Job alerts: help or hindrance?

Before we get started… I am dyslexic. Since about 1974, I have been trying to kick my dyslexia habit, but that whole grammar and spelling thing is impossible for me, Grammarly has my back, as do other tools, but it ain’t perfic, so suck up the poor grammar/odd word misplacement or don’t read on.


Last night I had a very informative chat with a candidate who was being spammed by a recruitment company with job alerts. I say spam as 18 emails back he asked to be unsubscribed by return email 5 times. He had tried the unsubscribe link, but that went to a 404 error page on the recruiter’s website. About halfway through these emails, the recruiter changed the email text and removed the option to opt out completely. OUCH!!!


Why is this a problem?


Present data protection and PERC laws give this candidate the ability to report this recruiter and cause them issues. They can also be reported for SPAM, and that can, if done often enough, have an effect on your website, its rankings, and your overall ability to deliver emails.


OK, so those are problems you may not see hit your bottom line quickly or even look for till it is too late – right? What about this problem, then? People are now winning cases in the small claims court for being sent spam emails; the average award is £200. This series of emails will qualify, so there is one £200 fine if this poor chap wants to go that route. There is even a guy on LI who has made up a guide on how to do it.


If it is happening to this guy, given the size and scale of this recruitment firm, we can be sure it will be happening to a few hundred others, if not over a thousand, maybe. That means the small claims spam route might be a real drain. 10 claims are £2000, 100 claims are £20,000, 1000 claims are £200,000…


The recruitment website was made by a leading company in our industry who, to the best of my knowledge, charge £20000 to £40000 for their sites. Then a few thousand to run them for you. None of us is perfect in the recruitment website community, but this is just plain dumb.


The recruiter is a high-profile recruiter whose CEO has been on TV shows and the like, and has hundreds of staff and lots of money. They have no excuses not to know this is an issue, and they have no excuses for ignoring the follow-up emails the candidate has sent.


The candidate, well, they asked to be kept out of this, so… mind your own business.


Will this become a bigger problem?


From what we have seen in the last 5 years, yes, and when GDPR comes, it’s a gazillion % yes. The misuse of personal data under GDPR is going to be huge, if not in fines then in having to shut down features you have in your technologies and clean up your marketing strategies before you have quality replacements as part of keeping the ICO fine to a minimum.


So what have I seen in the past 5 years that made me say yes, this will be a bigger problem? Well, we operate a job alert on our recruitment website, and they are one-click unsubscribe, double opt-in, etc. Despite this, we have seen an alarming rate in candidates who set up the job alert then reporting the recruiter for spam instead of using the unsubscribe feature. This, we believe, is a protest spam vote against the recruiter by candidates who did not find work, or did not get the follow-up we hear so much about on LinkedIn.


Having a faulty Job Alert feature, then, is positively playing Russian Roulette with your marketing and legal budgets. Having a faulty candidate care program is going to be playing Russian Roulette with a bullet in every chamber.


We have also seen AOL spam filters auto decide an email is spam for their users and report us for spam. We know this because we ran some checks with users who set up job alerts, and then 3-7 days later we got reported for spam by AOL. The users all confirmed they had no issue, made no spam report and wanted the job alerts.


Job alerts done right


The first thing I’d say is to have one system, if possible, of job alerts. Which is to say that while your ATS may have the ability to send out alerts, if the opt-in and out of those alerts is not as slick as the one you have on your website, then you are going to be setting yourself up for trouble, so use the website. If the ATS is slick, then don’t double up with a job alert feature on your website. I mean, why duplicate the risk, admin, etc?


The second thing is to make those job alerts with well-defined screening options. Sending someone all your perm telecoms jobs is not a good idea in my view. I see it done often because people do not want to be restrictive, but here some restrictions are going to be a good thing.


The third thing I would say is to have some form of the expiry date for your job alerts or a feature to set the time a user expects the job alert to run for. Like when they set it up to offer a date range of say 30 days, 60 days, 90 days. 3 days before the expiry date, they should then get an email advising of the end of the alert with a one-click roll-on option. No roll-on means an end to most risks, and the whole time-setting thing will be liked by GDPR/ICO geeks IMHO.


The fourth thing I would say is to make the job adverts worthy of the reader’s time. High-profile job writing experts can strangle the life out of the room with their repetitive messages about writing great jobs ads but… sorry guys, they are 100% right. Making people think “Why are you sending me this crap?” is going to be a fast route to the spam button.


The fifth thing is to have job alert content made suitable for the mobile user, as most of the alerts will be read on a mobile, if not now, then in the very near future. Responsive is OK, but wading through job ads that are 2000 words long is no fun on mobile, and nor is one line of text (see “why are you sending me this crap?”) RecruiterWEB operates a dedicated design approach for mobile so we can iron out these issues, BTW.


The final thing is to have a follow-up plan for all candidates and all alerts. Even if it is a no, give the no. Candidates are getting more and more vocal about a lack of human-centric follow-up policies, and that is only going to grow if you send a job alert and then ignore the responses of the alerted.


This has been a ‘Recruitment Marketing Bullshit Busting One Method At A Time’ post by me, Darren Revell of RecruiterWEB. ‘You do the recruitment and we’ll do your web’.