2 Unconventional Recruiting Tactics

2 Unconventional Recruiting Tactics

This is mainly written for college-aged kids into startups & tech that don’t want to be a full-time founder yet but do want to learn a ton while building a great network and working for cool people.

At the beginning of my last semester of college, I had no job lined up or immediate leads for post-grad plans.

Fast forward 2 months, I earned myself a dream job working under someone that I had admired from afar for 3 years (Julian Shapiro) and another gig working at a high-growth tech startup (Matter). I also built genuine relationships with a handful of people who were incredibly similar to me, just 5-15 yrs older.

The catch? I never sent my resume. Never got a warm intro. Never interviewed. Hell, Julian even told me “it’s more of a burden than help at this point because I have enough people.”

Yet here I am.


2 reasons.

1: I Did Permissionless Projects

I acted as a permissionless apprentice. I helped them without waiting for permission. I did it with a massive bias for action and no expectation of anything in return.

For Matter, I sent a cold email with a few suggestions to help one of their product.

The cold email

That led to a response from their CEO, whom I followed up with a few times. Those follow ups led to a call which led to a job. I was also able to build a lot of trust through my personal website.

For Julian, I worked for a few hours every day on growing his new project — DeepChecks. Each day, I’d send updates on what I had done. Within a week, I was in the team’s Slack and leading growth for DeepChecks.

Example updates

Along the way, I did 2 other permissionless projects (Acquired Podcast, Growth Unhinged Newsletter) and cold emailed 6 more people I wanted to work for. Everyone responded.

So, that’s unconventional recruiting tactic #1: Be a permissionless apprentice.

  • Find a person or company you admire and start helping them with no expectation of anything in return. Spend at least 10 quality hours before quitting.
  • If you’re a designer, re-design their product. If you’re an investor, analyze companies. If you’re an engineer, build a feature. If you’re in growth / sales, get more customers. If you’re a PM, create a roadmap for a new product. You get the idea. Do the job before you get the job.
  • Worst comes to worst, you did a project that forced you to develop a skillset you already wanted to develop.
  • Pro tip: to de-risk wasting time, you can cold email them some thoughtful ideas and let them pick what would be most useful.
  • Example Twitter DM I sent (which led to this shoutout)

    “Hey Eric, I know you’re very busy so this will only take 60 sec to read.

    I’m Luke, an engineering student from UIUC & long time student of your work (as shown above). Your thoughts on leverage have shaped how I spend my time. I’ve also shared those insights with thousands of students via writing and many others via conversation.

    Thank you. Seriously.

    As a gesture of thanks for all the value you’ve provided me, I want to help you with the priorities you don’t have time for.

    Here’s 3 ideas:

    1. Write the “first principles thinking / seeing reality” or “your brain is a computer” chapters of your Elon Musk book.
    2. Generate top of funnel interest for Deep Checks via outreach to high-signal feeder programs & communities.
    3. Outreach to top high-tech founders for Smart Friends podcast. Also collect all of your best questions & insights from the pod into a blog post.

    If any resonate, I’ll build an MVP in 24 hours. If you have other ideas that would be more effective for you, I’ll work on those.

    I totally understand if you’re too busy to respond, but even a one or two line response would make my day.

    Cheers, Luke”

For more explanation and examples, do yourself a favor and get Jack Butchers’ permissionless apprentice course. It’s $1, very short, and was my guiding doc for the whole process. Sort of a no brainer.

2: I Befriended “Future Me’s”

Now, onto the second recruiting tactic.

When recruiting, you deal with a lot of uncertainty. You take (educated) guesses on your career path and method of execution.

You’ll know if you’re executing the right way a few months later based on how many interviews or offers you receive. And you’ll know if you’re on the right career path a few years later based on your energy levels for the job.

That is a pretty damn long feedback cycle! But, I think you can speed it up.


By building genuine relationships with future versions of yourself. People who are a few steps ahead of you are the best teachers and advice-givers. They deeply understand what you need to do to get where you want to go. Because they just did it themselves!

Even more than that, it’s fun to become friends with people just like you! It’s this strange, but beautiful mix of friend / mentor / stranger / sibling. This is the main reason I do it.

To give you better idea, here’s some numbers. I reached out to 2 people each day, and after 2 months I…

  • Sent 35 emails and 25 linkedin messages
  • Got 30 responses and hopped on 22 calls (4 of which went well over an hour)
  • Left with 6-7 genuine friendships and 5-6 other genuine relationships I still stay in contact with

As a bonus, I built the muscle that made outreach feel easy. I still reach out to people up my alley as I come across them. More serendipity to come!

So, that’s unconventional recruiting tactic #2: Befriend future version’s of yourself.

  • Source people on linkedin / twitter via keywords or ask a friend for an intro up your alley
  • Do your homework and send a thoughtful message
  • LinkedIn Example

    Hey Shre, I'm Luke. A college senior who is incredibly similar to you. We both write, intro people, tinker on projects, care about EQ, & travel. I ran into your stuff last week and had to reach out. I'm exploring the "CoS for founder" route & have some questions. Lmk if you're free!

    Twitter Example

    Hey Mike, I saw your comment on my post and promptly went down a rabbit hole on what you're up to.

    I had to sit back for a second because holy shit are we similar. Now, you're a few years ahead of me (I'm a college senior). But the trends match in an eerily similar fashion.

    Namely, we both love to connect people together.

    I'm figuring out how to intertwine my love of connecting with a job post-grad. I also just love nerding out about that stuff and have a lot of awesome college students & NYC residents that you may like to meet!

    If you're free, I'd love to hop on a call with you. Or an async chat. That said, I totally understand if you're too busy.



    Email Example

    Hey Joe,

    I'm Luke Clancy, a college senior at UIUC. I spent my semesters building communities and organizations. This semester, I'm exploring how to intertwine connecting people (which I love) with a more traditional role once I graduate.

    Naturally, I'm super curious about your professional journey. Connecting people with 021, running ops at On Deck, and being a VFA fellow are all up my alley. Hell, I even worked at an upstart bagel shop at the same time you were building Tov Bagel!

    I'd love to get to know you and jam on some ideas. Plus, I think I could introduce you to some seriously talented college students.

    If you're free, let's hop on a call or have an async chat! I already have some good questions cooked up for you. That said, I totally understand if you're too busy.




  • Prep for the call and know why you’re talking to them.
  • Questions to answer when prepping
    • What questions on your mind can they specifically answer? How are you two similar? Why are you interesting or helpful to them?
  • Follow up and be helpful. The call / email exchange is just the start of (hopefully) a decades-long relationships.
  • How to do that

    Give more than you take, and never keep score. That’s how the best relationships form.

    Send them articles or websites you think they’d like. Check in. Ask thoughtful questions. Send them updates of action you took from their advice.

    You get the idea.

Hope this helps. To learn more about my personal career approach, check out this page.

To stay in touch & keep learning about what I learn, throw your email in here:

Also, scroll for more goodies :)

- Luke

More stuff that formed my approach

third door mentality book — this broke my frame for learning what it looks like to “hustle”

⭐️ How to be More Agentic — great essay about agency, the most under-talked-about-but-super-helpful trait to know about yourself

More resources for cold emailing

Tools for sourcing

General Principles

  • Be helpful. Give, give, give. Don’t wait for a response to give.
    • Figure out what they want. What will make them look good.
  • Make it ridiculously easy for someone to respond
    • Do all possible intellectual work for them first. Be specific.
    • Have a low commitment ask.
  • Keep it short. Full length should fit on a smart phone.
Make your words sing (vary sentence length)
  • Introduce yourself, but only relevant points

  • If in tech, you can be casual.
  • Show your momentum / traction
  • Say you’re a student (if you’re recruiting). It’s about momentum & stories.
  • 10 unique cold emails > 100 copy & pasted emails
  • Build the muscle. Message 2-5 ppl a day.
  • Know why you’re reaching out. What do you really want? Why?
  • Make it easy for people to help you too. Be specific