Hi there. It’s been a while, I know. I’m getting things together. I had a great experience working at Bankstreet College with a friend and former colleague Rory Solomon. But now I’m back on the bandwagon looking for work.
Which leads me to the worst experience I’ve ever had with a recruiter. I’m tempted to name names, but I’d rather let karma* sort it out. Let me explain.
LinkedIn is weird. It’s unimpressive from both a design and technology perspective. It’s a weird mutant social network that has managed to systematize aspects of “professional” relations and that’s why it’s survived For me, its main purpose is to serve as a buffer between recruiters and my inbox. I get several offers a day, ranging from tasteful, personalized responses to poorly spelled/researched bulk spam.
And speaking of poor research, here’s a note to recruiters/everyone. The ‘D’ in ‘Django’ is silent. It’s not ‘duh-jango’ or ‘dee-jango.’ Just ‘jango.’ It’s named after Django Reinhardt. I can’t stand sitting through a phone interview where the recruiter repeatedly mispronounces it when I’m pronouncing it correctly about once a minute for the entire conversation. I understand that most recruiters are clueless about all of the tech they’re hiring for, but there’s just no excuse.
I responded to one offer recently and over the course of a week ended up sending almost 20 emails and making half a dozen phone calls to one particular recruiter, let’s call him Tom. Tom was very soft-spoken and seemed nice enough and the client was a much-buzzed startup. Regardless, I wasn’t really feeling enthusiastic about the prospect and I made this clear to Tom. After much back and forth, I got less than 24 hours notice for a meeting at 9:30 the next morning. In midtown. At a coffee shop.
Midtown is theoretically a good meeting point because it’s in the middle of Manhattan. Which is fine if you assume that everyone lives in Manhattan. The problem is that roughly 7/8 of NYC’s population do not. I am part of that 7/8.
Also, a coffee shop? This startup already claimed to have a huge percentage of its market (Easy to do when you define your market. My market is me. I have 100% of my market!) and they don’t even have an office? I also had yet to speak to the client or receive any other information about the position other than looking at the company’s website and hearing they use Python/Django.
So I tried to push the meeting back and the client claimed he couldn’t. I reluctantly agreed and shuffled my schedule around. Then the next morning, I had some minor web administration crises to deal with and I also realized that I’d spent hours talking to and emailing Tom. I didn’t have any idea how long the meeting was going to be and the prospect of wasting hours going to midtown when I had other things to do was less and less appealing. So I called Boris and cancelled, apologizing for the short notice. Admittedly, it was short notice, but what does that mean, he has to reschedule his latte? Boris sounded surprised, but told me to talk to Tom and we’d reschedule.
Then I got a one-line email from Tom saying that the client didn’t want to reschedule. When I called Tom, I apologized for cancelling and said I shouldn’t have tried to do it in the first place because I was too busy. Tom was audibly perturbed from the start and said something about how I shouldn’t have committed if I wasn’t going to do it. I explained my reservations I’ve already mentioned above. He kept saying they weren’t relevant and eventually interrupted and yelled (with a raised voice), “No, now you listen…” I was then subjected to an angry lecture on business etiquette in a raised voice that culminated in me saying, “I don’t have to listen to this” and hanging up the phone. I have never, ever had an experience like that with a recruiter.
I spoke to two other recruiters that day and didn’t experience anything approaching the anger and negativity from Tom. Maybe my cancellation reflected poorly on him and he lost the client and was understandably angered, but one of the other recruiters I spoke to said, “That’s completely unprofessional. Whatever happened, there’s no reason for him to yell.” He also said he’d never heard of Tom’s firm. With Tom’s people skills, it is likely that no one ever will.
I have a temper, so I was considering publicly naming the company and the recruiter, at least on Facebook so my programmer friends don’t have to deal with him. In the end I wrote the client a text message explaining what happened in brief and letting him know that I didn’t hold it against him, but Tom’s actions were reflecting poorly on his company.
I probably still look the worst in this situation to both Tom and the client, but I don’t care. I don’t expect people to bend over backwards for me and I wouldn’t even if I was a hotshot startup entrepreneur. And this post will probably won’t help my job prospects. Good thing that people are so desperate for tech workers it’s virtually impossible to not get a job as a programmer.
* – Weird for a programmer to be talking about karma, I know. From my admittedly limited readings on Buddhism, I’ve learned that karma is not a mystical force that pervades the universe, righting wrongs and bringing balance. Karma is more like habits, which can be good or bad, helpful or harmful. Good karma are compassionate, unselfish actions. Bad karma are hurtful, selfish actions. So if you have bad karma, people are going to see this and react accordingly. To get rid of bad karma, stop your bad habits. Nothing mystical about it.