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 for the article Bill, I am currently dealing with many candidates that are in the same boat as the candidates that you mentioned during your first recession as a Recruiter. Many of them that never responded to me or were looking for much more money then my clients were allowing us to seems as if there is a big pendulum that swings back and forth, based on the economy, to where the candidates looking for work have the upper hand in negotiations and where the clients have the upper hand when it comes to opportunities and rates, although mabye saying upper hand when times are tight is not a good analogy. I like it when the pendulum is in the middle but that rarely seems to happen......

I have been involved in two major economic crisis in my 27 year career. The first was when I was in Houston during the big oil crunch of the early to mid 80's and the second was in the DC area with the Dot Com and Telecom bust during the early parts of this century (I love saying that). In each case I took the time to return phone calls, meet with candidates, and was free with leads and advice. The payback has been tremendous. Many of those people have moved on to C-Level and Senior Decision making roles and are to this day a valuable part of a revenue producing network.
Good One! Thanks for the Article Bill !
Great article. I would like to add that I think we as recruiters, tend to know a lot more about finding new positions than your average Joe. We can’t help everyone, and educating our candidates on how to find opportunities outside of job boards and basic networking can go a long way during times like these.
Bill - wish I'd been your colleague in the last recession. People in the agency I worked for at that time, from the owner on down, were convinced that all these candidates were rejects and losers, deserving of contempt. I was consistently lectured for being a 'social worker' because I took these people seriously. And referring them to a networking group risked a pink slip of my own, never mind another recruiter. Then, as now, good people get laid off for no fault of their own.

I've moved on, and become successful doing exactly what you recommend. What goes around, comes around. Even though I couldn't help most of them at the time, they remember me and were extremely cooperative when the good times rolled again.

Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
A deceased acquaintance of mine used to say..."It's nice to be nice". We so often forget to be gracious during our hustle and bustle. I know that if I am having a bugger of a day, I have to pause to take a breath before I answer someone. Generally that person has not a clue of the kind of day I've had. So, to take it out on them is really unfair. I am working on this.

I also look at how hard the crisis is hitting a given person. I remember when not having a job simply meant putting the word out and suddenly I was employed again. For some people unemployment means, they've lost their home, or are being evicted, or cannot feed their families, no healthcare etc. It's not just a few people of a lower's the middle class and it's creeping to the upper class as we speak.

My favorite book says: "A soft answer turns away wrath"... wise counsel in these turbulent times.
Good food for thought. I generally do this regardless of the economy, but of course as Bill says, it's more important now than ever.

I've always gotten a lot of complaints from candidates about other recruiters who aren't responsive when things dry up, or who don't follow-up with someone regardless of a client outcome. I've never wanted to be "that recruiter." I've also noticed those types of recruiters don't tend to make it or stay in one place very long.

Appropriate coaching (I never go overboard there and stay high level), advice and treating candidates as your customers can never, ever go wrong for you.
Thank you for the breath of fresh air. I hear so many horror stories about other recruiters, the way they treat candidates, and the shyte they pull. I have always felt lucky because it will be eaiser for me to keep their business once I get it. I know I did not invent the wheel and I am not that special, except to my wife and children.

It is nice to know that there are others that share the view of compassion. Your thoughts reassure that I am on the right track and can continue to help candidates even if I cannot get them a job just yet.
Bill, great article. A down market is a good time to connect with people. Just offering a few "good lucks" or tips on networking, resume format's that sort of thing will pay big dividends when the market turns. I had a client that I had to "fire" because of his failure to provide timely feedback to me call me when his company shut down. I rresponded quickly to his calls, helped him evaluate his options, and never mentioned our prior business issue. When he "landed" I got all his business.

Also, I still read "Shut Up and Make More Deals" once a year! A great book.

Rich Williams
Great article Bill ........ stay in touch
A great comment Bill on how to treat others- after all this is a people business. When times get better candidates and clients remember who was there for them in good times and bad. It's a good suggestion for the average recruiter who wants to differentiate themselves and take themselves to the next level that. If you treat candidates with the "thanks for applying, don't call us we'll call you" attitude you are by your very nature a short term thinker.
I wholeheartedly agree with you. With 20 years in the industry, I have learned that today's clients can become my future candidate AND the reverse is also very true. Many people I have placed have become hiring managers. They remember me and come to me for their hiring needs because they know I am not just another recruiter and they were never a number. With that in mind, I've kept my same cell number, even if I have changed positions and employers so my network can continue to find me. We are each other's lifeline. We (candidates, clients and recruiters) need each other as the lifecycle doesn't work with one of these elements missing.

You have inspired me to look into how I can provide additional resources like you have done, providing job seeker resources on line. Great idea.

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