Do You "Use" User Groups or Do They "Use" You?

Scott Gordon

"Recruiters are all the same. They ask to sponsor our group only to troll around and then leave. You guys [recruiters] just show up, bring the pizza and drinks, scatter your cards around, make fun of the geeks (don’t think we don’t hear you…we do), and leave after 15 minutes because you don’t understand what the presenter is talking about." –A user group member I spoke to late last year

User groups tend to be a group of individuals that specialize in a particular area that meet once a month to listen to a subject matter expert speak. Most times, these groups are sponsored by recruiting firms.

I hated attending user groups.

I had the opinion that user groups are painfully boring and typically full of even more painfully boring people. And my feelings showed. I was "that guy" the user group member mentioned. I tried to sponsor as many groups as I could and showed up in a shirt and tie with pizza and drinks in tow. My lame attempts to network were quickly shut down because everyone knew what I was there to do. It’s no secret that I was seen as the "meal ticket" for the group so that I could possibly become a "sponsor" for a short term. Meaning I'd offer money, and in return they’d put my logo on their Web site. I was just used. Used for pizza and cash, and everyone knew it…including me.

I recently polled over 2,000 of my Twitter followers and below are the results and comments made about the poll.

What is the main purpose of a recruiter or recruiting agency attending a user group? (Targeted at user group members–not recruiters.)

  • Sponsorship ($$, food, drinks, etc.): 21percent
  • To provide speakers: 0 percent
  • Job leads: 44 percent
  • To provide meeting space: 2 percent
  • To provide information on current market conditions: 25 percent
  • To assist in the marketing of the group to others: 2 percent
  • Not much.just bring the pizza and leave: 6 percent


"Good developers can get a new job at will. A recruiter sponsoring a user group is there to find lazy employers that are hiring."

"A recruiter’s role is to educate. Providing knowledge to those in need builds trust and value, which will promote the recruiter's company."

"Recruiters are there for the purpose of collecting names or fishing for candidates."

"Getting more clued-up recruiters is a boost for both."

The underlying and typically unspoken thoughts are those mentioned by the user group member at the beginning of the article, but the poll results show what’s actually expected. Hearing the truth was like a gut punch and motivated me to change that perception.

Use the user group instead of letting it use you by:

  • Select two groups (maximum) to attend per month
  • Sponsor each group (provide refreshments, office space, offer to help with mailings, marketing, etc.)
  • Learn!–You’d be surprised what you might pick up if you listened to what the speaker has to say. It also adds to your credibility if you are able to speak about that particular subject in detail during interviews, etc.
  • This is a tough one–leave your business cards at the office.
  • Relax and enjoy yourself. Stop scanning the room for your next victim. In due time, they’ll come to you. Recruiting is a long sales cycle. An eight second "Hello my name is…" isn’t going to net you a pile of employees.

"Uhhh…sure, you can come to the user group, but the last guy who came brought pamphlets and put them on everyone’s chair and had more business cards than he had sense. It really bothered us and made us uncomfortable. We come here to learn and relax…not to be pressured." –The president of a local user group I’d phoned for permission to attend their next meeting

I was elected as an officer of this same group 10 months later. I never carried a card to a user group again.