A reader writes:
A Big 5 recruiter I met at a career expo asked me out on a date.
We met at a career expo in New York. I was looking for a job and networking, he was there as a speaker. He approached me 3 times throughout the daylong conference, once to say hello, the next to say we should talk more, and then the third to tell me I was beautiful, that I made a memorable impression, and asked if he could take me out to lunch. I was caught way off guard, was in super networking mode and said "sure," not wanting to say no because I didn't want to eliminate the possibility of a business/networking meeting.
I'm feeling it was inappropriate and that he took advantage. Bottom line though is that he works at a Big 5 consulting firm and I need a job.
I'm not even sure what question to ask here because I have so many. I guess the most important would be:
1) How do I approach him via email to say that I would like to meet to discuss potential opportunities at his firm? Do I pretend as if he never asked me out? What if he brings it up? How do I address it?
Or should I be asking 2) Should I email him to meet and discuss professional opportunities?
or 3) I'm feeling it was highly inappropriate for him to be representing his company in such a way. Should I write the company a letter?
Disclaimer: It's possible there's more to this story than what's here, but I can only answer it based on the details presented. But I have a feeling it's going to be controversial.
In my opinion, from what you've said, it sounds like this guy wasn't approaching you as a professional in a networking way, but rather was simply asking you out on a date -- like any other guy who might approach you in the course of your day who you don't work with. He just happened to meet you at a career expo.
He doesn't seem to have mixed his messages at all, such as combining romantic interest with business overtures or insinuations of professional help. It sounds like he was pretty clearly making a social overture only.
Now, is a career expo the wisest place to do this? No, because most people there are in a business mindset -- which, as your experience clearly demonstrates, can lead to confusion and crossed signals. He can think you clearly understand he's asking you on a date, and you can think that because of the venue in which it occurred, there's a networking possibility.
But aside from not choosing his venue very cautiously, the fact remains that this guy wasn't approaching you for professional reasons and he didn't pretend to be. Assuming that he approached you for a date and just a date -- not a business meeting -- you should handle him like you'd handle any other guy who approached you for a date. If you're interested in getting to know him socially, go. If you're not, decline.
You should not go out with him just in the hopes that you can spin his romantic interest into a professional opening for you, because that's kind of gross and unfair. However, you could be straightforward with him about the nature of your interest -- in other words, tell him candidly that you're not interested in a date but that you're really interested in his firm and would love to talk to him about business. (Of course, be aware that he may tell you he's fine with that when he really just intends to try to persuade you to change the nature of your interest.)
But without that conversation to get aligned on terms, you would be naive to accept his invitation in the hopes of keeping it strictly business, because that's not the invitation he has extended you. If you want to try to network with him, you can invite him to do so. But the invitation he's issued isn't for networking.
And no, you should not report him to his employer. Unless he was mixing business with a come-on, this is none of his employer's business, and it doesn't sound like he was. He's not a coworker or your manager, he wasn't interviewing you, he wasn't approaching you about business, and it doesn't sound like he exploited his job to influence you. He's just a guy coming on to a woman, like a million other guys every day.
What do others think? I'm bracing for someone to say that because he was a speaker at a career expo, he was obligated to be in "all business" mode, but in my experience, those events often have a substantial social component to them.