I’m no xenophobe, some of my best friends are xenos. (Take a moment to let that sink in and have a hearty chuckle. The rest of this post will be happy to wait.) Seriously though, I just don’t get I.T. recruiting firms that hire recruiters with nearly-impregnable foreign accents. A little exotic spice is one thing, a mouth full of proverbial peanut butter (or the 300-horse power galloping tongue) is another matter entirely. I’m also at a loss as to why anybody would get into the field that doesn’t love sales and marketing. (OK, you don’t have to love it, but you have to at least be good at it.) I’ve been crossing paths with more and more recruiters of late who, for one reason or another cannot possibly be successful in this line of work because they simply can’t communicate effectively. And it just blows my mind.
For those of you who don’t work in the eccentric and introverted world of technology, bear with me, this will make sense in the end. Recruiters are essentially the I.T. professional’s marketing department. You put your resume up online, and they give you a call and pitch you a job. If you’re interested (i.e. they offer to pay you enough to afford both your mortgage and your expensive cigar habit), they then pitch you to the employer who actually has the job. If the recruiter is any good, and you don’t stick both feet in your mouth at the same time during the interview, they’ll not only land you a job, but they’ll actually remember who you are by the time the contract is over. And if they’re great, they’ll buy you a lunch. (Or sometimes they do that because they’re snagging an unusually large percentage of your hourly contract rate.) Make sense? Quick review: I.T. Recruiters are pimps: They find you, they find the John, and they take a percentage. But unlike the world’s oldest profession, these technological pimps actually have to do some work and a lot of talking. (And I don’t have a desk on a street corner.)
As a guy who really gets around in a professional sense (if there was a communicable disease specific to the I.T. world, I’d not only have it, I’d be infecting people) I have a reasonable grip on sales and marketing. You’ve got to. You’re selling you in every interview. (One more for The Quotable Brian!) If there’s one thing that’s as important as technical prowess, it’s your ability to communicate and establish report. We’ve all seen guys that couldn’t (insert your occupation’s primary action verb here) their way out of a wet paper bag. But damn were they a heck of a lot of fun to hang out with, and they knew everybody. Even people in senior management. And they got you invited to parties that you weren’t cool enough to get into on your own. That’s just how powerful the ability to build relationships can be. It’s the jet fuel that powers the Peter Principle.
So back to the I.T. recruiters. These guys have to both sell themselves to you, and sell themselves and you to the person who has the job. So basically, they have to be the best sales people in the world, right? You’d think so. And you’d be right about fifty percent of the time. The rest of the time it’s absolutely the opposite. They’re people that are extremely uncomfortable with the phone. They’re people with really thick accents or even worse, weak grasp of language du jour. And they’re people who read a pre-written script and know nothing about sales, and are clearly not at all interested in you either. The thing I don’t get is how they stay in business. And why they all seem to call me.
Of course, its easy enough to shake my head and complain about it. God knows I do plenty of that. It’s more challenging to try to fix it. And I’m all about challenges and fixing stuff. It’s what I do. So here are a few pointers for my awkward I.T. Recruiters friends that I’ve cooked up over the years. Follow these, and I can guarantee you success… in not pissing me off when we talk.
- Get a speech coach or study your target accent. If you find that people in your chosen market have a great deal of difficulty understanding you, study the accent. Or better yet, study the Australian accent (if English is the language du jour). I read an article recently (sorry, I can’t find it, I really tried! ) of all the English language dialects, the Australian accent is most universally understood form. And if you’re doing business in the United States, it has the benefit of sounding really cool.
- Develop and refine your rap. I’m not talking about clever rhymes carefully laid down over old disco hooks. Giant diamond-encrusted chains that spell “Stallion” in an exaggerated script font are not required. (But who knows, maybe you’ll find it helpful. If you can afford one, you’re taking too big a percentage of my take!) Everyone in every business has one, even if they don’t realize it. It’s your stock set of brainless words, phrases and jargon you can use even when you’re drunk, half asleep and hanging upside down in a tree. They’ve been polished with usage, they roll off the tongue, and you can mix them into every conversation with ease. Find them and use them. If a phone call goes extremely well, consider harvesting some of the dialog for use later.
- You’re a sales person, speak accordingly. I literally cringe every time a recruiter calls me and says they have “a requirement” for such and such a developer. Not to be a heartless prick or anything, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about your requirement. I have plenty of my own, and they all involve late nights, walking on water and having it done by yesterday. You need to remember that you’re selling me on the idea of taking the job through your firm. Potential customers want to hear about what’s in it for them, which is why you’ll never hear the term requirement used by any successful recruiter. Successful recruiters speak of positions, or better yet, opportunities. Those words get you excited, requirements weigh a prospect down or scare them away.
- Not listening. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I tell a recruiter that I’m not on the market, only to have them go on with a monotonous scripted speech about the position anyways. I’m not on the market. That means you’re calling me at work, on my customer’s dime. Sure, you can ask me if I know anybody else that’s looking and send me your contact details, but that’s it. I gotta go before you get me fired. I don’t wanna hang up on you, but I have once or twice when somebody just doesn’t get it. And don’t you dare try to hard sell me. I will tell you off. (Honestly happened, and the “requirement” was a lot worse than my current gig! )
- Poor email grammar or awfully formatted template job forwards. If you make it obvious that you’ve spent zero time to contact me by email, I’ll spend zero time considering your email. It is not OK to contact me with SMS/text message grammar, I won’t take you seriously, and I won’t trust you to pay my invoices. Ya rly! Of course, I’m a bit more forgiving in tougher job markets. But right now, the ball is totally in my court.
I don’t want anybody thinking I’m beating on visa holders/legal immigrants to this country. I’m not one of those guys screaming “they took our jobs!”
And you know why? To begin with, my wife is a legal immigrant to this country. But more importantly, they didn’t take your job, I did. Any position I fill is a job outsourced or one that didn’t exist to begin with. I’m a consultant. (And a bastard.)