A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft had a lunch for Turing Scholars in the GDC. It was an interesting experience — pretty standard as far as lunches go, with free pizza predictably running out in 20 minutes, a couple of tables with different conversations clustered around a visiting engineer or recruiter, and of course, the perennial problem: no one-on-one time available to talk to the recruiter.
A number of the freshmen at the lunch came up to me during (and after) to ask me what they should be doing. Clearly, the recruiter was busy the entire lunch — how were they supposed to get an internship at Microsoft if they couldn’t talk to the recruiter at a lunch ostensibly focused on getting Turing Scholars jobs at Microsoft?
One of the interesting side effects of working at Apple and being surrounded by friends who were juggling phone interviews, onsites in SF and Palo Alto, and usually a small flotilla of job offers is that you begin to feel very self-conscious about your own number of options.
So this summer, while I was in the Bay Area, I made it my mission to meet as many companies as possible and angle as many interviews (or at the very least free sweaters or t-shirts) as I could.
A pretty obvious implication of this, though, was that my email began to fill up not with emails from engineers and managers at the companies I was interested in, but with conversations with recruiters. In the process of trying to convince them to give me a job, I found myself becoming good friends with a number of my recruiters.
Of course the conversation got a little bit depressing when a rejection came along, but it was far easier to handle when I was getting the news from a friend, rather than some stranger I shook hands with for five seconds at a career fair. And when I occasionally got an offer or a next-round confirmation, that it came from someone I had grown to like made it all the more exciting.
I love telling the story about how I got my job at Apple. It wasn’t from meeting the recruiter at a career fair or at an Apple on-campus talk or something for a few minutes. The story goes something like this:
I was in the GDC atrium when I noticed someone lifting a ton of pizza boxes to put on a table, so I went and volunteered to help.
As this man (still a stranger to me) and I moved the pizza around, we started talking, and he asked me a strange question: what did I think of iOS?
This was at a time when I was a massive Android fanboy, so of course I spent a few minutes railing against iOS as a closed-garden tool that only looked pretty and afforded no real options to the user.
Which was when this man, to whom I had been complaining about iOS and in general talking about what a terrible company Apple was, introduced himself — as the lead recruiter for Apple.
So of course I hurriedly tried to retract everything I said, but instead of being upset he ended up giving me his card, and the email I sent him that evening introducing myself (and profusely apologizing for my anti-Apple comments) was the start of a long friendship that ended up with me having a job at my dream company.
My friendship with Chris — who is now at VMWare — was actually incredibly helpful for two reasons. First, like I mentioned above, it was great to hear news about my job status from someone I knew, and because he knew me he made sure to answer all of the questions I had throughout the process in great detail.
The other advantage was that because he knew me, he worked much harder to find me a job. Whereas at other companies it might be common to interview for one team, have an average or negative experience, and never hear from them again, Chris made sure to shop me around to a bunch of teams he recruited for until I found one I really liked. And so I ended up working on Siri.
All of this goes to say that in the end, it wasn’t meeting Apple at a career fair or talking to a recruiter at a lunch that helped me get a job. It was meeting the recruiter and becoming friends — not with the intention of getting a job, but rather for its own sake — that led me to eventually get the job I wanted. The same logic applied at the Microsoft lunch — rather than focusing on getting a job (or even giving the recruiter your resume), the best results come from making an effort to reach out and form a connection.
So as the career fair approaches (Monday, September 21st in Frank Erwin — write it down!), remember that a recruiter isn’t just a vehicle to find you a job at a company. They’re generally really nice people — typically why they do recruiting in the first place — and so instead focus on making friends with them. Worst case, you now have a friend in the industry; best case, you have an interview (and maybe an offer) at their company.
And wherever you can, avoid bad-mouthing their company to their faces.