This is the first post in a three-part series about how recruiters’ poor writing likely repels candidates.

Recently, a Tesla recruiter publicly criticized job candidates on LinkedIn with an impetuous, controversial post she later decided to lightly edit. Alarmingly, over 13,000 people “liked” the post. Both the initial and edited versions — with highlighted keywords — are below (as links to screenshots and plain text). A tone analysis of the recruiter’s posts and a suggested, neutral version of the message appear later.

Initial post

CANDIDATE TIP: When messaging a Recruiter on LinkedIn, avoid asking them to review your profile for any open positions. Why? Point blank – this approach can be perceived as lazy. This statement insinuates you didn’t check for yourself first.

Do your homework and be specific on what roles you’re interested in, even better if you can list out the REQ numbers. Don’t see a role posted? Briefly describe what types of roles you can make an impact in. Make that first impression a good one!!

Edited post

CANDIDATE TIP: When messaging a Recruiter on LinkedIn, please avoid asking them to “review your profile for any open positions”, without accompanying said message with a resume and a clear statement of what roles you are interested in. Why? This approach can be perceived as unprepared/not proactive/not engaged – this statement insinuates you didn’t check for yourself first.

Please do your “homework” and be specific on what roles you’re interested in, even better if you can list out the REQ numbers. Don’t see a specific role posted? Briefly describe what types of roles you can make an impact in. Make that first impression a good one!!

Questions to consider

What’s wrong with her messages (apart from errors in grammar and punctuation) – before and after editing? How might a job candidate feel reading them? Belittled, discouraged, shamed, ridiculed? Probably. What was the purpose of her message? Did she truly want to help candidates or did she want to voice her frustrations? Her ostensibly exasperated tone makes that a hard question to answer. Some people’s comments to her messages (there were over 400) suggest she may have stretched the chasm between recruiters and job seekers.

Analysis

Several factors make this post inflammatory and universally ineffective, but the following four terms and phrases – highlighted above in both versions – are strikingly negative, especially in the context of LinkedIn’s ongoing, contentious recruiter-candidate debate:

Initial post
Edited post
1. Why? Point blank 1. Why?
2. lazy 2. unprepared/not proactive/not engaged
3. insinuates you didn’t check for yourself first 3. [unchanged] insinuates you didn’t check for yourself first
4. Do your homework 4. Please do your “homework”

Terms and phrases 1 & 2

To ask “Why?” and suggest that the answer is “Point blank” obvious may be interpreted as demeaning and hostile. The recruiter probably realized how the phrase “Point blank” could inspire a violent image – such as one directly firing at a target (or in this case, the recruiter firing her criticisms at candidates) – which may be why she removed the phrase in her edited post. However, she did not manage to remove her derisive tone. In both messages, the recruiter offered condemnatory answers to her question. She suggested that candidates who did not include certain information in their messages to recruiters could “be perceived as lazy” or “unprepared/not proactive/not engaged.” She did not consider that perhaps recruiters encourage candidates to write general, non-specific messages by setting a poor example. Recruiters frequently cold email candidates with impersonal, generic messages and make their own expectations unclear in job postings and other types of written communication.

Terms and phrases 3 & 4

Furthermore, the recruiter may have repelled candidates by stating that a request to review one’s profile for any open positions “insinuates you didn’t check for yourself first.” Two things about that statement are harmful to the recruiter’s message: 1. the term “insinuates” has a negative connotation and 2. she reinforces the opinion that candidates are “lazy” or “unprepared.” Again, she does not show an appreciation for her audience’s perspective. Finally, the recruiter assigns “homework,” a term that implies she is adopting the role of a teacher, a superior instead of an equal, a partner in the job hunting process. In the edited message, the recruiter put quotation marks around the term, but that did little to reduce her self-elevated status.

If the recruiter’s purpose is to motivate candidates to follow her advice and not angrily respond to her post, she must eliminate all negative, judgmental terms and clearly list what she needs from job seekers to appropriately address their messages.

Suggested post

There are several ways of writing an effective post. Here’s one to consider:

Candidates, to help us (recruiters) determine your qualifications for specific roles and accelerate the recruiting process, please include the following three critical pieces of information in your LinkedIn messages to us:

  1. the job title(s)/role(s) you’re interested in – include REQ number(s) if possible
  2. a brief statement explaining how you might make an impact in your desired role(s)
  3. a resume

Thank you for supplying us with the information we need to make the best possible hiring decisions.

(The request for a resume might demonstrate a lack of audience awareness since attaching one’s resume to a LinkedIn message is not possible. One can do this only through LinkedIn Jobs, a separate application. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know.)

Final thoughts

Tesla requires candidates to “check [their] ego[s] at the door.” That’s a wise order, which Tesla should also reinforce post job offer. Egos don’t fuel cars or attract the best candidates. Humility is certainly more energy efficient.

 

5.2.2017 Update: After reading this article, several people asked for more information on how to effectively offer advice in business discourse. What I found that addressed this topic is an excellent blog post by Kate Nasser, a people skills coach with over 25 years of experience — “5 Ways to Sound Helpful Not Patronizing.”