Dear Recruiter: Get Over Yourself

I’ve never used Medium before, but as I began to make reference to this situation via a status update, I realized I had a bit more to say than the character limit would gracefully allow.

As we continue to ramp up over at Arrowroot Advisors, we realized we had the need for some undergrad / junior-level help with execution and prospecting efforts. A good problem to have (shameless plug: since launching earlier this year, we’re already engaged on several capital raising / M&A advisory mandates for tech/software companies) — but a problem nonetheless.

So what’s a cost-conscious, early-stage investment bank to do? Well, like any start-up, find some interns!

Since we’re based in Santa Monica, CA, I decided to work with the UCLA and USC career centers to spec the role and post it to their respective platforms — a very smooth process.

The level of interest was pretty remarkable. So much so that I decided to deactivate the posting after a week given the number of highly qualified applicants. Most applicants (somehow) already had decent — if not spot-on — work experience; the median GPA was 3.74/4.00.

Plenty of smart kids. Plenty who could, with some guidance, all make a contribution. Plenty who took the time to read the post, craft a cover letter, update their resume, and hit ‘submit’. To reiterate — they took the time to apply.

Obviously we couldn’t accept everyone. It sucks (I’ve been on the other side while an undergrad at Emory, and an MBA at Columbia), but that’s the reality. They get it. But it still sucks.

So I took 90 seconds to craft a one paragraph, universal reply that I sent to those we decided not to move forward in the process. The note simply thanked them for their time and interest, and suggested keeping in touch come next semester.

I sent that note around 5pm ET. Within three hours, 18% — 18%(!) in 3 hours — had replied. The following reply was the most articulate, but the theme was (sadly) recurring:

Hi Mike — Thank you for the response. I do appreciate the feedback and honesty, and am aware of certain shortcomings in my resume (namely, lack of prior IB work experience). I’ve sent out many applications during my time as a college student, and the norm for a rejection is usually just no response. That being said, it really does mean a lot when someone takes the time to write out a reply.
I will definitely keep your firm in mind and will reach out again in a few months. Best of luck with your intern selection!
[an accomplished UCLA junior with a 3.76 GPA]

Again, “I’ve sent out many applications during my time as a college student, and the norm for a rejection is usually just no response.” I mean, wow. Seriously? I guess I wasn’t entirely surprised, but it still pissed me off. In fact, I think I subconsciously made it a point to reply to everyone in the first place because I’ve been burned so many times myself — and not just coming out of undergrad: I can even recall a relatively recent final round for a Director-level corporate development role at a public tech company — via the awkwardness of video chat in my apartment — that lasted 6 hours, involved some pretty annoying case studies, and I never heard back. Not a peep. And I have other examples.

I know a college student’s time is (most likely) objectively-speaking less valuable than yours, Mr. Recruiter / any-level professional. Fine. A crappy way to think about it, but fine. But it’s simply inconsiderate to leave someone hanging like that. You’re not that important, your company isn’t some exotic nirvana (well, aside from this place), and karma’s a bitch.

A rant? Maybe. But there are some genuine takeaways here. Aside from an unwritten obligation to be a considerate human being, remember that people talk — especially us millennials — and it would be short-sighted and of poor business judgement to burn bridges so early on. They’ll remember. They, as the candidate put it, “…will definitely keep your firm in mind… At least I still do… all those companies that decided “no comment” was better than a call or email (an iMessage, perhaps).

But I’m not naming names… I just would neither reach out to those companies again nor encourage those in my (now well-developed) network to do so. Don’t leave applicants — at any level — in the dark. It’ll eventually come back to you.

About Mike Pacifico: I spend my time on a variety of things. Most of it as an Advisor at Pacifico& and a VP at Arrowroot. But I’d rather be on a beach…