As soon as I completed my Johns Hopkins data science specialization with Coursera that one time, offers began flooding in.

One particularly interesting offer to get social was an email invitation to a Hacker X (full-stack) recruitment event in Jakarta, just a little over a year ago. I personally have never attended or RSVP-ed for a speed dating event ever, but at the time the idea somewhat made sense.

Each attendee gets to spend about 10 to 15 minutes talking to a potential recruiter before rushing on to the next table to talk to the next recruiter, and the next, and the next, and so on.

Having worked in Jakarta for a couple of years, I had very low expectation of what to expect.

I learned that what people tell each other in “networking events”, especially over cocktail or after hours, are not to be taken too seriously. Plus, the workforce management in Jakarta is not really known for delivering on their promises. So I went and was ready to be disappointed.

How to arrange for a recruitment speed dating

First, the event organizer sent me a personalized invitation. I expressed my interest in attending and filled in some sort of online form. Then my e-ticket was emailed to me with a confirmation of the event. A few days before and on D-day, reminders were sent with a few pointers.

Supposedly, a few hours before event start time recruiters would send out introductory emails to the participants. Only a few did. And on the night of the event, August 22, 2017, a few tables remained empty.

The event organizer wanted to make sure that each attendee was given a fair chance to get to know the recruiters. Perhaps they wanted us to talk to all attending companies? I can’t quite explain how it was done, but after a couple of minutes someone would just be running around telling attendees where to stand or where to sit.

On the plus side, I landed a few interviews after the event. Not entirely sure if date night was the reason I landed them, though. Because what happened was after I met with some recruiters during the Hacker X event, and after sending (and replying to) thank you emails back and forth, it would all just boil down to them sending me a link from their website.

I then read about the vacancy these companies have published online by clicking on the link they sent me, filled a form, and everything after that was the usual: wait for a phone call from a number I do not recognize to tell me where to go, when, and what to bring. Just like everybody else.

Quite possibly, like every single person who’ve never attended a recruitment speed dating before.

Participating companies were large and emerging start-ups who were probably used to long periods of international, domestic, and internal recruitments. I suspect these companies were also hiring all throughout the year.

What did I get from it?

A recruitment speed dating. The idea of getting to know 20 people in one night is just up my sleeves. Here’s what each event left me with:

Name tag

As soon as I arrived, the Hacker X team assigned me a blank sticker for a name badge. Wrote my name on it with a marker.

A list of attending organizations

A piece of handout listing out all the recruiters coming that night and a brief description. The list is pretty useful, and I still keep it as a memento, because I love lists!

Name cards

The paper ones. Every recruiter brought a pack, I think.

A presentation

But not just any presentation. A surprise presentation! Didn’t know there was going to be one until D-day. We had to sit through presentations from sponsors like we sat through ads in movie theaters. Anyone who’s been tricked into attending a multi-level marketing presentation would probably see how this is not very beneficial.

It felt like it would have been more on point if only people who were actually interested in these companies were attending the presentation. Why not have the presentation after the speed dating? I’m pretty sure I would’ve figured out if I wanted to know the recruiter a little bit more by then.

5 random minutes

The event was geared towards developers, but the type of vacancy was pretty random. Only a few of the companies that actually emailed me before the event was getting somewhere. After the first few exchanges, it began to feel a bit stressful. The room a bit too big, the speakers a bit too loud, and the companies a bit too self-absorbant.

Dinner

Late in the night, the event organizers started handing out dinner. I probably wouldn’t have eaten anything if I hadn’t loitered to listen to Tokopedia staff talking about a regular networking event held at their new headquarters. The way the pizza boxes were lined up gave me the impression that the food was only for employees. An entire dinner pack had a recruiter’s name and company written on it, so…

Some swag

Some of these companies were nice enough to give me a notebook or a mug or a tote bag. It’s a nice gesture, but I really wasn’t expecting anything other than a call or an email the next few days. It would probably just make more sense to hand out goodie bags at the end or the beginning to everyone who came, if you ask me.

A call

Some time after date night, some recruiters would do a follow-up. A few calls from unfamiliar numbers not listed in my phonebook were a bit disturbing, but some recruiters were kind enough to send me an introductory email before making a call or scheduling for a meetup.

Is this for you?

I was a bit bummed at how uncomfortable the first one went. I decided to go again the following year just to see how I felt about this one. Instead of printing my resume and handing out name cards, I decided to hand out links to my online cv to these recruiters.

The second time I went, it was a lot better organized. But after talking to fellow developers, it was apparent that they were still quite clueless of what the event was and what to expect.

For networking, though, you’d probably get more out of an actual developer meetup or by participating at a local community program.

But still, not a lot of female developers were taking part. The ratio was maybe around 1 female developer every 5 attendees. The previous year it was closer to 1 in 8. This time, however, the food was better, the drinks were better. Even the Hacker X team gave a better presentation about the event.

I proceeded to invite every single person I talked to during that event to become a LinkedIn contact. A few human resources staff or employees from recruiting departments within the companies that took part reached out to me before the event. I received a couple of invites to do further testing, but that was it really.

My second Hacker X event was a lot better and felt more homey

HackerX | July 19, 2018

Both Hacker X events were centered around tech companies instead of the developers. On the first event in 2017, I felt like I had to win over the recruiting company by saying something interesting about myself. The companies didn’t really have to pitch anything in any way to attract these tech talents.

The second time was a mixed bag, but still felt a bit like a waste of time. The stress was still there. Although the event was held at a smaller kind of co-working space, networking didn’t become any easier.

So if you’re thinking about going to a Hacker X night out in your city, whether as an attendee or a recruiter, and you’re okay with meeting random developers who might or might not know what they’re doing there, then you would probably like it. As for me, I am not planning to go to a third one.