2016: Taking Recruiters to the Mattresses!

If you’re an American between the age of 15 and 90yrs old, you’re probably no stranger to the 1972 film, The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film is rife with references and euphemisms that would quickly saturate American pop culture. Perhaps the most famous of these euphemisms from the film has to be, “go to the mattresses!”

The concept of “going to the mattresses” is a rally cry for action and for war. The phrases modus operandi is to address old grievances by settling bad blood.

As any good husband would, I’ve watched the film, You’ve Got Mail, directed by Nora Ephron, with my wife just shy of 742 times (I exaggerate, but probably not by much). Tom Hanks quoting lines and concepts from The Godfather to co-star, Meg Ryan, is the central theme to the film. Tom Hanks character is so confident in the films ability to provide infinite wisdom for our daily plights, he exercises this talent of his to Meg Ryan’s character.

“The Godfather is the I-ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” What day of the week is it? “Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.” — Tom Hanks
Original scene Hanks references from the 1972 film, The Godfather.

As you could imagine, she’s completely daft to Hanks seemingly bottomless quill of macho euphemisms and film references.

“What’s it with men and The Godfather?” — Meg Ryan

Not to give too much away about the film, but Ryan’s character is faced with a completely life-changing progression of events. Faced with losing a business that’s been in her family for several generations, Ryan’s character gleans wisdom from Hanks, a wiser and more calculating business mind. The most poignant quote shared by Hanks and the specific turning point for Ryan’s character in the film is… Wait for it… “Go to the mattresses!”

The War Has Been Brewing

Over the last twelve plus years, I’ve watched a war brew between creatives, developers and recruiters. Anybody who has been on LinkedIn for more than two minutes has seen recruiters post memes of pithy comebacks to all the recruiter naysayers and all the-would-be candidates ruthlessly dishing out public punishment on said recruiters.

It’s Time to Take Recruiters to the Mattresses!

I say this tongue-in-cheek, but it’s time to take recruiters to the mattresses! This wouldn’t be a physical war (although would make for a great Anchorman-esque parody), but a war of accountability. A war of sorts that resulted in a world where recruiters vagrantly dialing up any and every number they came across feared being cross-examined and where candidates didn’t fear receiving calls from said recruiters. This is a good fantasy, right? Balance in the force, etc., etc. (this makes my fourth movie reference).

Anchorman battle between competing news channels.

Everyone wants a job and appreciates being considered; however, that’s not the problem! After all, everyone wants to be the pretty girl at the dance, right? The problem is the rash epidemic of laziness and inconsideration on the part of the recruiting world. Everyone at some point has gotten the proverbial email, message or phone call:

“Hey! I came across your profile on LinkedIn and would like to discuss this job that is so diametrically opposed and unrelated to your background that you’ll want to jump face first into the Hudson River on an icy day out of utter frustration. Oh, and by the way, can you send me every contact you’ve accumulated over the past decade? Thanks!”

I don’t simply receive one or two phone calls from recruiters over the course of a year. I could handle that… That’s even manageable. However, I receive up to five calls and in the upwards of a dozen messages through my email and LinkedIn on a single day from recruiters. Somehow or another, I’ve been passed around like a peace pipe. My career somehow has been crudely written on a bathroom wall at an undisclosed dive bar somewhere in Queens, NY.

This is where my intolerance comes into play… Interrupt me? Not a problem. Make small talk while I’m working? Not a problem, I like chatting! Solicit me with a .NET position with a relocation package to Bumblescum, AL., and proceed to ask me if I can give you contacts of managers I’ve built trust with over the years at places like MTV Networks, Fox Television and Songkick; Volcano! A wave of intolerance and feelings of being disrespected overcomes me that could only be matched by someone having their chair kicked by a spoiled child on a 16-hour flight from LAX to Sydney, Australia.

My thoughts begin to boil with righteous indignation: “Really? No effort? You couldn’t read my LinkedIn profile for two stinkin’ seconds? Really? Do you want me to bathe you and cook your dinner, too? You’re the laziest person I’ve ever encountered and you also want me to give you contact info to people I’ve worked with and been friends with for years…? Do you care in the slightest that I’d be annoying my very own friends if I went through with that request?”

What specific event spurred me to write this you might ask? Yesterday, while en route to take my six-year-old identical twin daughters to the theater to see the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens (highly recommend), I was contacted by a recruiter. This is how the call transpired:

Phone rings:
Me: This is Justin…
Recruiter: Hi, I see you’ve spoken with “Sally” for a while now and since she’s out of the office on vacation, I thought I’d reach out to you…
Me: Good deal… Yes, I know “Sally,” what’s going on?
Recruiter: We have a new PHP developer role I wanted to discuss with you
Me: Hmmm… Well… Can’t really help you there… I’m not a developer. Especially not a PHP developer. I’m a UI and product designer and dabble in some code. As well, I’m not currently looking for work.
Recruiter: Oh? What’s the difference? Can you give me a case scenario of how the two work together?
Me: Well… One is a designer and one is a developer… (scratching head and my kids are starting to get anxious for the movie) Tell you what, I’m about to step into the theater with my daughters to see the new Star Wars… Maybe someone at your agency can give you a run down on the differences?
Recruiter: Ummm, you can’t just talk about it real quick? How do I know what to look for if you don’t tell me?
Me: Like I said, I’m actually not looking for anything right now and I’m about to go into the movie theater with my kids. Sure someone would be obliged to give you a run down in your office? Maybe, “Sally?”
Recruiter: Ok (sounds annoyed), can you at least tell me how I would find developers? Give me some contacts with managers you’ve worked with in the past…
Me: Yeah, I can’t do that. Thanks for calling. Like I said, I have to go now.

My Rules for Taking Recruiters to the Mattresses

  1. Be polite, but be direct.
  2. Remember that recruiters are usually young in the workforce and are trying to acquire skills and put food on the table just like all of us. In fact, many of them go on to work in the very fields they’re recruiting for.
  3. The moment you realize you’ve been contacted for a ridiculously mismatched job, politely cut them off and ask why they’d pair you for such a mismatched job.
  4. Ask how long they actually spent reviewing your profile on LinkedIn and ask specifically where they felt led to believe you were a match.
  5. Things are going to get uncomfortable and since I’m not one to revel in other people’s embarrassment, I suggest cutting it off pretty quickly with this script:

“[Recruiter], Like you, I have to work to provide for my family and face demands at work. You’ve chosen to call me at 5:45pm, a time when most people are just settling in with their families after a long day’s work, to present to me a job that I’m clearly not a match for. I’m sure you’re constantly reminded of the bad rap recruiters get and would probably prefer it wasn’t so... You’ve clearly spent zero effort engaging in my background and experience. To make matters worse, you make no apologies. You then proceed to ask me to divulge the contact info of every person I’ve ever worked with for the last decade; people I have built trust and report with, in a manner that makes me think you feel entitled to them. If you ever want to be elevated above the ranks of divorce attorneys and used car salesmen advertised on Telemundo’s 3am-3:15am time slot, I suggest you revisit your manners and approach potential candidates like you have a reputation to maintain, minds to be changed and a work ethic to be proved. I wish you the best, but would like to be removed from your agency’s database. Have a good evening and best of luck!”

If You’re a Recruiter, Here Are Some Tips For Not Getting Taken to the Mattresses…

  1. No one likes to be perceived as annoying… Muster up some consideration and you’ll be well on your way to proving the world of your value.
  2. Take 2–5 minutes to research a potential candidate’s LinkedIn profile. I’m not a recruiter, but when I’ve interviewed designers in the past, I was able to get a really quick read in just a couple of minutes with remarkable accuracy. This is your industry; you should be able to give a LinkedIn profile a Clint Eastwood style icy stare and come away with a fast and accurate read. Really zero excuses.
  3. Stop asking for stuff you didn’t earn. Unless you’ve helped me land a job, help me get contract work during the notoriously dry Holiday Season, you don’t deserve contacts to managers I’ve worked with over the years. At least buy me dinner before I’m drugged and wake up in a bathtub filled with ice in Oaxaca, Mexico with my kidneys missing.
  4. Remember, the people you‘re speaking to, at least in tech and creative field, are often high earners and performers and are intolerant on a completely different level. You can’t lure high level talent by being inconsiderate or wasting their time. Most high level talent candidates are already inundated with offers directly from companies like Facebook, Airbnb, etc. with tremendously attractive incentives… As a recruiter, you’re already against a headwind and would venture to say your only real asset is your manners and preparation.
  5. Buy Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

I really don’t hate recruiters. I love hard working people that grind away day after day under abusive bosses and unconscionable goals. In fact, I’d venture to say this group of people are the real Rocky Balboa’s in the workforce (makes my fifth movie reference). To offer an olive branch to the recruiting world, I’d like to share the name of one of the only recruiters I’ll talk to, Chris Spintzyk (great guy and a walking contradiction to the prevailing recruiter stereotypes).

In short, if you care about improving the quickly degrading image of the recruiting world, remember your manners and take the time required to build real relationships. And if you don’t, 2016 might just be the year you get taken to the mattresses…