You're a decent person, and you care about others. So how do you deal with the growing number of job-seekers who show up at your door?

With kindness and grace, I hope. You may not be able to find everyone a position—which is true even in the best of times—but at the very least, you can show them respect and offer some professional guidance.

I remember my first recession as a recruiter, and the impression it made. The same candidates who wouldn't take my calls a year earlier were suddenly stacked up in my office, laid off from their salary-inflated positions.

At first, I felt a tinge of schadenfreude, that devilish pleasure we sometimes feel from seeing the people who snubbed us suffer. My, how the mighty have fallen!

Simple Acts of Service
Fortunately, my better angels prevailed, and I quickly began to feel compassion for my candidates. Of course, there was a commercial component to my change in attitude. From a practical standpoint, I realized that our fortunes were joined at the hip. Fewer jobs for them translates to fewer paychecks for me. We're all in the same boat, with mortgages to pay and kids to feed. (Or is it the other way around?)

So, what can you do to help your candidates, even if you can't find them a job? Here are some ideas:

1. Treat job-seekers with dignity. It's humiliating enough to have to ask for a job, so don't rub salt in their wounds by being brusque or sounding indifferent to their pain.

2. Thank them for showing up. "I'm grateful you contacted me," you say. "I'm afraid I can't help you at the present time, but the moment something comes up, I'll call you right away."

3. Return their calls and respond to their emails. Address each person by his or her name, even if you use a stock phone message or email reply. And please don't use an autoresponder unless you're unavailable; it can feel demeaning to someone who made a good-faith effort to contact you.

4. Be generous. Furnish a lead whenever possible. If there's an appropriate resource (yes, even another recruiter who might be helpful), then point them in the right direction.

5. Help build their skills and value in the market. Your constructive criticism and practical advice will be greatly appreciated, and may mean the difference between an offer and a rejection.

6. Put job-seeker resources online. My Web site, for example, contains 20 articles designed to help candidates improve their interviewing skills, strengthen their resumes and manage their careers.

Unemployment can quickly erode a person's self-esteem. So whatever you say or do, always strive to build your candidates' confidence. Acts of kindness not only have merit in their own right, they represent a payback to your constituency. After all, if it weren't for your candidates, you'd be unemployed, too.

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Thanks, Maren. Good luck, and please stay in touch!

Maren Hogan said:
This is a really good article. Sometimes I get raked over for being too "coachy" but it's just the right thing to do. Thanks for the practical ideas.

Your advice here drips with sage wisdom. Although I have similiar views, it was still refreshing to me - in this day of glorified rudeness and obnxious talking heads that bombard us in mass media. Empathy, sense of community and desire to sow seeds worth reaping along the journey are characteristics that seperate the cream from the rest of the crop. Regardless of what the profession, these attributes are golden for being successful on your own terms (not too mention being comfortable with the person in the mirror at the end of the day!). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Great article.
Great comments Bill. The glass is half empty attitude sees only the shrinking economy and lines of unemployed people and starts screening calls with growing pessimism. The glass is half full sees opportunity and connections and a real time to help someone or lots of people!

cheers to full glasses in coming times!

Madeline, Denver, CO
Today's unemployed candidates are tomorrow's hiring managers. That is a code I always use with every conversation.
Great article, but I would like to add one thing. Times like these should be a lesson to all. Returning phone calls to recruiters when times are good and jobs are plentiful, even if just to tell them "thanks, but not interested at this time" is the polite thing to do and to your advantage because you may need them someday, too. I am certainly more apt to help someone with whom I have built a rapport over time than someone who snubbed me until they really needed my help. That's simple human nature.
Thank you so much for this article. I am going to pass it on to all the people who are in my network as recruiters.

Great work Bill
Bill - this is a very timely bit of guidance for many in our profession. Especially those who have never experienced the recessionary side of the business cycle. I wonder how many have teased out the irony that there may well be some recruiting professionals who find themselves in need of this kind of care and feeding - we will not all come through this cycle in our current roles.

Maren - consider the people trying to dissuade you from being "coachy" and their motives. I'd wager you don't get that particular criticism from your candidates or even your clients.
I agree with Jason....

Jason Lau said:
Today's unemployed candidates are tomorrow's hiring managers. That is a code I always use with every conversation.
Such a great article, thank you.
Great article and comments ... thanks for sharing!
Bill, your insights reinforce the old saying "in tough times you find out who your friends are." Being gracious, responding with empathy, bolstering their confidence and sense of dignity-- all of these simple acts will surely galvanize your relationships and reward you in some way down the road. One thing is for sure; your candidates will not soon forget your support.

Thanks for the wisdom.

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