On Candidate Marketing: Lunch with Mike
I haven’t always been a recruiter. A couple of posts ago I wrote about my first jobs out of college, a short stint as a distribution manager at the local paper and a longer term selling insurance in rural Georgia. Those were the only two jobs I had before becoming a headhunter for the first time. I’ve also left recruiting twice to pursue other interests and returned twice because I’m good at it. The first of “my other interests” was becoming a partner in a small data backup company (the “cloud” in today’s terms) that we later sold. The second of my “other interests” was a job that came about as the result of straight up cold-call marketing. The full story is in the book.
Recently I had a chance to have lunch with Mike, the former hiring manager for that job and a true visionary in his field, and the subject came up. We were trying to recall how we met and how the whole thing started. Anyone looking at either of our biographies separately would find it hard to imagine that Mike and I would have ever even met let alone work together. However if you dig deep enough, there are actually quite a few areas of common interest. For starters, we both like to write, though Mike is much, much more successful and accomplished than me. We also both have good imaginations and are curious people.
Anyways, I got a job working for Mike based initially on a single phone call. I had to interview with him and the executive team in person as well but that came after we had spoken on the phone and had lunch together. Here’s the short version: One morning during breakfast at my parent’s house I read an article in the local newspaper about a cafe that was operated by homeless people. It was more than a cafe though, it was also a culinary arts school and employment agency of sorts. They were training and certifying people who were experiencing homelessness in order to help them get jobs – and serving food to the public. The article wasn’t about all that though. The article was about how the cafe was losing a significant funding partner and would have to close. It seemed like a shame to me and I commented to my mom about it. She suggested that I might see if I could help somehow, perhaps volunteer or something. I had just returned from a semi-failed venture to setup a London branch office for our data backup company was looking for something to do. Volunteering sounded like a good idea so I called the switchboard number for Union Mission. The woman who answered the phone put me through to Mike – who was the CEO of the organization at the time. I had no idea what I was getting into but Mike and I had a good first conversation and he invited me to lunch at the cafe. I didn’t expect to get Mike on the phone when I called. I expected to get someone who maybe coordinated volunteers or could provide information about their programs. Mike was there though and never shy about talking to people. During our phone conversation and subsequent lunch meeting he described a set of needs that I thought I could help address and we created a job. A couple of weeks later after all the interviews, I accepted an offer to become the Director of Marketing and Business Development. It was a fancy title that meant I could help out at the cafe and maybe some other things.
Wait. What just happened? I didn’t do any research about Union Mission before calling, and, other than “volunteering,” I didn’t have any expectations. However, somehow I ended up with a job. What happened was that Mike and I both recognized an opportunity and acted on it. Oh, and first, I picked up the phone and made a wildly blind cold call.
It was all years ago now but we saved the cafe, a whole team of us, including Mike, two chef instructors, various program managers, a bunch of energetic students and myself. Mike didn’t immediately recall that first phone call but it doesn’t matter. Neither of us are doing what we were doing then but it was nice to remember.
The point of this story is to illustrate what can happen as the result of an open mind and a phone call. As a headhunter, when I make calls like this for candidates I’m marketing I do the research first and my “hit rate” is excellent. It is my job to figure out my candidate’s value proposition, who values it, and how to approach them. The big secret is that it’s nothing any job seeker can’t do for themselves if they know how.
(Photo: Tybee Island Beach, Georgia 2012)