I was feeling particularly bored the other day. I had been working round-the-clock on a deal that was about to close. Hadn’t had sex in days. Hadn’t tasted a drop of booze in a week. And I think my favorite Mexican stripper, Luciana, was deported last weekend.
Desperate for a cheap thrill, I did something I rarely ever do. Even though I knew it was a mistake, I needed the rush. So last week, I said, “Screw it,” and returned the call of a random recruiter.
The recruiter’s voicemail sounded something like this: “Hey, Matthew, we spoke a while back about your career; you said you might be looking to explore your options. Found something that might be right up your alley. They’re looking for someone that fits your background, they have offices all over the world, top-notch deals, they’re in the Wall Street Journal all the time…competitive bonuses. Call me.”
When this particular recruiter says we spoke a while back, she’s right. In 2009, I thought I was getting shitcanned. But even now, in a more stable, post-review economy, her message sounded pretty amazing. Factor in recent reports about the booming lateral job market, and it sounds like a proposition you can’t refuse.
Until I really broke it down, that is. A microsecond of analysis reminded me that there’s another high-profile, multi-national firm looking for a guy like me on their team. Mine!
Let’s face it, as far as Big Firms go, it ain’t getting much better than where I am now. But when you’ve been stuck on a crappy deal long enough, you pretty much hate 100% of the people in your office, and it feels like there’s no end in sight. Swirling through my head in between fantasies of a weekend sex-cation in Guadalajara with Luciana, the recruiter’s bait of a happier life at new firm with better pay sounded tempting.
What really grabbed me though was the female voice leaving the message. It sounded hot. And young. And there was something mischievous about the way she said, “Call me.” So I had to return the call.
Turns out the voice belonged to a young, recent college graduate named Ashley—a name, in my experience, best associated with “morally casual.” Ashley was actually an assistant recruiter, which is a common trick employed by haggard-looking, haggard-sounding recruiters who know better than to actually be the face and voice of their own operation.
Ashley informed me that she would be putting me through to “Janet Smith,” the head of Janet Smith Recruiting, which sounds impressive until you know that it’s just the two of them working out of a sublet office above a Chinese restaurant. But before I got shuffled off to head honcho Janet, I landed Ashley’s “professional” email address. As Janet yapped away for a few minutes (I say “yapped” because she sounded like a 55-year-old Jewish yenta akin to Joey Tribbiani’s agent “Estelle” from Friends), I fired off a few professional-sounding emails to Ashley before agreeing to meet Janet Smith for lunch to discuss the opportunity in detail.
Before I hung up, I knew the score. Was I actually going to leave my firm? No. Was I going to try to string Janet along so I could meet Ashley and potentially make her my first recruiter conquest? Absolutely.
Some people are a fan of making a change for the sake of change, which works sometimes with lunch selections, vacation spots and condom brands. But for larger life decisions, it’s not really ideal. I learned this the last time I broke up with an ex simply because I was bored only to end up dating another girl exactly like her a few weeks later—late 20’s, worked in PR, decent sense of humor and missing that certain je ne sais quoi.
I suspect that’s what moving to another Big Firm is like. The first six months you make yourself believe it’s a vastly different experience than the first six months you shared with your ex. You’re having lots of sex—dirty sex—you’re laughing at each other’s jokes, you’re not minding joint showers… But then, at month seven, you’re bored, and whatever je ne sais quoi you tried to believe existed has been replaced by an ominous shitcloud of déjà vu.
Unless the girl is a lot younger (at least five years), a lot thinner (at least 20 pounds) or a lot richer (at least $10M in family money), you’re just moving sideways.
Same goes for Big Firms. Unless the firm has a significantly better reputation, gives bonuses at least $10K more than your current firm, offers a legitimately easy shot at partner or is notoriously lax and let’s you skate by like Bonnie Blair (a personal favorite), there’s no need to ever consider it.
Not to mention, it takes a ton of time and energy to move firms. There are months of anxiety and strategic operations. However, it doesn’t take that much to pretend you want to move firms just to bang a young recruiting assistant!
Head honcho Janet showed up, and my “Estelle” comparison flew out the window—she was way more “Magda” from There’s Something About Mary. Lucky for me (and her), she also brought along Mary—AKA my sweet Ashley! I specifically told Ashley via our email exchange that I wouldn’t show for lunch if she weren’t there. Low and behold, my bluff worked.
Magda sat directly across from me, with sweet Ashley by her side. She looked hotter than I even imagined. Soft skin, brown eyes, brown hair and fully clad in recruiting assistant garb (i.e. cheap gray slacks and a white button down with three buttons undone to reveal, what I assumed where, perfectly perky 23-year-old boobs). Ashley sat silently pretty much the entire time, save for a few “uh huh” responses when Magda asked her to affirm their stellar credentials. However, she didn’t need to say much. I could tell from her unflinching response to my overly aggressive staring that it was game on!
Magda was kinda no bullshit with her questions. I could see she was trying to gauge my interest level so they wouldn’t be wasting their time. I realized I was playing it too well and too quick when by the end of lunch, Magda already wanted to set up interviews at other firms.
So I backtracked…a little too hard.
Me: I have a really busy few weeks. I’m not sure if now is a good time. Maybe we should meet up again soon.
Preferably without you.
Magda: Look, I’ve been in this business 20 years. I know that means you’re not serious about this.
Me: No, I swear. I’m really not happy where I am. I want to explore my options, and I would absolutely make a move if the right position became of available.
Doggy style with your assistant would do the trick.
We left lunch with the understanding that I would send her my resume and we would start my search. Only I was never gonna let her send my resume out.
I know there is something sinister about stringing along a recruiter when you know you have no plans to jump, but I figured it was their job to sniff that out. Like dating a girl you absolutely know from day one you’re never going to marry, but you treat her like she has potential. You spend Sunday nights together, you go out to fancy dinners, but you never call her your girlfriend. If at some point she wants more, the onus is on her to really lay down the gauntlet and assess the situation honestly.
Does he ever invite me to family outings? No.
Do we ever hang out on Friday or Saturday nights? No.
Do his friends know my name? No.
I should move on.
However, unlike girlfriends, recruiters have to stick around—even if it seems like it’s not going anywhere—because there’s always an outside chance that we risk-adverse lawyers will finally commit. And if so, they stand to make a ton of money.
The whole thing is a bit tawdry on both ends. I’m using them to feel good. But at the same time, these recruiters don’t really want what’s best for me. They just want me to move for their commission’s sake. It’s a volume business. And lawyers are cattle.
Just as much as it’s unfair to pretend to be on the cusp of a job change solely to bed Ashley, isn’t it fair, in my defense, to be suspicious about whether she actually likes me or simply thinks it may help dry the ink on the deal? All that talk about new firms that are so much better than mine is just foreplay, right? So isn’t banging a recruiter part of playing their game?
You see, in any commission-based exchange, I have one very important rule that every guy should live by: All things being equal, you always hire the hot, single chick. And you do so on the odd chance that her gratitude will extend itself to you in the form of a business bang instead of a handshake.
I searched tons of real estate websites and searched pictures and profiles until I found the right broker to help find my first apartment in New York. After closing, we went out for drinks and ended up banging on a completely barren hardwood floor. Anytime I buy clothing over $100, I only purchase it from a girl I want to have sex with. And I’m pretty sure that when I sign on my first mortgage, even if I’m married, I’ll close the deal with a backroom BJ from a customer service rep at Chase.
I sent my resume to Ashley, and we flirted for a few days before asking her out. I knew she was too young, too virile, too eager and too desperate for a Sex and the City New York lifestyle to give me some spiel about how it would be unprofessional. The next night, we went out to a couple of my favorite West Village dives, and the usual Richardson date sequence commenced: Dark bar with couch, a juke box, tequila (lots of tequila) and…well, that’s it, actually.
After four shots of Patrón and a couple of stories about boyfriends not treating her well, we cabbed it back to my pad for a night of lust. (In case I forgot to mention it, your hateful predictions were correct—I broke it off with my last girlfriend. For many reasons really. But mostly because she was exactly like the one before her. And because I’m an asshole.)
A few days later, I emailed Ashley, letting her now that things had taken a turn for the better with my work situation. I made up some story about how I had a really good talk with a few partners who were overworking me and how they were going to help me establish a better work/life balance. I ended it with “I hope we can still be friends” and a winky emoticon.
Like the professional assistant recruiter slut she is, she replied five minutes later saying, “I’ll let Janet know. But when things go bad again and you’re finally ready to improve your career, give us a call.”
Matthew Richardson is mergers & acquisitions by day, Unethical & Amoral by moonlight.
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