How to get a free lunch and a new job


You're going to have lunch anyway. Why not have it with someone who might want to give you a job?

That's the idea behind Lunchcruit, a startup that matches job seekers with hiring managers for zero-commitment, no pressure lunches. The idea is that people get to know each other in a way that's less structured than the typical interview.

"You're not in a conference room where people grill you with questions," said Alex, 28, a web developer who recently had lunch with the team at Bluecore, a marketing startup. (CNNMoney is declining to use Alex's last name because he is currently employed.)

Instead of a conference room, Alex was in the Bluecore cafeteria with its senior management, and they ate alongside the other employees. Alex fielded some typical interview questions ("Tell us about yourself") and some more surprising ones ("What would I learn about you by looking at your browser history?").

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This was Alex's first time going through Lunchcruit, and it was Bluecore's too.

Lunchcruit is three months old, and 67 companies have signed up so far. Among them: Quirky, Nerdwallet and Ticketmaster. It's available in eight cities.

While the company has arranged 2,000 lunches, there have been only a dozen hires. But co-founder William Hsu is optimistic those numbers will increase. "The recruiting cycle can take longer so we might not know about it for a few months," Hsu said.

The service is free for job seekers, and businesses pay to join. (They also pay for lunch.) A membership for a business starts at $199 a month and goes up to $1,000. The entry-level plan promises 20 leads a month, and the more expensive plan is for bigger companies that want more leads in multiple locations. Those businesses get a dedicated account manager who works with them to maximize the company's exposure to candidates.

In a world with dozens of job hunting platforms and myriad ways to apply for a job, Hsu said it's the personal connection that's missing from traditional recruitment. Nobody wants to think their resume has been submitted into a black hole, though it can often feel like that.

He also said his company attracts a different type of job-seeker.

"We're finding that people who are more mid- or senior-level are more interested in grabbing lunch at another company during their lunch breaks, compared to engaging in a traditional job board or working with a recruiter," Hsu said. They are passive job seekers, he said, and are not explicitly seeking out recruiters.

At Bluecore, when a Lunchcruit job seeker comes in for an interview, the company, which has about 40 employees, commits a lot of time. The first interview can last five to six hours and will include time with three to four people.

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Screen someone over lunch, said Ryan Luckin, Bluecore's head of marketing, and it's an easier decision if it's worth it to invest that next chunk of time.

As a startup, the company is open to experimenting to find the best way to find the best talent. "We will try everything," Luckin said.

During the lunch, Alex faltered at one point and it wasn't clear what he meant by what he was saying. Afterward, he said he had come into the meeting without preparing like he would for a formal interview. "In hindsight I'd prepare myself as if I were to go into the traditional interview, but come in with more of an open mind," he said.

And, while he did have a sandwich and a salad in front of him, he didn't end up eating any of his lunch.

"I'm not really just here for the food," he said.

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