicate?

(There are many questions about how to deal with recruiters, such as this one about responding to recruiters who are advertising jobs (not in my case) and this one about avoiding recruitment agencies (I haven't decided) and also this one about being "connections", which this recruiter hasn't mentioned, but I feel that this is a slightly different question.)

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    Treat as spam. .. – A E Aug 24 '16 at 21:35

I call these "fishing expeditions" by recruiters.

They may or may not have an actual job, but with this kind of wording I tend to think there is no job and they are fishing for candidates - that is, people that they can sell to clients once jobs come up.

It is a way for recruiters to have a pool of people to search for - the more the better as far as they are concerned.

Personally - I ignore such requests and sometimes mark them as spam.

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    That and they need chum to submit with their "Good" candidate. I have been on both sides being the Chum(p) and the good candidate. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 29 '13 at 19:29
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    Since most of these are triggered by keywords in your profile's resume section, unfortunately the recruiter's got the drop on you; if you respond they know you're at least casually interested and they will continue to hit you up with anything even remotely related to your current field. However, since the OP is indeed looking around, perhaps a little extra traffic to his inbox may be welcome. I'd ask for a profile of the job without specifying any intent. The recruiter should be able to provide the title, duties and qualifications for the job, and the OP can make a decision from there. – KeithS Jun 5 '13 at 22:43

When it comes to most US recruiting agencies there are several processes you should be aware of as someone dealing with recruiters, how you're contacted and how they approach that connection will help you understand what they are doing and have to offer.

Lead Generation Recruiters

The very first step in recruiting is generating leads, that is getting as many qualified people into their system to offer prospective employers decent potential hires to pick from.

This is the unpleasant part of recruiting. Cold calls, dragnet recruiting, recruiters by the dozen at every event in their respective markets, etc. Their job isn't to fit you into a job, or to get you a job. Their job is to get you into their system to hopefully land you a job later. (ie. they aren't trying to hire you for a specific role, they are trying to actually build up the pool of people to pull from to potentially hire.)

It's a mutually unpleasant job for both sides. In high demand fields you get nearly harassed by the sheer volume of these people contacting you. As the recruiter you get the a bunch of people demanding you stop calling you or just cursing you out, etc.

Account Managers

These are one of the most important people in recruiting, and as a potential hire the person you want on your team more than anyone else. Account Managers are the people who actually work with companies negotiate contracts, and take what jobs are being hired for to the placement recruiters. If you get in good with an account manager you could potentially get first preference for new positions.

Placement recruiters

This is the recruiter who actually vets you to make sure you're not lying through your teeth. They are also the recruiter who works with you personally to find the jobs the account managers are working and get your resume to them. Typically this will be who you ultimately work with to get your job.

You can tell a good placement recruiter from a bad one very quickly. A good recruiter will want to get to know you, preferably in person over 30 minutes to an hour. That means they vet people, which means they also likely vet the potential employers. Just listen, if they don't feel like a good fit, find someone else.

What you're seeing

Cold calls, canned emails, etc. are what many call "drag net recruiting" basically it's a lead generation recruitment method where they just shotgun an email template to everyone that has a certain skill, word in their profile, job title, etc.

When not looking, it's best to just ignore these. Find the recruiters that are active in your area visiting user groups and have placed peers in good jobs. Get their names and network. Have your name in their systems. They'll probably check in once per 3 to 6 months to see if you're looking, update your info in their system, etc.

When the time comes to look, give them a call and get the ball rolling. The account manager is paid to get employees hired by companies, the placement recruiter is paid to get their clients jobs. Both sides have rules that they don't get their full pay for placement until you hold the job for a period of time. So they want you to be happy, otherwise they could lose both you, and the company as clients, and their pay.


As I am working as a sourcer/recruiter and sometimes I use a similar approach, I would suggest to simply ask for more information about the role, project, salary, before moving to a next step, which is usually a phone/skype call. This way you will save yourself a lot of time.

The reason for this kind of approach in my case is that I just want to see is the candidate open to a new opportunity or not. If he is, I will send him more info, if not, I will thank him for his time.

Although, I always add the position and company name in the initial message, no need for secrecy. Also, I am trying to check every profile before sending a message, I am not a fan of "cold-calling", which I cannot say for my colleague recruiters.

Hope this helps!

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    Since most people would jump at an offer to earn $1M/year doing something they love, and most would ignore an offer to make half their current salary doing something they hate, what do you learn from the initial response to a vague query? – Monica Cellio Oct 7 '18 at 21:57
  • I am trying to determine the real "level of interest". For now, I am doing pretty well. I understand that most developers receive a lot of messages and simply can't/won't jump on a call with everyone, but if their only question is "what's the salary" it's not a good sign for me. I agree that it is (most) important for a lot of people, but for me, it's usually a red flag. If they want to know more about the role, company, projects, tech stack and salary, that shows that they are open to really considering the offer. But, there are no rules and I am trying to be as open as possible. – Psycho Buddha Oct 8 '18 at 9:16
  • The flip side of that, though, is that if you were really interested in filling the position, you'd provide some basic information in your initial contact. That's why I thought there must be something more to what you're doing, something that you learn (for lower effort) compared to leading with actual information. I don't want to have a discussion here in comments; I asked on the assumption that I was missing something that you might be able to edit to clarify, but if not, that's fine too. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Oct 8 '18 at 13:49

The recruiter likely has several entry level jobs, and wants to add you to the roster of people he routinely sends to these interviews. My company uses recruiters to fill positions, and we regularly get people who have no C# experience interviewing (even though we put that as a requirement).

The quality of the applicants ranges from good, competent coders, to folks who take 20 minutes to write Fizz-buzz wrong. In general about 1 out of every 10 applicants I've interviewed through a recruiter is good. If you're competent, you likely will get an entry level position. If those positions do not interest you I would ignore this recruiter.


I get LinkedIn solicitations that are vague all the time. However, I also get some that are searingly specific and inappropriate. I work on C# business projects in Texas, someone asked me to program in C in San Jose on network protocol stacks. Vague isn't necessarily the only issue.

It's probably safe to say that the farther away the recruiter, the more hits they're getting on national searches, therefore the less specific they can be on the initial contact. It may also be safe to say that if a recruiter is trolling a wide area, it's because they don't know their own backyard all that well.

Since there are 1.2 million programmers and 500 million programmable devices in the US, it's likely that the recruiter is trying to fill a 'real' position. However, this recruiter may have only been seated at their desk for two weeks, and couldn't tell the difference between HTML and XML. Even ads in which the potential employer(s) is/are fairly evident (Fortune 50 company in Austin area) can expose confusion on the part of the hiring manager and/or the recruiter. Thus vagueness by itself isn't necessarily a cattle call.

Triage means 'Too far gone to help', 'needs care now', and 'can wait till later'. If someone from Bangalore asks you for VS2010, it's too far out to be worth response. If you have LabView experience (which is uncommon) recruiters won't know much about it. If they're looking it can't hurt to ask for details. You knowledge can fill in for theirs. You will have to ask what the employer is doing - the questions you ask might signal to the employer that you have some background.

Then you get 'the laundry list': 15 technical products that are 'Required' - usually running the gamut from programming languages, IDEs, databases, flowcharting tools, productivity tools, etc. Often you already know who the client is. What's vague in this situation is what they'll accept, since after the fifth 'requirement' they've disqualified every candidate in the country. About all you can do is respond by indicating that the list of 'Requirements' is excessive - that most of these describe tools used in the site - any one programmer will use some of them. Your response would be an indication that you're 'warm', if they can converge on something reasonable then it's time to talk.

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    Hi Meredith, again, I'm not sure this answers the question: "How should I respond to these messages if I'm looking for a job, but am not sure what a recruiter is trying to communicate?". Please see our tour page for an overview of what our site is about. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Jun 16 '13 at 18:07
  • 15 required products - might be an indication that they already have the person to get the job, but are required for some reason to advertise it, and the requirements are everything that person has done in their entire life. – gnasher729 Aug 28 '14 at 15:47

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