Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nice Guys Finish Better

This morning’s peHUB Wire has a great article on Reid Hoffman at Greylock. (ok, so I paraphrased this blog’s title from the cover story in VCJ. Sorry.) I don’t know this guy, but I like him already. Look, I get it. We’re all busy. But does that mean we can’t take the time to be civil and to help others out? It sounds like Reid and I share a fault: we may err on the side of being completely unable to say “no” (I once got called into Peter Feinstein’s office back at Feinstein Partners where he told me that I was the “biggest sap” in the office because I couldn’t say “no”). It’s funny – as a recruiter, lots of people don’t have any time for you …until they’re looking for a job. Then they’re all too eager to “meet to explore my next steps.” So here are some of my gripes and suggestions. In no particular order.

  • If you tell someone you’ll get back to them “early next week,” get back to them early next week. And here’s how that works: “Early next week” is from 8:00 Monday morning until noon on Tuesday. “The middle of next week” is from noon on Tuesday until noon on Thursday. “The end of next week” is from noon Thursday until 6:00 on Friday. Even if all you can do is drop a line that says “I got tied up and now won’t be able to get to this until Thursday,” take the 6 seconds to do it. You’ll be happy you did.
  • How long does it take to hit the reply button on an email? And yes, I get it. We all get ten thousand emails a day. But have the common courtesy to respond, even if it’s to say no. You can still do so politely, and we’re all adults and can be told no, but it’s annoying and unprofessional to be left hanging. As a recruiter, I take the time to call back candidates who were in the final running but were not selected. I can’t tell you how many times people thank me for taking the time to do so, since most in this business don’t. More importantly, it’s a reflection on my client. At the senior level, my client is likely to run into these same people again in a business transaction, and it wouldn’t be good to leave them with a bad taste in their mouths about the client.
  • Is it really going to kill you to spend half an hour with someone who is willing to come to your office? Of course, there are cases when you are particularly happy with a service provider or other vendor, but are you really saying that it is not possible that another service could be better or provide something that you’re not currently getting? Frankly, I have to turn down lots of requests from candidates who want to meet to discuss their career plans, because I simply don’t have the time to meet everyone, and the meeting is only relevant when we are on an appropriate assignment. When one does come along, I’d do the interview all over again anyway, so it’s generally not a fruitful use of time. However, if I have the bandwidth, I’m usually willing to grab a quick coffee with someone.
  • Say “thank you” every now and then. I am constantly amazed when you do a big favor for someone or a company and it’s not even acknowledged. It’s not that I’m fishing for compliments, it’s just 1) nice to hear it and 2) what I would do were the tables turned. Take that extra 30 seconds to pop off a quick email to say thanks to someone. They’ll remember it.
  • Respect others’ time. I, like Reid, would be happy to meet you on a weekend or evening. But remember that you’re taking time away from my family and down time, so don’t overstay your welcome.
It is possible to have balance, get things done, and be a “nice guy.” Reid has obviously done it, and I bet he and I are not the only ones (that is, assuming you think I'm a nice guy...).

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