Resume trawling job ads

21 Aug 2013

Sometimes you come across a job ad and think:

Man, that’s a totally awesome role, and the technologies are just right – all the spanking new, koolkids tech, none of those yesteryear’s spaghetty-code-promoting proprietary technologies; and the project sounds way too rad – an uber social-geolocation-photosharing crowdsourcing app for neo-hipsters.

Without further ado you reach for your CV that’s been just updated and off it goes.

If the process above looks awfully similar to an impulse purchase that all of us had fallen for at some point (credit due to clever marketers and display front designers with their social-proof instilling, immediate-urgency exploitation techniques), there’s a reason why it is so. But first let’s look at what resume trawling, as a practice, is.

What is trawling

There’s a particular type of job ads out there in the wild – ones that have no real job opening behind them. These are posted by recruitment agencies of all sorts, big and small, for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is a banal resume collection. It’s a cheap way for recruiters to update their databases with fresh CVs of people looking for work. You better do this sooner than later, because when a client contacts you for a job, you can already source some candidates from a fresh pool.

It can also be a way of “market research” – i.e. means of testing how many candidates are out there looking for work in this particular area. Knowing what the demand is for this particular type of roles tells you how far you can push the rate/salary down and pocket the difference in case of contracting engagements.

Lastly, there’s a most benign type of trawling job ads – a simple duplication of already existing job ad, just under different category. It’s more of a marketing/positioning gimmick, really, than an evil recruiter pinky-to-the-lips kind of ad, allowing recruiters to cover different audiences, say Web Developers with one ad and Freelance Developers with another.

What does it look like

There are some common patterns in how trawling job ads look. As with the case of goods that meant to illicit an immediate “buy this thing”type of response in shoppers, trawling ads make you want to immediately apply for this job. A trawling ad would be enticing, yet vague - promising lots of cool things yet being vague enough to leave room for imagination to paint missing details in a favourable palette. It may mention latest versions of technologies, some frameworks/tools that are on the rise in a given day and age, but may still contain a remark that you should apply even if you don’t have experience with these exact versions of things.


*Experience with Ruby on Rails (4.** preferred although not mandatory), MongoDB, Cucumber and iOS 7

ASP.NET MVC 4, Entity Framework 6, SQL Server 2012 experience is desirable although not mandatory

Often it mixes and matches “competing” technologies – such as Java, .NET, RoR, Django in one ad:

Experience in Java, Ruby or .Net? Experience gained in a mature Agile environment? Register your details now!

As well as various locations & types of employment:

Multiple Software Development opportunities – Melbourne CBD & Fringe

Range of permanent and contract positions available

Short and long term contract opportunities available

Often it makes damn sure monetary reward is mentioned (remember the impulse purchase? that’s the one!):

Great contract rates on offer!

Generous salary package plus lots of benefits

Some ads are so blatant they don’t even try to hide the fact it’s trawling:

We may not be able to assist you immediately but we will get you registered, get to know your background and keep you informed as the right roles come up

We are seeking expressions of interest from Microsoft development professionals.

We have over 10 opportunities to fill before the 1st July

We are looking for a number of developers to join a number of clients come FY 13/14

So, these are the general patterns to look for – too broad technology ranges, too many different employment types (contract/permanent), different locations, different types of roles (development/architecture/management).

Why to avoid

“So what”, you may say, “trawling-shmawling, I just need a job so I’ll apply to as many roles as I can to get my CV in front of as many eyes as possible”, and that’s a fair call. However, it’s good to have a broader awareness of what’s happening out there in the market – for instance those types of trawling ads tend to go up as the market goes down.

Trawling job ads rarely result in any immediate form of response, such as a phone call – although there’s non-zero possibility of somebody contacting you a few months down the track, when a recruiter has an urgent need to fill out some burning role. But again it’s unlikely to matches your circumstances, as you probably will have found a job by then.

So there’s no immediate dangers or strong inconveniences in applying for those fake jobs (as it is in case of recruiters trying to solicit sales leads from you, it’s just that most of the time it can be somewhat pointless.

More tricks

PS: This post is a part of the series that I wrote to uncover the dirty tricks of the recruitment industry. If you are interested, check out my other articles and see how you can win at job searching game.

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