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We hear this question occasionally from IT contractors -- "How did you get my email or phone number when I've never created a profile with your staffing agency?" Some technology professionals may let a recruiter know they're happy in their current full-time job and others may jump at the opportunity for an upcoming project, but all who ask the question are curious as to the methods a recruiter has taken when seeking new, fresh technology talent.
First, let us put your mind at ease, while recruiters are resourceful, they're not spying on you, buying lists, or doing anything else considered unethical to get your contact information. They use various tools and techniques when filling a client's job opening and if you happen to be a good fit for the position, your name is sure to appear at some point during their research.
Here are some things you may be doing that are helping recruiters find you:
You have a detailed LinkedIn Profile
It should not come as a surprise to you that technology recruiters seek out top talent on LinkedIn. If you have an up-to-date, detailed profile, including project descriptions and recommendations, your chances of receiving connection requests from recruiters are raised. When your email address and/or phone number are made public in the contacts section, anybody can access them to connect with you that way. You can request not to be contacted by email, either directly on your profile or with a polite response to the first message you receive from somebody. The ethical recruiters will always respect your wishes.
You uploaded your resume somewhere online
Major job boards sell access to their database to recruiters, both in staffing agencies and private companies. When you apply to any job or create a profile with them, you've also opened yourself up to receiving phone calls and emails about new opportunities. Again, depending on your current situation, this can either be a benefit to your job search or a bit annoying. You usually have the option to disallow your resume to be shared, but remember to return and change those settings when your job search continues.
You participated in an online forum
Many knowledgeable technology professionals, especially developers, participate in online forums on websites like Stack Overflow, GitHub and Quora. IT contractors active in these places are often the type of quality people recruiters want working on their projects so, naturally, they keep an eye on these websites. Even if your profile does not include your contact information, when a recruiter sees that you are skilled, they will seek you out on LinkedIn or a job board so they can learn more about your professional interests.
You did good work somewhere else
The old fashioned, non-internet word-of-mouth! It's difficult for a great IT contractor to stay under the radar. When you do exceptional work for a client, your manager or other technology professionals on your team will be quick to recommend you when asked by a recruiter. It's a fact that the best contractors rarely search for work at all -- the opportunities come to them!
You did create a profile, you just don't remember
As the old saying goes: "Never say never." Sure you never applied to a recruiter's job... in the past few years, but what about 5 years ago? Or 10 years ago? Staffing agencies keep their database of candidates and their resumes for a long time and recruiters may review people who they haven't heard from in some time. They'll understand that your resume needs updating; however, they'll also anticipate where you may be in your career today and take the opportunity to check-in and see how things are going.
Keep in mind that a recruiter only contacts you if they believe you could be a good fit for one of their clients and that the position is a good fit for you too. They don't want to waste your time, and also have no interest wasting their own time with an uninterested candidate. If you're not seeking new opportunities, politely let them know and you can both move on. Otherwise, take a few minutes to learn about their recruitment agency and its clients -- it may be the next best thing for your career!