It was the career fair two days ago. If this was last year, I’d be nervous and determined to ask the right questions to show that I’m capable so the recruiter could be impressed. This year I walked away from the career fair smugly thinking, I don’t need a job, so glad I don’t have to go to that packed room of students being all needy.
As I was walking away I thought, wait there are big corporations there, this could be a good opportunity for me to find out about the inner workings of these companies, and get some insights on their needs.
So I forced myself to walk back to the career fair, and just as I imagined it was packed with people and an air of self-consciousness. I was wearing my daily clothes, no suit.
And all of my conversations started out normally, I asked what their company did, and where they were headed. They told me about their job openings and asked what I was looking for, and I aggressively parried their questions and fired back with a flurry of questions.
The conversations went something like this
Me: “So what is Panda Express management style like?”
Them: “Oh the management style is very good, like I said we are not a franchise, so we get assigned based on region. So when you start out you start out as an entry level manager, I can tell you about that”
Me: “That’s okay. I’m more curious about what you do as a manager. You say you supervise 8 chains? What do you find difficult about managing 8 chains?
At one point I was talking to an engineering company. I introduced myself to the recruiter and the Engineering Administrator, and immediately decided to neglect the recruiter and put all my focus on the Engineering administrator. I kept asking her about her job, and she interrupted me with “What are you doing this for, a class?” I responded with “No, I’m just curious about companies and people’s jobs. So, tell me more about your job, what do you find is the biggest challenge?” After exploring that topic, taking notes on my notepad, and firing a few more questions she interrupted me again with, “Okay. Seriously. What are you writing down? What are you doing this for?”
At that point I realized, man to these people, I must look like such a creep. And I burst out laughing.
Me: “Hahahaha. So this is weird? People don’t normally ask questions like this?”
Her: “No, people usually ask one or two about the job”
Me: “Haha. So as a potential employee looking for a job, the fact that I ask so many questions, does this reflect poorly on me as a potential employee, or does it reflect me in a good light?”
Her: “No. Normally people don’t, what you’re doing is weird”
So I left Career Fair feeling like a creep, with some notes on companies. I didn’t really learn much, except that I think schmoozing gets you a higher chance of employment than expressing genuine interest for the company.
I find normal conversations pretty boring, its just that its the same getting-to-know-you fluff. I want to get straight to saying and talking about what’s interesting, however, this leads to breaking rapport and sometimes people will think you’re weird.
So an easy way to keep the conversation congruent and I don’t know why I never realized this, is to tell the person you’re conversing with of any anticipated breaks in rapport. Basically, tell them ahead of time if you’re going to act a little different from the norm.
Say you’re at a networking event. The question you answer most is “What do you do?”. Say your ideal answer is something elaborate like:
I help tech excutives that are focused on company growth fine tune their project management, and work with their UX/UI team to make their product more scalable.
The recruiter business is broken -- at least in San Francisco. I get multiple calls each day from recruiters and they're all pitching the same "exceptional candidate" that's perfect for our company's needs. I always politely tell them to take me off their lists, but yesterday I had a recruiter refuse to do so. Then he sent me the email below, extorting me by saying he would take me off his list only if I'd look at his candidate. Below is how I responded to him. I cc'd a manager at his company, and Lowell Isom & Erica Jarmen at the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
If you're a recruiter and you're reading this, you need to re-think your approach. It's not working. And because of bad apples like the guy below, I won't use any recruiter.
If you're an entrepreneur looking to hire top talent, what I do recommend is AngelList's Job board. It's very, very good. And you cut the recruiters out completely, which is a nice bonus.
Here's the extortion letter I received, with my response at the top: