I've had several companies make offers to me based on my resume and online presence. At first glance, they're a very mixed bag; some very exciting offers from good looking companies and some that feel like lame cold calls.

When I am contacted by an employer unsolicited, should I assume they are likely cold-calling a large range of people? For obvious reasons I only want to continue the conversation with employers actually interested in me and my skills. How can I tell when an unsolicited offer is backed by real interest instead of blind reaching?

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    Trust them how? Trust them where? Trust them to do what? I suspect you mean trust them to have an actual offer or position for you to fill. But I am not sure based on the question you have asked. Apr 10, 2012 at 20:16
  • Then perhaps the question should be How do I investigate a potential employer. Perhaps at this point it should be a seperate question though. Apr 10, 2012 at 20:27
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    Related meta discussion: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/35/…
    – Shog9
    Apr 11, 2012 at 17:36
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    I've edited my post (second paragraph), does this look better? I didn't want to completely change the meaning.
    – Rarity
    Apr 11, 2012 at 21:25
  • Be careful. There are a LOT of identity thieves out there masquerading as employers who are ready to hire you. "All I need is your SSN to get your paperwork through HR!"
    – JohnFx
    Apr 11, 2012 at 21:28

8 Answers 8


I always ask one fairly simple question:

Did they actually bother to pay attention to my skillset and desires?

Seriously, I can't count the number of times I've been approached for leads that have nothing to do with what I've been doing for the past three years. Those, I just ignore them outright. If they can't be bothered to even see that I don't even remotely match what they have, then I can't be bothered to waste my time with them, especially if I know I've kept up with my online profiles*.

If they actually appear to have paid attention to what I'm looking for and actually believe me when I say "I'm a PHP developer, I have no interest in .Net positions," then I'll listen to what they have to say.

Once that question is answered, I've found it to be no different than if I were to have found their job posting on a board - some are crap, some are diamonds.

*For a while, I did make a point to ask them where they found my profile if they seemed like they had genuinely felt that I fit their needs, since there was a chance that they came across an outdated one.


I actually picked up some absolutely amazing contract work from a cold-call. The individual came across my Stack Overflow profile, saw I had the skills necessary, and the rest is history.

And of course there's plenty of spammers out there. If the email seems legit, then by all means reply.


Don't dismiss it out of hand - dig in to each one. If you just ask the question, "What about my profile made you think we were a good fit?" the spammers won't have have the time or energy to respond and you can start filtering right there.


There's no substitute for asking the right questions of any potential employer, regardless of who initiates contact. I don't think it's a matter of trust - it's a matter of feeling them out and making sure it's a good fit, regardless.

I don't think there's anything inherently untrustworthy about it. Maybe your skills are in high demand. Maybe they are calling lots of people - the fit is what should matter.



I have had people contact me looking to fill positions... actually I get several calls a month.

Before I give them any information on me I want to know the following:

  • How did you find out about me? This tells me alot. If they found out through a someone I have contracted from someone I have performed work for I will give them more time than if they are a recruiter for a Contracting company that got me out of their database they get less. If they are not willing to give me a solid answer I ask them to call back later.(they rarely do, then i just repeat the process)

  • What skill(s) of mine led you to consider me. Just because you are a good programmer is not enough, I want to hear we are looking for a specific skill (ie ASP.net developer with WCF And MVC experience.)

  • Where is the position located? There is no point in even talking about a position in a location I am not willing to move to. Some recruiters will just give you a general large city, I want to know if it is down town, in the suburbs, etc. A real offer has a real location, a fishing trip generally doesn't.

  • Tell me about the position? If I am not interested at this point I do not give them any more information. If I have a good lead for them I may ask for contact information to pass along. I never give my friends/(former)coworkers numbers to the recruiters that I do not have a working relationship with.

  • If I am interested I ask them to send me an email with the information on the position and that I will reply with my resume. This email should have a reply to address that is from the company they claimed to represent. I also check out their website and if I have any question I will call the number from the website to contact the recruiter. This is more about confirming the recruiter is who they claimed they were than getting the question answered.

  • This is an excellent strategy.
    – Neo
    May 24, 2018 at 11:23

I got my current position at a great company from a "cold call". I had submitted my resume to them ~3 years ago when looking for work and got a call about 6 months ago based on that. I think as with most things... it depends. You still need to do the research on a company, regardless of who reached out to whom.

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    Well, if you submitted your resume, it's not really a cold call, is it?
    – sleske
    Apr 10, 2012 at 20:00
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    @sleske I guess that depends. It was 2.5 years before they called me. That's pretty cold IMO. :)
    – Brandon
    Apr 10, 2012 at 20:02

I can understand your concern; initially when I went onto LinkedIn I was being pestered a little bit, but mostly by recruitment agents as opposed to directly by companies. These were typically based on keyword searches and the like, and their approaches had all the subtlety of a Nigerian scam letter or a Reader's Digest "You are our lucky winner" circular.

From the employers side of things, I have approached one person to join my team based on their online presence - actually a Wiki they were maintaining to support users on their site with our software - and the individual was an excellent choice, even though we had to relocate them internationally.

To take this further, when someone applies for a job with me, I expect them to be able to explain why they want this job (and not just a job) If the prospective employer approaches you, I think its more than fair to invert this expectation, and explain why they want you for the role.

If they are responding to your wider online footprint as opposed to just a profile then - even if it is an recruitment agent - I'd take it seriously.

I've had experience of companies passing a targeted name list onto a recruitment agent based on just this, as they wanted the initial screening to be anonymous.

So - I'd suggest if its not obvious from the initial contact, screen the approaches in exactly the same way as companies screen applicants for roles they have advertised. Most genuine employers would see this as a positive step.


If this is a phone call, one way to filter out the true solicitations from the posers is to explain politely that you would like to discuss the matter further, but you have an upcoming meeting scheduled which requires your attendance. Ask for a phone number where they can be reached in the next hour so that you can call them back. If they are truly interested in you, they will give you the information. If not, then the type of opportunity you would most likely want wasn't there to begin with.

If the solicitation is coming from a recruiter, then you should always assume that you are one of many potential candidates they are contacting. The offers may be valid, and their interest may be sincere, but your experience will vary, so don't get your hopes up. They are being paid by the company to find a suitable candidate, by whatever means necessary. So, they will spread their net rather far just to find that one fish. Now, this is not to say that they are not a valuable source of information and access for the job-seeker, which they are. You just have to understand the relationship in order to keep your sanity.

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