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A recruiter at my company, one of the big SV software companies, has asked me to collect a list of contacts from LinkedIn to send recruitment emails to. I consider this really spammy, and an abuse of my out-of-work relationships, and I want to refuse to do this.

I believe that I'm supposed to be enticed to do this by the prospect of a referral bonus if we actually hire any of them, but I value my relationships with these people, many of whom are my friends as well, much more than I do a small chance of receiving a few thousand dollars. Personally, if a friend or even worse, a contact I hadn't talked to in a while, sent me a generic recruiting message out of the blue, I'd definitely think less of them and consider it a breach of trust in our relationship (the software engineers I know really don't like recruiter spam).

The company I work for has probably dug itself in a bit of a hole here by being one of the top-paying companies in the industry: I already make enough money to not really care about any incremental bonuses.

Is this something that is common at these companies? I've only worked at startups before, really. How can I avoid it?

  • "collect a list of contacts from LinkedIn" Is that really what they said? LinkedIn doesn't allow you to collect contact details at all as far as I know. I assume you mean that they want you to send an email blast to all your contacts with their generic message? – Lilienthal Sep 14 '17 at 6:08
  • has asked me to collect a list of contacts from LinkedIn What do they actually want you to do? Do they want you to give a list of all LinkedIn accounts you are "friends" with? Or do they just want you to give a list of people who would be interested in a job (presumably with their permission)? – Brandin Sep 14 '17 at 12:21
  • @Lilienthal yes - there's an export function. I believe that they're going to email them. I'd be fine with referring people if it came up organically - I've already done this for someone that explicitly asked me for a referral, but I'm not okay with doing anything unsolicited. – chrslys Sep 14 '17 at 13:08
  • @Brandin a mix of both - a list of software engineers, they don't need to have expressed interest or even talked to me any recent time frame. – chrslys Sep 14 '17 at 13:09
  • @chrslys If they just want a list of who's interested (in getting emails, messages, friend requests, etc.), the simple option is to say "none at this time." Don't go into details about why, just say there is no one you can refer at this time. – Brandin Sep 14 '17 at 13:49
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No, its not a norm to spam employees linked-in contacts. Feel free to refuse to share linked-in contacts if you are not comfortable doing so. Its your linked-in, not your company's.

If you feel pressured, a simpler way would be to ask the recruiter to post the position on linked-in where you can like it, there by sending a notification to all your contacts. That is also if you feel like it. Don't do it if you don't want to.

Some people do tend to post vacancies on linked in to get referral bonus. Also, you should consider if any of your friends might be looking for a job change. If the place is a great place to work for and you would want to get some of your friends here, think about it. Else just tell them that you don't feel like sharing your linked contacts. They are your personal contacts for professional development. Tell your recruitment team politely that they would be better off posting the vacancies on job portals. A simple no would be far better than putting any excuse.

  • There aren't any vacancies per se, the company doesn't hire for specific roles. But I don't really want the bonus, so I don't need something to post anyways. – chrslys Sep 14 '17 at 13:12
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Absolutely do not spam people whose friendship or relationship in general you value.

That being said, why dont you constructively grace your company's request as well while doing so?

From the sounds of it you re in a well respected, top paying company. I bet plenty of those people would actually appreciate knowing there are specific openings, you deem them a good fit for. Get informed about the openings and selectively match a few, that you know are either actively looking for work or that could be enticed by what your company has to offer.

tl;dr

Of course its wrong to spam people generic requests, but a timely discreet targeted and personalized message is fair play and will not only NOT be considered a nuisance but will actually be courteous of you.

  • There aren't specific openings. This company just consumes software engineers and puts them somewhere. – chrslys Sep 14 '17 at 13:10
  • @chrslys Still from the narrative of it, its a good place to work for (HR tactics aside). If thats indeed so, noone will misjudge the notion of giving them a personal heads-up.If you want to make sure what openings there are more precisely, or better which technologies and what expertise they look for, you can always follow up with HR and ask for more info so you can do this your way. You dont even have to consume more time than just this even, just a simple notion and the contact details of who they should follow this up with in case they re interested. Be brief precise and to the point. – Leon Sep 14 '17 at 13:26
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Is this something that is common at these companies?

I'm not sure if it's common or not.

Before there was LinkedIn, pretty much every small company I worked for would ask folks to help them source candidates. And as happened at your company, they usually offered a bonus as enticement.

Frankly, I often contacted my friends when I thought they were a good fit for a good job at a good company. Without regard to any bonus, why wouldn't I want to work with these good people again?

I would never reach out to all my contacts in LinkedIn. Many of them clearly wouldn't be interested. And many of them wouldn't be an appropriate candidate no matter what positions were available.

How can I avoid it?

Just say no. You cannot be compelled to do this task. But consider reaching out individually to anyone you would want to come work at your company.

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Is this something that is common at these companies?

That depends on how you define common. It's certainly not unheard of and plenty of companies and employers who suck at hiring make these kinds of requests of their employees. The fact that you're dealing with a captive audience and the request usually comes from someone up the chain of command makes it hard for many people to say no which is presumably why this is still a thing. But make no mistake: it's a terrible practice and good employers won't do it. Referral bonuses are a common incentive as are recruitment events, particularly in companies with high turnover like consultancies. But even they typically trust their employees to reach out to their network only if they think they might have a suitable candidate. A good referral is a win for all parties involved.

There's no real distinction between startups and "normal" companies in this regard, save for the fact that a lot of startups have people in management with little real corporate experience and who are by extension more likely to suck at hiring.

How can I avoid it?

Just decline politely. There's no reason to make a big deal of it. Reply with something like:

Thanks for reaching out. I'd rather not spam my contact list with a generic recruitment message but if I think of anyone who would be a good fit for [company / team / project] I'll be sure to reach out to them.

That should take care of it. If they keep spamming you the best course of action will be either to ignore those mails and hope they go away, send a non-committal reply that you'll "reach out to your network" and then don't, or be much firmer in your reply to get them to stop. But none of that should be necessary.

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