Tracking Recruiter Response Rates to Boilerplate Questions

Like many software engineers these days, I frequently receive recruiter emails or LinkedIn messages. Most of these request scheduling a 15–30 minute call immediately, which I don’t have time for. To operationalize this process, I ask a few boilerplate questions tailored to the recruiter to filter out the good recruiters:

Hi {{ Recruiter }},

Thanks for the interest. I am always open to new opportunities but am not actively looking. Before we hop on a call, please let me know:

  • Who are the company’s primary competitors? What is the company’s competitive advantage?
  • What is the current team structure: Who will I report to? Who will report to me? How large is the engineering team? What does team growth look like in the next 6–18 months?
  • Is this a hands-on role or is this role primarily managerial? What type of problems would I be expected to solve?
  • What is the total compensation? Is equity given in options or RSUs? How are the stock valuations calculated? When was the last round of funding?
  • Where is this position located?


Good recruiters answer these questions as they should have them written down and operationalized already. I don’t expect them to answer every single question in an email, but some effort and an estimation of compensation is expected.

Don’t Bother With Third Party Recruiters

A significant portion of an engineer’s total compensation is usually based on your equity. For example, according to, a senior software engineer’s compensation at Amazon is almost 50% equity as they have a base salary cap of about $160k. SDE III at Amazon is equivalent to a Senior Software Engineer at other FAANG companies

Amazon SDE III Compensation according to Levels.FYI

In my experience, no third party recruiter gas knowledge of equity grants. For a hire, third party recruiters are paid a percentage of the salary; equity grants are not taken into account. This makes working with third party recruiters essentially useless, though third party recruiters may be useful if you’re at a very high level (e.g. VP and above) or have an extremely specific skill set. I still ask third party recruiters these boilerplate questions, primarily for my own amusement. I don’t ever send third party recruiters my resume anymore: I don’t want them to submit my resume to any company as it will cause problems if I actually want to apply.

The List of First-Party Recruiters

I’ve collected a list of first-party recruiters who have contacted me since about 6 months ago and wrote my interactions with them. Clearly, I’m not really looking for a new position, but the response rates have been amusing to me.

Flagging Bad Third-Party Recruiters

It’s bad enough that third-party recruiters can’t provide answers to boilerplate questions. It’s even more annoying when they consistently annoy you. I’ve started tracking these recruiters and flag them in Gmail:

Labels bad recruiters in Gmail

Feel free to contribute to the list at jonathanong/crappy-recruiters.