Please Don’t Join A Company Because It Puts On A Flashy Happy Hour (Or Gives You Free Beer)

A credible example of a startup beer refrigerator. A minor detail which often manages to make it into unusually prominent positioning in HR-distributed imagery. Photo by Allec Gomes from Pexels

From time to time, I feel the need to get something off my chest on LinkedIn.

Then, after I do, I instantly regret sharing the post.

What will my clients think, I ask myself, (as if I’ve been told to ask myself that question)

My prospective clients who’ve been silently lurking and picking up my posts (I’ve talked about the silent audience effect; it’s crazy powerful)?

What would a career advisor say, I worry with trepidation?

Shouldn’t I have bragged about the gift hamper that I received at the holidays instead!?

And then I go back to remembering that time when a client hired me on the back of something contrary which I post there; the sage advice of my friend (“sometimes, you’re communicating to the more engaged 10% of your readership”); and I summon up the courage to leave it there anyway.

Rinse and repeat. Perhaps once a month. If in an unusually cranky mood — it happens now and again — perhaps a little more frequently. But it’s still the slim majority of my output there.

Most of the time, when I share on that network, I play it safe. I figure that’s what people are expecting when they log into LinkedIn. Isn’t it the social network in a suit?

I also use it as my dumping ground for anything I write that touches upon what I do for a living (marketing communications consulting)— and there’s a bit of that. The dialogue that can create and the network and business LinkedIn can eventuate have kept me from leaving during times I got bored with it or tired of reading self-promotion.

Some of what I share: best (and worst) practices I’ve seen in marketing communications from companies that aren’t my clients and as I see them. The former probably never will be. The latter might peg me as a source of sage advice in their mental notepad. Sometimes, it peters down into business. At other times, I just have a good (online) chat. That’s how the “magic” of inbound marketing works (or is supposed to).

And you know something? This kind of professional back and forth is the aspect of LinkedIn that I enjoy the most. The dialogue. The connection. The exchanging of ideas between (hitherto) strangers in an industry but countries apart.

But I also wonder that what I post is just too contrarian sometimes.

Like trying to perform standup to a bunch of people who’ve just lost their jobs. Read the room and all that. Keep those rants for your Facebook friends (just make sure to take your clients out of the audience).

In that vein, I decided today that I needed to forewarn my connections of the content I was sharing.

And that it should be understood as part of a broader trend of contrarian posting that would be surfacing in their feeds from time to time. So that they wouldn’t either be surprised or assume that it some kind of virtue-signalling was incoming that they could safely scroll past. No, I reckoned, they needed to hear this message.

And so I put my best graphic design talents to use using the epic graphic design program that could totally give Photoshop a run for its money called GIMP. Here’s what I came up with after investing 30 seconds in the creative process. More colors, or anything more professional, I reckoned, would have made me look too put-together for a man about to spew aggression towards prevalent HR practices. If I’m going to be ranting, I needed to look haggard. I use Linux. This is what we’ve got.This is what you’re getting.

And so it was that the official episode one of Your Daily Dose Of LinkedIn Contrarianism (which won’t actually be put out daily) was circulated this afternoon. I’m sure my connections in HR — especially those working at startups — were lapping it up.

“We’re Hiring” Posts Are Meaningless Unless You Back Them Up With Detail (Lots Of It)

I see lots of “we’re hiring” posts on LinkedIn that feel slightly tainted by the idea that the poster — or company he/she represents — is inordinately proud of that fact. And more interested in announcing that the company has reached that vaunted status than actually putting good fits into good jobs.

“We’re hiring!” they affirm. “Yes, even during COVID!” “When jobs are scarce, we’re here dishing them out like a bread-seller at the shuk on a Friday” (Okay so they probably don’t write this, but it’s totally often the subtext being communicated; the latter reference probably isn’t intelligible outside of Israel)

And speaking of Israel. You guys are the worst offenders.

Sorry, Israelis — or to be more exact, Israeli startups — but you’re top of the league table, at least in my eyes. (I live in Israel. I’ve made peace with the fact that my attitudes don’t endear me to much of the local market.)

And I’m not talking about the “we’re hiring” announcements, by the way. I’m talking about the tacky use of happy hours to lure in those who can envision no greater hallmark of career success than sitting at a beer and clutching a beer that the company paid for. You got that? The COMPANY paid for this 10 shekel ($3) bottle of Goldstar. A benefit in kind. I’ve made it here. You could too.”

“Come work with us and you’ll join our monthly happy hour?”; “come work with us because your place is with us?”

Really? Why? I have my own clients and a home replete with electricity and heating. You’re going to have to do a lot better than that.

And that Goldstar you’re clutching like it’s a bottle of Dom Pérignon carried out by a butler on a tray is at best a mediocre lager. Last resort drinking option when you could only make it to the makolet in my view. I’ll continue buying (or brewing) my own beer. But thank you very much for the offer.

So anyway: here’s the deal with jobs and all that stuff.

Jobs are fundamentally two way arrangements and job interviews are supposed to be two way dialogues during which both parties assess whether they wish to enter into a significant contractual arrangement with the other.

For the most part, they’re intended for grown adults.

In developed countries, labor laws designed to prevent the exploitation of minors typically mandate that. And trying to bribe adults with promises of free alcohol (or pizza) is kinda like trying to .. I don’t know … get a hamster to chase after go where you want it to by dangling some cheese in front of it. A Pavlovian response. We need something more.

As the jobseeker, I may be looking for a job. But under ideal circumstances, I’m also actually looking for one I can truly succeed in. Maybe something that leads onto something more (those things they called careers; I had a minor disagreement with an acquaintance over this. Her position was that careers are outdated concepts and that circulating among different companies as the only method of achieving pay rises was just something that should be embraced. The new normal. It should be noted: I agree with her about practically nothing)

Why? Well right now, I don’t really have the patience for professional relationships that aren’t going to work out.

But more than that, I don’t want to be back job-searching in a year or two. Really. Even dealing with the paperwork is a massive headache not to mention having to move over the pension and set up a new ridiculous workstation only to have to later clean it up. (While these days I’m self-employed, if I interviewed at your company previously and said that, please know that I actually meant it.)

I’m setting this, going forward, as a non-negotiable condition of employment. I reserve the right to provision my own workstation which will look a lot like this. In a private or semi private office environment. And I reserve the right to bring along speakers with subwoofers and play them at a volume of my choosing. Interested? Contact info in the about page. Photo: author.

I also need to know that I can succeed in this role.

And that you’re prepared to stick with me, in return, by providing the kind of environment that I can grow in. What can I do? Bring everything I’ve learned to date in my career and use it to help your company succeed — however you’ve defined that for my role.

That’s why there are some things we do need to talk about. We could even get these out of the way during the first interview so that we don’t follow through with a protracted process for no reason.

You’ll hit me with some simulations. So I can respond with a couple of my own.

If I tell you that I need to use Marketo are you going to provide me with budget to buy it or are you going to try to do everything on the cheap and use me as your lackey to hunt down freebies? I need to dig underneath words that are often used as euphemisms (“we’re fast paced”) to understand what kind of culture you truly operate. When potential devs asks CTOs ask one another what stack the company’s using there’s more being assessed than just competency with tool(s). So give that conversation room to breathe.

Why? These things matter more than you might think. At least to me. To roll with the Marketo example, it’s because I have a self-interest here in that I want to develop my skillset and that means knowing how to use industry-standard software. I’m thinking about my career here and not just this gig.

So it’s important to know if you’re going to help me out with that. And that you’re honest with me. I’d really hate to take this gig only to find myself straddled with rookie level tools in a company whose culture seems to boil down to “get everything done for less, as well as possible, and preferably by tomorrow morning.”

In return, I’ll be honest with you.

About what I’m looking for. How I can see myself tackling your pain points and why I’m qualified to do so.

I’ll give you a taste of my vision for what kind of skillsets I’d bring to this role. What kind of things would really turn this thing sour also- like a stifling focus on cost reduction (see: above). You care about retention. Curiously enough, I do too. So there’s a confluence of interests if we can figure out a way to make it work for both of us.

And you know what I couldn’t care less about?

Your happy hour policy.

Serious Things That Should Be In Serious Recruitment Posts

There are so many examples I could screenshot of horrible job descriptions. (I’d totally add them as visual enrichments here but there’s too high a chance that doing so would result in lawsuit threats. Unless I could find a way to totally anonymize the firms involved, it would also be in bad taste.)

Instead, if you’re posting that you’re “hiring”, here are some basics that I do need to know about:

  • Firstly: who are you, person promoting a job on the internet? What does your company do? And just as importantly, what’s its vision? I’d love to work with an organization that I thought was doing something really cool and which I knew I could really get behind (I’ve been with one before and it’s truly energizing). If you’re focused on pushing jargon, it risks obscuring your mission just because you think it makes you sound impressive (it probably doesn’t). If you obscure your mission, how can I possibly connect with it?
  • What kind of culture do you have? But really. Can you go a little deeper than what’s on the site? Like, beyond those happy hours that happen once a month, what’s day to day work like at the company?
  • What’s your preferred management structure? Recently, I consulted for a startup here in Israel. The weekly check-ins quickly went from being par for the course to “there’s no way I’m doing any more of this. What was the termination period on this contract again?”. Particularly given the fact that I was brought on board as a contractor and not a full-time staffer. You’re building that media list we need? Wonderful! How many lines of contacts did you add to it this week? What’s your target for next one? Shall we set 5 rows as this week’s goal? I responded that this entire exercise was pointless. I was trying to identify quality relationships and not fill up a spreadsheet (even though the spreadsheet was filling up rather expediently). I could promise 20 rows but even that would mean nothing. If we really need to set a KPI for this tiny constituent element of a much bigger picture (PR, reputation, inbound marketing) I’d rather set a monthly target for coverage achieved and relationships initiated. The response to my protest, said without a hint of irony: “everybody needs to be micromanaged until they prove to their superiors that they’re worthy of not being subjected to that.” He tried to convince me that this wasn’t an Israeli thing but some kind of universal norm that exists among companies around the world. That was the way. It was a pointless argument. But I wish he’d told me that before I started working with his company so that I could have passed on the opportunity. Sorry to vent for just a moment.

Next, I need to know what kind of jobs you’re hiring for. Right off the bat.

If I’m working as a dev and see generic posts that talk about happy hours only to find that you’re actually a beauty label and need a salesperson then I’ve just wasted a couple of minutes of my day.

A trivial time expenditure? Perhaps. But I’d probably be more kindly disposed to companies that spelled out their requirements before I had to click through to their careers page. It takes two seconds to summarize that you have roles open in “sales, marketing, and business development”. So why leave this info out?

If I’m talking about committing the entirety of my working week to your company — and that’s what a full time salaried job basically is, which seems kinda scary when you’re accustomed to divvying up your time among 6 or 7 clients— then I need to know what you’re really about from the moment I first think about sending you in a resume.

I can tell you about my career aspirations. Who doesn’t like to talk about where they dream about getting? About what I’ve done for other companies and could do for yours.

In response I need to see a job description that lays out a realistic summary of your requirements. That’s to determine if I could do this or not. No point wasting time on either side.

Next, I need to know who your company is and what it’s actually about. If you can go deeper and more human-to-human level than what’s on the career site than that would be truly wonderful.

For instance:

Is this the kind of place that has a policy against giving pay rises — where the accepted standard is that the only way to get that is to threaten to leave the company or actually do so?

I know you’re not going to tell me if that’s the case, but it would be awesome nevertheless if you did so that I don’t need to be appraised of that through my own social network or Glassdoor.

I’ve heard this detail many times from friends — they work at X and the only way they’re going to get paid more is by quitting.

I’ve been asked to take on a promotion for the same pay and been told that we could talk about a 5% raise in … 8 months. It sucked. I left a job over it. These things are like massive elephants looming in the back of the room and waiting for the right moment to thwart an otherwise constructive experience.

I know you’re probably going to be asking me all sorts of probing questions during my interview process if I progress through it (“what was the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career to date?”). So it would be nice if you could be transparent too.

But above all, I couldn’t care less about your happy hour or where it’s held.

Really. Not one bit.

Much bigger fish are either being fried or running through my mind — both within this process and beyond it. They have to be. I’m weighing up this opportunity, potentially those of other prospective hiring parties, and correlating it through past experiences to make sure this could work out.

And anyway, even if happy hours did matter to me, when and where you hold yours would be way, way down my evaluation list. Like I hope the color of my hair is for you. Who’s on your team now? What kind of culture do you have about working hours and responsiveness? All much more valuable data points from my perspective.

During previous attempts at jobhunting, I’ve been searching for a fitting (and well compensated) job that I could stick with.

I care about my career advancement and my salary. If you’re not prepared to pay me enough then I don’t care about how talented you think I am or what could be down the line. We can negotiate about X + Y% later. But if X doesn’t work — whatever the structure of our contact — then all we’re left to talk about is the weather or exchange closing pleasantries. Am I being passive aggressive? Demanding? No, I just don’t feel like wasting my time.

Also: I’d love to find a good organization which I could truly help because I thought that what they were doing was awesome. One which I believe in. Knowing which beer you give to your employees once a month doesn’t tell me any of that.

Speaking of salary, I’d love a decent one. Partially so that I can afford to buy my own alcohol and vacation at a place of my choosing. And by the way, I prefer cider. At least these days.

Thank you and good luck!

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Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com

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