“Well Funded, Pre-IPO Startup Seeks Talented Engineer”

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iStock_hero_light_sillhouette_anonymousNo, I’m not advertising some position in any of the startups I have links or affiliations with, don’t worry, this is not one of “those” posts ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m touching again on the subject of recruiting — and following recent advice, I am not throwing stones at recruiters, just trying to provide some helpful hints, this time.

The reason for approaching the recruitment subject again is because only just yesterday I have received a bunch of emails on LinkedIn from various recruiters around the Bay Area — nothing really special about this at first glance: truth being told I get anywhere in between 1 and about a dozen of them a week. (I confess to reading most of them, as well as I confess to nowadays not replying to any of them — I might come back to the reasons for that perhaps later on, but rest assured there is one behind my lack of replies!)

Anyway, the emails I’m referring to yesterday triggered my attention and this post, as they all pretty much contained the above phrase in them as an opener. (OK, it was variations of the above — like “Dear Liviu, I am a technical recruiter working with a well-funded, pre-IPO startup…” or “How would you like to work for a really cool, well-funded, pre-IPO startup..” — I’m sure you get the picture!)

This to me sounded nothing short of the famous Monty Python scene from “Life of Brian”, when Brian preaches from the window to the masses: “-Remember, you are unique, like everyone else!“. Because let’s face it: all of these 3 emails presented the startup which was allegedly interested in me exactly the same (and no, believe me, they were not talking about the same startup) — and in doing so the emails actually mention words like “original”, “unique”, “fresh” … just like in Monty Python! ๐Ÿ™‚ In other words, if the intention was to project the company as a unique incubator of talent and feel-good, somehow the “unique” bit was missed by a mail — and only because of a bad choice of words, to be fair!

Also, when we talk about a “startup”, we definitely talk about a company which hasn’t made an exit yet — be it via an IPO or via an acquisition. So to me “pre-IPO startup” is really a pleonasm — let’s face it, no one refers to LinkedIn or Facebook as a startup anymore, since they made their (rather famous, let’s give them that!) exits. In fact no one refers to Twitter as a startup anymore, and they haven’t even exercised their exit yet! So when “pre-IPO” is being associated with a startup, what does that mean really? Has the company penciled in a date for their IPO and all hands are on deck now trying to make that date? Now that is some compelling story for any candidate and if I had the liberty to move around companies in the Valley I would definitely be intrigued (as well as interested) by an email which mentions that. (Because leaving aside the financial implications of being part of such an IPO — those who know me will tell you that I have no consideration for my personal finances — the main thing about being involved in an IPO is being part of a success story, being able to say: “See, I did that! I was in there when times were tough, I’ve worked with the rest of the team like a mothertrucker till 4 am every night, we held it together, pulled through and we fucking did it!”)

As opposed to the “pre-IPO startup” phrase which to me — due to its vagueness as well as pleonastic construction — depicts something like this: “well, we’d like to sell this company and make some money but we’re nowhere near ready yet, so we want you to come on board work hard for a few years, then we might pay you or stuff like that or something dunno yet but just come and work for us cause really we want to make money… sometimes… dunno when… whenever we IPO”. OK, I’m dramatizing — point being there is no information enclosed in “pre-IPO startup” — so there’s no reason why I wouldn’t think that is what is intended! (If you look at the suggested approach above where you are being informed that there is an envisaged date already and there are others working already on it, which projects a totally different picture — in my mind at least!)

Last but not least, if you ought to make a point about the freshness of the company, really, do not use cliches — that says anything but ๐Ÿ™‚ Give me just an example of something that’s original about your startup — one tiny one is enough, it leaves room (should I be interested in following up on this) for sweeping me off my feet so to speak with all the others when I decide to come and meet the company! Tell me for instance that your team is so found of The Rolling Stones that your build and release server is labelled Jaeger for instance or anything like that — but please do not insult me with the boilerplate “we are an unique and innovative startup”…. right, like everyone else you mean? (“Thank you brother!”, “Or sister!”, “Or sister, That’s right… where was I”? That was Monty Python too by the way ๐Ÿ™‚ )

As I said initially, I’m not going to bitchslap you this time, my dear recruiters, for this — just a thought really that might help you re-tune your emails and hopefully get some more candidates out of them ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good luck in you hunt!