Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hunting Heads

I delight in getting emails from headhunters, because it's really easy to tell if you're really being headhunted or if it's just Ooh-Look-a-Computer-Scientist-In-A-Prestigious-PhD-Program spam. The latter queries are particularly entertaining.

If you're truly being headhunted by someone good at their job, you get letters like this:
Dear Ms. Lovelace,
Your research on concurrent ducks is fascinating. I was especially impressed by your recent journal article in the IEEE Transactions of Quackery.  Please come work for us! 
Ze Headhunter
But if you're getting spammed, it looks something like this:
Dear Lovelace, Ada,
Our company is awesome awesome. Graduates of your university's computer science program are awesome awesome. Two great tastes that go great together. Come work for us! 
If this interests you, or anyone else you have ever met, in your entire life ever, please email me ASAP.         
Ze Headhunter
Do these spam approaches even work? I mean, it's like sending the exact same cover letter to every job you apply to. You don't make anyone feel special. Especially if you can't be bothered to put someone's first name before their last name, and figure out their formal title. Also this, "Please tell your friends" business is very silly too.

I received a letter of the spam variety recently, and felt tempted to replace myself with a very small shell script and write automated spam messages back, like:
After graduating, I am planning to continue my groundbreaking research on rubber ducks, using my PhD for more than just being a code monkey managing hedgehog funds. You see, the reason I got my PhD in the first place was to break out of code monkery. That's why I study ducks, not monkeys.  
If you, or any of your headhunter friends know of a good place where I can do leading edge rubber duck research, I am all pinnae-free ears. 
Love, Ada


  1. FCS, do you have an email?
    I saw your question over at Hermitage's so I thought I can send you a couple of sentences offline if you're interested.

  2. I've never been headhunted like this, but I do get spammed with requests to publish my dissertation. Usually these spams come in swarms, once or twice a year and usually from a couple of the same companies, but different people within each company every time. This, regardless of that fact that I am not interested in this at all, am a few years post PhD and my thesis was publised as a book by my university press (standard in the country where I got my PhD) - which I told them in my reply once or twice when these spams started to arrive, but obviously noone ever paid attention, as I continue to receive these requests. Nowadays I just delete them...

  3. When I was looking for jobs at the end of my postdoc, I did reply to a few of these spammy emails from headhunters. The ones I replied to were from well-known companies in my field. They organized a phone interview, and things did progress. At the end though, I backed out when I got another offer for a job that involved more research.

  4. @GMP: Sure, thanks, that'd be great. You can write me at my blog's name at gmail dot com.

    @Pika: That's funny, it's sort of reminds me of those "Who's Who In America?" requests. Or these spam book chapter requests from publishers I've never heard of before. "We're doing a special book on rubber ducks, and would love for you, Ms. Lovelace, to write a chapter! Your recent paper on would be an excellent starting point". I feel like they just spam everyone who attends my duck conference.

    @Anonymous: Some of them are actually honest-to-goodness job leads, and are worth pursuing to be sure. I've had a few where I had a conversation at least. Usually they want me to work on something goofy that has nothing to do with my research area (or research at all), but it never hurts to ask.