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This has happened to me a few times over the years:

  • Got an email from Careers site, telling me an employer is showing interest.
  • When I read the message, it is just a canned, spam like email, nothing to do with my CV/SO profile.
  • Message is not addressed to me (either a complete generic message, or with someone else' name...)

The feature request:

  • Can we get a "Report SPAM" button on the message page?

The discussion:

  • Are there other ways to report these, apart from directly to the support email?
  • What would be the best way to discourage employers from doing this?
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7  
+1. Spam is a component of any messaging system, paid or unpaid. It seems like a good idea to be able to flag messages as such. –  Adam Robinson Nov 12 '11 at 18:08
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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Currently when you reply to the employer, it asks you to select interested or not interested. When you select not interested, a number of reasons comes up, one of which is "This position does not appeal to my interests at all". Each of the not interested reasons carries a specific weight and we monitor the overall performance of the messages each employer sends. On occasion we have used this information to encourage the employers to write better and more personalized messages.

If you feel the employer is not someone you would want to work for ever, there is also an option to block the employer from sending you any more messages when you reply not interested. There is also an "other" not interested reason which allows you to type a message that only we will see.

In addition, we will soon be rolling out an update which should prevent most occurrences of employers sending messages to candidates with the wrong name. Part of that was a technical goof.


EDIT: To clarify some things brought up in comments.

First off, we are all developers here and are working to eliminate exactly these types of problems from the job seeking experience. We have a passion to avoid as many of the annoying things which make people hate looking for programming jobs as possible. In our eyes, allowing spam has a negative user experience value. We believe that our revenue increases and decreases by our user's satisfaction. All of our users, not just those users who write the checks. They are only writing checks because they expect good candidates to be there, which they wouldn't be if we allow all of the annoying things.

The points brought up in the original post regarding the quality of the message (canned messages, nothing to do with your profile, someone else's name) are all things we are working to eliminate. That being said, we're not in the business of writing an employer's messages to their selected candidates. If we did, you'd end up seeing a bunch of... canned messages. We know what makes a good message and we encourage employers to use those tactics. However, it's more important for employers to use those tactics because they think those tactics lead to more successful hires than to use them because the system forces them to do what we think is best. Hey, we're wrong sometimes.

It is true that not being interested in a position for an ideological problem doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the message. That's why we don't go slapping employers on the wrist all willy nilly when their response score is low. We look into their situation and make a determination on a per employer basis.

We added not interested reasons as a way to help increase the quality of messages coming from employer on site. A negative value for candidates would be having to sort through a list of 10 reasons why you aren't interested an think about the differences between them in order to make a selection. We want to keep the list short. If you have a specific reason that you don't think is appropriately handled by one of our pre-filled reasons, submit an "Other" response with a description. Once enough similar submissions come in for other reasons, we'll be quick to add it as a selection.

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11  
"On occasion we have used this information to encourage the employers to write better and more personalized messages" doesn't seem to equate to "we ban spammers" or "we flag spam as spam", which seems like a necessary component of any message system. –  Matthew Read Nov 12 '11 at 17:46
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"This position does not appeal to my interests at all" doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the communication. A genuine attempt to offer a job with an email carefully handcrafted just for you where the employer thinks you might be a great fit (say, for example, you're skilled and interested in the technology they use, but you have an ideological problem with the company - maybe they're a military contractor or something like that) is completely different from "The nature of this communication makes me not want to ever be associated with these people." –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 12 '11 at 19:12
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@MatthewRead You have to understand that Careers is paid for by employers. Anything they do that would decrease the searches or contacts would also decrease their revenue. Unfortunately Careers has strayed far from it's original mandate and has become merely a stackoverflow themed generic employment listing/search service. I eventually turned mine off, effectively, by listing myself available only for contracts. Too many bad matches. If the employers actually reviewed each candidate, it would be obvious, but many are simply running searches, then contacting everyone that resulted. –  Adam Davis Nov 12 '11 at 19:43
    
@AdamDavis If I were a spammer I would seriously evaluate whether paying for the unfettered ability to spam people would bring me more revenue than having my messages sent straight to hell by Gmail et al. –  Matthew Read Nov 12 '11 at 20:29
    
@MatthewRead + all, responses to the comments –  NickLarsen Nov 12 '11 at 22:30
    
@MatthewRead Spammers in this case are people who are either paid to fill jobs in their company (ie, salary plus finder's fee) or people who have to meet a certain hiring quota. They really don't care how many people they annoy, they run things by statistics. If they get one hire for every 200 requests they send out, and they need 5 new hires this month, they will expand their search until they get 1,000 hits, then send them out without actually trying to find specifically good matches. It's simply less work for them. Every employment site has to deal with this. –  Adam Davis Nov 13 '11 at 0:55
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@Adam: We eliminate that kind of behavior by capping an employer's open messages (messages without a response from the candidate) at 20. This provides an adequate amount of friction to keep employers from getting results by indiscriminately dumping messages on people. –  Jason Punyon Nov 13 '11 at 8:08
    
@Jason Ah, very nice! I'm glad to hear it. –  Adam Davis Nov 13 '11 at 19:07
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So far I've done fine reporting odd/spammy e-mails or employers that are somehow 'wrong' (I've contacted support 3 times on this sort of thing) to the support e-mail address. They are usually pretty quick to take a look and deal appropriately.

I'm not sure we need TOO much better of a system than reporting to support, because these guys have to pay money to get onto careers, and my understand is that if they violate the rules, they don't get their money back. As long as we report quickly when they screw up, (and only when they screw up), then support should be able to keep up OK, and they aren't going to want to lose more money too quickly.

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I upvoted Matthew Read's comment on NickLarsen's answer, but the more I think about it the more I actually disagree.

The simple criteria for SPAM seems to be:

  1. The message was not solicited by you.
  2. The message was not intended for you in particular.

Given that you created a Careers profile, and that a message was sent to you1 based on your profile2, I think the messages would fail both criteria. It is wrong to use a "report spam" mechanism to handle messages that are not truly spam.

Think of all the headaches caused for mailinglists by the people who find it easier to click "Report spam" instead of "Unsubscribe".

1: The issue of mis-addressed mail would certainly fit into the spam criteria, but NickLarsen has already addressed that.
2: There is no shortage of people who don't communicate properly - including employers who are interested in your profile but think a canned response is sufficient.

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1  
So, how would you class an employer who just sends these emails indiscriminately, whether your profile fits their needs or not? –  Oded Nov 12 '11 at 18:44
    
@Oded If they truly are carpet-bombing applicants, I would imagine it would be visible to the SE people on the backend (they seem very fond of metrics at every level on these sites). If they aren't, but they also are sending crappy form-letter type messages, well ... they just suck, block 'em. –  Farray Nov 12 '11 at 18:46
    
It reminds me of writing a letter to your senator and getting the form letter back. Did they actually read your letter or not? You'll never know. –  Farray Nov 12 '11 at 18:47
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