Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dear Hiring Manager, It's Too Bad We'll Never Chat

Recruiting has been, and always will be, about people and relationships. However, with all the technological advancements, it's easy to see where that message gets lost. A recent interaction with a recruiter on LinkedIn led me to realize that because I'm not actively looking for a job, the hiring manager will probably never know about me. Let me explain.

What does my profile say about me?

A recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn. For reference, you can see my profile here. My profile is relatively sparse, especially when compared to most folks. But, my summary is pretty straight forward. I have experience re-thinking traditional business experiences / processes, across industries, and use technology to redesign those experiences / processes. It's somewhat vague, but hey, I'm not looking for a job. I'm currently working at a BigCo, though BigCo does have a precarious reputation in the tech community. I also ran my own startup, worked at another venture-backed startup (though not on my LinkedIn) and worked for a small business. My profile also has a link to my blog and 5 patents pending.

What happened?

One day, I get an email from ScalingTechCo Recruiter, Jane Doe. Jane says,


I came across your profile and interested to learn if you might be on the job market. ScalingTechCo, Inc. is the world's leading marketplace in WIDGETS.
I am looking to hire a Product Manager. We are looking for someone that has good experience managing a product in the busy world of the WIDGETS space. Would you be interested to learn more about the role? It's in SHANGRI LA and we do provide relocation assistance

I look forward to hearing from you

Now, this is pretty generic.  I'd really like a message that said something like, "I reached out because I saw that you are working with cutting-edge technologies to solve really hard problems. We have those types of problems and need someone like you to not only solve them, but do so in a way that differentiates us from our competitors (possibly even help us build a team of innovators, like yourself). I'd love to talk to you. Do you have time to chat?" The only other thing I'd be looking for is some insight into some of the problems they are facing. However, it's a first pass, so I'll cut Jane some slack.

My father taught me that there's no harm in listening to a proposal, so I responded with:

Thanks for reaching out. Generally, I enjoy my work and I'm not actively entertaining new opportunities. However, if the role matches my interests and skill set, and/or provides significant career advancement, I'd be open to a brief discussion.

Let me know.

The goal of this email was to get the conversation aligned with my interests and set expectations. Her response was:

Great. If you want to send me your resume, we can start there! I'll see 
what roles I can share that are the most natural fit   
Arghh! There nothing more frustrating than someone pursuing something from you and then levying an action item. Now, I'm sure having a readily prepared resume is a good idea. But, I don't have one. And, in the world of applicant tracking software, a recruiter just wants something to upload it and see what comes out the other end. I get it. But, I asked very specific questions, which weren't answered. Way to make a guy, who didn't come looking for you, feel special. A few days later, I respond with:

I didn't forget about you. I got really busy this week and haven't begun to put a resume together. 

I'm interested in 2 things: 

1) working with cutting edge technology to solve business problems; as you might see from my linkedin profile 

2) moving into product leadership 

I am very familiar with the WIDGET space (my startup was in that space). I'm also a big fan of ScalingTechCo (I used the site to get a WIDGET for a Valentine's WIDGET SPECIAL). Can you speak to whether or not any of the open positions meet either of my aforementioned interests? 

And I haven't gotten a response to date.

Who loses?

First and foremost, I lose. I will never know what job is available and if it offers a better opportunity than my current job. However, I'm happy with my job. The recruiter probably chalked me up as a lead, which might be a metric for her. But, what about the company? The hiring team might be missing out on exactly what they are looking for, or at least in the ball park (though probably not, I'm an acquired taste). But, the interaction put us at a Mexican standoff. I'm not willing to put in the upfront work for a role I know nothing about and the recruiter is unwilling to tell me about the role until I give him/her a resume.

Well, who's job is it?

The best stories of great leaders at great companies are those that go to great lengths to recruit very specific talent into their ranks. Now, I'm not saying that's me. I'll never get a call from Mike Duke, where he pitches me because I'm the guy that can take walmart.com to the next level, as chronicled here. Nor will Jeff Bezos write me a personal letter, like he did to recruit a rising distribution star from Wal-Mart. But, when I was recruiting for a small startup, I had to go to great lengths to make great engineers feel special, just for the opportunity to sell them on my small startup's dream. Unfortunately, that type of interaction is very hands on, so it doesn't scale. But, it does pique the curiosity of people that aren't looking for a job in the first place. 

What's the message?

Recruiting isn't scalable. Great employees, and the rare rising stars, are what build great / scalable businesses. So, if there's one place to put in the most effort, it's in courting the right folks, in hopes you'll filter down to the right person for the job. Now, not every hire warrants the CEO's attention. But, if I was a recruiter, I'd put in the same effort great CEOs put into making their key hires, into every hire I was responsible for. 

Where am I in the process?

Not surprisingly, I haven't heard from the recruiter and probably won't reach back out. I guess we all lose.

What do you all think?


  1. From what I've encountered over the last few years, this sort of "recruiting by the system" is becoming more common, to no one's benefit.

    Recruiters have been replaced by placement pushers. They mean well but are more concerned about having a candidate in first than right and rarely even get the chance to talk to the hiring team about the role anyways.

    Companies adopted LinkedIn for job postings, but missed the value and continue to send candidates back to their complex application systems, keeping away most of the applicant population.

    Hiring managers are being given resumes screened by fewer and fewer people who just don't know the field or have the time to learn it.

    Personality is leaving hiring and it's making searches take longer, leading to less changes and less growth on any side of the table.

    Apologies for the rant, but your post just struck me as spot on.

  2. Instead of taking the time to write this blog entry, you could have been finishing your resume to send to BigGCo that has recruiters that don't play these games ;)