Friday, September 26, 2008

Technical Recruiters Need To Wake Up

In case any of you missed it, the financial markets are kinda imploding these days. And there are a lot of companies failing. This means that there's a fair number of people looking for jobs, and not that many places on offer.

This has recruiters going positively apeshit as they try to find some way to earn some money fast so that they don't also lose their jobs. This is troublesome for them, as most recruiters aren't actually very smart at all. So many of them are cold-calling employees with no job that they're trying to pitch, trying to find out if they're looking for jobs. Which is pretty horrible. And big firms that are looking to target from people like Lehman are using their own internal channels and doing it in bulk at the moment, and they don't want to get CVs from you.

So if you're a financial technology recruiter, you're pretty hosed at the moment, and trying to do anything just to survive.

But if you're a recruiter who's actually smart enough to google me before picking up the phone, lemme give you a few little secrets about what it's like to actually work in technology in Financial Services in London, so that hopefully you won't come across quite as uninformed as you actually are.

First of all, we all work in great big open plan spaces. Techies usually have a little more room than traders (unless you're (un)fortunate enough to actually work on the trading floor itself), but we're packed in pretty tight as these offices are pretty expensive and you want to maximize your utilization of the space. That means that every single person around you can hear every single word you say. There is no privacy in a financial services company unless you plan for it in advance.

Even worse, if you're calling me on my desk, if I actually work on the trading floor itself, I have a recorded line. Do you people even understand that? I've told recruiters I'm on a trading floor with a recorded line, and the idiots won't shut the hell up. You people have never worked in such an environment, but on these systems, virtually any person can listen in to any line they want without anybody knowing. These is no privacy, expected or actual, on any of these lines. If I'm on one, all I want to do is get you to shut up as fast as I possibly can in the most polite possible way so that if someone picks up the line they don't hear me talking to a recruiter.

I was even in New York on a trading floor and a recruiter called me from London (I was in New York on business). In our New York office, they're really strict. No cell phones on a trading floor. That means that if you call me on a cell phone, I either have to get you off the phone right away, or I have to leave the floor, which means everybody knows it's a personal call, and since it won't sound to others (remember: no privacy) like I'm talking with a friend or family member, sounds dodgy. I said "I'm actually in New York at the moment and on a trading floor, so I can't speak. Can you send me an email?" and the idiot just kept blathering on and on about something positively stupid, and after a trader actually pointed at the cell phone in my hand, I just hung up on him.

Moreover, many of us don't like talking on the phone at all. You do. I get that. I fully understand that you spend all day on the phone and like it. We don't. Most techies do a lot of work over email and IM and other non-spoken communications mechanisms, in part because of the interruption effects (you can control when you actually are focusing on IM and email; you can't control face to face spoken communications). I am supposed to pick up my phone when it rings, because it might be someone actually important. It's you. I'm busy. I don't want to talk. Just email.

I can respond to emails at my leisure when I'm not busy. Phone calls I can't. And if you call and I'm in flow, I have about 10 seconds to get you off the line without coming across like a complete asshole or else I lose flow. And if you ever make me lose flow, I will hate you to the end of my days and suggest you go talk to and attempt to recruit the most braindead people I've ever worked with to make you seem like a right moron and get sacked. And don't think I'm bluffing. I've done it.

What all of this means is that you really shouldn't ever try to pick up the phone to me. Pretty much ever in fact, but never ever ever should you cold-call a financial techie during work hours. [Don't want to talk to people out of hours because you'd rather be down the pub with your mates? Not my problem. I'm not the one trying to convince gainfully employed people to go somewhere else for employment. You are. Suck it up or quit being a recruiter.]

Even more, if someone indicates to you in the first gambit that they work on a trading floor (which I've done), here's what you should do:
  1. Shut up. Immediately. That's your sign to just shut your bloody trap. It means that the person you're calling is telling you in a polite way that they can't talk, at all.
  2. Ask for an email address (though ideally you've already got one).
  3. Send your contact details to their email address.
  4. Iff they want to talk to you, they'll call you. If not, ideally they'll politely email you "thanks but no thanks."
Deviation from this indicates you really don't get it, and it's not worth my time to speak with you at all.

But that's actually quite surprising. I've never met a single recruiter in London who's actually worked as a technologist. At best, I've found some who actually understand what we do and how we do it. They're few and far between. Prove you're one of them before you try to talk to a techie. Because when we sense you're just another CV hunter trying to justify your existence in a super-tough job market, we're just going to tune you out.

Note that in all of this I'm trying to be polite to recruiters in every interaction. That's because I want to know that if I actually was looking for a job, I don't have a notation in my record in your database of "is a total asshole" that will screw things up for me.

But no matter who I am, right now, if I've got a job, chances are pretty darn good I'm not looking for another one if I'm not working at an affected institution (which for the record I'm not, although things are changing every day), so you've got a pretty low chance of your cold calling working. So just accept that I'm going to be polite while declining your opportunities, and leave it at that, okay?
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