was my “probably not, but maybe” response to a recruiter appropriate?

A reader writes:

What’s the line between when it’s appropriate to completely ignore a message from a recruiter vs. when it’s reasonable to respond with a description of concerns that would need to be addressed?

I recently ended up writing a missive in response to a job I probably won’t take (located in my neighborhood, thus perhaps run by people I might want to work with should they engage in future, more interesting ventures), and I’m trying to decide to what extent this is a reasonable thing to do vs. a waste of everyone’s time.

I received an email from the head of HR for a business, pitching me on their company (for example, mentioning they have seven-hour days). The note ended by saying, “Your background is incredibly impressive, and I would love to connect to further discuss the opportunity. Would you have some time to connect over the coming days so that I might discuss the role with you but more importantly get to know you better?”

This is what I sent in response (anonymized in places):

Thank you for reaching out. I’m always glad to hear of another tech company in the area; that said, I do have some initial concerns. I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer, and perhaps we can jointly determine if this is an opportunity that makes sense to consider.

First, my core considerations:

Does a company provide an opportunity to work with people I’d be able to learn from?
While I’ve had the opportunity to gain some deeply specialized experience (and may well be the person with the most experience in some specialties within any given team), I’ve also had opportunity to learn from coworkers with their own deep specialties. At [CurrentCo], for example, I work next to [specialists in subfield-1], [specialists in subfield-2 ], [specialists in subfield-3], and more.

Is the technical stack keeping up with industry cutting-edge? Given stakeholder justification (in terms of concrete benefits), is there organizational willingness to invest in technical enhancements, and a large enough technical staff to be able to keep up with maintenance while exploring high-risk/high-reward investments?

One of my professional goals is to ensure that I’m enhancing my skills over time. One way to do this is to attempt to keep pace with industry-leading standards and technology; as an example, at my current job, I was given enough leeway to start a multi-year effort to [build our own version of technology pioneered by a well-known industry leader]. The result of this has been industry leadership in [advantage of this technology] applied to [CurrentCo’s field]. (This isn’t an isolated incident, but emblematic of how [CurrentCo] operates; over the duration of my tenure there has also been a major rewrite from [OldLanguage] to [NewLanguage-A], dramatically enhancing performance of the relevant subsystems — and the company first gained my attention as an early adopter of the [NewLanguage-B] language, and the [Toolkit-C] framework on top of it).

Is the work important? Is the work challenging?
I link these two together because they’re of a piece. The last company I was at which had a hard focus on limited work hours was [HugeManufacturingCo] — everyone was out at 5 pm — and frankly, I was miserable: If the things we’re working towards are so unimportant that there’s never a justification to put in extra effort, are they really worth working on at all?
By contrast, before [HugeManufacturingCo], one of the startups I engaged in was building [medical software]. While the company had some serious faults, our technology was in many respects the better part of a decade ahead of the industry, and there was genuine reason to believe that successfully executing on our mission would change the way medicine was practiced worldwide. I had a cot in the office and slept there at times — and couldn’t have been happier.

To be sure, this was before I had family commitments — I wouldn’t consider any position that required those same hours on a daily basis today — but doing something that genuinely makes the world a better place remains important. (Commerce can be argued to “make the world a better place” — if you notice [startup in a similar space to NewCo] on my CV, the argument made at that time is that we were going to break up the near-monopoly held by [biggest company in a field related to NewCo’s] and help democratize the field by allowing smaller organizations to cheaply stand up competitors; not as inspiring as changing the way medicine is done, but inspiring enough.)

Is the company generally aligned with my personal ethics?
Would I be working with a diverse team, or a group of “bro-grammers”? Are customers and end-users considered stakeholders — whose interests are to be represented in internal decision making — or merely a source of funds?

Speaking now to [NewCo] specifically:
I haven’t had much success finding a set of job listings on your site to get a solid idea of your technical stack. Looking through LinkedIn for existing software development staff, the few individuals I can find appear to have a [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] background; I don’t as yet have any information about what your [tooling used for a different purpose] looks like.

While my [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] skills are still current today, I don’t consider that a place I’m looking to focus going forward; there are superior alternatives in most of the niches in which it is widely used — such as [Language-N] in numeric computing, or [Languge-M] in (small/embedded or security-critical) systems programming, or [Language-O] in systems programming contexts that don’t require the rigor associated with [Language-M]. This isn’t an automatic hard “no” for any [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] shop, but it is a place where a [Language-M] or [Language-P] shop (or a company building on [Toolkit-R]) would have an advantage.

For the reasons described above, the focus on seven-hour days misses me somewhat. I’d much rather work longer hours — at least on occasion — if I’m spending that time doing something important: Advancing the state of the art, or making the world a better place.

If, given the above, you think [NewCo] might still be a reasonable fit: The second-in-command on the team I lead is going to be [unavailable] in [time range], so any start date would need to be after [that season] so there’s opportunity for an orderly handoff to take place; consequently, any timeline will necessarily be relaxed. If you wanted to have lunch at [proposed location] as a chance to chat in person, I’ll be fully vaccinated and available as of [date about a month out].

Was this worthwhile contact-building, or a waste of everyone’s time?

In this case, I suppose it depends on how she responds — but as a general rule, this was way too much for an initial email.

These are reasonable questions to have, but way too much for email. Ideally you would have said you had questions and asked for a phone call, or cut this way down to a couple of questions in a single paragraph.

Most recruiters — or hiring managers or so forth — won’t to write out the sort of lengthy reply this email would require; no one has that much time to invest in writing long emails on nuanced topics to candidates they haven’t even screened yet. (And even once you’re screened, few people involved in hiring will write out lengthy replies like this would require —they’re going to want to just get on the phone and talk it through.) Generally, if you get a response at all, it’s going to be some variation of, “These are all things we can talk about on a call.”

Similarly, I wouldn’t have proposed lunch — that’s a significant time investment when she’s almost certainly just looking for an initial phone call.

In some ways you replied as if you were mid-process already (the lunch, the discussion of start dates) when she was basically just inviting you to throw your hat in the ring.

Some of this, too, is stuff that you’ll need to figure out for yourself — like the pieces about whether the work is important, challenging, and aligned with your personal ethics. Those aren’t questions she can answer for you; they’re things you’ll have to figure out as you learn about the work and the company. That’s not to say there’s no value in noting that those are important considerations for you, but they’re framed here as questions for her to consider (in an already very long email!).

To be clear, the company approached you, and it’s perfectly reasonable for you to have questions before deciding whether you want to take the trouble of applying. But that’s why she was suggesting connecting, and it’s much easier to discuss all of this in a phone call.

{ 438 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey all. Please be kind. The letter writer may be reading these comments (and so might potential future letter writers) and I’d like to keep them kind and constructive. Thank you.

  2. pleaset cheap rolls*

    “I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer, and perhaps we can jointly determine if this is an opportunity that makes sense to consider.”

    I read this and thought a bullet list would be coming. And I stopped reading after the next full paragraph

    1. BangBoom*

      I read the first paragraph and then noped the hell out. An email this length would be weird from a coworker let alone some stranger!

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yeah. I read EVERYTHING on this site… except this. There’s an old saying for journalists when being taught the fundamentals of good editing that I think applies here: “It was too hard to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”

        1. PinaColada*

          Yes, 100%. Also I do not mean for this to be unkind, but there’s a lot in his letter to the company that speaks to a lack of self-awareness, or a lack of how they might be perceived. That alone would make me never want to bring this person on to my team. I think what the letter writer perceives as a thoughtful reply, reads as very confrontational/arrogant to me.

          It sort of reminds me of when I was single, and on some dating sights there would be people who had a list up: “Do NOT contact me if you are…[insert list of unattractive qualities here]”. It was so jarring, and always under the guise of “not wanting to waste anyones time.” Just like this letter.

          I never would reach out to those people, even if I fit their “specs”.

    2. kittymommy*

      Yep, I tried. I got through 2.5 paragraphs and just went to the response. I feel better I’m not the only one.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Not even. 2.5 sentences, then started skimming, then just scrolled.

        And scrolled.

        And scrolled.

        I’m sure LW makes excellent points, but I don’t think this was the way to get them across.

      2. No Longer Looking*

        I made it almost halfway through, then noped out as the letter was getting repetitive and over-technical, and jumped to the response. Frankly I was pretty sure I knew what the response would be.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        To the OP: the less you write, the more attention the reader will pay to what remains.

      1. So sleepy*

        Sometimes I’ll write a lengthy e-mail, then decide it needs a tl;dr. So I’ll write one out, and then every single time it makes me realize I really need to shorten my message, so I do that instead. Maybe someday I’ll learn!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          There’s the saying “if I’d had more time, I’d have made it shorter” which applies beautifully here.

    3. Smithy*

      This might come off snarky – but I genuinely mean that an email of this length with this many questions truly is better suited as a meeting/phone call as opposed to an email. It’s just a lot for email, so that if the person even wanted to respond in writing – it would be a lot of time and length.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Funny, I came out of this thinking that I would not want this person as a coworker just because I 100% would not want to sit in a meeting with them. This is the person saying “Have we considered all the angles? Lets talk this out.” when everyone else is ready to pack up and go get some lunch.

        1. Julia*

          That’s harsh. I actually took the time to read this, and it was clear and well-written and the LW overall came across as someone who cares a lot about their work and is diligent and prepared.

          They wrote one overlong email in a context where it should’ve been short. Let’s not generalize about their personality.

          1. Green*

            But the person on the other end of the email will generalize about their personality, because they are specifically assessing their personality.

            So it’s important to have awareness of how that may be perceived when it’s a big piece of the limited information someone has about you

          2. Telgar*

            I agree. I read it and found it thoughtfull and well-structured. To me it shows that the LW knows what they want and has a precise mind. There is value in considering things from multiple angles instead of jumping to conclusions. If an employer does not see that value then LW probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

      1. Suzy Q*

        Yeah, I noped out after about two paragraphs. Also, use of the term “stakeholders” is a big turnoff for me. (Yes, I know it’s a popular term now, but it’s pretentious.)

        1. Momma Bear*

          I hate it because no one seems to agree on who gets to be a stakeholder or everyone is and there’s too many opinions for everything.

          1. Czhorat*

            It’s industry specific. It is the phrase in the PMBOK (project management book of knowledge) so anyone with a PMP or even regular involvement in project work will likely use it without thinking

            1. ...*

              Other industries have started using this term because they think it makes their employees feel “special.” Our data entry specialists and even the customer service representatives were “stakeholders.” It felt like an attempt to keep up morale despite under-market pay.

            2. Snailing*

              Yep, it’s in the SHRMBOK too (society of human resource management book of knowledge) – and in theirs, they say literally EVERYONE is a stakeholder – c-suite, employees, community members, customers, local politicians, etc etc etc.

          2. MsM*

            In my line of work, when listing everyone out runs the risk that you’ll get complaints over omissions or inclusions, that’s a feature.

        2. Savaphoong*

          I don’t think it’s pretentious. It’s the appropriate word in my industry, and using a substitute word would come off as odd.

    4. Southern Ladybug*

      Yeah, I think the LW screened themselves OUT of the position. Or any position.

      I hear you LW – I’ve been approached before when it would take a lot to get me to consider my current employer. It’s a great position to be in. I usually keep it shorter and to the lines of, “I’m not currently looking, but I never close a door without taking a look. Something something something about more about the position and a phone call.” That list is what I internally use as conversations progress (or to stop them).

      1. twocents*

        Yeah, I worry that the person on the other end of this novel is wondering if they still want to have a quick chat.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          I’m a recruiter. I would’ve thanked them for their time and moved on. I completely get why candidates would have questions before agreeing to a call, but this is too much. It would be a red flag. Not saying the LW is wrong for their opinion. It just comes off as too persnickety, of they fire off a missive like this for a recruiter email, would they be a good fit for the team?

          1. Sammie*

            Something I learnt during my training as a recruiter is that conversations with either candidates or companies are give and take. You can take information, expertise, advice, opinions and time during a conversation, but in return you should be expected to give some of this up.

            If I had seen this email I would have felt a bit like I was being pushed to give a lot, but not getting much in return in regards to the candidates insights, market knowledge or overall commitment to the role.

    5. General Chaos Wrangler*

      Same. I got somewhere around [Language 1] or something then just skipped to Alison’s response.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      I read very quickly and I glazed over at this very quickly. I think that probably stopped their interest in the LW right there. This was well, too much for a shallow worm in the pond fishing attempt.

      But hey, if you’re not that into the company, this is a good way to not have to deal with them, I suppose. I don’t mean it in a mean way, I’m just extremely unimpressed with recruiters from the stories I’ve heard.

    7. KayDeeAye*

      It reads as really…passionate. Way too passionate, too intense for a initial inquiry. If I was this recruiter, I probably wouldn’t be able to say exactly what the writer is passionate about, but clearly something.

      But it also reads – and I truly don’t want to sound unkind here – very bossy and entitled. Like, “Before I invest 30-45 minutes in an initial phone screening, prove to me that I won’t be wasting my incredibly valuable time.” But apparently it’s OK for this recruiter to spend a bunch of time answering an incredibly detailed email from someone who hasn’t even interviewed yet?

      It’s just so over-the-top. You really need to dial it back, OP.

      1. CommsMan*

        Also, something to consider in the future in terms of investing time: how much time did it take to write this email out? Surely 30-45 minutes? I think if time is a concern, it would have been far better to invest that time in a conversation with the recruiter, even if they didn’t get through all of the questions here.

    8. lawsuited*

      There are definitely (much, much) quicker ways to say “no, I don’t want your job” than this.

    9. MCMonkeybean*

      On top of that, I thought they were going to be concerns specific to this company like there was something they had heard about this place that made them wary.

      But the few that I read seemed super basic. I would start from a place of assuming a good company does have talented people you could learn from and keeps up to date with technology, and then confirm that later in the process. It seems kind of unnecessarily adversarial to ask these questions from a place that sounds like you think it’s highly likely they *don’t* have those things. And sure, lots of companies might not! So it’s not out of line to have that on a list of things you want… but it still seems like a really aggressive place to start in the very first contact.

  3. Melody*

    I didn’t read the whole email response, and I’m just an AAM reader, not the recruiter.
    That was…a lot.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, when I saw it was more than a couple paragraphs I just glazed right over. Way, way too much.

      Having questions is normal but that’s what these sorts of phone conversations are for. You don’t need to lay out a list of demands that quickly — especially in that long of a format! Take a half an hour or an hour, ask a few questions, see how they answer, go from there.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I have to agree. In order for the recruiter to decide if they want to write a reply to all those questions, they first have to get through that email. I couldn’t get through more than a couple paragraphs.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’ve even tried to go back up and read it for real after reading some comments and I still cannot do it. There are just so many words, OP!

      You’ve got to find out why you are so so so verbose first and foremost. And then maybe you can tackle some of the content and context. But man, get help with your communication. I’m sure you have so much to contribute but as it is now, no one will ever know.

    4. MistOrMister*

      Yes, it seemed rather excessive to me as well. Especially for a “probably not, but maybe”. For that many questions I would have asked for a phone interview. I can understand wanting to get some info in order to decide if you’re interested enough to do an interview, but a lot of these questions seem more suited to the actual interview rather than a reply to a recruiter. I also found suggesting lunch to be a bit odd. My experience has been that once you tell the recruiter you are interested they will get yout info to the right people who will let you know how they go about the interview process, they don’t expect you to set up the meetings.

  4. bubbleon*

    I stopped at “I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer”- for some reason that line makes it sound like HR is in line for a lecture and it sort of looks like they got one. Unless the company that reached out is desperate, I can’t imagine they would even reply. This just seems so beyond reasonable as a reply to “hey we’d like to chat”

    1. Yorick*

      It really does look like that. These are all things you try to figure out during an interview!

    2. Anon Dot Com*

      Yes. It also feels over-invested — how much time did LW spend writing this up, for a job they don’t even know if they’re interested in? It would make me wonder if they take generally take things too seriously or overcomplicate things. Also, it’s great to be so self-reflective and thoughtful *for yourself*, but it comes off as presumptuous to assume that the recruiter cares about you to this level, or has any incentive to invest the amount of time in you that a response would require, at this very early point in the process. This doesn’t reflect well on LW as a potential employee.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        ” great to be so self-reflective and thoughtful *for yourself*, but it comes off as presumptuous to assume that the recruiter cares about you to this level”

        Yes.

        1. Zelda*

          +1

          Too early– absolutely ask all those questions, once you have gotten to the screening or interview stage. ATM it risks sounding as if you’re sure you’re going to be offered the job– a bit presumptuous.

          And too much introspection– absolutely ask the question, but your reasoning for having the question is just not relevant to the conversation. Many of them seem like totally normal questions; the reason you have them is completely obvious. And in any case your recruiter/HR person/hiring manager doesn’t need to know the state of your soul that led to the question; their part would be to give you the answer, in the event that what you saw & heard during an interview didn’t already tell you.

          1. biobotb*

            “Many of them seem like totally normal questions; the reason you have them is completely obvious.”

            Yeah, I think this is why the tone of the letter rubbed a lot of commenters the wrong way. It comes across as if the LW thinks the recruiter is too dense to understand why they’d have these very normal wants/needs for their job, or somehow thinks that their reasoning is unusual or special. (It’s not.)

            Like taking the time to point out that questions about the work being important and challenging are related. No kidding, I think most people could understand why how those two qualities could be related without someone explaining that to them. Those aspects of the letter come across as condescending.

    3. Hiring Manager sometimes*

      I have to agree. I am hiring a couple open positions right now and our recruiters reach out to dozens of people who have an interesting background, or more. That is basically just an invitation to chat, not a statement that they are close to offering you a job. While the concerns outlined by LW are valid, the answers to those are what comes from the entire interview process and not from the initial phone screen. And as others have pointed out, many of these questions can’t be answered by an external person, they are your call.
      I’m not trying to be unkind but I believe the LW is early-career and therefore want to make sure they understand this is far outside business norms.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      The words “I’m going to take a minute to talk about” in any context pretty much make my brain go on vacation. Even applying them to the most interesting subjects I can think of make me feel like what is coming next is going to be dead boring. I think I blame my HS history teacher…

    5. Anonymity*

      And the message from the recruiter was very generic. It’s a cookie cutter message designed to gauge interest.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I wonder if the LW read a little too much into the recruiter saying “your background is incredibly impressive.” It’s a message that probably went out to a number of people with interesting backgrounds in the field, not a specific plea to the LW.

  5. MysteriousMise*

    Me:

    Reads first three paragraphs

    Me:

    Scrolls to end.

    Me:

    Wow.

    Me:

    Scroll to comments

    I can only imagine the recruiter felt not terribly dissimilar.

    1. Yorick*

      Exactly. It’s so long and so much, it was hard for me to even skim it. If I were just approaching people I saw on LinkedIn or wherever and asking them to reply, I would just delete this email and make a mental note that this person is extra.

    2. MissGirl*

      This was my exact response. No way I’m reading this and no way a recruiter is reading this.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, it’s super frustrating to deal with recruiters sometimes. I get it! But this is the kind of thing you type out in a different program, then come back later and delete it instead of sending.

      Unless OP is so amazing in her field that companies are fighting over her, the HR person will do exactly nothing with all this info except have a mildly amusing story to tell.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yup. I’m really committed to be gentle here, so: If I imagine an in-house recruiter/HR person receiving this back (I’m not in anything approaching HR and will never be!) my reaction would be, “This person and I are not communicating with a common purpose. Everything they write may indeed be relevant to the situation, but none of it can be hashed out in email, and much of it is not something HR would be able to address. What is really concerning is that they didn’t realize this.”

      Unless we’re talking about recruiting a recent Nobel Prize winning rising star into a company that wants to be the world leader in a super-cutting-edge technology, at this point I wouldn’t even care if the candidate applied, and if they did, I’d possibly attach an orange flag to their application.

  6. GigglyPuff*

    I mean they didn’t offer you the job, they wanted you to apply as a strong candidate. This is entirely what the interview process is for. Wondering if they even bothered to reply.

    1. Jack Straw*

      Agreed. I’d be interested in a follow up on this letter if one exists.

      Even if the recruiter doesn’t respond (and I can’t imagine they would), if it’s a small community, I would bet this letter makes it’s way into “you’ll never believe what happened to me” conversations.

      1. Krabby*

        I’m in HR for tech and this is… astonishingly normal. For someone with, what I assume, are very niche skills in that industry, she/he will be able to get away with a lot. Their sense of business norms are going to be very skewed because of that. It’s very rare (in my experience) to have hiring managers who won’t cater to that.

        If this was one of the recruiters I work with, they’d show their LinkedIn profile/the response to one of the hiring managers and see how much they still wanted them based on that. If the hiring manager was gung ho (which is likely if the skills are niche) we’d set up a direct call with them and the hiring manager so they could, “discuss your questions directly”.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Oh, yeah. This letter was an incredible turn-off and I would in no way hire or interview this person – but I could also see my brother (a software engineer) writing that kind of letter. Or several of the engineers I work with. And they would never understand why it would come off badly.

          1. No Name Today*

            I find irony is this letter. OP is writing to a recruiter with a laundry list of job requirements that stresses the importance of relationships with coworkers, that is itself so very, very awkward.
            OP, please understand, they just want to know if you are thinking about leaving your current position, not the why or how at this point.

        2. SK*

          Also a recruiter in tech and +1 this happens a lot. I’ve had this exact exchange with high level engineers.

        3. T. Boone Pickens*

          Yup, two of my closest friends are IT recruiters, I showed them this letter and they both responded that what the OP wrote happens about 75% of the time. High level IT candidates are so used to being pursued by multiple companies that they can afford to be as picky as they want.

          1. serenity*

            I think there’s a distinction between what you’re talking about and OP’s letter, which feels more like navel-gazing than anything else.

            And that level of pickiness may come with senior roles but for the job OP’s recruiter reached out about? Maybe, maybe not.

            1. serenity*

              And even in the tech world, would this generate a helpful or honest set of response from a *recruiter*? That’s what I would be curious about. And for a role OP is “probably not going to take”? Not seeing the benefit to anyone of doing this.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. I have some jobs that are impossible to recruit for, and this would not be an automatic NO, but definitely an FYI. I have someone on my team with a very hard to find, niche set of skills that has a tendency to write diatribes like this, and it’s annoying but they also add a lot of value in other ways. And they get coaching on their writing and leadership.

        5. Us, Too*

          Yep. When you’ve got a cushy job already and you’re in demand, you only talk to folks who will be worth your time. :/

    2. Dan*

      Yeah. That type of thing is probably more acceptable if the OP was being recruited personally for a senior executive role where the game is played differently. But as an IC role? That type of “recruiting” just means you more or less have a guaranteed *interview*. After that, you’re in the mix just like everybody else, unless you “know somebody” who can pull strings.

    3. meyer lemon*

      My thought was that writing this out must have been a considerable investment of the LW’s time as well. At this point, going through the standard process could be simpler.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        I know! A phone call would have taken less time and clarified most of the OP’s items.

    4. Van Wilder*

      Also, the invitation to apply itself sounds like a form letter. I get messages like that all the time on LinkedIn that clearly have nothing to do with my particular background.

  7. Aspie_Anything*

    If I were the person on the receiving end of that response, I would permanently write the LW off for any position. In response to an invitation to apply it just screams “impossible to work with” and I’ll take someone less ‘perfect’ for the role in a technical sense over an inflated sense of self-importance and difficult to manage every single time.

    Tom Hanks would get away with this when invited to audition for a movie. Chances are, you’re not the Tom Hanks of your field.

    1. bubbleon*

      +1, I would permanently write them off here, definitely make some notes about it where other colleagues at the current company would know, and probably remember them at future companies as a no go.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I don’t think you should take note of it that way for the future. They might change in the future. Whereas if they don’t change, the cover letter or phone screen will surface the problem easily enough.

    2. Voodoo Priestess*

      My first impression was “Does this person understand how recruiting and hiring typically work?”

    3. beebee*

      “ Tom Hanks would get away with this when invited to audition for a movie. Chances are, you’re not the Tom Hanks of your field.”

      Love this and sums up exactly how I felt trying to read this post. I feel there are very few instances in which this lengthy of a response to “are you interested in maybe working together?” would be appropriate, and this situation is almost certainly not one of them.

      1. Smithy*

        I work in fundraising – so very often am in positions where the donor can heavily set the terms of communication. And if they wanted to communicate in a similar style to this, provided the size of donation was “worth it”, then we’d do it.

        The key reason as to why is because there’s a relatively considerable power differential in who sets the terms and who follows. Certainly with hiring, job seekers don’t need to see themselves as having no power to set the terms of communication…..but this is a lot in the other direction. And unless someone really is bringing the heft of a Tom Hanks, it’s unlikely a recruiter would be likely to engage.

        1. Krabby*

          This person is in tech and clearly has very niche skills if we take them at their word. It would honestly be exactly like trying to hire Tom Hanks.

          I work in HR in tech, and this is honestly pretty innocuous compared to some of the things I’ve seen candidates do (and get away with). In tech, unless you are a Google/Microsoft/Amazon, you can’t always afford to be picky with certain skillsets.

          1. Lance*

            Granted, this may be the case, but I still can’t imagine such a long message would be a point in their favor, nor would they likely have a lot of it responded to.

            Plus, as several commenters point out, the overall tone, along with general lack of brevity, is… not great for a first impression.

            1. Krabby*

              Oh, I heartily agree. I’m just saying that there’s a really solid chance that this won’t affect the LW’s prospects of getting hired AT ALL.

          2. Smithy*

            If that’s what they’re bringing and what the market demands – then that does entirely make sense. In which case, I think a lot of the advice would be more about whether or not this kind of email actually generates a helpful response or not.

            Is this going to be a case where a recruiter who does take the time to respond to all questions particularly desperate to fill this roll – and therefore perhaps more inclined to invest in rosey PR language? Does someone recruiting from a place with a higher quality workplace bother to respond? This will clearly be more sector/place/demand dependent – but my worry would be that the recruiters who bend to this are the ones with roles they’re struggling to fill.

            1. Krabby*

              Definitely! As iBarley pointed out below, the LW basically gave the recruiter the answers that he/she wanted to hear.

              Not all, but many tech recruiters are desperate enough that they’ll latch onto that and lie/omit to make sure that the candidate gets in the door. If the recruiter is external (luckily not the case here) that risk goes up tenfold. I’ve had to cut a few recruiters loose in my time for exactly this. All the candidates we get through them leave after 3-4 months because the recruiter is over-promising to get their commission.

              1. Smithy*

                As I mentioned above, I’m in fundraising – and while we’re not as highly in demand as these IT roles, there are certainly organizations that bring magical or savior thinking to what a new fundraiser can do. Therefore, when I’m looking for the fundraising goals/strategy an organization has – particularly when I’m being interviewed by a CEO or someone who’s not a fundraiser – I never want to put words in their mouths. I want to know who thinks it should be big deal to double fundraising totals in 1-2 years, and if so – why?

                I once got a very concerning answer to those questions and withdrew from the interviewing process. Every follow up communication I received was how that person had misspoke, and as it turned out they wanted everything that I wanted. Maybe that was the truth, but there was no way I wanted to take such a job and find out.

    4. Jeeptrixie*

      I thought the same thing. It’s a little comical. I fear we have a problem with reading the room.

    5. Specks*

      I want to second that. My reaction (after reading the first paragraph, noting the tone, and then having to take 30 seconds just to scroll past the rest!) was that there is no way I would ever hire that person or want to work with that person. Even though all of those points (as far as I could tell from skimming, anyhow) are valid and, frankly, commonplace, the stuffy and self-important way they were presented in response to a “should we have a quick call” screams diva to me. Unless you’re literally the biggest expert in your field, OP, and companies are tripping over themselves to send you offers, I would suggest never doing that again.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I’ll add that I’ve corresponded with super important people, and they rarely if ever would write that much. They’d be far more blunt/succinct.

        1. Aspie_Anything*

          My thought too. I work in public policy and federal lawmakers, SCOTUS litigators, and national think tank execs don’t communicate that way. IME, people who are in a position to have this kind of laundry list take a different approach in expressing expectations.

          Soft skills are almost universally important (though not in the way college career centers think) and this response raises serious red flags in that regard.

        2. twocents*

          Yes, it’s been my experience that you can tell how busy someone is by how long their emails are.

        3. DarnTheMan*

          I regularly correspond with the CEO for my org and usually his emails are one sentence, written often in all lower case because he’s typing on his phone. The highlight for me was once sending him about two paragraphs and literally getting two words back as a reply.

    6. Julia*

      Whoa, this is INCREDIBLY harsh for the content of the email the LW sent. I’m surprised at the tenor of this comments section. I usually find AAM commenters wonderful.

      1. Julia*

        I mean, they wrote an email that was too long. OK, not great. But… Inflated sense of importance? Impossible to work with? Difficult to *manage*? If anything the email showed how much they care about doing a good job, if you actually read it. Wow!

        1. green beans*

          It rubbed me the wrong way too. Lines like this “If the things we’re working towards are so unimportant that there’s never a justification to put in extra effort, are they really worth working on at all?” can easily be read as a subtle put-down of the company, even if it’s not what the LW intended.

          Honestly, this reads to me as a tenured professor nearer to retiring to not hearing a 5-minute elevator pitch and then spending thirty minutes lecturing you on all the questions they have from their academic perspective/expertise. It’s usually well-meant, and generally there’s a few good points buried in the monologue, but generally it would have been more helpful and well-received had the professor genuinely engaged with you (ie, asked one question with minimal context, gotten an answer, followed up or provided more context if necessary, rinse and repeat) instead of just…coming in with a lot of assumptions and explanations.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          No, in addition to being way too long, the email listed out what is important to them from an employer and didn’t really ask much about the position or demonstrate reciprocity with the recruiter, which, whether true or not, comes across as one’s interests being more important. It also criticized the recruiter’s emphasis on the 7-hour day and talked about sleeping on a cot at a prior job (which is nuts, even in the incredibly demanding and unreasonable field I work in). It’s just too much for an initial recruiting email response and could reasonably be read as the sender not understanding professional norms or really liking to hear themselves talk. Both of those are signs that someone is a challenge to manage. That may not necessarily be true, but the email is all we (and the recruiter) have to go on.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I feel the same. And I actually read the whole email. A bit long, maybe a bit much, but not a world-ending catastrophe by any means.

    7. SchuylerSeestra*

      Agree. The thing is I don’t just screen for technical fit, I also screen for soft skills. I don’t care how talented someone might be, if they come across as difficult I’d rather pass. It may sound harsh but I don’t want to bring someone on who may alienate their coworkers.

  8. Colette*

    I will admit I didn’t fully read the OP’s reply, because it was way too long – and also kind of judgemental. Yes, it’s important to do work you think is important, but “I’ll bring in a cot and sleep in the office” is way over the line, and speaks to a complete lack of a life outside of work. If you took the job, I’d be concerned that you had expectations that were out of line with company culture, and would try to impose them on others.

    And this was way too much about you – the company doesn’t need your life history, just an indication about whether you are worth talking to for this job.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      What hit me was, “I used to bring in a cot and sleep in the office, but there’s no way I would do that now.” I mean, good, but why on earth would you bring it up at all?

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        To me it seems because he expects lower level co-workers/subordinates to do that if they don’t have a family. If that is the kind of company culture they want I don’t want that person working on the team.

        I know OP thinks in one of the previous companies they were saving lives, but that is not the case. Yes the work HAD THE POTENTIAL to save lives, but one week or month of sleeping in a cot vs. leaving at 5pm I don’t think made much of a difference in the long run. They were not a doctor/medical professional that was literally saving lives that instant.

        I think this is similar to someone getting a match for online dating and one person responding: how many kids do you want, cat or dog person, I want us to get married on x date at x location.

        It is like “Chill we haven’t even decided if we click enough to go on an actual date yet.”

        *There is nothing wrong with being upfront about deal breakers, but that is just too quick.

        1. LW*

          Just to note — I absolutely, positively did not mean to convey anything about expectations for coworkers, particularly not lower-level coworkers. I run a team, and folks are absolutely encouraged to leave at the end of the day, to take the time they need to deal with their personal lives, etc.

          The sole thing I meant to convey is that if their heavy emphasis on a 7-hour workday means that leaving at 5 is unconditionally expected (and the work is so low-stakes as to allow that), that’s not an environment in which I’m likely to be fulfilled, and we should probably not pursue things further.

          I appreciate the feedback about how what I said did come across — this is definitely a lesson to leave out unnecessary details, doubly so when they could give the wrong impression!

          1. Starbuck*

            “if their heavy emphasis on a 7-hour workday means that leaving at 5 is unconditionally expected (and the work is so low-stakes as to allow that)”

            What an odd way to interpret that – what if it’s just that they’re well-staffed enough to allow that?

      2. Colette*

        I wonder whether he’d expect those people who don’t have “family committments” to put in that level of effort. Maybe not, but that’s the kind of question this thing raises.

      3. Ground Control*

        I read this as an example of how passionate they were about a previous job and how they want to feel the same passion in the potential new role even if they’re not able to sleep on a cot in their office at this point in their life.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          That’s exactly how I read it, too. I truly don’t think the OP is trying to say “People without families should sleep on cots in their offices.” They’re saying “This is how much commitment I have shown in the past, and while I probably can’t do that now (due to family commitments), I will nonetheless show a lot of commitment to the right job.”

        2. Colette*

          I’m sure that’s how she meant it. But that’s not how it came across to me – it came across as someone who expects not only to be engrossed by their work, but as someone who will judge others who don’t want to offer that level of (probably unpaid) committment.

      4. biobotb*

        Wow, I didn’t even get that far. It does seem like a strange thing to bring up, given that the recruiter touted the company’s 7-hour days. So clearly the LW wouldn’t be expected to sleep in the office if they were to get this job, and if they were someone who wanted a job that required that level of dedication, they already have the information they need to opt out.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I also think it’s an odd metric to use. Maybe the other company worked more efficiently and was out by 5 most of the time. Work/life balance is awesome. I have pulled the occasional late night but I would have serious reservations about sleeping in the office, family commitments or not.

          It felt like OP didn’t “read the room” before sending. For the future I’d suggest a few key bullet points and a request to follow up on the phone or video chat (whatever the company’s preference is) to discuss this in person. OP is coming across a bit brash.

          1. biobotb*

            Yeah, exactly. The need to sleep in the office could just as easily reflect a poorly managed workflow as an important product (and sometimes, especially for junior people, it’s not always obvious which it is).

            1. Anon for this*

              Absolutely. I have a job that “matters” (well, all jobs matter; but it directly affects my clients’ wellbeing) and in my 20s/early 30s I did indeed put in crazy hours and become deeply emotionally involved. Was I working efficiently? No, frankly. I let myself take unnecessarily long on some tasks because I knew I wasn’t going home. Cue burnout and several years of not touching that kind of work with a barge pole.
              Since last year I’ve been working in that area again in a different company that’s big on work-life balance, and because of the pandemic has been restricted as to the hours of in-person working. And I’m a parent so not free to live at the office. It’s lent me a LOT more focus. Turns out I can do the work just fine in seven hours or less – if I am well-slept and spend some hours of the day on other things.

      5. 10Isee*

        That whole section made me uncomfortable because there seemed to be an undercurrent of, “meaningful work is all-consuming.” That implication, that this company must not be doing anything with meaning if they’re able to tout short days and work-life balance, is pretty jarring. I’ve done a lot of meaningful work in my life and still gone home at the end of the day. The value of the work, like the value of a person, is not measured in work hours.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          this. This sounds like someone who thinks any job that doesn’t arouse flaming passion is beneath them.

      6. LW*

        Their intro talking about benefits of working for them leaned heavily on advertising work/life balance. The goal was to make the point that that isn’t going to do anything at all to tempt me away from my current position.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          Well, LW, you’re not anti-work/life balance, surely? It just reads so dismissively – as though a job with work/life balance is automatically less satisfying and less valuable than one where you have to sometimes sleep on a cot in the office. (Which, BTW, yuck – or so it seems to me.) Why in your first real communication with these folks would you insult something that will be to your benefit too, at least sometimes? I just don’t get it.

          1. ThePear8*

            Yes, exactly this! This so confusing to me as well. Work/life balance is generally a good thing?
            I understand LW you said you wanted to make a point about it not being enough to tempt you away from your current position, but it comes across as being oddly fixated on that particular point and scoffing at their benefits and work culture, which isn’t exactly a good look. As KayDeeAye said, why would you insult their benefits? It does seem a little self-centered to be focused on what it would take to “steal you away” from your current job. They’re just asking if you’re interested – not dropping to their knees and begging you to work for them at all costs.

        2. biobotb*

          So if you find the idea of work/life balance so off-putting, if it’s a deal breaker for you, why didn’t you just say you weren’t interested? Or why not ask questions about the things that *could* tempt you away from your current job, instead of taking a dismissive attitude toward the little you know of the company’s culture?

        3. twocents*

          Not sure the field you’re in, but considering some tech fields literally have unpaid ot, sleeping in the office, who cares if you’re on food stamps aren’t you ~passionate~ expectations, then it seems perfectly reasonable for a new company to say “hey, we’re building a cool thing, without shaving a decade off our employees’ lives.”

          1. SchuylerSeestra*

            My current company walks the walk on work-life balance. As long as you are getting work done it doesn’t matter how many hours you put in. Leadership actively encourages folks to use their PTO. I got a bad migraine my second week of the job and my manager told me to take the day off. I definitely tout the work-life balance in my pitch.

        4. Knope Knope Knope*

          I’m gonna go ahead and guess this letter definitely dissuaded them from trying to tempt you away.

          But genuine question: if that was enough to signal a poor culture fit why not just close the email and end it there?

        5. tamarack and fireweed*

          Your preferences are of course your own. (Though wanting to offer a work environment that is sustainable for employees’ long-term life is eminently reasonable for a good employer, and frankly pretty high in demand in most potential candidates.) But what makes you approach this from the angle of “If you wanted to tempt me away from my position you would not have led with that, but with X, Y and Z” rather than the more direct “I’m particularly interested in a workplace where I can keep developing my skills and do challenging, interesting and useful work in line with my personal ethics. If you think we might align it would be a pleasure to talk”. One paragraph. (And if you wouldn’t want to talk, why write back at all, other than if you really want to “thanks, but not at this time”.)

    2. Software Engineer*

      Yes. When I’m hiring, if people think is really a good way to get things done and the best option for pushing on a tight deadline I’m not impressed. I’ve been at my company for most of a decade and in the whole time spent ONE week working really late even to midnight and beyond. That kind of work is only possible short term very, very rarely. For senior people, if that’s what they think is normal and healthy I don’t want them on my team because the junior folks will emulate it and burn themselves out

  9. They Ain't Gone Read It!*

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much. Alison said it nicer, but GOOD LORD I would feel like this is too much, you’re too high maintenance, and I would kick your hat back out of the ring.

    I do understand wanting to suss out a bit more information before officially interviewing, but this was a gall darn interview via email, and I would not respond to that unless I am feeling extra generous.

    And I am someone who can feel like every word I type is super important to convey my exact thoughts and feelings in the way I need the reader to understand, but I’ve learned that people don’t read, and if I want something read, I make it short, with highlights and bullet points.

    1. meyer lemon*

      Yeah, I think the LW was essentially torn between whether to bother applying or not and decided to split the difference by trying to write an email that would circumvent the interview process. Except there’s a good reason why interviews don’t normally happen over email–it’s exhausting to try to have a nuanced conversation this way and you’re probably not going to get all the answers you’re looking for.

    2. Software Engineer*

      It really could have been “I’m pretty happy where I am but open to talk; I’d like to talk about the tech stack and growth opportunities.”

      That’s really all it would take. That’s what’s important for you to find out based on your research, so just mention it and then they can make sure whoever you talk to knows about those things, as the recruiter probably will be linked. Maybe they’ll say you can talk about that in the phone screen or maybe they’re interested enough to invest half an hour in a sell call before interviewing, who knows. But it’sa lot more likely than scheduling an in person lunch

    1. Hot-Cryptographer*

      Yes! I don’t know if this is would be a “red flag” for me as a recruiter, but it would at least be an “orange flag.” It make the LW come across as someone who is potentially oblivious to professional norms, or very self-important.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah. If you don’t think it would be a good fit based on the information you have, then just decline, or maybe schedule a call to hear more if you’re on the fence. Don’t write a passive-aggressive missive to communicate that you would never deign to work for a company so lax as to offer flexible scheduling. I know that’s an exaggeration but that’s how it comes off!

    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      Yes, this. I think I may be one of the few who read the whole thing (speed reader, lol) but I personally found the tone to be less “I’d like to find out about your company to see if it would be a fit” and more along the lines of assuming that they won’t measure up and they should just take there own self out of the running. I would be very off-put if I was the recruiter and they’d probably get a “It doesn’t seem we are a good fit. Thank you for you consideration” and that would be that.

    4. Nettie*

      If you weren’t trying to be rude why would you call the LW “insufferable”? That’s a pretty negative/judgmental word choice when maybe you could have gotten the point across in a kinder way.

      1. Eefs*

        Tbf they called the tone “insufferable”, not the letter writer.
        While I appreciate Alison’s note to keep comments kind about the LW, I think the negative feedback is justified and hopefully the LW will learn from it. It’s a relief to read all the comments thinking exactly the same thing honestly, because that’s what the recruiter will be thinking.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I also think it read as “I suspect your company isn’t good enough for me for all of the following reasons but should you successfully plead your case, here are the constraints around offering me the job.”

      The OP started from a false choice: ignore the recruiter or send a list of concerns. A better choice would be between polite decline with invitation to stay connected or polite reply requesting a phone call to discuss further.

  10. Hot-Cryptographer*

    This is so intense. I’m surprised LW took the time to write an email of this length for a job they “probably won’t take.”

    1. Long Time Reader, First Time Commenter*

      I had the same thought. You’re not interested but you took the time to write a lengthy essay about your needs? If I were the recruiter I’d think that clearly you’re not THAT much in demand or else you wouldn’t have had the time to spend on such a throwaway “no thank you” style message.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Writing something that long just seems like a lot of effort for a job that they say they are not that interested in taking! And I think the recruiter was trying to gauge their general level of interest in the position, not have to write back with an essay about every aspect of the company before the OP would even tell them that they want to apply. To be fair, I don’t think that these would be unreasonable questions to ask, but in this format and as a first contact with the company? No.

      1. Dan*

        Especially given that “first contact” is with a recruiter. I don’t know how it is at most places, but the recruiters that have worked for the companies I’ve worked at over the last decade don’t know much, if anything about the technical side of “making the sausage.”

        IMHO, the only real “leverage” one gets when the recruiter makes “first contact” is that the candidate is in a better position to get the company to spill the beans on expected pay ranges and so forth.

      2. Rebecca1*

        My husband types like lightning, and he used to be a college instructor so he’s good at extemporizing. He could easily produce something like this in the space of 5 minutes, 10 tops. (He wouldn’t, since his field doesn’t work that way, but he could.)

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m an excellent typist, but I also have better things to do with that 5-10 minutes than bang something like this out for a job I’m most likely uninterested in. I can type, “Thanks for reaching out, but I’m not interested in making a move at this time.” in under 30 seconds.

    3. Let's Just Say*

      It would make me wonder if they have poor prioritization skills, or can’t let anything go. Just so over the top!

    4. Dan*

      Yeah, and some of those questions aren’t set up to solicit concise answers. Is the work challenging? Is the work meaningful? From a recruiter, that’s either a “yes/yes” or an essay in and of itself. And just because *I* think something is challenging and meaningful doesn’t mean *you* will agree with me.

      And OP asked about high-level technical competency of the rest of the technical staff. As an IC, that question is out of place, especially for a recruiter. I just expect that as an IC, there are other people who know more than me about other things. Now, if I were being recruited for a lead or architect position? Then competency questions about the rest of the team is very fair, but not for a recruiter in an initial email.

    5. Double A*

      This read like a journal to me, where you’re trying to figure out what’s important to you, what are deal-breakers, and what kind of a job you would like to have. It seems very much like an internal processing piece of writing — and could be helpful for figuring out what you want. But shouldn’t be shared with others in its raw form.

      1. Sami*

        That’s along the lines of what I was thinking. It’s way too long for this situation, well, for almost any situation.
        However, having written all this is now hopefully everything you have to discuss/find out during the whole interview process. I’m not at all saying to use these to formulate as questions. But it’s good to now have figured out what you want to know, what you value in work, and what it would take for you to change jobs. Don’t use your email as a laundry list of questions for the process though.

    6. Mentil Lentil*

      It wasn’t for a job, it was a for a recruiter. LW was probably thinking, “hey, if you’re interested in me, this is what I am looking for.”

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yup. My stock response to recruiter outreach is that I’m not actively looking but would be happy to review the job description and let them know whether or not it might be worth talking further.

    8. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The only way this makes sense to me is if it’s a form reply for someone who gets a lot of contacts from recruiters (which isn’t all that uncommon for some tech gurus). Even then, though, it should be a lot more concise and explain why the recruiter is getting a set of questions instead of the “Yes, let’s talk!” that they were hoping for. Maybe something like:

      “Thank you for reaching out to me! Unfortunately, I receive far too many inquiries from recruiters to speak to each one individually. I have therefore compiled the following list of questions to help me figure out whether I am a good match for your opportunity. If you have time to reply with answers, I’ll get back to you if it seems like a good fit. If not, I understand and best of luck in your recruiting.”

      Then the questions.

      It’s still a little (okay, maybe a lot) presumptuous if you aren’t basically a rock star recruiting target, but something like this might be a little less off-putting by explaining why a recruiter is getting a bunch of questions in response to what seemed like a short, simple question.

  11. Lily of the meadow*

    I read it all, and it was…a lot. Well thought out and very well stated, actually fairly interesting to read, but yes, it was a lot.

    1. Good Vibes Steve*

      I actually agree that the email overall was interesting! It’s fascinating to see how different people might see a work benefit in a different light, and one person’s amazing work accommodation is someone else’s orange flag. It just reads more like an opinion piece than a courteous answer to a general interest question.

  12. bee*

    OP, I C&P your email into a word doc and it counted 921 words. I… don’t even know what to say.

    If you send an email saying “I’m going to take a minute to talk”, then it’s expected that the email can be read in a minute or less. When someone asks you to connect, they want a phone call or maybe a zoom lunch (if that’s something your industry does) – not an essay.

  13. Long Time Reader, First Time Commenter*

    Wow. Just wow. I admire that the OP knows what he/she wants, but this A LOT. It reads “high maintenance,” “impossible to please,” and “difficult.” Kudos for OP’s confidence level in him/herself though!

    1. Mentil Lentil*

      I don’t think that this letter implies any of these things.

      Why do we always assume that someone (especially a woman) who knows what she wants is “high maintenance,” “impossible to please,” and “difficult”? This is just plain sexism.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        OP didn’t hesitate to dish out the sexism with Bro-grammers, so I’m confident she can take it, too.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Well…. that is a lot of what they want, and god knows in our culture it’s generally not considered acceptable to openly ask for a lot.

      3. Again With Feeling*

        I don’t see how it’s sexism when we don’t even know the gender of the LW. And FWIW, I’m a woman and I would bet money this letter was written by a man. Regardless, it reads to me as high-maintenance because a recruiter asked for a brief phone call and instead got an incredibly lengthy and detailed response implying that their company is not good enough for LW’s elevated skills and work ethic, but the recruiter should try to court them anyways, on LW’s timeline.

        1. biobotb*

          Yeah, I feel like the letter gave a vibe that the LW expected the recruiter/HR person to jump through a lot of hoops for them, even while the LW looked down on them, the potential job and company, and wasn’t even interested anyway. But they gave the impression of wanting to be catered to, regardless.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        It’s not that they know what they want. It’s that they misread the opening as an invite to lay out in minute detail what they want to someone who is the wrong interlocutor for most of it.

  14. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Well, OP, you thoroughly educated the recruiter and they know who they’re dealing with. You’ve saved your future time and frustration trying to flesh some of these things out, so if that was goal, you’ve succeed.

    I think you may have removed yourself from consideration for elements that might have been negotiable if you’d brought them up later, though, so it truly depends on what your aim was with that massive email.

  15. Recruiter etiquette*

    OP, I think this was a bit much. Agree with Alison that if you were potentially interested, arranging a quick phone call with the recruiter so they could tell you more about the position and you could both ask some preliminary questions about fit would be warranted.

    I’ve had some awkward experiences with recruiters in my career so far — but mainly with external recruiters who pitch me roles that are glaringly mismatched with my skills/experience levels. Sometimes I reply with something to the effect “I think you’re looking for someone with skills/background ABC for this role, but if you have any roles that require my skills/background XYZ I’d be happy to talk.” But if I am potentially interested in a role, I usually just hop on the phone for a few minutes.

  16. TWW*

    Wait… your supposed to respond to these emails? Oops.

    I receive messages like this regularly, and I’ve never responded to one unless I actually wanted the job.

    I figure they’re just sent out *en masse* and responding with so much as a “no, thank you” (much less a multi-paragraph think-piece) would just be a waste of the recruiter’s time.

    1. jaybh*

      I’d say if you’re in a field where you regularly get unsolicited messages from recruiters and you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the recruiter who is contacting you, it’s fine to just ignore it. It’s basically cold outreach, no different than getting an email from a company that wants to give you a quote for new windows on your house. I know some people who like to respond to recruiters in order to expand their network or build a relationship in case they ever decide to look for a new job, but that’s not the norm, at least in my field (software).

      1. PT*

        I get unsolicited messages from recruiters all the time and I’m not in a field where that’s normal. So most of the messages from recruiters are completely wrong for me, like they pay minimum wage 3,000 miles away from where I live for a 1099 job (so below minimum wage when you factor in self-employment taxes.)

        The one time the recruiter seemed like they were from a legitimate agency and had a legitimate job, I asked them if they had anything available in my current city, they ignored me.

        Spammers are spammers, regardless of what fancy facade they dress themselves in.

        1. Nanani*

          Same.
          I get a lot of near-missed that someone unfamiliar with the field might think is what I do, as well as completely bananas things that I have no clue how a human being could connect to my actual job.

          I only respond to ones that seem legit, and even then most come to nothing for very basic reasons like logistics and pay. Nobody has time to answer every bot-assisted wide net pitch.

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      I only get a couple a month, so I usually just respond that I’m not looking at the moment. I don’t think it would burn a bridge not to answer, but it might be a benefit to have had a polite response somewhere down the road.

      1. Mimi*

        I did once see someone suggesting that for STEM positions one could reply to this sort of cold outreach (assuming it’s vaguely targeted and not just spamming) for a thanks-but-no-thanks and pointing the recruiter towards organizations for women/people of color in one’s area/field. I liked the idea, but don’t actually know of meaningful organizations for women (or PoC) who do approximately what I do.

      2. Sammie*

        I’m an agency recruiter so I send a lot of cold messages (although I like to think they’re well targeted so the role is at least relevant). It doesn’t burn a bridge not to reply. A reply is always appreciated (even if it’s no thanks). The main thing I would say is if you just don’t respond with no response I would assume you don’t ever work with agencies or you don’t like receiving these outreaches so would probably avoid doing so in the future unless I needed you specifically. If that’s what you want then fine, but if you are maybe going to be interested in a future a quick note will make me more likely to consider reaching out again.

    3. Antilles*

      If you’re getting a letter from a recruiter, you’re totally fine to just not respond. Recruiters send these sorts of emails out all the time, usually en masse – maybe they change the greeting to include your name, but it’s effectively a cold-call form letter. Most recruiters would barely even remember they’d contacted you and no good recruiter would hold it against you; they’d just assume you weren’t looking back then but now you are.

    4. Blue Eagle*

      Except this wasn’t from a recruiter. It was from the head of HR (for what appears to be a high level position).

    5. Cat Tree*

      There’s a difference between in-house recruiters and third party recruiters. In-house are more likely to work out so I usually at least read them. Third party has occasionally worked out for me, but it’s often like mass advertising so I only reply if it is interesting to me.

      Actually, I haven’t updated LinkedIn in 6 years because I work at a prestigious company and I don’t want hundreds of spam emails from recruiters.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Only if it’s someone or an organization you’d want to work with in the future. I don’t think it ever hurts to say, “thanks, but no thanks right now” for those cases. I ignore people who send me jobs clearly not in my wheelhouse because if they didn’t take a minute to look over my LinkedIn, why should I spend my time? I only respond to them when they are clearly spamming me with every job they have in a remotely-related field, and, if they don’t stop, I block them and put them on a do-not-use list with my HR recruiter.

    7. IvyV*

      As someone in the tech industry, I can say that cold recruiting (AKA poaching) is absolutely a thing and can be a real thing. When my previous company publicly announced a merger / private equity / buy-out kind of a thing, all the phones in our cubes started ringing off the hook as recruiters used LinkedIn to find out who worked there and what their experience was and then pitch them on their openings.

      And lest you think this is scammy, I got poached out of that company in exactly that way and into my current job where I’ve been for 9 years and absolutely love.

      It happens that you get an email or a call saying “are you in the market for a new job, this is what I’ve got” and your response might be YES! or no thank you, but it also might be: “maybe… if it’s awesome… tell me more.” Note, I also get “want a shitty three-month contract in location far away?” and I just ignore those.

      And yeah, that email was… a LOT, but I’m a PM and expected to have lots of soft skills. An experienced engineer, one with in-demand skills, can get away with a lot more of that sort of thing.

      LW, let me suggest two things. First, succinct communication is also an in demand skill and in-person conversation can be way more efficient than writing everything out. Second, if you get clear with yourself on what you want and don’t want in your next job, you won’t have to explain it — you can talk more with the recruiter and employers and find out whether it’s a good fit quite quickly (without showing your hand so that they’ll just tell you what you want to hear).

    1. sara*

      Yes, agreed… HR at my tech job knows the broad strokes of what tech stack each team uses so that they can help screen applicants etc. And have probably figured out through the natural feedback of who we end up hiring stuff like if someone knows A they’ll be pretty likely to figure out B&C which is what we actually use. But like tooling chains, build process etc, what’s out-dated (vs what we just don’t use for whatever reasons),they’d have to go to a dev manager for that. And they’re not going to forward this lengthy of an email before they’ve even spoken to you…

      Maybe (huge maybe!!) if this was a situation where the hiring manager was reaching out and it was someone you vaguely knew (like through meetups etc), these level of questions would be appropriate?

      But again similar to what other comments have said, this is really more appropriate for a phone or in-person chat And might be overwhelming for even that situation.

      This feels like a good level of personal decision-making or preparation for an interview, about the kinds of things you want to know and how you’d weigh them in your mind. But this information can be much less aggressively achieved by having chat rather than an inquisition.

  17. Rusty Shackelford*

    Oh no, no, no. This comes off as a lecture.

    I think, at most, you could have responded with “I might be interested – I’m always open to a role where I’m able to work with cutting-edge teapot painting technology and experts in teapot design and strategies. Can you tell me more about that?” They don’t need to know everysinglething you require at this point. They don’t need your rationale. They don’t need to know what you think they’re doing (or might be doing) wrong.

    Would you have some time to connect over the coming days so that I might discuss the role with you but more importantly get to know you better?”

    Yeah, I think that recruiter got to know you…

    1. biobotb*

      Yeah, the letter mostly seemed like a mix of stuff that would be better learned through an information-gathering phone call, sussed out during the interviewing process if the LW got that far, and assessments only the LW could make about how the role/responsibilities aligned with their personal career ethos.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Absolutely – the email is a mix of things it’s actually really great the LW knows about themself, but that aren’t necessarily key at this stage for the recruiter. A short note that focuses on the key things a recruiter is likely to know and an indication of a good time to connect via phone to discuss them and add a little more detail would be exactly the right tone to strike at this stage.

  18. NYC Taxi*

    Wow. Read most of the first paragraph then high level skimmed. As Alison says, the questions are good ones, but better for a phone convo. It comes across as way too high maintenance and no regard for other people’s time to expect someone to write out answers to all of that. With my own team if you need to write that much out it’s probably better as a phone call first then a follow up email with key points.

  19. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    No email, especially an introductory one, should be that long without a tl;dr line at the end. I don’t want to dunk too hard on the LW, but my first thought after forcing myself to read the whole thing was, “My God, this person would be absolutely exhausting to work with.”

    Also, my experience with recruiters (both internal and external) is that they often have a general understanding of the position and requirements, and that more specific questions can be discussed with the hiring manager if you get past the initial phone screen. Someone in HR is not likely to know the intricacies of their company’s software and programming languages beyond what is needed to know that the candidate is qualified to advance to the next round.

    1. sunny-dee*

      TL;DR at the beginning. The TL;DR always goes at the beginning. It is the summary / abstract of a long piece. Why put it at the end? They either have to read the whole thing anyway and then find the TL’DR or skim and then maybe miss it.

      This is a pet peeve.

      1. huh*

        The tl;dr originated online (as “too long, didn’t read” meaning…you got to the end) so I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s definitively the abstract, or that it “always” goes at the beginning. (I’ve only ever seen it at the end, personally, and No Longer Gig-less had the same thought. Also it’s kind of a jokey thing given what it stands for, so if someone misses it, that’s on them.) Don’t want to get too off-topic here, it just seems like a strange thing to be so confidently picky about!

        1. Jack Straw*

          I always put mine at the beginning. “Too long; didn’t read” indicates you *didn’t* read or make it to the end.

        2. boo bot*

          Yes. I put it at the beginning if it’s actually intended to be useful, but yeah, traditionally, the tl;dr goes at the end, either because it’s a reply from someone else, rather than part of the original post, or because the writer finishes writing, realizes they just wrote way too much, and adds it at the end of the post to indicate self-awareness.

          Tl;dr: Internet tradition!

        3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          Yeah, I mostly am familiar with it from Reddit and it’s usually at the end.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I put mine at the beginning to let people know that this is a tome and they can read the abstract first and then decide if they want to go on and wade in.

      3. Raida*

        I loathe TL;DR at the beginning – it’s like telling me the punchline of a joke, then telling me the whole joke. if I want to skip, I can go to the end to read the summary

        1. ampersand*

          I’m highly amused that TL;DR is being debated here, and yes, agreed. End, not beginning, for this very reason!

  20. iBarley*

    I think there will be enough comments here about the length (and Allison’s assessment that this is a bit too much a bit too soon is spot on), so I wanted to note one other thing that might be helpful: in my opinion, you’re framing your questions with examples of what answers you want to be getting and it’s adding to the sense that this is a bit of a monologue for you.

    I am similarly long-winded and love providing examples – I get that this impulse often comes from wanting to give context and help the person give you what you need, but… it kind of reeks of being hyper controlling and inflexible.

    For an example, this jumped out at me as a something I would also love to know when considering a company: “are customers and end-users considered stakeholders — whose interests are to be represented in internal decision making — or merely a source of funds?”

    …….. but who on earth is going to respond “they’re merely a source of funds”?? Even if it’s true, most businesses have enough professional/social graces to recognize you don’t just say that so bluntly. You’re setting them up with the answer you want to hear by making it clear YOU feel end users are stakeholders and it just adds to the general sense of “extra-ness”.

    Consider 2 alternatives:

    “My approach is to consider end users stakeholders whose interests should be represented in internal decision making. How des this align with your style of work?”
    OR:
    “How do you ensure the interested of end users are prioritized in decision making?”

    Do you see how these are more open-ended and less cumbersome? I hope this doesn’t come across as too aggressive but the best advice I think you could take is to just ask the questions you want to ask – not ask the question + examples of why you’re asking the question + ways other people/companies have handled this + what would be a good answer + what be a bad answer.

    It’s giving off a lack of self-awareness and as Allison said, some of the things you’re asking you need to decide for yourself, so I would also figure out how to ask questions that will give you EVIDENCE of how they would handle things that matter to you (vs “this is what matters to me and here’s why and I need to know how you would handle it and I hope it’s by doing this and not this”).

    1. Blue Eagle*

      iBarley – I enjoyed reading your reply and learned from it how I can phrase my own questions better.

      1. iBarley*

        Oh yay! Thank you. Like Lost Academic wrote below, I think it can definitely be helpful to write out (or at least know) the motivations/values/experiences driving these kinds of questions, but it’s good to ask if it actually helps the question-answerer to know those details. Probably not! So I’m on board for writing them out, but editing them to ask “what am I actually asking of this person?”. I definitely had to learn how to be more concise, so I feel for OP.

    2. Ama*

      iBarley, this is really well thought out. I had a similar issue when I was new to the professional world, and I had to train myself to reread my emails to remove background info that, while it might be important to *my* reason for asking a question, wasn’t really going to be important to the person I was contacting.

      1. iBarley*

        Me too! I think I’ve finally started to get good at it, but for a long time I had “first draft” email and then “second pass”, removing like, 75% of the context/examples/meandering thoughts that just ultimately weren’t necessary.

      2. Bob Loblaw*

        This point really resonates with me. I have an instinct to provide too much justification for the questions or answers I’m providing even when not helpful to the reader. Ironically, I think it comes from a place of insecurity or imposter syndrome (like I have to really justify myself to be entitled to ask or answer) but of course I know that it can come off the exact opposite, as self- involved. I have had to teach myself to self-edit.

        1. DyneinWalking*

          For me, it’s a way to surreptitiously involve the reader/listener in the decision making, as I am well aware.

          I think that desire is exacerbated by my ADD: I might be confident about my intelligence and general thinking skills, but I also know that I’m terribly prone to making random careless mistakes and oversights. So it’s not a sign of self-involvement in me, either – I just want to give the reader/listener an opportunity to double-check my reasons!
          I know I should suppress that urge, but it’s hard.

    3. Antilles*

      These are great points.
      Along the same lines, a lot of the questions are asking about things that companies wouldn’t admit to you (or wouldn’t even admit to themselves) – every company thinks they value diversity, nobody would admit to a candidate that the job is unimportant, nobody is going to put in email that they’re unethical swindlers, etc.

      1. Threeve*

        In general, asking a question immediately followed by explaining what you would consider the “correct” answer to be is just a great way to make sure that you’re lied to.

    4. Not a recruiter*

      I love this advice too, especially as a fellow explainer. Maybe we could steal some interview phrasing for such a situation: “Tell me about a time when….” and then see what you get. In a way, you are interviewing the company.

    5. Smithy*

      Really well put – and the other risk in writing those questions with so much context is that it really leads a recruiter in how to answer to please you. And not to give answers more genuine to the place hiring.

      If this person is in a sector where the supply/demand allows candidates to really dictate the terms of communication – then I do think the real question is if this is the best way to get helpful information. And if you’re teeing up questions to highlight the answers you want, then any recruiter who’s going to take the time to answer will do so with the belief they can give you what you want. Either genuinely or through lying/PR speak.

    6. Raida*

      Excellent options for editing! I also give examples a lot, and in writing it’s so nice to have the chance to write, leave it, come back later and delete half of it

  21. K8M*

    This is the type of extremely lengthy and detailed reply that I get whenever I ask my older brother a question about one of his interests. He’s on the spectrum. It’s always too much, but I tolerate it because he’s my brother.

      1. Persephone Mongoose*

        K8M is speaking about her experience with her brother specifically. They are not making a generalization about all people on the spectrum. Neurotypical siblings are allowed to have feelings about living with their autistic siblings that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.

        1. MHA*

          They are, but is THIS the place for people to vent their frustrations with their autistic siblings info-dumping about special interests? Surely not– the underlying message of “yyyyeah no it’s annoying when you go into that much detail unprompted, LW” can be communicated without that weird unnecessary layer to it, and it would be cool if autistic people could read a single goddamn thread on the internet about someone being annoying without people bringing up autism in the process.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      As are my dad and my uncle and, yes, you’d get this level of detail. I’ve worked hard to train myself out of it because I care more than they do about whether or not I annoy people.

  22. Case of the Mondays*

    OP, I’m going to give you some sympathy. This is all outside the norm and probably will not be well received but, shouldn’t we normalize cutting to the chase? Why do employees have to do a song and dance at multiple interviews only to find out pay (few of us work for fun), benefits, work load (will I have a life at all?), vacation? It would be so great if we could just normalize getting those out of the way. I know it wouldn’t be received well so I do the song and dance too. But I’d love to just say “hey, if you aren’t offering $xxx,xxx and 4 weeks vacation and billable hours 1800 or under, I won’t be accepting.” Let’s stop wasting each other’s time!

      1. Let's Just Say*

        Exactly. And it was confusing, too – “I want a company where the work feels important enough to work all hours, but I won’t be working all hours, but having a 7-hour workday is bad and you were wrong for presenting it as a perk.” Just ask what the work culture is like and respond accordingly!

        1. biobotb*

          I’m probably most flummoxed by that part of the email. The LW associates short work hours with a lack of job fulfillment, long hours with important work, but also refuses to put in long hours anymore, while also seeming kind of offended that the company tries to provide a good work-life balance to its employees? Huh?

      2. biobotb*

        Yeah, I think the recruiter would have really appreciated it if the LW *had* just cut to the chase.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Agree. This was not a good use of anyone’s time. These are phone screen/interview questions, not initial email questions. Honestly, I’ve seen RFPs with fewer questions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Honestly, I think you CAN say something close to that if you’re approached by a company (rather than the other way around). I’ve recommended that here before — “it would take X and Y for me to consider leaving where I am” or “I’ve got XYZ right now so would be looking to build on that” or so forth.

      Those are short questions! The issue here was that the questions/comments all required lengthy response, in writing.

      1. Goldilocks Principle*

        Yes! I’m in a highly specialized and in-demand field and often get approached by in-house recruiters and hiring managers.

        Not to waste their time, I’ll take a look at the job description and IF it looks interesting, I may share one detail, such as, “I noticed you mentioned XYZ technology, which is the only part of the description that doesn’t align with my interests/background. If this is not expected to be a big part of the job, I’d be happy to have a phone call to learn more.”

        I’ll be thinking the same things as the OP, but for a first screening, I’d focus on a specific dealbreaker. The rest can be learned later on subsequent interactions.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Cutting to the chase is fine, but the issue is that this is a lengthy email that essentially asks the employer to do all the work of ‘proving’ they’re acceptable to OP before they have a sense of if OP is a good fit for them. It really should be a mutual building-up.

      IMO it’s not dissimilar to online dating. If someone sends a message asking you for coffee, you can aboslutely respond by letting them know some basic dealbreakers, like: you’re looking for a serious relationship, don’t want children and love llama grooming. That allows for a pretty low-effort response, where the asker can quickly verify that they meet those needs.

      But if you reply to a coffee request with an essay of what you need from a potential partner, it’s likey to be off-putting. You bring up 2-4 major dealbreakers right off the bat. Then you can share a little about yourself and bring up more of your needs if and as necessary.

      1. Jamboree*

        Yes! This is the flip side of that one AAM LW who wondered if the application process including 25 essay questions before even getting an interview was normal. Both of these situations are too much!

      2. Wool Princess*

        This is exactly what I thought of. This felt like if someone asked you out for coffee and you wrote back a long message about how you want a partner to meet your emotional needs, what hobbies you have, what habits you would never tolerate in a partner, how many children you want to have, questions about their relationship with their parents, etc.

        There may be someone who reads that and is like “dang this person has their sh*t together, I like it,” but most folks would be really overwhelmed.

        I admire OP for their thoughtfulness about what they want, though, I will say. I need some of that confidence.

      3. meyer lemon*

        And to take the comparison a bit further, it would be like telling the other person that you need to make sure you are aligned in your personal values and have great chemistry before you meet. I don’t think that’s something the other person can decide for you! You need to figure that part out for yourself.

        I can see where the LW is coming from in trying to protect their time and having a sense of their own worth, but I think they are underestimating the ways in which an interview or conversation can be valuable for the candidate as well as the employer.

    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. And if this letter writer had said something like, “These 3 things are important to me 1) meaningful work, even if it requires OT, 2) keeping up to-date with technological advancements, and 3) working with more advanced people in the industry so that I can continue to improve my skills.” I don’t think we’d be having this discussion.

      1. SK*

        This exactly – if as a recruiter I got a response that said those 3 things I’d be ecstatic. I’d still want to have a conversation but I’d be equipped to address those topics.

        The way this long response reads is something I have gotten a LOT from engineers: Let me prove to you all the ways your little job won’t measure up to my expectations and how you are wasting your time by daring to reach out to me. Sometimes it’s fair and we are mis-aligned! But sometimes it’s like they just had someone make them mad that day and the easiest target is a recruiter who just asked a question.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        OMG I read the entire letter and your three bullet points summarize everything important OP wanted to ask. There’s no way in heck they needed to make this email so arduous for themselves and the recruiter.

    4. Epsilon Delta*

      I also sympathize with OP, as another skilled tech who’s very happy in my current job. What she wrote is similar to what would go through my mind if I got an interesting offer from a recruiter, but I would distill it down to either:

      “Thank you for reaching out, but I am very happy in my current position.”

      Or:
      “Thank you for reaching out. I am very happy in my current position but might be interested in learning more. Can you tell me {the salary range/the benefits package/WFH policy/or another concise question that could either be a deal breaker or entice me}?”

      The rest of the questions OP asked are good for a phone scren, interview, or personal reflection as you near the offer stage.

  23. StressedButOkay*

    OP, it’s really good that you know what you want but you need to know when it’s a good time to bring some of these up. You were approached so you have a lot of leeway but this is a lot for the recruiter to take in and get back to you on when they were trying to do an introduction to see if you were interested.

    Most of that can be handled over a phone call, followed by an interview. If you’re trying to manage your time and make sure your time isn’t being wasted, you need to respect that you aren’t wasting their time either. Pick one or two quick questions, if needed, to ask via email and let everything else come naturally.

  24. Lake*

    I agree that the email response was a mis-step, too much information at the wrong time. I don’t think I would assume the writer was high maintenance, but possibly that they were misreading the social cues or not familiar with how this type or recruiting works.

    But the initial recruiting email also seemed off to me. “Your background is incredibly impressive, and I would love to connect to further discuss the opportunity. Would you have some time to connect over the coming days so that I might discuss the role with you but more importantly get to know you better?”

    “more importantly get to know you better”? I would be uncomfortable with that in an unsolicited email.

    And it sounds as if the LW wanted to just not reply but felt that was rude… and ended up trying to push off the recruiter by over-explaining and over-justifying why they weren’t interested, when it would’ve been fine to not reply or to reply without a minimal “thanks for thinking of me; not interested / don’t have time right now.”

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      That is really ordinary language for a recruiter email — so ordinary as to almost be boilerplate. I am a specialist in my field and get a lot of cold reach outs from recruiters, and the emails are pretty identical. There is nothing about this email that is in any way unusual.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Yup – I could pull up 6 nearly identical emails from my LinkenIn message box right now. In this case, “get to know you better” means that even if this opportunity doesn’t work out they want to know your gauge your personality and what is important to you so they have your name and resume in their back pocket for other opportunities down the road.

      2. Lurker*

        Totally! I am *not* a specialist in my field and I got a similarly worded email to my work account about a month ago (which I ignored) and then the recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn. So I responded that I was flattered to be contacted; however, I wasn’t qualified for that specific role, but would be interested in something more along the lines of A, B, and C so if they had anything like that come along to keep me in mind. Short and to the point, while keeping my options open.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I get emails or messages on linked in every week with almost that exact wording. It’s a standard phrase used, so while it might feel weird, it’s really not. You’re thinking it’s a personal kind of getting to know to you, but it’s really a very professional kind of getting to know you.

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      For give me if I am mistaken but I think you are interpreting the “get to know you better?” as if it were a social get to know you when I don’t think that is the case?

      Yes we have seen a letter or two where a person may have used a recruiting email to try and solicit a personal/social relationship. But in this context with out any other flags, I think it is 100% a “get to know you better?” in a professional sense, let me tell you more about he company, tell me more about your professional experience, and lets figure out if it makes sense to move forward.

      If I were the recruiter I would be thinking most of these things are much easier to discuss over the phone, I just wanted to know if you were initially interested and when a good time to talk would be.

      I do think it might make Op seem like they might be difficult to work with. That might not be true, but it is the vibe I get from an email response like this.

    4. ShowPony*

      I don’t think there was anything wrong with the initial recruiting email. It was so standard that it almost seems boilerplate to me.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The initial recruiting email is so boilerplate that I can’t help but question whether that’s really from an HR director. It’s so generic (“Your background is incredibly impressive”) and similar to spam from an external recruiter looking for a contact (“but more importantly to get to know you better?”) that if I got this e-mail, I’d wonder if it’s someone merely pretending to be an HR director.

  25. Bernice Clifton*

    Yeah, this email is the equivalent of a potential date asking you to go out for coffee so s/he can get to know you better, and you respond with a message or text of the same length discussing yourself and what you’re looking for, vs. Yes, let’s do that or No thanks or Maybe or whatever.

  26. LadyByTheLake*

    There are two appropriate responses to a reach out like this:
    (1) No thank you (and if you feel like adding more, either — “I would be interested in opportunities in doing X if those become available” or “I’m very happy where I am and am not looking to move”).
    OR
    (2) Yes, I would be interested in a conversation.

    That’s it. If the response is more than two or three sentences, it is probably too much at this stage.

  27. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Not at all appropriate. The answer to such an email is either, “No thanks, I’m not looking,” or, “Sure, I’m available at these times and I look forward to learning more about this role and the company.”

    Your concerns are fine (to me it’s A Lot, but concerns are concerns) but the approach is not good. This is a conversation, with the opportunity for the recruiter to respond.

    You are in a position of some power in these situations if you all have a decent job. After all, you have nothing to lose, right? So it’s fine to bring up your issues. But if you ever want to work with a company or its employees, you have to treat these conversations as conversations, not interrogations.

    Next time, just schedule or decline the phone call. You don’t want to waste their time? I promise they’d rather do the call.

    1. BRR*

      That’s what I was thinking as well. It’s mostly a yes or no question. You can ask about something that’s a deal breaker like the hiring range or if the position is remote.

  28. Knope Knope Knope*

    Honestly, I would not (and did not) read this. I would probably assume it was some sort of snarky attempt to show the recruiter they wasted your time by wasting their time with an ironically long email.

  29. Just a Thought*

    I think a general rule of thumb is to remember that the recruiter is “interviewing” you as soon as the interactions begin. What do you want to project about yourself? How are you expressing your strengths from the start? What are the best ways for you to make sure you like the fit as well? You don’t want to knock yourself out of the running before you have assessed the situation yourself. And remember no recruiter can give you a full picture.

  30. Chantel*

    I recommend a dose of humility, OP. It’s one thing to bombard with too many details; forgiveable and forgettable. But you’re already mentioning handoffs at your workplace and start date timelines at the next, and expecting the recruiter to know what your personal values are – as though you’re in hot demand.

    Yes – humility is the word here. It goes a very long way. I hope this does turn out to be a learning experience for you. We’ve all done brow-raising stuff like this (maybe not in this context, but still…), so take heart: you aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last.

    Be humble.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      So true — we all have made mistakes. Luckily, this one isn’t likely to have long term consequences. Live and learn!

  31. Wendyroo*

    The last company I was at which had a hard focus on limited work hours was [HugeManufacturingCo] — everyone was out at 5 pm — and frankly, I was miserable: If the things we’re working towards are so unimportant that there’s never a justification to put in extra effort, are they really worth working on at all?
    By contrast, before [HugeManufacturingCo], one of the startups I engaged in was building [medical software]. While the company had some serious faults, our technology was in many respects the better part of a decade ahead of the industry, and there was genuine reason to believe that successfully executing on our mission would change the way medicine was practiced worldwide. I had a cot in the office and slept there at times — and couldn’t have been happier.

    Can we talk about how toxic this mindset is? Working longer hours doesn’t make you a better employee, and sacrificing work/life balance on the altar of corporate profits doesn’t make you a better person.

    1. iBarley*

      this part was ROUGH. I guess I’m glad the OP knows themselves well enough, but I hope they have no management aspirations.

      For the many of us who’ve worked in literally life-saving professions, it’s a necessity to learn that doing this work safely and sustainably REQUIRES setting boundaries and finding balance. Not just a nice to have, it directly contributes to doing BETTER work. OP, you write as if it’s a zero-sum game, that the time you weren’t working on world-altering medicine-practicing was time NOT contributing to the mission. For many people, the time they spend not working on the “genuine good” of their work IS contributing to the mission and making the work better, by making them stronger, rested, balanced, and thoughtful contributors.

    2. WonkyTonk*

      Agreed. People have lives outside of work, and limits to their mental energy. That’s a fact of being human, not a moral failing!

    3. Autumnheart*

      Not to mention, like, way to demean the efforts of everyone who leaves their job by 5pm and enjoys a normal work-life balance. If you can’t get your work done in an 8-hour timeframe without the wheels coming off, are you really as good as you think you are?

      Bringing a cot to the office? AYFKM? I have a home, with a bed. I sleep there.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I was on a hiring team recently for a senior level individual contributor role. One candidate described himself as a workaholic. He had some work experience, but the least among the candidates and I assume he was trying to impress us. Reader, we were not impressed. By senior level, he should know how to prioritize work and even delegate to the extent possible without being a manager. This was not the flex he thought it was and he was not selected. We are engineers supporting 24/7 manufacturing. There’s always more work to do. And sometimes we work long weeks, such as supporting a regulatory inspection, occasional special projects that require additional engineering support on off shifts, or weird emergencies that pop up rarely.

        But working extra hours just to finish things that can wait or aren’t especially useful is not a good thing. We want employees who can tell the difference. It’s a skill to understand what is truly urgent and important. We also expect managers to get the resources needed to accomplish what needs to be done. It’s better to hire another person or give a development opportunity to a junior team member than to have an overworked “hero” rush through it sloppily. Nobody gives their top work when they have already been working 12 hours straight.

      2. Trying my best and hoping it's enough*

        @Autumnheart I hadn’t read that far in the original post (I honestly tried 3 times and failed) and thought you were exaggerating about the cot in the office part. omg. I am an obsessive, perfectionistic workaholic (like maybe a 9 out of 10 on the too much scale?) and I have never considered bringing a cot to work, so I can’t even imagine where OP falls on the workaholic scale!!?? egads, I worry for OP’s mental and physical wellness long term.

    4. Ama*

      Recently I almost eliminated a very promising candidate from a job I’m hiring for because early in their interview they talked a lot about similar stories where they stayed up all night, emailed people outside of office hours, etc. and that is very much NOT the kind of culture I want my team following (plus this role would include setting staffing plans for certain projects and I was concerned about their ability to adequately assess staffing needs if the “20 hour days” they talked about working were normal to them). After some follow up questions it became clearer that they were also looking for more of a work-life balance, and that the stories they told mostly came from their time managing projects in a client-consultant relationship (in an industry where the clients are known for being demanding) rather than in-house as they would for us.

      But yes, I think these days while certain places may be looking for people who are willing to give everything to their jobs, there are definitely those of us who get concerned when someone speaks of that kind of mindset in the positive.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Not to mention that productivity decreases significantly after 8 hours, and data proving that was a huge part of the successful adoption of the 8 hour work day in the first place. (I’m paraphrasing a great article I found via AAM ages ago- it even mentioned that shareholders have successfully sued companies for wasting their money on unnecessary/counterproductive overtime.)

        It’s not cost effective, especially when every error makes more work later, like in coding. If you’ve been working all night you’re a menace and shouldn’t be touching code, because you’re setting yourself up to write bugs into that important medical software and delay its release or cause a bigger problem down the road.

    5. ThePear8*

      Yes, this! I’ve been sucked a little bit into this mindset before and can’t emphasize enough how toxic it is.
      My supervisor also recently shared his story at a team gathering about how at one of his previous positions he was putting in 80-100 hour work weeks and essentially missed the first few years of his children’s lives. He made the move to our current company and is now off at 5 every day and gets to spend time with his family. Our team still does very meaningful and challenging work. Without saying too much about our industry, we may not be healthcare saving lives but our products are very widely used and have a direct, very beneficial impact on people’s lives. It is possible to have challenging, rewarding, work while still having a life outside of the office.

    6. Sharon*

      What if the company cares so much about this important work that they staff up fully and provide the resources needed so they can meet their goals **and** everyone can still be home for dinner and go on vacation?

  32. lost academic*

    I’m going to suggest that the only thing you did wrong was to hit send too soon. I envision someone who got the contact from the recruiter, started writing a response that turned into something really, really long, and then made the mistake of sending it then and there. That’s the real issue. The LW wrote down everything s/he needed to know/communicate and didn’t take the step back to edit for message and timing. This is what you review, save in a document elsewhere, and pare way down for a first response to the appropriate audience as Alison and many other commenters have suggested. It’s great to have defined these things but not to overshare them at once. I’m going to liken it to planning a wedding on a first date with someone you don’t even know is The One. Too far and too fast!

    1. BRR*

      Ooh I like this comment. I think this is a great document for the LW to save for the future. All of their thoughts are gathered in once place and it should be very beneficial to the LW to know the why, for the things they’re looking for in a job.

    2. Sunshine's Eschatology*

      Yes, this is what I do on soooo many professional emails!! I start with the long version and pare it down heavily, especially if it’s going to Big Boss, who is fairly notorious for often not reading beyond the first line or two. It is definitely helpful to get all my thoughts out, so they’re on my mind in case there’s a call or more back and forth to discuss, but the final version of the email isn’t really for me, it’s for the recipient.

      1. ThePear8*

        Yes! I do this for personal emails too! I have a tendency to ramble and be very long-winded sometimes so often I’ll just type out everything I want to say and then go back through and edit it, paring it down to just the main information my reader needs.

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      Agreed! OP, I sympathize because I write letters like this too (but I don’t send them!) to help me figure out what I want to say to recruiters and colleagues. I think if you had waited a couple of days and come back to your response with an eye towards heavily pairing everything down, you might have come out with a reasonable memo about what it would take for you to accept the position.

      However, I still think Alison’s advice about having this conversation over the phone instead of email is spot-on. A lot of your questions dovetail onto each other, and over the phone you don’t need to lay out all the possible situations you’re concerned about because they’ll come up naturally in conversation.

    4. boo bot*

      Yes! I think writing this has probably helped the LW clarify their thinking; it wasn’t a bad idea to write it. It just didn’t all need to go to the recruiter.

    5. Trying my best and hoping it's enough*

      +1 YES @lost academic what an excellent point! Write an entire novel to get it all out if you need to and then edit it prior to sending. It’s especially painful because OP is clearly very smart and self-aware, but this faux pas just negates all that they are bringing to the table as a candidate.

      1. Red Wheelbarrow*

        That was a kind and helpful reply from lost academic (and the commenters below them). As a tool for idea generation and internal clarity, the LW’s email could be a useful document. It just needs a major revision (and major cuts) with an outside reader in mind.

  33. Sans $$*

    For your purposes OP, you may have been better served by asking for more information about the organization and musing these things over personally before a more simplified yes/no to the recruiter.

    For example: “Thank you for thinking of me, while I’m generally happy with my current position I am open to considering the right opportunity. Do you have more information about the company I could review? In particular I’m interested in their goals on [industry trend], tech specs on [whatever it is you’re referring to], and general timeline they’re hoping on hire on.” Then, after you’ve reviewed what’s sent, something like “After further consideration I am no longer interested,” maybe add.. “but if you have opportunities in XYZ after ABC timeframe, keep me in mind” …or, “This does seem interesting to me, what are the next steps?”

  34. BRR*

    In addition to other comments which I largely agree with, I think you weren’t going to get the decent answers from the head of HR, especially on the more technical stuff. I don’t blame you for asking these questions, it just sounds more like something a hiring manager would know though.

  35. Qwerty*

    I was really surprised when I got to the part about “bro-grammers” , because I kept getting a “mansplain” vibe from this letter. (Obviously don’t know your gender, but it’s not a positive behavior from any gender.).

    The recruiter basically asked “do you want to connect and learn more?” and you responded with a pretty condescending lecture. You (1) criticized the company based on the research you did of their current employees (!), (2) criticized the recruiter for not making more information about the job available online when that was literally what they were going to tell you in the proposed call, (3) sent a list of concerns longer than a typically resume, (4) bragged a lot about yourself, (5) denigrated their commitment to work/life balance and (6) escalated the offered quick call to an in-person lunch during a Global Deadly Pandemic (being vaccinated does not excuse this). I had more reasons but felt like I should cap it somewhere.

    Overall, this put your ego front and center. You outsourced all of the labor of deciding if this was a good fit to the HR person. If the HR person keeps you in this process, there is a strong likelihood that it is mostly to be polite and avoid a bad review – I can’t see a hiring manager getting excited about someone who responded this way.

    Finally, I really suggest you go back and read the letter from earlier today about the woman who had a terrible interview experience where all of the interviewers talked down to her. There’s a lot to be learned from her perspective, because you just talked down A Lot to the HR rep, who just wanted to see if you were a potential fit now or in the future and instead got lectured about technical decisions that they have no control over.

    1. serenity*

      You hit the nail on the head of all I was feeling.

      Others have noted that this kind of thing is common among specialized IT folks who can be very picky about roles. That’s completely possible. But going to this level of detail, in response to a boilerplate recruiter outreach, for a role OP says they aren’t even interested in? I don’t understand that. It seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

  36. HigherEdAdminista*

    I can’t speak to the recruitment aspect of this, but I can say that in my line of work, I get emails like this from students or potential students at times. Of course, we want to recruit them to join our university, so we are happy to answer questions, but messages with this amount of questions and backstory don’t come off well for the student.

    And what’s important for OP, is that I have found that the majority of the time when I put a lot of effort into engaging with someone who has this amount of questions… well… I can only remember a couple of them deciding to actually sign up. My guess would be that this is the same for recruiters. They aren’t going to spend a lot of time on someone who is showing flags that they aren’t likely to be interested or that they are going to need to be courted to even decide if the want to apply. Now when I see emails like this, I tend to assume this is a student with doubts who is trying to find a reason to say yes, not someone who is a enthusiastic recruit.

  37. BigRedGum*

    I didn’t get past the first few lines. it’s really long. when i used to be in charge of hiring, i would have honestly just deleted this and moved on with my day.

  38. Tofu Pie*

    I’m curious how the recruiter responded. I’m guessing they stopped reading at Paragraph 1 and decided to move onto someone else. Of course you should have lots of questions about any potential employment but this was way too much for initial contact. Initial contact is usually a brief info session and all of the questions OP mentioned is better reserved for later stages of the interview.

  39. Amtelope*

    Not only is it a lot, but it’s odd to reply to an initial contact letter from a recruiter with this level of “persuade me that I ought to be interested in this opportunity.” If you know already that you’re uninterested in the job, just say no. If you are interested, you can’t expect them to sell the job to you against your implied objections. I think at most, if you have concrete requirements that would be dealbreakers, you can ask about one or two of them: “Does the position focus on X? I know that’s on my resume, but I’m really only interested in doing Y going forward.”

    But a lot of this email feels like it’s addressed to someone who already wants you desperately and is willing to work hard to persuade you to take the job, which isn’t this situation. The recruiter doesn’t care that much. Either say “yes” or “no” to talking with them; if you say “I don’t know, convince me,” they’re going to move on.

    1. LW*

      I’m not sure that “I don’t know, convince me” is all that unreasonable in my field — there are certainly folks who have been willing to play along with it, and I’ve promised a few that I would let them know next time I’m on the market. That said, most of those folks made a stronger up-front case, so I didn’t hit them with as many potential concerns as happened here.

      I’m in a specific corner of tech that is in exceptional demand lately, while also having experience in several similarly-hard-to-hire-for ancillary fields — and even before I got into that specialty, every job search I’ve done since my first post-internship position has been, from my perspective, a seller’s market. When I’m not actively searching at all, keeping a deliberately high bar seems sane for time/sanity preservation.

      I think Allison is right that I should have kept it short, but I’m not convinced about playing hard-to-get being the wrong approach in general.

      1. anonymous 5*

        It’s an option…but in my experience, the people who lean heavily into that as their approach are the ones at the highest risk for losing perspective on how in-demand they *actually* are. Best-case scenario, employers (or potential employers) decide that your skills are sufficiently worth it that they can deal with the accompanying ego. Worst-case scenario, things turn to the point where they’re no longer a “seller’s market” but you don’t realize it.

        You put a lot of effort into painting yourself as an exceptional employee: extensively trained, capable of high performance, and devoted to your work. If you’re half as good as you say you are, you don’t need to play hard to get. By all means, keep a high bar when you’re not actively looking: you’re right about the time-saving. But keep that high bar *to yourself.*

        1. Yorick*

          This is key. Keep your high bar to yourself. Ask a couple of short questions so you can know where they land. But then figure it out for yourself, by yourself.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think you might be misreading what a lot of people are saying “but it’s odd to reply to an initial contact letter from a recruiter with this level of “persuade me that I ought to be interested in this opportunity.”” The key part of it is “AN INITIAL CONTACT LETTER”

        I don’t think anyone is saying to set your standards low, there is nothing wrong with deliberately setting a high bar, it was more that you set it so high for an INITIAL email, the high bar can be set during the initial call.

        You could have listed a few keys points that are the biggest deal breakers, salary, tech language etc… but you went way overboard with all your requirements in an initial email.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Yeah, this is it exactly. It’s a good thing to know your worth and have high standards, if you’re in a position to be choosy about your opportunities. It’s just that it’s one thing to say “I’m not looking but would be open to learning more, especially around X, Y and Z topics, which are important to me,” and it’s another to expect a recruiter to put in the time to read, digest, potentially research, and respond to all of the questions here after the initial outreach email.

          It’s basically the work version of “whoa, can you at least buy me dinner first” except instead of “buy me dinner” it’s “have an intro call.”

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘…but I’m not convinced about playing hard-to-get being the wrong approach in general.’

        Corporate recruiting here…I don’t chase people, and I will not be responsible for building your interest in a move. I can only tell you about my opportunity/company/industry, and gauge your interest. C-level, brand-new technology, or underwater basket weavers, it makes no difference to me, you’re either meeting me with an open mind, or we part company as friends.

        I’m not going to make you jump through flaming hoops to prove you’re worthy of my time. Give me the same courtesy.

      4. goducks*

        I regularly get these sorts of unsolicited requests to apply for a position, and many I ignore, but occasionally I get one that’s at least not out-of-hand uninteresting to me. In those instances I respond that although I’m not actively looking, I would be willing to change jobs if the right opportunity presented itself and suggest a phone conversation to learn more. On a few occasions I’ve listed one or two things that I’d be looking for in a job to make a change.
        The phone call is the place to discuss the stuff in your email, as what you want in a position/company are all valid especially if you’re not actively looking. Typically, the phone call to vet this takes about as long as it took you to write this all out, or maybe even quicker if the first answer or two are deal breakers for you.

  40. Jack Straw*

    Admittedly unprofessional, but in my volunteer role on the board of a parent organization, I have replied to emails with this length and tone with:

    Thanks.
    —Jack Straw

  41. Lacey*

    You just need to edit it down quite a bit. I find it helpful to read over my own writing a few times and if it’s important I read it outloud to get a better feel for how it will come off to someone else. Because of course I know what I’m getting at, so when I just look at the words it’s harder to see where I’ve become difficult to read.

  42. Kramerica Industries*

    I’m confused by what OP means when they ask if this was “contact-building”. OP, what was the goal of your long letter? I don’t understand how a list of demands is contact-building. From the recruiter’s perspective, they were looking for a simple “Yes I’m interested/No I’m not” where a short description of why would have been appropriate. But this was more like a list of demands. If the 7-hour work day isn’t your thing, then it sounds like you’ve made your mind already. Were you expecting the company to bend to your style of working?

    And with the first few questions (i.e does the company provide an opportunity for me to work with people I’d learn from), this is easily answered if you hopped on a call and was interested in learning more about the company! Instead, you laid out what your expectations are and it seems like you expected the company to explicitly say “you will be working with a C-level employee” instead of you being flexible and interested in the different areas of the company.

  43. Tech Work*

    I’m torn on this. I generally agree that overall this email contains too many ancillary details, however since this person is being actively recruited I believe by providing this level of detail they essentially allowed for Company to understand if this would be a good fit without having to do an initial or introductory phone screen to figure out the basics.

    In particular by framing their response around the tech stack, programming language use, and overall investment in technical resources, Company has all it needs to know if moving forward is worth their time. I may be biased as someone who is also in tech, but I’m not too put off by someone whose skillset is highly desirable being comfortable communicating what they want in a job.

    1. Not a recruiter*

      I agree. I’m really confused about why some folks up thread are taking it so personally. I read everything in it as “I am trying to explain my wants and needs with past examples and where the holes in my knowledge are about your company,” not “I judge you.” I read the length and thoroughness as an attempt to be considerate and mindful, to get all the stuff out in the open to begin with and not waste anyone’s time. Though I agree it missed that mark in some ways.

      I mean, yes, it needed an edit and a pare down and some shift in focus, but I didn’t find it awful. But I also work in tech, specifically as a communication conduit between tech folks and non-tech folks, so maybe that makes me used to this sort of thing. And many many tech folks who I have worked with would far rather write and read long emails than ever participate in phone calls. The important piece was that they actually DO write AND read, so it was a system that worked. That might not mesh well with other areas sometimes, but I should well hope that a recruiter for a tech company could roll with that.

  44. LW*

    Thank you (all) for the advice.

    I tend to prefer email — allows more nuance and consideration than being put “on the spot” in a live phone conversation — but the point that this was taking that preference overboard is understood.

    I’m pretty happy with the job I have now (actually, writing that letter helped me realize just how good I have it; I’d been thinking about starting a job search, and in the course of mulling over this opportunity realized how much it would take to justify the effort).

    My takeaway here is that the response should have gone unsent, and just been notes to use in preparing for a phone call, if my research led me to believe there to be a significant chance that the job would be one I’d actually want.

    I viewed this at the time as giving the other party an opportunity to actively pursue if they thought my “probably not a good fit” initial assessment was inaccurate, with the understanding that the assessment was probably right, and thus that they wouldn’t be back in touch.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I do think a lot of this would be really great as note for a phone screen or further interview.

      Thanks for replying to the advice and taking it in good humour. I imagine it can be a lot to read a bunch of strangers commenting on your writing!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You know, I think it might have read differently if you’d started off by saying that — that it’s probably not the right fit but here’s your thinking on why and if they think you might be wrong, you’d love to set up a call. You’d still need to cut the rest way down, but I think part of the issue is that that piece of it didn’t come through as clearly in the email as you’ve stated it here!

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yes, THAT. My main take-away from the email (other than the sheer length) as a reader is still “this person isn’t communicating well).

    3. Tech Work*

      “I viewed this at the time as giving the other party an opportunity to actively pursue if they thought my “probably not a good fit” initial assessment was inaccurate, with the understanding that the assessment was probably right, and thus that they wouldn’t be back in touch.”

      LW, thanks for coming back to comment on this letter. It’s interesting to me because the quote above is exactly how I interpreted the intent of your message. I wonter if it’s an industry-specific mindset – I often default to providing enough information to allow for the receiving party to make decisions immediately, and while your response was lengthy it didn’t strike me as intended to be patronizing. Fail fast and move on is generally how tech projects get delivered. :-)

      1. Not a recruiter*

        I agree! This was exactly how I read it, too. I also work in tech, so maybe it really is just that.

      2. Colette*

        I’ve spent my career in tech and … I wouldn’t enjoy working with someone whose emails are like this, because the critical information is buried in a bunch of semi-related, personal details. I think the OP would have gotten further if she had figured out what was important to the recipient to know. (i.e. “I’d like to understand X, Y, and Z before we go further” without any talk of past jobs, justification about why, etc.)

        1. Tech Work*

          I definitely see your point and agree this email should have been more consise, but I do think the OMG WTF reaction from some commenters (not Alison) is a over the top.

      3. Lobsterp0t*

        I interpreted the message right but I also was bowled over by the amount of unnecessary (for the interaction and channel) detail.

        LW has reflected well on what to do differently next time though.

    4. bubbleon*

      Nuance and consideration are great points, but I’d recommend if someone reaches out in future (for a job you could be interested in) just replying with “I’m not sure if this is a good fit, but I’ll be available to speak at these times. I have a few questions I’d like to discuss, here are a few so I don’t put you on the spot during our call:” with a few of the most important questions listed in bullets. Any more specific concerns or context can be discussed on the phone without anyone feeling blindsided.

    5. BRR*

      I’m really happy this allowed you to hammer out what makes you happy in a job, present or future. It’s so easy to forget that job hunting is a two-way street.

      And I’m sorry you had to read through these comments! They were a bit rough.

      1. LW*

        No worries about the comments. Some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever received has been rough, but was what I needed to hear at the time.

        I’m not sure every viewpoint is a perfect fit to my situation, but all of it helps me get better at knowing how things look from someone else’s seat.

        And thank you!

        1. Julia*

          Wow, just by behaving this maturely, you’re disproving some of the (imo, nonsensical) harsh judgments people made about you. I don’t think I would be able to not be defensive at all. Nice!

    6. MK*

      Yes, this should have gone unsent, but I don’t actually think this would be helpful as notes for a phone call; frankly, OP, this reads more like a journal entry for someone weighing the pros and cons of changing jobs and tpiy sounds as if it was helpful to you in that exact way. But your thought processing doesn’t belong in the interview process.

      OP, it sounds as if your intention was to leave a door open, in case the job was much better than you thought, or maybe in a case of another job in the future. But contact building isn’t best done over email, and an email throwing the ball back in their court is fine, but pelting them with balls isn’t. I think your intention to put your cards on the table and let them pursue it if they wanted wasn’t bad, but a long essay about your work history and your concerns, based on little information no less, wasn’t appropriate. Why not say “My priorities are X and Z, what is your culture like?” instead of “My first company did this and it sucked, my second company was awesome and I was awesome at it, my current company is wonderful, I can’t find out much about you, but you don’t seem impressive”.

    7. Anon for this*

      Hope you saw Krabby’s reply (nested in one of the threads). They mentioned, as someone who works in HR in tech, that emails like yours from candidates with niche, in-demand skillsets are not at all out of left field! Not to say that you shouldn’t apply Alison’s advice, and it might be interesting to you to see how the email came off to a broader audience, but I thought that insider perspective was really interesting to note. Also, thank you for joining in the conversation and especially your non-defensive response!

    8. Tuesday*

      I hear you. I wish everything could be discussed through email.
      My thought is that it’s great that you have such a specific list of items in mind to consider when assessing a job, but that for the other person, it’s a lot when it comes all at once. Like the initial phone chat would probably allow you to determine if the work was interesting and challenging enough, and if it’s not, there’s not really a point in talking further. If it is, than you could find out more. You would have to find out all this info before taking the job, but it would come to you in stages.

    9. Jessica*

      Joining the minority: I read every word of your letter, and found it thoughtful and interesting. And also a bit long for the context, I agree. But if I were trying to recruit you, it would be useful–though it might alternatively be useful to either talk by phone, or just get some of the content first (like the more concrete technical things) that you might screen each other out on and save further effort.

      I think iBarley’s advice upthread about how to frame questions so they don’t point to the answers you want was excellent. Though I also thought that maybe you could be more frank in talking to a third-party recruiter and ask them “Hey, be straight with me, does this joint have TerribleQuality?” in a way you never would when talking to the hiring manager at the actual place.

    10. NotEnoughCoffee*

      I empathize with your preference for email! And I am constantly reminding myself that not every email has to be a memorandum that addresses any and all potential future discussion points. I’m still training myself to remember that I can leave some space for the other person to respond and then continue the conversation from there. Maybe that can help next time you’re in a similar situation? You can still communicate in writing but maybe let it play out with some back and forth over time.

    11. EventPlannerGal*

      Aw, good for you, OP – I think that’s exactly the right takeaway. Genuinely, if you don’t already keep a diary/journal then maybe you should try it to work out these kinds of decisions in future.

      One (hopefully constructive) note: someone upthread left a really good comment about some of your questions being very loaded, like the “do you view your customers as merely a source of funds” thing. Whether you’re asking things like that verbally or in writing, it’s still a waste of everyone’s time because nobody is ever going to say yes to a question like that. It’s like asking an interview candidate if they’re lazy or something. I would imagine that that framing is probably a product of you not especially wanting the job, but if in future you do decide to move on I would second the suggestion of more open-ended framing to get more realistic answers.

  45. Pomegranate*

    I wonder what Alison would reply if the recruiter emailed in:
    “Dear Alison,
    I am a recruiter at a tech company. Recently, I reached out to Bruhilda, who has a strong resume in our field, and invited her to have a phone chat to discuss potential opportunities at my company. In response, I received an 11 paragraph email outlining in detail various considerations, concerns and requirements that my company would need to clear before ever having a further conversation with Bruhilda. Do you think there is any reason for us to ever consider her for current or future positions?”

    1. Ellie*

      I work in a niche field of IT, and unfortunately, if our recruiters sent the above letter to us, then our answer could well be, ‘yes – Bruhilda is one of 3 people in the country who are qualified for this role. One of those 3 is currently in this position and is planning on retiring next year. Please pursue the contact’.

      Like, literally, unless they are currently under investigation for fraud or some kind of misconduct, we still want to talk to Bruhilda. I agree with Alison’s comments but some people really are in demand, and this is kind of what their emails look like.

  46. Allywood*

    This is a good example of TL;DR. Those type of questions are best served for a phone call. It seems like a lot of effort for a job you’re not sure you want.

  47. Molly*

    I understand tech is a more nuanced profession but much of this email comes across patronizing. I know it is hard for some people to gauge their tone in emails, or they are use to talking to other tech people just like them, but I think this could be a turnoff for a recruiter. Sometimes it helps to send something to a close friend to put a second set of eyes on. I would suggest doing when contacting potential employers, especially if you are concerned you might be getting a little long winded.

    1. Threeve*

      There’s a huge difference between “I want to know if I would be a good fit for your company” and “I want to confirm my hunch that I’m too good for you.”

  48. Chilipepper*

    I feel like what you wrote was a fabulous exercise for yourself and I wish I could do that for myself!
    And I agree with AAM and so many others that it was too much to share with others. I am also a huge reader and did not make it halfway through. None of us are as interested or as invested in you as you are – and that’s as it should be!

    Keep what you wrote as a sort of study guide to you, your own personal work manifesto, and use it to highlight key points when you prep for an interview or other convos with recruiters, employers, etc.

    Best to you!

  49. Peony*

    I hate to be this person, OP…but I have to say it: I get messages with that EXACT wording all. the. time. It’s a fairly common opening for Recruiters/HR to use with people, regardless of whether or not you’re an actual fit. I’m in kind a niche role, and I’m usually not even close to a good fit for the positions they are asking about, which is how I know they’re using it as a copy-paste to a whole bunch of people to see if they get any takers.

    I think this might help give context for why your response to the HR person seems off to so many commenters. It’s like someone asking you to coffee and you responding back with a detailed list of your deal-breakers and life goals and what it would take for you to accept a marriage proposal. It’s not that it’s not important to talk about that stuff- it’s just waaaay too early in the potential relationship.

    1. mcfizzle*

      Oh that’s what I couldn’t quite put my finger on – thanks. That OP seemed convinced the recruiter had done quite a bit of research on her and that email was detailed *just* for her, thus why such a detailed response was sent (still way too much though). I assumed it was a standard email opening.

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    I think all these things are fine to bring up in general with a potential employer, but as others have said this wasn’t the ideal format to do so.

    Also, is your old company that makes everyone leave at 5 hiring??

  51. Pumpkin215*

    Chapter 1, I Am Born. “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born…”

    1. Mentil Lentil*

      This is rude. It is just piling on and in no way helpful to LW. Did you not read Alison’s note at the top?

  52. Elenna*

    Yeah, I read the first paragraph and instantly moved on. OP, these are all perfectly reasonable questions, it’s just that a) it’s a bit early in the process to discuss these, and b) most people’s eyes will glaze over if you send this long of an email.
    My suggestion would be to pick a question or two that you absolutely want to know the answer to in order to decide if you want to move on, distill both those questions down to 1-2 sentences, and then send that email. If the company’s response still leaves you unsure, you can ask for a phone call, these kinds of questions are generally easier to discuss in person. But you definitely need less questions, and shorter questions, for a first contact.

  53. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

    Oh, dear.

    Regardless of the situation, you can’t write emails anywhere near this long, anywhere *near* this long, and have them be read.

    I sympathize because I am naturally long winded also, OP. May I suggest learning to edit your emails ruthlessly. You will be delighted to learn that your ability to communicate with others will increase dramatically. You will be heard.

    Good luck!

  54. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Hey OP. Agree with Allison that it’s way too long and detailed.

    The thing that struck me most is the structure of your question paragraphs. You don’t need to explain *why* you want to know these things – especially the “I had an experience at job X that makes me concerned about yadda yadda”. Putting all that stuff in an upfront email makes you look high-maintenance or overly picky, and that’s not an impression you want to convey.

  55. MsClaw*

    Like several people, I didn’t read this entire letter.

    OP, how long have you been working and have you ever been involved in recruiting/hiring? My biggest take-away is that you seem to not fully grok how the hiring process works. You replied to a ‘head of HR’ with a lot of technical questions, detailed biography, and thinly-veiled (and some unveiled) insults. The head of HR does not care about any of this. They saw your resume somewhere and cross-matched 3-6 keywords on it with a job description. She wanted to have an initial phone call to make sure you ticked the right boxes before arranging (or not) a technical interview with people who could potentially have answered the questions for you.

    You could certainly look at this as a useful exercise for *yourself* to compose such letters if it helps you pro/con why you might or might not want to consider applying. But I would not recommend ever actually sending such an email.

    1. LW*

      Answering your question: I am involved in hiring, but for a team that doesn’t usually hire junior people… which is to say, the candidates we’re looking for are in a similar boat to where I am, and we’ve never had even a single candidate apply who met every part of our spec. If such a candidate did exist, they’d be a unicorn, and we’d do a lot of work to get them onboard.

      That said, the larger points are all well-taken, and I’m going to try to operate with more humility and discretion going forward.

  56. Empress Matilda*

    I agree with Alison – your concerns are valid, but this wasn’t the appropriate time to raise them.

    But I LOVE your question about the technology stack, as an indicator of how the company operates as a whole. I’m going to steal that for all my future interviews!

    1. pancakes*

      It doesn’t seem likely that a company that hasn’t kept up with its peers is going to answer candidly that it hasn’t kept up with its peers. It’s a great example of a leading question, as are the others I saw. (Like many others here, I didn’t read the entire letter). It’s also a question that one could go a long way towards answering on one’s own, by reading up on industry press about the company.

    2. ZZZ*

      I don’t think that’s an appropriate question for HR, because they won’t know. It’s a question for technical 1:1s or the 1:1 interview with the hiring manager. And it should be phrased neutrally — what stack do you use for X, Y, Z — not, are you modern enough for me?

  57. Blue Eagle*

    You ask if writing this email was a waste of everyone’s time. My answer is – no, I don’t think it was a waste of your time. Kudos to you for taking the time to write down exactly what you want in a job. So many people look for just any job that pays a salary they want and that is it – – – and then they get in the job and find it is not a match and are frustrated with having to get out of that pickle.
    And now that you have thought through what you would like to see in your next job, you have a written text of questions to ask about when you have an actual job interview. And not necessarily to ask in an initial screening interview but a longer second on-site type interview (which nowadays might be over zoom).
    Was it a waste for the head of HR who reached out to you? Well, in the initial contact it says “your background is incredibly impressive”, so obviously the company already knows a bit about you. And your response informed the head of HR a great deal more about you so perhaps not a total waste of time to get a response that was so detailed.
    The only problem, here, is (as has been noted in comments above) the length of this response would likely screen you out rather than screening you in. There is an old saying that ‘timing is everything’ and if you really are interested in furthering the conversation with this company, the timing for this level of detail in response to an initial inquiry is too soon.
    One other thing to mention is that the head of HR wanted to ‘connect’ with you, which usually means by phone. Your response was not only to suggest a lunch, but to name a particular place and further to put it off for a month until you are vaccinated. The usual practice if for the company to take the lead in determining how and when the steps of the interview are to take place. Once again, kudos to you if the head of HR reaches out to you again, because if so, then this company must really want you. Best of luck!

  58. Ginger Baker*

    LW, can I say that I love – LOVE – that you know what you want in a job. That’s fantastic! You have a really excellent understanding of what works for you and why. A++ on that. However, just as on a casual coffee date when you are first meeting someone it would be inappropriate – and frankly offputting – for you to pull out your 3-page list of ideal traits and dealbreakers for a spouse, so too is this not the level of information to share with a recruiter at the very beginning stages. And some of it, you never share out loud: it’s stuff you assess and take note of and make your decision based on, sure, but something like “is your product something I personally can be passionate about” is a) more an art than a science and b) not something the company could change to suit you anyway, so it’s not worth bringing up any more than you would tell a date that you won’t continue dating them because you just despise the timbre of their voice – it’s an unnecessary thing to mention when you can just politely decline.

    1. Weekend Please*

      This hits the nail on the head. It sounds like this opportunity is not a good match for you. You probably would have been better off ignoring the email or politely declining. If you wanted to explore it more, it probably would have been better to focus on one thing first. That would probably be the concern with which toolkits they are using. It would be simple enough to say:

      “Looking through LinkedIn for existing software development staff, the few individuals I can find appear to have a [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] background. I don’t as yet have any information about what your [tooling used for a different purpose] looks like. While my [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] skills are still current today, I don’t consider that a place I’m looking to focus going forward; there are superior alternatives in most of the niches in which it is widely used — such as [Language-N] in numeric computing, or [Languge-M] in (small/embedded or security-critical) systems programming, or [Language-O] in systems programming contexts that don’t require the rigor associated with [Language-M]. Can you tell me whether these are languages you are using/considering or do you foresee continuing with [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit]?”

      If they are using the language you don’t want to use, then this isn’t a fit. If they successfully dispel that concern, then it may be worth having an actual conversation to suss out the rest. But in general you don’t want to present it as a list of demands. Not only can that be off putting, but some recruiters will just tell you what you want to hear. It is better to phrase questions in a neutral way so that they don’t know what you want to hear.

  59. Exhausted Trope*

    Yup. I’m with you. I work in HR and any of our recruiters would have noped right out of this one. Too many demands.

  60. bananab*

    I occasionally get potential clients email me things like this. Unfortunately I consider it a bit of a red flag and I usually try to find some pretext to decline the job. If I were the recruiter here I might similarly back out as response.

    Personally I think it would have been better to rattle off 1-3 absolute dealbreaker questions and table the rest temporarily.

  61. BiscuitsAreOurFriends*

    It depends a lot on the position. If they are looking for a C-level? Maybe this kind of detail is appropriate (it doesn’t sound like they are). If they are asking for a dev manager or director? Unless your skill set is so incredibly over-the-top that you are essentially dictating terms to whatever employer you are considering? You’re out of the running. The HR manager can’t even begin to answer some of the technical questions, and if she came to me (as the head of IT or development) with a letter like this? I’d tell her to not even bother responding.

  62. Michelle*

    I have been a techie, usually a coder, including for startups, since the mid-nineties.

    I would ever.

    Never.

    Ever.

    Think that it was appropriate to send an email like this.

    1. hot priest*

      Wow, I’m finding your use of line breaks to emphasize your point especially appealing right now for some reason ;)

  63. irene adler*

    I’m impressed with the articulation of one’s wants/needs regarding a job. Wish I could do half as well. There’s things in there I’d never thought about looking for in a job. This is actually helpful for me in crystallizing what I want in my next job. Thank you!

  64. GarlicMicrowaver*

    It’s not about this being a waste of time- it’s about coming off as presumptuous and therefore unprofessional. The wording itself was not professional but the intent has certainly come across that way.

    Generally, this level of feedback or, rather stream-of-consciousness speculation is better reserved for giving feedback post-interview, if solicited.

    So, not a waste of time because OP felt it necessary, but completely over the top, yes.

    1. PT*

      I once had a dude send me stream of consciousness emails prior to taking a training class I was teaching.

      Guess who turned out to be a sexual harassment problem.

      Guess who was not surprised.

  65. Fiddle_Faddle*

    Golly. It’s a good thing I’m not a hiring manager, because my impressions were probably nowhere near what the OP intended. Excessive length/dense writing implies an inability to tailor communications toward a particular audience and context. And frankly some of the content, such as wanting to work on Important! Save-the-World! work struck me as both arrogant and naive. Yes, we all want to save the world – and it sure does need saving – but if a person believes that the planet revolves around them, they should watch what happens when the toilets stop working.

    I’m going to assume this was a failure to read the room and tailor the message accordingly, and nothing more negative than that.

    1. Mentil Lentil*

      if a person believes that the planet revolves around them

      Nowhere in the letter is this stated or implied. Why are we bashing someone just because they know exactly what they are looking for? Too many people have no idea what they are looking for in a job, and end up in a position that makes them miserable.

      And if people think that this is excessively lengthy (it is for an email, but only because emails tend to be short and to the point) or dense, perhaps they need to work on their reading skills. I found this to be incredibly coherent and well put together.

      1. Cat Lover*

        People aren’t bashing because OP “knows exactly what they are looking for”. The critique is coming from the fact that this is overkill to a softball pitch message. This could’ve been condensed into a few sentences followed with “I would love to talk more about the job. Let’s set up a phone call” or something like that.

      2. Sylvan*

        Yes, it’s coherent and organized. It also demonstrates the assumption that the recruiter has time to read all of that. The recruiter probably doesn’t! An overly long email is, unfortunately, an imposition to someone with a busy schedule.

        My reading and writing skills are fine. Brevity is your friend. :)

      3. It's me*

        Sure the LW knows what they are looking for, the problem is they never considered the audience (a recruiter who most likely sent this email to more than one person). A short reply stating “I’d like to learn more about this opportunity, can we schedule a phone call?” could have gotten the LW a better understanding of the job opportunity and gauge their interest before investing too much time. The recruiter, much like this comment section, likely never got past the first paragraph of this email.

      4. biobotb*

        It wasn’t incoherent, but it had a lot of extraneous, totally unnecessary details about *why* the LW wanted the job to be a certain way, plus how they felt about their previous jobs. The recruiter doesn’t need to know any of that, and making them wade through that to get to the essence of what the LW is trying to convey is inefficient and not very respectful of the recruiter’s time.

      5. Aggretsuko*

        It’s good to know what you want, but being this open about it right off the bat isn’t socially acceptable to SAY to anyone, job or date. This is the wish list you keep for yourself.

      6. onco fonco*

        There is a really good reason for emails being short and to the point, though. It’s not just a matter of convention, it’s because that’s usually the most effective way to communicate. LW wrote a lovely, coherent essay on their career goals and history. It’s not bad writing, but it’s like ordering an espresso and receiving a three course dinner.

  66. SaffyTaffy*

    OP, I know you mention having a family, but I wonder if it would be helpful to imagine yourself on a dating site for a moment. You get plenty of messages saying hi, and you also say hi to some people. One person looks impressive, so you email to ask if they’d be interested in chatting. That’s the language you use. “Would you be interested in chatting?”
    In response you get multiple paragraphs explaining what they want in a long-term partner, and each criteria is fleshed out with an anecdote about what didn’t work in a previous relationship. The overall tone is that this person actually ISN’T interested in you- they say you’re probably not good enough for them. But maybe you are, who knows? Then they ask you out to lunch.
    Do you feel exhausted? Vaguely condescended-to? Maybe you feel like you’ve been put on the spot and challenged?

  67. Mentil Lentil*

    I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer

    I love this. Alison always emphasizes that job interviews are a two-way street, and since LW is communicating with a recruiter, I love this approach. “This is what I’m looking for; let me know if you have anything available that ticks these boxes.”

    You can bet your kitten’s mittens that employers are running through a similar list with the recruiter.

    1. biobotb*

      But this wasn’t an interview, and the LW included questions that the recruiter can’t answer. Like, how can the recruiter know if the LW will consider the work personally fulfilling/important enough to put in long hours, even though the LW is adamant they don’t want to put in long hours now anyway? This is way more than a set of boxes to tick, which is why these queries would work better for later in the process, if the LW would make it that far.

  68. Anonymity*

    Overkill. Personally I’d hit delete. The original message from the recruiter was bread and butter just looking for interest. What was sent back was a manifesto of demands. I’d be worried LW may be difficult to deal with in the workplace. I understand wanting to know more about the environment but remember, those initial messages are just to gauge interest. Good luck. I think sending huge replies could be holding you back.

  69. Cat Lover*

    This is… a lot. Way to much for a response to a pitch.

    To many recruiters, this could scream “high maintenance” and “hard to work with”.

  70. LisaNeedsBraces*

    Lw, do you typically have issues with not self-censoring or over-explaining? If so, it might be worth your while to work with someone who can help you better get your thoughts/questions across. Especially if you do this verbally as well (ask people who know you well and would give honest feedback.)

    For example, I noticed the questions about whether the work is worthwhile are internal monologue that don’t need to be asked directly. And there were a lot of superfluous details about your work experience that could be this (or maybe a way to show your experience that didn’t go over as well as you thought).

    As someone who has ADHD, I do appreciate this letter as similar to how my mind works. But also as someone with ADHD, I couldn’t get through it and I’m within my medication window. Good luck!

    1. ADHDlurker*

      Ahah, I have ADHD and this is how I feel.

      I can see get myself in hyperfocus mode and write this kind of email before realizing it’s way too much and editing down (or getting so exhausted by the long writing session and the intense inner dialogue/introspection that I give up on the email all together or erase and reply with one sentence instead).

      And at the same time, I couldn’t make it past the first couple of paragraphs and that was with skipping sentences…

  71. CM*

    I think it’s helpful to keep in mind what the recruiter is looking for. She’s probably reaching out to multiple people, and what she wants is to understand whether they may be interested so she can tell them more about the role.

    Given that, a good response is either, “Thanks, I’d be interested in learning more. Is there a good time to talk?” or “Thanks, but I’m not looking for opportunities at the moment.”

    All the questions OP asked are great as a personal checklist — something you don’t send out, but think about yourself once you’re at the offer stage.

  72. nonbinary writer*

    Fully setting aside the content because others have covered that well — I wouldn’t even send an email that long to a colleague I’ve been working with for years, let alone a recruiter! It’s just going to be really hard for people to read and absorb information when formatted like this. Line breaks and bullet points are your friends in dense emails.

  73. DeeBeeDubz*

    OP, I mean this very kindly, but the tone and length of this message makes it seem like you were insulted that the recruiter even approached you. I understand that you wanted to give them background of what you’re really looking for in hope that they would see you weren’t the right fit for this particular role and that they would only contact you in future with jobs that meet your specific needs but… this recruiter doesn’t work for you! They work for a company and their job is to find prospective candidates for this specific role. A response like this makes you seem high maintenance and frankly a little conceited. If and when you’re ready to move to a new role, you’ll need to evaluate your prospects yourself and ask specific questions to get the information you need about the companies and roles you’re interviewing for and then decide based on the answers whether a job is the right fit. There isn’t a hiring manager out there who will be willing to engage with type of rubric-style grading of the job opportunity they have for you without even meeting you first. Best of luck.

  74. Sylvan*

    TL;DR, my friend! The recruiter probably doesn’t have a lot of time to read. If you want to write more concise emails, you can do that by thinking, in advance, of up to five things that you want your recipient to remember when they’re done reading. After reading your email, I’m remembering these things:

    – When you consider working for a company, you consider several things very carefully.
    – You want to learn new skills or hone the skills you already have.
    – You like challenging work that feels important.
    – You want to work with diverse people whose values are compatible with yours.
    – You’re doubtful that this place will help you develop skills.

    Putting myself in a recruiter’s shoes, this is all good to know. But this is information on your availability that anyone seeking available candidates for a job might need: “… any start date would need to be after [that season] so there’s opportunity for an orderly handoff to take place; consequently, any timeline will necessarily be relaxed. If you wanted to have lunch at [proposed location] as a chance to chat in person, I’ll be fully vaccinated and available as of [date about a month out].

    So, if I were to send that email, I’d pop the information from that quote up to the top, minus the lunch offer. Then, I’d write something like: “I’m thinking about this opportunity carefully. It would be ideal to find a place where I can do challenging, important work in (blahblah skills-related). I want to work with people from all walks of life, with values and goals like (blahblah values and mission-based stuff). If this all sounds good to you, I’d be happy to talk in person or online.

  75. KWu*

    I’ve seen tech folks put up a page that has a detailed description of what they’re looking for in their next role on their own website, so I could see a lot of this content coming across a bit better located there and replying to recruiters with a link. But so much of this is info the hiring manager (not the recruiter) might have and info you really would have to find out for yourself in the end–by interviewing, or tapping backchannels.

  76. Persephone Mongoose*

    We did it — we found the first ever email that should have been a meeting.

    Joking aside, OP, I think it’s great that you know exactly what you’re looking for and have it all laid out in writing! Your only mistake was getting those questions out there way too soon and to a recruiter, someone who could only answer maybe a quarter of them.

    This is also why it’s important to get feedback on things being sent to a third party *before* they go out. ;)

  77. Kella*

    So I want to try to give constructive advice beyond “this is too long” because that’s been covered.

    I think the reason so many of the commentators, including myself, read a few sentences or maybe a paragraph, didn’t stop reading just because there was too much to read. Though it would not have been appropriate to do so, it’s perfectly possible to write something long that is compelling and doesn’t make you stop reading immediately. The problem wasn’t just the length, it was the specific focus of the writing.

    OP, the focus of this email was your own internal thought process about why you would or wouldn’t take a given job. I was first prompted to stop reading when I got to, “I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer, and perhaps we can jointly determine if this is an opportunity that makes sense to consider,” because you were signaling to me “I’m going to think out loud for a while.” A lot of the time, this process really isn’t that interesting to anyone but yourself, or someone you are specifically asking to be a sounding board for you as you work through your own thoughts about the job. It’s also just not relevant to anyone else but you and there’s not really anything other people can engage with without becoming sort of a therapist or job counselor. This is the kind of thing you pay people to listen to you talk about.

    I think at least some of what you were asking here could be translated into a format that was relevant to the recruiter. As Alison already mentioned, a lot of your questions were subjective enough that the recruiter wouldn’t have been able to answer them. For example, your multiple paragraphs about learning from the job could be replaced with something like “Would there be mentorship opportunities for X or Y skill?”

    Also to re-emphasize, any reframing for these questions should also be applied to a different stage of the process, and not the first email. It probably would’ve been sufficient to say “I’m interested but I’d like to learn more about the role. Can we set up a call to discuss some of the details?”

    1. hot priest*

      This is a really apt (and kind) description of the issue here. It also struck me as the ‘mode’ of writing I do when I’m sending emails to dear friends about ideas we are thinking through together.

  78. LW*

    Heh. “Brogrammers” are a specific type — think frat bros, but in tech. Sexism is one of their hallmarks — having work meetings at bars is another, disdain for rules and regulations yet another. Uber is a canonical example of a brogrammer-run company, but there are certainly many more.

    I don’t see recognizing this subculture for what it is as sexist. And the specifics of some of the company’s advertised benefits (the location of the company-owned condo they offer for vacationing, f/e) gave off a bro-y vibe.

      1. Here for now*

        Can you point us to which comment/thread was this a reply to, for continuity? A text search didn’t turn up anything asking for the definition of “brogrammer” or that referencing it is sexist so it isn’t immediately obvious.

        1. hot priest*

          Try searching “Bro-grammer” with a hyphen. I think that’s the thread/comment LW is referring to.

          1. Here for Now*

            Ah, I may have collapsed the high-maintenance thread before searching. This makes so much more sense in that context, thanks!

            Agree that it isn’t a sexist term, outside of this blog I mostly hear it from guys. Even know some who call themselves brogrammers as a positive.

    1. Gumby*

      Yup, I think most people get what bro-grammers are. It’s just an unusually confrontational move to reply to “hey are you interested in maybe talking about a role?” with almost-accusations that the company inculcates that type of atmosphere. It might! It’s certainly not rare. But companies that are heavily bro-grammer-leaning are rarely self-aware or honest enough to actually say so. It is extremely unlikely that the head of HR is going to respond with any variation on “yes, we are totally sexist here” even if you are talking to the bro-iest tech company in the world.

      I get not wanting to work in that atmosphere! It would be an absolute deal breaker for me as well. But I think to get real data you’ll have to ask in a different way and also in a different context (i.e. not in response to a casual introductory email).

      1. Wool Princess*

        Yeah, I agree. I found that line particularly off-putting, and framing the question that way seems unlikely to get you to the real answer.

    2. HD*

      I don’t think the question or the assumption in themselves are sexist, but like others have pointed out I probably wouldn’t ask that directly if the company culture is hostile to women/minorities/etc. because you’re unlikely to get a helpful answer. It’s also a conversation I’d have over the phone once you’ve built a rapport with the other person and can sense how to ask them this in a way that they’re likely to appreciate and answer candidly.

  79. FundraiserNYC*

    That was like a runaway train…

    OP I totally get not wanting to waste your time before fully investing in the interview process, but most people will feel very alienated by your reply’s tone and length. I agree with the commenters above who felt that, from your writing, you came off as presumptuous, difficult to work with, and that you seem to feel that the traditional expectations and norms around interviewing don’t apply to you.

    You would be better served by jotting these questions down before your phone interview, making sure you actually *listen* to the recruiter or hiring manager’s response, and holding back any urge to launch into a long, rehearsed monologue in response.

  80. Polecat*

    I have to say that I disagree with how mild AAM’s response was. This is wildly inappropriate, incredibly condescending, and obviously crazy long. I don’t think we do the OP a favor by pretending that this is anything other than a disaster. How will he ever learn? It’s not to jump on him and criticize him and make him feel bad, but this is so out of touch with the way that this type of communication should have gone, it requires some very tough love.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I agree. While I understand that people in tech get a LOT of recruiter messages, to the recruiter it really is just their job. They’re not trying to bother you and will not be offended if you simply ignore them or just say “not interested.”

  81. HotPocket*

    Just as a head’s up for LW and anyone else getting these messages…. they are often just a copy/paste. The recruiter does probably think you have a good background and would be a strong candidate, but they’re sending the same message to a bunch of people and hoping one is the right fit.

  82. Allison*

    Context: I’m a sourcer – no, not a “sorcerer,” – and also not a recruiter. I don’t decide who moves ahead in the interview process, but I do run searches for passive talent when we’re not getting enough qualified applicants on a role, and usually that involves messaging prospects as well.

    Occasionally, people respond back with what they’re looking for in their next role, but this is usually a few sentences, tops! They know they’re in-demand, so they tell me what they’re looking to make, what benefits are important, and what they’d like to be working on. I actually appreciate these messages because while it may mean I don’t get the conversion point, it means the recruiter doesn’t waste their time on a candidate. OR if we can offer what they’re looking for, it often means they’re more excited about the process, which is always great. But if someone sent me that many paragraphs, I wouldn’t bother reading all of that. You need to save most of that for the actual interview process, which you’re either interested in starting or you’re not.

  83. Elle by the sea*

    I don’t want to offend the LW, but it’s incredibly long and pretentious. I was barely able to read through this letter. I doubt if there is a recruiter who isn’t weirded out by such an email, unless they are really desperate to hire someone and there is a shortage of candidates for a hard-to-fill role. I think I know where LW is coming from and I also see the hard work and good intentions behind it, but I also think it is important to be considerate of other people’s time and energy. It’s much more efficient and worthwhile to discuss these things in person than pouring this information and demand overload peppered with your personal story on the recruiter in a single email.

  84. gravalax*

    If I received this email, I would immediately eliminate the candidate from consideration because they seem wildly out of touch with business norms and also basic human norms. This person doesn’t want to have a 15-30 min. phone conversation but they have time to write an 800-word missive and they want to meet for lunch? Hell no. That’s a hard pass for me.

  85. Manchmal*

    I think the problem with this email is that much of it is very internal to the writer and not necessary to express. The questions themselves are all fine – what kind of “stack” do you maintain, do people at this office see what they are doing as a mission, etc. But the questions are paired with the writer’s internal rubric for how they would assess the answer, and that’s just tipping your cards way too much.

  86. hot priest*

    Is it just me or did anyone else think this might have been “copypasta” for a second?

    I agree with other commenters and Allison that this is A Lot and definitely not the best strategy to get the information LW wanted, but at least they seem to be considering they may have overstepped by virtue of writing this letter to Allison.

  87. Lee*

    I find it amusing that I went from watching a clip of Ben Whishaw’s Q meeting Bond in Skyfall to reading this letter. The personality sort of matches. It is a good letter. I read it all the way through and was surprised by all those saying they scrolled. It is a very committed person. However, trying to compose a reply to this? Yikes. Way too long to think over and write. And the ending makes it seem rude to repeat the offer of a phone call. Don’t be surprised if you don’t receive a reply.

  88. DKMA*

    So my main piece of feedback on this is that it fails as a communication. I don’t think the LW was clear on what their goal for the email was, and it was too rambling and disorganized to achieve any goal. If he had any goal, it was internal “here are my thoughts” rather than external “this is what I want this person to do” and in almost all cases any communication should be about what you want someone to do, if it’s internal just keep it as notes to yourself.

    If I was going to recraft this I’d probably outline it as:
    -Thanks for reaching out, I’m not really looking right now but I’m always happy to make connections.
    -Just FYI to consider a switch I would need a lot right now
    -Here’s the 2-5 most key factors for me
    -If you think you can address these concerns, or if you just want to connect in case of future opportunities, let’s talk otherwise I don’t want to waste anyone’s time

    Then if you really, really hate conversations and like to do things via writing you could add something like “I prefer to connect via email because I find it easier to structure my thinking, so below I’ve outlined details of what I need on the 2-5 things I mention above. If you think it makes sense to continue please provide brief explanations of how you’ll address these concerns”.

    Note that this last part is way outside of any professional norms I’ve seen, but if you really have the leverage because you are not looking for a change and have a strong preference for that sort of communication you could try it. You are still being much clearer up front in a format that the recipient can actually follow and respond to in a way that achieves your goals.

  89. Pizza and a pop*

    Does anyone have a specific example of what the letter writer could have written instead? (I would like an example to use as a model if I get similar requests.)

    Maybe something like, “Thank you for reaching out. I’m always glad to hear of another tech company in the area. I would like to hear more about the position. I’m also interested in learning more about the other team members and the corporate culture. Could we set up a 15 minute phone call to discuss it?”

    Could others also weigh in on how to structure the 15 minute phone call to get some of the answers to the questions? (I think that the person’s passion for their work comes through.) But it would be hard to get all of this information in a 15 minute phone call.

    1. DKMA*

      Here’s three versions:
      Not at all interested:
      “Hi X, thanks for reaching out. I’m not currently in the market for a new role, but thanks for reaching out. The company sounds interesting, please keep me in mind for future opportunities that come up.”

      Not actually interested but wants to keep doors open:
      “Hi X, thanks for reaching out. I’m not currently in the market for a new role, but I’m always happy to make new connections. Let me know if you still want to connect for a 15 minute call, I’m happy to learn more about your company and the role.”

      Only interested, but would need a lot to move:
      “Hi X, thanks for reaching out. Though, I’m not in the market for a new role, I’m happy to talk to see if there’s the potential for something to work. Just so you know my current role is giving me X, Y, Z and I would need A, B and C to even consider moving at this point. Let me know if you want to connect.”

      Quite interesting in the role:
      “Hi X, thanks for reaching out. I would love to connect about X role.” If it’s the actual hiring manager reaching out, not just a recruiter you could add a brief version of the sorts of information you’d normally put in a cover letter about why you’d be a good candidate. I probably wouldn’t bother with a recruiter who reached out to me.

    2. anon for this*

      Love love love DKMA’s scripts above (both separate comment and reply to yours)

      Also Old School HTML had a great comment below on 3 questions to ask and does a great job (IMO) of zooming out a bit and grouping the main concerns into broad buckets, which would be great for a call.

      At this stage, there is no way to get all the answers to the original questions on one 15-min call (and as many have said, the person on the call may not be able to answer them). I think the focus has to be on deal breakers, those that’s of course easier with things like salary. remote work, etc. that often have discrete answers.

  90. DKMA*

    One other thought for the LW. You are sharing a ton of detailed information here, to the point that you will make it very easy for someone to tell you what you want to hear if they are so inclined because you are telling them exactly what you want to hear.

    For some things (e.g. I want lots of money) this can be good (if risky) because you are being clear about what you need. For others (e.g. company culture) you want to leave questions more open-ended so that you are not steering the conversation too much.

    1. Wool Princess*

      How does one suss out what company culture is truly like? I feel like interviewers would have a tendency to gloss over toxicity. I’ve definitely been guilty of over-selling a company’s culture when I was involved in hiring.

    2. LW*

      This is an excellent point. My focus was on letting folks self-select out instead of needing to make my own call later, but holding back preferences means that later call is more likely to be based on accurate information.

      1. biobotb*

        I think danger here is that this is so early in the process that they’d select out for the wrong reasons–i.e., for not wanting to go to the trouble of answering your in-depth questions (of those that they can answer), rather than because their answers suggest you’d be ill-suited for the position/company culture. However, as the commenters who know hiring in tech are having a very different reaction to the letter than everyone else, this may not be a danger in your field at all.

  91. Laura H.*

    That’s rather lengthy.

    I’ll admit to writing emails more on the lengthy side of things, but that definitely felt like it was too long.

    I also think that a bit of it could have been tabled for further in the process with another person who has a better chance of knowing the answers.

  92. AccountingNerd*

    Software engineers get away with writing diatribes like this all the time, to a very slightly lesser degree you get the same from other Engineers. I’d say this is far more normal than not with Engineering types and in my company likely would not elicit any negative response within the Engineering group. The rest of us would roll our eyes but that wouldn’t matter.

    1. Wool Princess*

      Folks upthread talked about this too and it blows my mind. My husband is a software engineer and I can’t imagine in a million years he’d write this kind of email.

  93. Tea*

    Do you consider this company presumptuous for even reaching out? Because that’s how this is coming off. It’s a brilliant set down for a company that should know better than to bother you, but it’s not a conversation.

  94. Can Man*

    Good to know that my old job working with lab animals used in research from cancer to Alzheimer’s to coronaviruses wasn’t important because I didn’t work overtime.

  95. RagingADHD*

    There’s an in-joke we have in our family. I think it’s a Simpsons reference:
    “You said the quiet part loud.”

    Most of this email is unpacking your own head, and therefore not really appropriate to the level of interaction this initial contact warranted. It wasn’t a job offer. It wasn’t a request to consult on their business model.

    All you needed to say was yes or no, would you like to talk about it. If your bar to even discuss the role is this high, just say no.

  96. Former Employee*

    I couldn’t read it in its entirety, either.

    To me, it came off as if the OP was telling the recruiter that they needed to make the case for why the OP should want the job because they [the OP] would only take a job that was worthy of their willingness to dedicate their life to such a position.

    I would feel differently if I thought that the OP worked in the medical field or search and rescue or anything that involved saving lives. Under those circumstances, I would understand why the OP wanted to be sure that the mission coincided with their level of dedication.

  97. Prado*

    This reminds me of my husband, who is not arrogant or pretentious as the other commenters seem to think—he does have learning disabilities and this is how his brain works. 90% of our discussions over written communications are me telling him to be more concise. I wonder if the LW has a similar struggle (and also curious if they work in science or medicine)—I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Hence the question about whether this is too much. There’s a self awareness here, just not great judgment about what’s expected. I feel you, LW!

  98. Raida*

    Dude. Mate. Mate.

    They asked “Would you have some time to connect over the coming days so that I might discuss the role with you but more importantly get to know you better?”
    Your response was “Well you do all this work and let me know if you think it’s worth your and my time to even meet.” Even though you say you DO want to know the area. They offered to meet you – that’s what you want.

    How about… A few important bullet points, and “I’m not specifically looking for a new role right now, but I’m happy to meet for coffee.”

    I honestly didn’t finish reading it, sorry. after a paragraph about how a good length work day might mean there’s no passion, and you loved working overnight, but you certainly aren’t looking to work overnight… Mate *you* don’t know what you want, you don’t know how to explain it, you are asking too much, and you’re using too many words. And I talk a LOT, this is too much even for me. Learn to friggin’ edit dude – write it out, come back an hour later and delete, delete, delete.

  99. Des*

    >“I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer

    I think that this is the wrong time to talk about what you look for in an employer. Basically, as Alison replies, it’s an intro screening.

    What you’ve done OP is the equivalent of answering an online dating “request to connect” with a list of what you look for in a marriage partner. Too much; too soon.

  100. Ask a Manager* Post author

    All comments on this post are now being moderated because of the large number of people apparently unwilling to respect the site’s commenting rules and the reminder at the top of this page, so there will be a delay before your comment appears (and it will not appear at all if it’s unkind or unconstructive).

  101. Ann Disaster*

    As a job hunter for ten months, can I just say how unprofessional & shady every recruiter I’ve encountered in the last year has been? From ghosting to straight up lying about a job description that set me up to fail in an interview, I’m FRUSTRATED. I didn’t even make it through this whole post, if they can’t respond to a two or three sentence email I send saying this isn’t my traditional experience, but I think I could do this job well. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, is this contract &/or does it offer benefits? there’s no way they’re replying to this, but I think they rarely reply to anyone. I’ve never been more frustrated or discouraged by the recruiters I’ve encountered since July 2020. OP definitely has expectations for a recruiter set way too high.

  102. V*

    This was like the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy proposes to Elizabeth with all the reasons he shouldn’t even like her, which she understandably finds insulting and then rejects him.

    It comes off as condescending to me, but even if we ignore that matter of perspective –

    LW, I love reading- I couldn’t finish reading this despite trying multiple times to do so. Much too long and detailed for ANY email, not just an initial one. These are good things for *you* to consider as you engage with their company and process. Not for them to parse out for you. There were far more succinct and kinder ways to do this.

  103. judyjudyjudy*

    I think the comment section has thoroughly covered how the email was too long and that some of the questions were directed at the wrong person — how would the recruiter know what work you think is important? However, commenters were really split on the content of your message which perhaps comes down to how difficult it is to convey tone in emails. When I read your email, it sounded TO ME like you were looking down your nose at this company and this recruiter. But clearly other commenters view your email differently. So maybe before you send them, read emails to recruiters or HR with an eye for editing and an eye for TONE.
    P.s. I encourage you to challenge your own assumptions about the nature of “important work.” There is meaningful, impactful, important, deep work of many types that is carried out in 40 hours per week, or LESS.

  104. Old School HTML*

    Although SENDING this may not have been the best move, I do love that the writer WROTE it! It’s really good before a job search to figure out what really matters to you. Maybe something like this as a journal entry, and then condensed to 3 lists of questions — dealbreakers that mean an interview isn’t worth it, details you’d like to find out at the interview phase to help determine if it’s a good fit, and “icing on top” details that you’d want to keep in mind at the offer phase.

    Another element I’m seeing that makes me think “journal entry” instead of “email” is it’s “I-focused” and not “you-focused. The OP is data-dumping THEIR preferences/requirements , but by making so many declarative statements, they’re not giving the original emailer a chance to explain their own structure. It’s like going to a new to you coffee shop and saying “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” (yes, like to a replicator) instead of saying “I’m more interested in tea than coffee – what do you have that’s loose leaf ? Any flavored black teas?” — Maybe they can’t legally call it “Earl Grey” due to trademark rules, but the “citrus-floral breakfast tea” is exactly what you want. Maybe they have an earl-grey-like GREEN tea, and they’ll let you sample it. Or a different flavor of black tea that would also satisfy.”

    So from my understanding of the big email, for a future similar solicitation, the first response might be:
    1) That sounds interesting — how do you keep to 7-hour days? (This finds out if things are really useless or if they have a strong work/life balance culture, or if they balance it with less vacation?) [I only bring this one up, since it seems the main thing the OP was responding to.
    2) I’m really focused on staying current with my tech stack. Can you tell me a little about the [tech dept/plans/strategy — pick just one element in email]? [This may also come up a LOT more in the interview, where you can get into details about all of these. ]
    3) What drew you to the company? What excites you about their mission or culture? [This lets you see if the ethics and usefulness match up to your expectations.]

    Again, GREAT DRAFT! I will use this to model parts of my job search I want to consider. Just remember the audience — give them some space to respond, and as Burr says, “Talk less, smile more.”

    1. DKMA*

      So this is a great comment, but I’m sorry, I’m not sure following the advice of Aaron Burr is ideal. Reminds me of when someone quotes Shakespeare in Ulysses and the person (Stephen I think) mutters “Iago”.

      Though I guess Burr is the one who gets to tell the story in the end, so there is some power in his advice.

      1. Old School HTML*

        The OP is like Alexander Hamilton — he wrote himself into trouble! (And also at times used the writing to create great things — knowing when to hold back is as important as having a lot of things to say!)

  105. Minerva*

    I think it might be counterproductive to put all your cards on the table. The recruiter may or may not have much ability or even incentive to answer these questions, you are likely to be better positioned to figure things out in a call or later in the process. You don’t want to contract out this judgement to a recruiter you don’t know.

    I’d say ask what you want to get from this response, and the recruiter’s ability and incentive to actually give it to you.

  106. Tech recruiter 225*

    I’m a tech recruiter and I’m a little confused at the other tech recruiters on this thread saying this response is normal. While I’ve gotten some odd emails from engineers (and some that are also entitled), this is really over the top and comes across as extremely entitled. The recruiter reached out to ask if you’d want to have a quick call to talk about the role and get to know you. To the OP, I really hope you reflect on why you felt entitled to say you’ll meet for lunch instead (!!!!) and ask tons of questions that will probably require the recruiter to spend over an hour asking around and typing out answers to. You’ve probably already taken yourself out of the process with a response like this. The tone of this comes across as if you’re thinking you’re doing the recruiter a favor by even considering talking to them. They probably already have a decent pipeline of candidates unless this is a super senior very specialized role.These are the types of questions you would ask at a final interview or work on figuring out for yourself (ex: do you fine the work meaningful). If you’re having trouble understanding why this is not an appropriate response I would suggest looking into career coaching.

  107. Rectilinear Propagation*

    So, I’m going to take what looks like is going to be an unpopular stance:
    At least part of this is the company’s fault.

    I agree the LW’s email is too long but I think a lot of the “I didn’t read past the 2nd past the second paragraph/I skimmed” comments probably missed the part where LW said they went to the employer’s web site looking for information. I don’t expect a small company to have a full on job application system, but the web site should have answered at least a couple of LW’s questions.

    I might be projecting a bit based on my own experience but it sounds like the company hasn’t described who they are or what they do very well. And it’s hard to know whether you would be interested in something when you don’t know what it is.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      Ah, I wish I could edit!
      It should just say “Part of this is the company’s fault.”. The “at least” makes it sound like I’m suggesting that it’s possible that it’s all the company’s fault, which I don’t think is true.

    2. Ember*

      Lots of companies are quite mysterious and secretive! In the private equity industry, there isn’t even a career page for more private equity company sites. The onus is on the job seeker to network and find out more.

  108. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    A lot people have commented that some of the technical questions are inappropriate for a recruiter, who would not be able to answer them.

    That’s not always the case. I worked on a “redesign the hiring experience” project for a large bank recently, and during the research phase I interviewed a number of specialist recruiters. One of them only recruits Data Scientists. Two others recruit only Quantitative Analysts (and one used to be in that role before moving into recruitment – he also designed the technical assessment / screener used for candidates). They all had an excellent understanding of the field and the roles they were recruiting for and could easily have answered the OP’s questions.

    In other areas such as UX Design, the recruiter was a generalist looking after several unrelated areas and had a very limited understanding of design. Most of the heavy lifting had to be done by the hiring manager and her direct reports.

    So this definitely varies across companies and departments, and it’s best not to make assumptions about how well the recruiter understands the field.

    1. Selena*

      It definitely can differ. It’s a relief when a recruiter knows what the hell they are talking about, but it’s unfortunately not the norm in IT.

      In case of lack-of-knowledge the good recruiters send you on to the hiring manager (or another proffesional), the bad recruiters start judging you on none-technical things (often class-signifiers such as expensive vacations or flashy interships)

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