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(January 05, 2007)
Like the insane brother kept hidden in the shed behind the main house, we don't talk much about the spam in our industry. Spam is our living and breathing companion. Spam is the pink elephant in the room.

When the economy slips, the job boards become name vendors to the email list brokers. Submit your resume, get some spam. It's reasonably widespread. It demonstrates why privacy policies with no punitive section are worthless. In good privacy policies, they ought to tell you what you get when they break the trust. (Hmmmm, I wonder if enforcement of privacy policies is on the agenda at the International Association of Employment Websites?)

We'll tackle the name brokerage question in another article. Right now the question is whether or not we can have a public dialog about the notion that spamming candidates (messaging talent pools) is really good for business.

We got started down this path after receiving umpteen pieces of spam regarding the recent Blog Awards. People bought (or purloined) lists from Kennedy (from the last show), made up fake mailing lists and engaged in all sorts of rude behavior. Sadly, we were forced to ignore a process that we championed just a year ago. The Awards were such a good idea.

Significantly, we were bombarded by email from Dave Mendoza and Shally Steckerl. As we talked around the industry, it was clear that the lack of policing by the administrators at Recruiting.com resulted in a great deal of irritating spam. The results of the contest simply do not mean anything because the results were lobbied in a lopsided way. The very people who ran the awards process approved of some of the spam.

When Mendoza spammed us again, after the popularity contest, we complained. The response was an automated "thank-you for joining the mailing list". When we sent a note directly to Dave, he blamed Microsoft, the list software and asked us to accept his good intentions:

I have a very precise goal intended and it is not self promotion, I believe my personal brand has reach (sic) sufficient levels ... In fact my goal is to use that brand to entice the mainstream in staffing to embrace web 2.0  (from email)

There's something wrong when this is a response to a request to be removed from a spam list.

We think that it all begins with the idea that targeted spam is a good way to manage talent relationships. Sending unsolicited email to large numbers of people is the very definition of spam.

Apparently, the current definition of an opt-in marketing list is that you have the opportunity to opt-out. That's just not how we understand it.

E-mail spam is the most common form of internet spamming. It involves sending unsolicited commercial messages to many recipients. Unlike legitimate commercial e-mail, spam is generally sent without the explicit permission of the recipients, and frequently contains various tricks to bypass e-mail filtering. Spammers obtain e-mail addresses by a number of means: harvesting addresses from Usenet postings, DNS listings, or Web pages; guessing common names at known domains (known as a dictionary attack); and "e-pending" or searching for e-mail addresses corresponding to specific persons, such as residents in an area. Many spammers utilize programs called web spiders to find e-mail addresses on web pages (see also address munging). (Wikipedia)

It's pretty easy to tell whether a piece of mail has been written to you personally or to a group. There's a tone that you can 'hear'. It's easy and everyone knows what it is. That tone is off-putting whether the form letter is sent to five or five hundred. It tells you that the writer wasn't interested in you personally. If the message in the letter conveys something personal, the contradiction between message and format can seriously effect the message itself.

It's powerfully important to note that, for all of the brouhaha surrounding targeted email as a management tool for talent pools, no one has asked candidates whether they like this form of marketing. So, when you use it based on "response rates", you are alienating the vast majority of the people on your list.

Targeted email to groups of candidates is the quickest way to erode your employment brand.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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