I was recently contacted by a recruiter via my work email. Should I take any action (other than deleting the email), such as responding to tell him that I find it rude and unprofessional or informing my manager and/or HR that someone is sending recruiting messages to corporate email addresses?

7 Answers 7


I'm assuming you aren't really doing a search for a new role and don't have CVs etc on job boards, and this email was purely speculative.

From experience, I'd suggest the following:

Bin the email, do not reply, treat it like SPAM

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Even if you reply to say "Not interested", you are confirming both your email AND the fact you do exist at this role at this company (and may even send a nice email sig full of info back). The upshot of this is that at a future point, you'll probably get further emails or even CVs (either from the OP, or his colleagues as your details will now be on their CRM system), as they may have been trying to get a foot in the door to your company, and making you think they can get you a new job might make you more compliant to them.
  2. The OP could actually be out for something fraudulent. A former colleague of mine replied to a cold-call like this (again with a nice informative email sig), and by chance a few months later found he was providing work references for a number of people he'd never met across the world who were trying to get into the industry. He only found out as one vigilant manager had his spider-sense tingle and looked up the company directly rather than the contact provided. This could also be for phishing, or to get access to other accounts you have (your work email could be a backup for lost passwords etc)

So just like normal SPAM, mark it as SPAM, bin and forget, the legit recruiters don't operate like this (and would you want to use someone who randomly spams people for roles anyway, these people are supposed to be paid for their skills and contacts, not blind luck).

  • Poaching employees from good companies isn't exactly blind luck. Even if they claim to not be interested, everyone has a price.
    – user8365
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 18:08
  • Well, I doubt a reasonable headhunter would be so inept as to approach this way, far more likely to be someone without a decent contact list, googling for possible candidates if they are in any way legit. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 8:50
  • I just want to add that if you respond to an email like this for some reason and have your full contact information signature you are an idiot.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 4:47
  • 3
    Not necessarily, most big corporates require use of specific format signatures, and people usually have outlook set to add a sig as soon as you hit reply, it's too easy to remember to remove it just AFTER you press send, especially if you've just fired up a rocket to send to the recruiter. And anyway, just the act of replying can be enough to verify what the recruiter has guessed, so it may not matter. Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 8:56

It's definitely unprofessional behavior, I agree. And it could cause an awkward conversation if someone had been looking over your shoulder. I can think of two reasons a recruiter would contact you at work:

  1. They don't realize it's unprofessional.

  2. They do realize it's unprofessional but for don't care enough to not do it.

Either way you definitely want to stop him from contacting you—and in the case that he really doesn't realize he's doing something inappropriate, informing him could prevent this from happening to others in the future. I'd respond to his email briefly but clearly, something like this:

[Mr./Ms. Recruiter],

I find it highly unprofessional for you to use my work email for recruitment purposes. I ask that you not contact me again, and suggest you reconsider emailing others at work in the future.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

At the very least he'll leave you alone, and perhaps he'll think twice before doing this again.

I wouldn't talk to your boss about it unless it becomes a continuing problem, and maybe not even then—you can always just block the guy's email. It happened on your work account, sure, but the "back off" message in your reply is rather clear. Hopefully the whole incident will quickly become a distant memory.

  • 4
    On the other hand, it might be worth letting HR know so they can either avoid doing business with this recruiter or severing any already-established relationship.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 21:48
  • 1
    This answer illustrates your opinion but does not appear to be based on any standard or documented procedure, but rather appears to be opinion. Do you have any way of demonstrating why this is the correct way of handling it? Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 4:41
  • @Chad Apologies, I must have missed the notification when your comment was originally posted. No, I don't have any sources; this is just my attempt at solving the problem. Thomas posed this question in chat and I gave similar advice; he then posted the question and invited me to leave my response as an answer, so I created an account here just to do that, haha. I don't see sources in other answers here either, though. Do you have a resource I could refer to for tips on how to properly source answers on The Workplace in the future?
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 22:10

Before getting angry you might make sure the recruiter did this innocently. I am not a recruiter but I have had people give me their business card, then complain when I used the info to contact them.

I have been given resumes that obviously had a work email address and work phone number as the only way to contact them. The nice round phone number with the extension gives it away.

Does your LinkedIn or Monster profile send all requests to your work email? Many people do this.

Why would you complain to your boss/HR unless they won't stop sending them to you.

  • 1
    That's a valid point, but my work email isn't listed anywhere publicly nor do I give it out to people unless they are someone I'm working with or are related to my work efforts. My company is listed in several places (LinkedIn, Stack Exchange profile), and it's fairly trivial to figure out what it is, especially since some management email addresses can be found on the website, anyone can find the format. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 9:47
  • 1
    ...You might make sure the recruiter did this innocently. Why would you assume that the recruiter did it innocently? Recruiters are notorious for making unsolicited overtures.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 17:05
  • +1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. It even has a Wikipedia page @JimG.
    – rath
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 19:41
  • 3
    @rath: That's a pithy saying but I have ample evidence to support the idea that recruiters make unsolicited overtures. That is in fact the norm.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:01

It is perfectly ethical to poach candidates from other companies. In fact, in September of 2010, the Department of Justice entered into a settlement and agreement with six companies - Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar - that going forward, the companies would no longer enter into agreements between each other not to “poach” from one another. Those companies had to be told, with a legal settlement, that not taking employees (directly soliciting) from each other was wrong.

Understandably, it may seem unprofessional to you to receive a job proposition at your work email address. Often, however, it is the ONLY means a recruiter has in which to contact a candidate. A recruiter might see a candidate's profile on-line, think he or she is an excellent fit for a role and have no other means with which to reach him/her (i.e the candidate's home number is unlisted, his/her personal email is not posted, the recruiter has no Linkedin inmail credits remaining to send a message via Linkedin et al)

As intrusive as an unwanted email to work may be, the fact of the matter is, many employees are not satisfied at there current role and/or ARE open to new opportunities. Even those who aren't often appreciate being thought of and being kept abreast of opportunities in his/her field. As a recruiter, I have personally contacted candidates via their work email. At times, this has resulted in finding a candidate a better job with more pay, better quality of life, more challenges, an easier commute and the candidate is the better for it.

We live in a free enterprise and hard working employees deserve to have choices. Demand for employees also make those employees more valuable to their employers. While many loyal, hard-working people are laid off after years of service to an employer, after turning away one or more intrusive recruiters.

So in brief, if someone sends you a message - which appears to be authentic and appropriate - regarding an opportunity, I would politely reply that you are not interested, if that is indeed the case, that you appreciate they they thought of you. Then let them know you will reach out to them if you are back on the market or better yet, feel free to provide them with your personal email address should other opportunities arise.

It never hurts a have a good recruiter in your court!


As a retained executive recruiter, I can appreciate where people are coming from in feeling it is inappropriate. Frankly, I don't find it comfortable to reach people this way either.

However, I think there are other variables that should be considered before determining the level of impropriety.

1) Does it appear to be a mass email? Does the nature of the role align with your background? If it appears personally targeted, we find most people appreciate that some amount of due diligence was exercised before reaching out to their work email.
2) If they had your personal email/phone number, wouldn't this likely make someone MORE uncomfortable? To the previous poster's point, often times a work email address is the only way to reach people about an opportunity. If you've ever accept a job because someone reached out to you about it, you probably aren't unhappy the recruiter used your work email if that was the only way to reach you. Most people would objectively say they prefer to have more information than less about the marketplace, even if they aren't interested in pursuing an opportunity - if I were to tell you that the difference in your finding the job of your dreams (there is ALWAYS something better) was the inability to reach you because the only available method was work email and the recruiter didn't use it, you'd likely be willing to accept the outreach. 2A) Some companies and recruiters may abuse having your information, but take a second to look into the company reaching out to you before assuming you’re being “spammed”. 3) So many people accept jobs through professional networking. Networking is often done professional in company A to professional in company B. A recruiter reaching out to you through your work email is essentially the same concept as your network contact helping you get a job with his/her company. The difference being a recruiter is third party, and is actively soliciting. In which case, ignore or reply politely declining. 4) Are they calling your work line? This feels a bit more intrusive in that you are being asked in real time to put your day on hold to talk to a stranger. Email is about the most passive way to reach someone to provide information without the presumption that they are interested.

At the end of the day, you may not appreciate the intrusion now, but if your job ever becomes in jeopardy you might wish you had been cordial with those who reached out to you in the past. Again, I think it all depends on the variables like company, scope (did they target you for the right type of role), communication style - aggressive vs. professional/polite. There are really plenty of ways to justify both sides.


I'm not sure the recruiter is responsible for "all" of the blame. Some companies may hire recruiters and want them to poach the competition's employees. Transparency is usually the key in these types of ethical debates.

Does the recruiter care if you inform your company about their hiring practices? You could go along and try for an interview and inform the recruiter's client about their behavior. They may be concerned about it or you may discover they're not the type of people you want to work for.

It's to the recruiter's benefit to churn jobs and increase turn-over whether they'll admit that or not. Sure they want to maintain those "relationships" but will the client find out they found another job for the same employee they placed with them a year ago?

Before you get too indignant about this, how would you feel if you were terminated or denied a recent promotion? Since you're concerned enough about this to post the question, expose them and make things better for everyone.


In 1994 I was working on an Air Force Base and had an email that ended in .mil. This was a time period when the Pentagon was still trying to get senior officers to use email directly (rather than through their secretaries) so the Internet was still somewhat of a 'Wild West'. I would put queries out on discussion groups (typically database questions), so my email would show up, and I would get solicitations. My responses were pretty stark - 'Using government email for private business is illegal - don't contact me again'. I never got any follow-ons from any of the recruiters.

Such addresses are frequently harvested from help sites. Thus they are likely to be 'mass mailings' - no one knows your address, since they're hitting 'send' on thousands. After awhile these sites are blocked.

As for what action you should take, plan ahead so this is less likely to happen: It's probably better to ask help questions using a 'disposable' address, one that absorbs unsolicited traffic without impacting your work. It also makes sense to keep your 'blind response' email separate from your 'real' one. Thus if you see a posting on CL that looks interesting but could be flakey, you have a pretty good idea where they came from.

If a recruiter you know is doing this, it's probably a good idea to rethink that relationship.

  • how do you it is spam ? if it is , isnt the solution just marking his email id as spam ? Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 2:22
  • @the_reluctant_tester - it may very well be a legitimate attempt to recruit, but spread over such a wide area that it's borderline. I'm in Austin, I would get recruiting solicitations from Michigan and Georgia for things like JavaScript and SQL Server. These tend to be very generic. Often I would see a picture of someone that looked like they were born and raised in the States, but the English sounded foreign. I delete these without any further consideration. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 2:29
  • I edited and added a transition here to the second to last paragraph to make it more clear that Meredith is answering the question but in a way that's more preventative in nature. I use this technique at work. I don't use my work email on sketchy sites... and I don't get a lot of spam as a result. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 5:05

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