I answered this on Quora:
Automation in the global talent marketplace has really depersonalized the whole recruiting experience. That can be incredibly irritating, especially when you’re a seasoned professional who’s in-demand — and you expect to be treated accordingly. When I got into software development in the mid-1990s, the web was brand new, and my experience with recruiters was much more personal than it is today. I also encountered a lot more of them who actually knew what they were looking for.
Fast forward 25+ years, and you’ve got databases full of (often outdated / stale) resumes, the ability to send email blasts to thousands of names on a list, as well as headhunters who are looking to fill positions in a part of the world they don’t know (and have never been to). Folks on the phones are often just trying to fill slots. For those of us fielding those calls or emails, it’s a waste of our limited and precious time. And frankly, it can be maddening.
But not all recruiters are mindless drones casting about wildly for any match at all. They come in all shapes and sizes. Many are independent who work for themselves, choose their own tools, develop their own systems. And regardless of the size of the firm, you will find some whose approach is a whole lot more engaging than the “headhunter drone” who’s just clicking buttons on the applicant tracking system their boss told them to use.
In the past 30+ years, I’ve talked to hundreds of recruiters, and they’ve run the gamut of behaviors, knowledge, manners, etc. The best experiences I had were with folks who had actually done their homework. They had correct and updated information about me. They knew me (or knew enough to have an intelligent conversation), they knew my industry, and they also understood the requirements of the companies looking to fill slots.
Those folks tend to be few and far between, unfortunately. And like everyone else, I get the steady stream of recruiting emails in my in-box each day (some of the offers tastier than others, and a whole lot of duds).
But in any case, the thing that makes all the difference is when a recruiter has the right information about me, up front. They don’t waste my time suggesting I consider positions that don’t fit, or are located in places I’ve never been to (and would never relocate to), or pay rates that would have been great, back in 1997.
That makes it a whole lot easier to be polite. And that’s a good thing.