How Not To Recruit
Like most consultants, I get a reasonable number of requests to apply for one particular contract job or another. I try to give most credible e-mails at least a courtesy reply even if I'm not interested or too busy (and to those who may have thought they deserved one, my sincere apologies for overlooking your request).
This week, though, has set some new lows. It may because I have a head stuffed full of cold symptoms and medicine, so I'm alternately cranky and sleepy, but I've received three direct e-mails (i.e. I was one of the targeted recipients; don't get me started about the quality of mailing list advertisements) that indicate there is a new trend forming in position filling and it's not good.
People, give some hints about whether it's worth applying! This can't possibly be advice out of left field — I'm just not that creative. Help me to help you.
If your request for expressions of interest (effectively) only says "please send me your hourly or daily rate" and does not indicate the topic area of the work, geographical location of the company, length of work (even approximately), starting timeframe (immediately? when filled? when suitable for best candidate?), you are screwed right out of the gate. Or, at least, I am not going to be applying. Guess what? Typically for a consultant, my rates vary based on many things. Longer jobs means lower hourly rates (or, usually, not billing by the hour, but by the week or month). Starting timeframe is another variable: how much flexibility is there to fit in with existing work? Most of the time I prefer working on only one major project at a time, so I can't say yes to everything that crosses my inbox. For some arenas — be it geographical and target market — I am either not qualified or not interested for various reasons. Is the work onsite, remote or a mixture of both? Even in the telecommuting case, your location is important. The world has many timezones and whilst we can work around most of the barriers, it's good to know the full picture up front.
Secondly, who are you? If you don't tell me anything about your (company's) background and/or there is nothing about you on the 'net, how do I establish your credibility in the field or make a guess about what the work environment is going to be like? If you're a student trying to start up a business in your spare time, the whole job is different for both of us when compared to an approach from a section manager in a Fortune 500 company wanting to get some training for their staff. Reputation is important and losing a bad reputation is harder than losing a good one. So it is to be expected that a potential employee is going to check out the employer. If you turn out to be from We Love Deforestation, Inc, I might not want to work for you regardless of pay, interesting challenges or promotional opportunities.
This is naturally one of the occupational hazards of the consulting business and the idea is that in amongst the chaff are the few grains of goodness that are the jobs worth doing. Doesn't mean I have to like it. Might be why I want to get a "real job" again soon.