The Recruiting Animal meets David Perry
In the Hindu tradition, a satsang is a meeting of the guru and his students. I've read accounts online which claim that participants experience a burst of vitality and a temporary sense of enlightenment as they rub shoulders with the energy cast off by the liberated man.
I'm inclined to believe it. Because I had breakfast with David Perry last week and that's the feeling I had, at least for a while, and I don't think it was the coffee because it was pathetically mediocre.
That's some introduction, isn't it? Well, let me explain.
Dave called me up the other day to offer me a free book and breakfast but only if I could meet him at 6:30 AM. I was so excited about the opportunity to get something for free and so concerned about sleeping in that I woke up at a quarter to four which left me pretty groggy by the time I arrived.
However, when he started talking I suddenly felt that everything in the recruiting world was falling into place and I had a clear vision of what a recruiter can be.
My Epiphany Fades
That lasted from about seven till eight. Then my mind started getting fuzzy again. When I couldn't finish my sentences without wondering what I was talking about I should have realized it was time to go but social smarts have never been my strength. I thought: "This poor guy is visiting from Ottawa and he doesn't have his next meeting till ten-thirty. I should stay and keep him company". So I did. Until he had to get rid of me.
-- "Hey, don't you have to get to work?". he said. "I don't want to keep you."
-- Me: "No. That's OK, don't worry about it."
-- No, really I'm taking up your time. You must have important calls.
-- Nah. Who calls me?
Finally, he excused himself to go to the washroom and never came back. I waited a while and then I went looking for him. In the end, I called his cell phone. There was no answer so I left. On the subway, I realized I'd made a mistake. Oh well, there's always a next time. (Isn't there?).
But let's go back to the introduction. Why was I so impressed? Well, David has written a book about guerrilla job-hunting. But, he's not a guerrilla, he's a Gorilla. A wild beast. A wolf in sheep's clothing. Because once he picks a target, nothing can stop him. He pursues his prey with the monotonous intensity of a celebrity stalker.
Do you want proof? Exhibit Number 1. Have you ever read those stories about Zen masters who make aspiring students do all kinds of crummy things to prove their commitment before they accept them?
When Dave was young and wanted to get into recruiting, he had a number of interviews with one particular firm. Finally, the hiring manager said that he would consider him but only if he came for another meeting at 5am on a Sunday morning. The guy was getting ready for an early run when he met Dave on his doorstep. "What are you doing here?" he said. Dave got the job but, apprarently, his boss was no Zen master - just an ass.
Exhibit 2: How many messages do you leave before you give up? Dave called a potential candidate 61 times until he finally got him on his cell phone driving on the Autobahn (that's right, in Germany).
Exhibit 3: Dave couldn't discover the name of the guy who performed a specific role in a target company. So he found out who owned the canteen wagon that serviced the building in which the company was located and took over for four days until he ferreted the name out of one of his customers. He also increased the wagon's sales and collected its outstanding debts. Is it true? I believed it when he told me.
And, don't let me give you the wrong impression. He's not merely self-seeking. He's a zealot. A search is a crusade for him and that leads to unusual behaviour. But you know what? He doesn't seem crazy. On him it comes across as an expression of strength.
You get the impression that this guy can do anything he wants. And that's really impressive.
A Recruiter Is A Salesman
Dave also does something that seems typical of great recruiters: he argues with potential candidates. When they say they aren't interested, he will try to convince them to move.
I marvel at this and wonder what gives a recruiter the courage to tell other people what to do on a major career issue. The answer, I think, is confidence and knowledge.
It's often said that knowledge breeds confidence and that makes perfect sense. But there are many people with little knowledge who seem to have perfect confidence in whatever they're saying. So, I'm going to assume that, to some extent, confidence is a natural trait, in itself, like brown hair. In some people, the parts of the brain which generate confidence are simply very active.
When confidence appears in its crudest form we find hustlers who automatically assume that whatever is good for them is good for you. And that whatever they have to sell is what you need. If you ask too many questions they dismiss you as an idiot and move on.
But when exhuberant confidence is combined with intelligence and knowledge it is extremely persuasive.
What kind of knowledge are we talking about? Two types. The first is general business knowledge: understanding how companies usually act in certain situations. For instance, in a certain stage of its lifecycle. Or when a new manager takes over. Or after they sell off a money-making division. What do these cues mean to someone in the potential candidate's position?.
The second is industry-specific knowledge which is known primarily by recruiters who specialize in a certain market. When you limit your work to a specific sector, you have the opportunity to learn a lot about the companies and personalities in that field.
So, for instance, when a new boss takes over a firm, the recruiter who understands business and his specific market can reasonably predict what might happen next. And he can use that analysis to educate an employee who doesn't have a broad grasp of his industry but understands enough to appreciate what he is being told.
(I think Dave might call specialization a force multiplier because every search you do contributes directly to knowledge you can use on another).
What else did I learn? Two things.
1. You don't have to be pretentious. Dave doesn't lock himself up in a fancy office and wait for candidates to find time to come to him. When he has to see a recruit he finds the Starbucks or "Timmy's" closest to the candidate and high-tails it out there to meet him.
2. Breakfast at McDonald's isn't half bad. I recommend the pancakes.