Conversations: Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?



(Do you take the job? A Planning Player is one of the candidate personas I've developed over the years, has an opportunity. The Planning Player is marked by their steady career progression. They're good at their job, and are always thinking about how it impacts the Next Step. In this conversation, we talk through a potential opportunity)

Planning Player: Hey! Long time no talk.

Headhunter: It's good to hear from you. I'm glad you called. 

PP: Yeah - I was talking with a mentor about this opportunity, and I thought you'd be a great sounding board as well. 

H: Always here to help. What did you get into? 

PP: Well - a mutual friend of ours has a position opening in a pretty exciting company. It's a move up, a title change, and more money.

H: That's pretty cool. So what are you thinking about?

PP: I'm just... it's going really well here. I'm in a great position, my work/balance is fantastic...

H: You're stable. There's a lot to be said for that.

PP: Yeah. But it's a good opportunity, and it's not one I'll have here for some time.

H: Okay. Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to ask you a few questions, and we'll figure out what you want to do.

PP: That sounds great.

H: Okay. First. How are you finances?

PP: My what?

H: Do you have any debt? Are you saving money? How long could you go right now if your job went away?

PP: It's good.

H: You're saving? It moves up every month?

PP: Yeah. We have a good mortgage, investments, and I could go a year without a paycheck. 

H: And the kids are still a decade away from college, which may or may not be a thing the way online learning is growing. So you're stable, which is what you like, but this is an opportunity for an upgrade. It's a pay bump, which is important, but it's a title change, which is that move we've been looking at for years.

PP: Yeah. And it also comes with options. 

H: Never count those. Those are gravy. If they hit, great, but if it's not your company, that's just the price of business. You never count on them for your decision. 

PP: I've done well in the past with them. 

H: That's a fluke. Look - they're important, and you negotiate for as many as possible, but at this stage, cash is still king. But you're getting that. So let's move on. Here's a second question. Have you entertained any other offers or interviews?

PP: Not really. I mean - I get the requests, but nothing of interest. 

H: Now that's important. When a recruiter calls, it triggers something in you - if you're open to it, it's because you're ready to leave. You start thinking about why you're staying, and even if you don't take the job, you're now looking. That's why you talk to recruiters, but you don't take an interview unless you're ready to move. So you have this opportunity - it's moving pretty quick, and it's the only one you have. So are you just flattered? 

PP: It's more than that...

H: Are you flattered?

PP: Am I supposed to answer these fully?

H: Just - first thing to come up. Are you flattered? 

PP: I mean - I'm glad she called, but it's not going to my head. 

H: Good. Now to answer your question - yes and no. You should think about the answers, but they aren't for me. If I let you go too far, you'll start selling me to justify a decision. 

PP: Okay - then fire away. 

H: What would make you stay?

PP: Hmm. I was going to talk to John about that. He's been a great boss, and he literally plucked me out of that other company, but we've have discussions about our future, and he's not tied to the company either. We've known each other for several years, so we can have a good discussion.

H: What would make you stay?

PP: Right. Um. Well, I'd want to get into the inner circle. A real career path that leads to senior executive status. And no promises. I'd have to get real connections. 

{long pause}

H: That. That was fascinating.

PP: What was?

H: You just got a little temper up. Your voice changed, and you actually got a little bitter and angry. Do not, let me repeat that, Do not talk to your boss with that tone. 

PP: Was it that bad?

H: it just uncovered something important. You're emotionally tied to this opportunity, and if, well, let me ask you one more question. 

PP: Yeah.

H: Three years from now, I'm in Chicago for a conference, and we meet downtown for a drink. I walk in, say hello. We catch up. You're eating chips with a medium salsa and talking about your latest racquetball injury. I ask you how you're doing at your job. You say you're doing great. And then I say, "how do you feel about not taking that job at the start-up?" 

PP: I'm disappointed.

H: And there it is. You want this job, and nothing your current company can do will solve it for you, which is why you're so emotional talking about what it takes to stay.

PP: I think you're right. 

H: It's what you just told me. Now - the other details are important, and we should talk through those, but you want this job. 

PP: I do. I do.

H: And you called me to make sure you weren't making a mistake. For what it's worth, I think it's a good move, and an important one. 

PP: So what do I tell John? 

H: That's always a tough one. The rules are that you never tell anyone until it's done. You don't have an offer yet. If you tell him, and the offer doesn't come, bad things can happen. But the rules aren't necessarily right. Great people don't leave great bosses in the lurch. 

PP: I've been promised a long ramp if I need it. 

H: 30 days is as long as you can do, and even that is too long. 

PP: Really? 

H: Two weeks creates urgency. 30 days, and your current company won't really start looking. It just prolongs the pain because you're still doing the job. And you'll hate it after two weeks. It's just a bad idea overall.

PP: So, two weeks? 

H: You get the offer. Then you talk to your boss. You don't ask for a negotiation. You ask how to ease the transition. If they really need 30 days, it's because you're documenting or training someone to fill your position. It's not work.

PP: Okay. Well, I'm glad I called. 

H: I am too. This is awesome for you, but really, it's not that surprising. 

PP: We'll grab that drink the next time you fly into O'Hare. 

H: That's a promise. 


Conversations: Hamburger Menu Of Choices And The Tale Of The Fermi Squirmies



Setting: Two interviewers meet in a small conference room to discuss a recent candidate interview.



Hiring Manager: That was different. 

Hiring Executive: Yeah, I'm not sure what to think. Different doesn't begin to sum it up. Just out of curiosity, did the term, "Fermi Squirmies" come up?

M: It did. He spelled it out for me. F-e-r-m-i. So do you think we even need to do this? I mean - I couldn't tell if he was just like the world's smartest person or if he was just doing this as a lark, messing with us like some kind of prank he'll post in Reddit later.

E: Just to clear my head after that - I kinda need too. Let's go through the interview questions and see if we can't make sense of this. 

M: Okay, first the technical questions. Those were filled out prior to the interview - I asked him about his use of json, how he integrates Swift, and his experience with mobile apps with more than a million downloads. All of those were good - matched what the recruiter told me. 

E: I asked him about his motivation - he said he was looking to fix complex problems with kinder code.

M: Kinder code? 

E: Yeah - he said it was simpler, easier to read, and better for younger programmers to pick up. 

M: How old is he? Like 25? How many younger people does he think there are?

E: Right? And if this is how expensive a good 25 year old is, I don't want to know what a 30 year old architect would cost.

M: So it was all good for me until the "how do you think questions."

E: We'll get to those in a second, but I noticed something weird when I asked him what we do. He said, "I've read what your recruiter sent me, and looked at two videos you say explain it, and I read the website and the profiles of two of your programmers, but that doesn't really give a good sense of what you're trying to do.

M: Wait - he said what? He doesn't know what we do? 

E: That's what it sound like. But then he went on. "So I went into your applications and some of your code base to see if I could understand it."

M: So he hacked us? Jesus this kid is a nut!

E: He might have. I asked him how he looked at our code base, and he sat there for a second. And then he shook his head, and said, "what do you mean? It's there on the internet."

M: It's not on the internet. Maybe for someone like him.

E: He said he pulled a number of sites down verbatim and looked at their code. And then he said, "not the queries, of course, but I could see your architecture, and ran that against basic sites to test your images and scaling and load times."

M: We should have brought the VP in. I don't know what any of that means. 

E: Well, it gets worse. He told us the dual site efforts we were working on are a mistake, as in the next six months, Angular 2 would probably replace all of our efforts to run 2 platforms, which would require a code base similar  - I can't really follow. He started talking about hamburgers and cards and quirks.

M: Are we missing something here? I mean - I can't tell if this is the regular mumbo-jumbo or if he's onto something new. It's a lot different than the code I used to work on. 

E: He seemed competent, and tested off the charts, but I can't see him on any of our teams. How do you manage someone like that? 

M: You don't. You stick them in a room and hire a translator who's half Vulcan. 

E: He finished explaining what he did, and then he sat back. I didn't say anything for a moment, and then he looked across the table at the interview form. He says, "I guess it's time for me to play the Fermi Squirmy." 

M: He didn't tell me that until after the questions, but let's get to them. So I started with the bathrooms in Cowboy Stadium...

E: Bathrooms? That's where they're supposed to guess how many you need of each, right?

M: Yeah. So he says, "I'd call three stadium owners in the league and ask them how many bathrooms they built. And then I'd ask them if they would have added more or less if they were starting over, than I would have added 25% for both men and women." 

E: Really? That actually sounds like a really good answer.

M: Wait until you hear the reasoning. He said, the fastest way was to call people who did it before. You ask them how they would correct it to see if their lines are too long. And then he said you add 25% more because bathrooms are cheap over the long-run, but the cost of 10 minutes in line for a game could cost you as much as $500 a bathroom per concessions for every half-hour of the game. And then he said you add as many bathrooms for men as women, because women will have a longer line, but the average ticket concession for men is twice what it is for women.

E: Why?

M: People standing in line buy less, but they tend to go at the same time. Men have a higher concession ticket because they eat and drink more and they also buy for others. While most stadiums want to cut the lines for women, his point was that the concessions people want equal amounts so men have more time to buy more.

E: I can already see this as an article on Medium from one of our female managers. 

M: I see where he was going - but no one has really answered it like that before. 

E: Aren't we supposed to use those to figure out how they think? It sounds like he just wants to copy other people.

M: I asked him that. He laughed and that's when he promised he wasn't one of the Fermi Squirmies.

E: That's when he spelled it for you.

M: Yeah. He said, the question is a Fermi estimate, and the four ways to answer it include estimate with 3-4 variables, calling in expertise, questioning the interviewer for more details, and claiming it was impossible. 

E: Son of a bitch. That's what he did to me. 

M: He told you all four? 

E: No, he started asking me questions. 

M: Which one did you ask? 

E: He knew the question was coming, so I asked him how many basketballs would fit in the room.

M: That's good - he can't call someone and ask that one.

E: No, but he asked questions.  I wrote them down. 1) Do I have a ruler or a yardstick? Do we want this in meters or feet? Is it for the volume of the room, or just the length and width? Is it allowed to have structures, like bamboo shelves? Is the goal to get as many in as possible? Can we deflate the basketballs, or are they fully inflated? What do you call inflated? Can we move out all of the furniture and take everything off the walls?

M: He said all of those.

E: Yeah. And then he looked me in the eye and said, 3,176.

M: He said 3,176. Someone must have given him the questions. 

E: They must have. He said, the room is 20 feet by 10 feet, and the ceiling is 16 feet. If the radius if each fully inflated ball is 6 inches, that's one square foot each ball can fit inside, which means 3200 balls, but you have to deduct some. You could fill the room if you have bamboo to hold each ball in place and took off the door, but the last few balls wouldn't fit because you wouldn't have a way to fill in the balls just above the door without them spilling out. You could fit that with wood hammered over the door at each level but the last twenty four wouldn't fit unless you could glue them to the ceiling, in which case you could probably get to 3196 or 3197. 

M: That is a batshit crazy answer. 

E: I know. But it's also, I guess, accurate? And we ask them to see how people think. 

M: I just can't see him on any team. That's so disrespectful. And childish. He says our questions turn programmers into Fermi Squirmies - and until we told him which answer we'd like, it makes him look bad. How about just answer the question, dude?

E: Yeah. But I think I may stop asking these. I only get weird answers or stupid answers. 

M: So this one goes into the discard pile. I'll pass it on to the recruiter. 

E: Make sure to let him down easy, and tell him I'm connecting to him on LinkedIn. I wouldn't hire him, but I could see bringing him in on a project to see if we can think differently. 

M: Are you sure? That seems - the guy was just a nut.

E: Yeah. You should think about this one. It's weird when you get answers you don't expect. I'll take those over someone who starts painfully walking through how many times they went to the bathroom during a game, or the one who gets offended and says it's not professional to talk about the toilet during an interview.  

M: I can't stand how unprofessional people are. It's like, it's a work place here. Answer some questions and here's your paycheck. 

Candidate Persona: The Dependable Deliverer

This is Part III of the series on Candidate Personas in Recruiting. Here is the Introduction, Part I, and Part II

These are intended to be archetypes of candidates. We discuss them because we want to think through how to identify, speak with, sell, and eventually close as candidates. 

Today, we move on to another  distinct kind of candidate. The Dependable Deliverer is one of my favorite people.

Dependable Deliverer: 
This worker is the kind of person they'd refer to as "salt of the earth" in days past. They are loyal to their boss, the company, and the community. Their main desire is to be steadily employed and know on a day to day basis that as long as they are doing their job, that job will be there. Accountants, warehouse workers, executive assistants, middle management, and production assistants are all jobs that have a lot of these candidates. 

Here's the fun part. They're not leaving their job willingly. The company treats them badly, underpays (or doesn't pay them), or is facing big layoffs and it means nothing. A single word that they are needed, appreciated, or that times will eventually get better is all they need to stay. 

When it really gets bad - the Dependable Deliverer is really in shock. They function best believing that hard work has a reward, and that reward is employment. That means they're stubborn when you're recruiting them, and scary when they've just been fired. When I say scary, what I mean is that they have lots of unresolved anger issues, and that comes across in the interview. It's not fair to them - the truth is they're looking for loyalty are much better workers than most types - but they'll blow a couple of interviews until an employer comes along that doesn't probe to deep into their work. 

How to identify them: 
You're pursuing them, and they never follow up. They don't call back, don't email, but will politely tell you they are open to more information. They may come straight out and tell you that they aren't looking, but unlike the Happy Hard Sell, they mean they don't want to think about it because it feels disloyal. 

Best time to recruit:
The day a boss leaves, or the day a new boss appears. 

Best language: 
"You seem like a very hard working, loyal, employee. What could we do to find more people like you?"
Also, ask them questions about the company, focusing in on what was promised. Don't tear down the company - don't sympathize - state that what the current company promised is what you're trying to do. 
And last - keep in mind these are great people for referrals. In fact, asking for referrals is a great way to get them to apply. The kind of role you fill with Deliverers is usually a volume role. Get a few referrals, treat them well, and you might be surprised to find a new application in your inbox. 

Just remember to be personal. Ask them to apply, because you "think they would do well here." 

Conversations: SXSW Doesn't Feel The Same





Digital Marketer: Is this your last day here?

Agency Creative: Yeah, I have a plane at 4:00 p.m.

DM: What did you think?

AC: I'm glad to be going home. 

DM: You don't seem that excited. 

AC: Excited? I'm not excited at all. 

DM: It's Southby. It's Austin. Sure it's been a little gloomy, but it's still a huge rocking party. And the panels get some really, really focused people on them. It actually feels less corporate to me than past years. 

AC: You didn't notice? 

DM: Notice what?

AC: When we say corporate, we mean boring. It's like the point of the session is to be there, and not say anything, or do some handwaving that ends with, "we worked really hard and finished with this great campaign."

DM: Exactly. This year was a lot more authentic - with more people actually talking about their work. 

AC: But that's the thing. The details all came in the beginning - like a, like proof that they deserved to be up on stage. And once they got there, they just wanted to push some thought they had out to the crowd that is magically going to turn into a business launch. 

DM: I did not get any of that. 

AC: Check out the session titles. It's like everyone is trying to save the world.  

DM: It's Austin. They're always trying to save the world. 

AC: Most of those people aren't from Austin.

DM: Yeah, but it's SXSW. Shouldn't we be trying to do good? 

AC: I think that's what bugs me. I feel like this year's sessions were all about the titles. It's like - well, Facebook. The content seemed to be about trying to get people to share your idea, instead of showing what you created. 

DM: I thought the details were great, at least for the panels I was in. And even the parties had people sharing their results and not just the normal hype from someone trying to spend investor money. 

AC: But where was the creative? Maybe I want something different. I like design. I like pride in the work. I didn't hear any pride this weekend. It was all about what they're going to do, and now what they did. Ugh. It sounded liked LA.

DM: Ouch. 

AC: Right? Somehow - SXSW turned into LA, with everyone telling you what they're going to do instead of what they did. 

DM: Well - I'm sorry we couldn't entertain you more.

AC: I didn't even get any good tacos. 

Conversations: Agency Versus Corporate Recruiter






Agency (Third Party)Recruiter: One of these days, you're going to have to pick up a check. Your company doesn't use us, which means that I'm paying you to drink with me.

Corporate (Internal) Recruiter: I'll be happy to pick up the check. Don't I make more than you?

A: Depends on the month. 

C: I think the benefits make up for it. We have a gym and free lunch. 

A: You need to use the gym more and the lunch line less. 

C: I hope we change our policy on using recruiters so I can give my jobs to someone I like. 

A: Says the recruiter who has never heard of a well drink. 

C: You drink Coors. It's not my fault that you're not even cool enough to drink PBR, like a genuine hipster. 

A: You're mad because I wear skinny jeans. No need to bring my beer into it. 

C: Okay. Truce. So honestly, how is it going? 

A: The market is tough, but we're busy. My biggest problem isn't finding contracts or candidates, it's finding companies that hire quickly enough. 

C: We struggle with finding candidates, but don't tend to lose them once they're in the process. 

A: You don't? 

C: No. I can't think of the last time that we didn't win an offer or had someone drop out that we wanted.

A: That's curious. 

C: Curious? Why?

A: I hadn't thought of it before, but I was talking to this guy at a conference that said if your ratio of offer to acceptance is 100%, you're a terrible recruiter. 

C: What? That's crazy. You close an offer and that makes you a bad recruiter?

A: His point was that no one turns down your offer, it's because you don't hire people who have multiple offers.

C: It sounds like he doesn't know how to treat candidates well. We spend a lot of time nurturing our relationship with candidates. It's honestly why I like being inside. I spend more time with my candidates.

A: My candidates hate that. They only want to talk to me if they didn't get the job. 

C: That can't be true. They also want to talk to you when you buy them well drinks. 

A: You laugh, but I'm shocked when a candidate talks to me after they've received the offer. 

C: I get some of that, but they're joining our team - so they know I helped bring them onboard.

A: I think he might be right. Check out the other stuff he says. He says that if your HR Executive goes to SHRM and says that they only hire the top 1% of the people who apply, they should be fired.

C: Now I know he's delusional. 

A: His point is that if you have 100 people apply for a job, and you hire 1, you're hiring 1% of your applications. Considering how easy it is to get applications, his point is that unless you reject 99 people who are qualified, you're deluding yourself.

C: That's just not even accurate. Lots of people apply for a job, and we hire them later, or for another position. 

A: What's lots?

C: What?

A: Well, you said lots.

C: Yeah. Lots. As in many. 

A: How many?

C: I don't know. Do you want me to look it up?

A: I'm just curious if anyone who has ever said that has ever actually looked at the numbers. Having sat down with HR Executives, I don't believe they have.

C: Now you're making the bold statement. 

A: It's pretty simple. If an HR Executive can't explain the value of a third party firm, they have no way to evaluate their internal team. Since I don't know any HR Execs who have ever done that, I don't trust their statistics. 

C: I don't think you could get hired with that attitude. We don't look at it as a profit motive. We're actually a team pulling together to get a job done. You guys don't look at recruiting the same way, because you sell candidates.

A: None of your answers addressed your internal metrics, and if you think all we do is sell candidates, then when you get promoted, you're going to go to a conference and tell people you only hire the top 1% of applicants. 

C: Ooh - so you think I'll be promoted?

A: Of course. But you really need to put some thought into why Third Party Firms exist.

C: They take up slack in the market, providing temporary workforces to companies, or finding hard to find candidates when the internal staff is unable to deal with  overwhelming demand. 

A: You're smart, I'll give you that. And if there were a recruiting professor, they would give you an A and you'd get that promotion. But that's not what we do.

C: I swear, if you start talking about sharing information and giving options to candidates that I can't offer, I'll laugh at you. Very few agencies and no independents actually have multiple jobs. It's why you're do stuck on saying "we find people for jobs, not jobs for people."

A: That's why we should exist, but it's also true that we no longer serve that function very well.

C: Then why do you exist?

A: Because we adapt. We test new technologies. We test new messages for companies. We train new recruiters and we train candidates as they go through their careers. As an industry, we are literally the quantity that creates quality.

C: That's not a coherent statement.

A: Third Party Recruiters test everything, and we do it faster and cheaper than anyone internally. We're not required to be right. We're required to be successful. And that means, that collectively, Third Party Recruiters are superior to Corporate Recruiters.

C: This is why I make you buy me the good drinks. 

A: There's a second part to that. 

C: What's that?

A: Third Party Recruiters individually are both more and less successful than internal recruiters, and they are both much better, and much worse.

C: Isn't that the intelligence argument they use for men and women? They're average IQ is the same, but the mean for women is a little higher, and the extremes for men have more variability? A few super genius men and a few incredibly dumb men, but women are slightly above the average. 

A: It's similar because it's about risk. A Third Party Firm fires a lot more people than an internal department. They take more chances in hiring. The fired ones make zero dollars and are bad recruiters. The good ones are million dollar billers. There is no one making a million dollars in Corporate America, and even if you add stock and compensation, agency owners sell their firms for far more than an executive will make in a lifetime.   

C: But I have a 401k, free lunch, a steady paycheck....

A: And a lot less stress. 

C: We have a lot of stress. 

A: You have work stress, but you don't have existential stress as long as your company is still solvent. Day-to-day, you don't worry about the future as much as I do. 

C: So, you admit that I'm better than you. 

A: Not at all. I admit if we put a bunch of names in two piles, one of internal recruiters and the other of agency recruiters, the odds are that the internal recruiter would be better than the agency recruiter in every draw.

C: I'm going to start telling agency recruiters that you think internal recruiters are better. 

A: You go ahead. Just realize that every agency recruiter you talk to that is still employed is by definition in the top half of their field. 

C: Present company excluded.

A: Yes, present company excluded. I can't even get a job from you, and you like me.

C: I like the idea of you out there toiling for me.