Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 28th Aug, 2007

Are They Really That Desperate?

It was with some amusement a month or so ago that I received an email from a recruiter at Microsoft asking me if I'd like to apply for a job at the august body he represents. Now, in the past year or so we've seen Google doing this: scanning blogs, email lists and web pages looking for likely techies and offering them jobs. The last one from Google was about a month before this; on the Canberra Linux Users Group we rather shamelessly discussed who had got what, determining who had got the stock form letter and on who the recruiters had done any actual research. And in light of the 'internal' Microsoft email that got blog-memed recently from a former Google employee who moved to Gatesville and told the HR people there what they could do to improve their standing in the recruitment and employee relations stakes, I suppose this new email should have come as no surprise.

While I'm not quite as vociferous or as pronounced as Eric Raymond regarding working for Microsoft, I do feel at the moment that it would take a lot more than a six figure salary, regular trips to all the major open source conferences and a new Tesla Roadster to make me work there. My opinion is that the Microsoft corporate ethos is fundamentally tainted - they are working on the principle that they must own and dominate everything. We've seen the Halloween letters showing that their approach to Linux and open standards is Embrace, Extend, Extinguish and I see no reason for or evidence of them changing in the intervening half decade. Once you've read a bit of E. E. 'Doc' Smith and his sesquipedalian descriptions of the gnawing, unassuagable greed that gnaws at the villains, you recognise the signs in Microsoft's continued attempts to dominate an industry that has already proved that it needs no master. Take OOXML - not only is it a phenomenally bad standard, but then they rush it through the ECMA process and try to ram it down ISO's throats by sending technical advocates out to all the undecided countries trying to convince them of its greatness. I would never prostitute myself in that way.

So maybe my reading of the letter is somewhat biased. But I find a couple of points on it amusing. The second sentence is "I found your CV online" ... but I have no online CV (at least, none recent enough to refer to my address). Later in the email they cover up by asking for my most recent CV, of course. And the tone of the email is laden with the idea that, far from this being a friendly one-on-one email, I should be grateful that Microsoft has even deigned to email me at all. "Competition for our positions is very tight..." eh? If they've got so many people begging for positions with them, why are they bothering to email me out of the blue? And if I do burn with an uncontrollable desire for a job with them, I then have to fill out no less than thirteen questions - basically a mini interview - including such gems as "Describe your dream job" and "Is there anyone else in your set of peers or friends who you would like to recommend as a candidate for [...] positions at Microsoft?". On my "me" page (easily findable from my home page) it lists my age, degree and current city of residence, and in their email he knows I'm in Australia, yet the questions include "In which city do you live?" and "What country are you a citizen of?" I could even hate them just for ending a sentence with a preposition. They're not even telling me about a specific position, they're just saying "we might have some job or other for you, so apply - but don't expect a response, we're busy people here."

Hint to all those recruiters out there: do your research. If you're going to send an email to someone to ask them if they'd like a job, you are contacting them specifically - you cannot make it look like you're using a form letter even if you are. We're all very wary of unsolicited emails these days, and we know that recruiters are now using the blunderbuss scatter-gun approach to recruiting people. Your email should be telling us why you've picked us, and what specific position you are interested in us taking. You should also have a rough idea of what the person's attitudes are from your research - so you're either emailing them because you think they would be a good match for your company, or you're going to say that you don't know what their opinions are and would like to hear from them if you're wrong. And never ever tell them in the same email that they might also not actually be listened to at all. We're just as picky with what we reply to as you are, and the prospect of wasting our time jumping through a bunch of hoops in order to get ignored will prompt a quick filing of your email in the circular wastebasket...

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