Like LinkedIn, but you get paid to read the recruiter emails

8 Jun 2022

Pontification  Business Ideas 

Like most devs (especially those of us with fairly keyword-heavy CVs), I get a lot of spammy recruiter emails which vary from the detailed "would you like to work for half your current salary in a location that you don't live anywhere near in a language you hate", to the vague "can I have a call about my unnamed client for a job I won't tell you any details of", to the simply annoying "would you like to work for my blockchain project? We'll pay you in company scrip tokens that might still be worth something by the time the week is out?". These are terrible, terrible emails (and the phone calls are even worse), both because they waste my time, and because they make me much less likely to be willing to pay any attention to the high-value ones in the middle of all the spam. I'd like to propose instead an alternative model - one that will probably annoy a lot of the spammy recruiters, but would get the potential organisation a much higher rate of business from the higher quality ones.

The core is basically LinkedIn - a large collection of public work profiles of people, except with a slightly different option on messages: anyone can message you. However, it'll cost the messager money, and I'm not talking pennies, I'm thinking something more serious, maybe around the £5/£10 range for every message. Before they send that message, you can optionally have set some text they need to read (or at least vaguely look at), call it the "user requirements". This is where you can write anything you like, but it'll be things like "I am not interested in any jobs in <industry>", or "my minimum salary requirements are X". This is optional, but encouraged. Once they've read this, they can send you the message, and you get an email as per standard LinkedIn fun.

You can then read the message and need to click a button at the bottom of it saying "I have read this message". If however the recruiter has failed to read your user requirements, you can click another button instead that says something like "they failed to read my requirements" (exact text TBD). Every push of that button gets reviewed by an actual human, who will read your requirements and the recruiter email, and decide if they violated them. If so, that's one strike against the recruiter, and a small number of strikes (maybe even one, but probably no more than three) will result in a lifetime ban for that individual from ever sending messages again. If they just sent a pitch you're not interested in, but doesn't violate your requirements, then it's not a strike against. The reviewer of this will start a thread of messages with you on this if you disagree with the decision, and if you really want to you can go back and forth on the requirements, but they may well just suggest more pedantic language for the future if there's ambiguity, as the default will be "no strike".

Either way, you get 50% of the fee they paid once you push a button (probably in an account to pay out monthly or something to reduce fees), and the not-LinkedIn keeps the other 50%. This all makes sending those sorts of recruitment messages pretty expensive, and sending the same one out to many people is probably now a really bad idea. That is however kinda the point! I want potential recruitees to know that every time they get a message from this organisation that it's got high odds of being a good new job, and it is absolutely worth your time to read it, because if all else fails, you're getting money out of this. There's potentially a question about "how do we encourage people to report spammers", with the problem that if you say pay more money if you report a spammer, you get a higher false positive rate, and if the payout rate is identical, then most people might well just go "eh, I don't care enough to report". For me, getting a spammy recruiter banned forever would be reward enough, but I get that other people have different motivations.

There's a bunch of other side cases e.g. do you want connections between people, because those connection messages are another source of spam; do you do any of the other LinkedIn features (organisation pages, etc); but the core of this is the service listed above, and I'd kinda lean towards not doing anything else that dilutes from that. The more extra crap you have, the more likely you're going to do things that dilute the core value, and this idea is all about the core value.

There's definitely a lot of psychological research that needs doing here in order to figure out the best way to achieve the core goals here, but the critical part is "recruiter emails with a high signal/noise ratio" i.e. not the "mostly noise, very little signal" the current ones have. If there was another way to do that, I'd love to see that as well. I periodically get pinged by various organisations promising to solve the problem, but they all fall down because they seem to want to be nice to even the spammy recruiters (presumably because that's who funds their business model) and so the signal/noise ratio is always still terrible.

Previously: Parallel for serial_test