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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Last week on a Talent Talk Cafe chat Susan Burns brought in Gerry Crispin and in part we chatted about supporting different communities and how to do it. We learned Gerry is working on ideas to help support the Wounded Warriors group.

For years I have been doing a job search/networking presentation for non profit groups, community organizations, career fairs, college/university campuses, etc

As Recruiters, who better than us to give advice on how to do an effective job search?

These are tough times for many people and our experiences from our perspective on seeking a job are timely.

If you can, spend 60-90 minutes once a quarter in 2009 with a group talking/teaching about networking, doing a job search, writing a resume.

Whatever it is you are good at, share it.
Bill:

Of all the trainers in our industry, I've always found you to be "talking to me and my heart" more than any of the others.

This article about compassion for the candidates certainly solidifies that feeling.

We all have that "huh, all of a sudden you want to talk to me" feeling about candidates in this market, but I feel just like you do.

Thanks for articulating it so well.

Don Levine
SharpSearch
516-334-1120
don@sharpsearch.com
Bill,

This is Great Recruiting! Thank you for having Soul!

Sue
Hi Bill,

I think you hit the spot and to me this is the time when recruiters who do this job because they love it are seperated from the ones who do it for the wrong reasons....yes I am human and yes I do recognize the devilish feelings. But on the other hand I do feel that it is the mark of a real recruiter that no matter what economic times we live in we are in a people business and it starts by wanting to accomodate people even if that doesn't bring us cash. If you do that first the reward always comes in later, no matter what form . And if you do a good job now that candidate will remember you so it is also good business sense this is the only way we can create repeat business. You only need to be in the field for a number of years to see it..

Andre
Bill - Thanks for reminding all of us that we are in a customer service / consulting oriented business... Maybe we can take a little time and collectively engage in a positive value stream activitiy for our entire supply chain (prospects - candidates - clients) and put into practice what we sometimes preach.

Brian
Respect, feedback and follow through are the guidelines I follow. I'm happy to see that most people here agree with you as I have run into more than a few recruiters who actually argue that there is no time for niceness. The only candidates they care about are the ones that get hired. Even second best gets the brush off in many cases. In fact I have some very qualified friends looking for work now, VP and director level people. The have all asked me why it seems like their resumes fall into hyperspace. They will get a call from a recruiter submit their resume and then never here anything back even after numerous emails. My wife was recently looking for work (she was just hired into a Dir. level role at UCSF) and she met with some very large companies here in Silicon Valley. She was amazed at the lack of follow up. She had some great 2nd and third round interviews too! I had to connect with friends in one of the companies to prod the recruiter to give her a status update. I'm happy that I am in the company of like minded thinkers here but who is hiding in the woodwork, grumbling about another respect and compassion article being posted? Unfortunately I believe that the people who don't feel it is possible to give all the people respect all of the time are in the majority. Of course most of those recruiters were corporate and not agency. Maybe that is the difference. The sad part is that the corporate recruiter has the most to lose for their company in terms of investors, branding and the loss of a good referral source.

Have a great holiday all!

William
Thanks, William. I'm glad you enjoyed my article and took the time to write so thoughtfully. Best of luck in all you do!
Hi Bill,

Nice and informative post especially for new ones. I hope we will keep receiving such nice articles from you.

Keep rocking!
Regards,
Bill,
I wrote a blog about this subject (http://allianceqblog.qaaqblogs.com) and am glad to see that other people are concerned about ending the "black hole" of recruiting and actually talking to those people who have taken the time to apply for a job.
We've built a company around it and employers are now not just saying "no thank you" to the increasing population of unemployed but are offering to HELP them continue their job search. www.allianceq.com

Thanks for the "spirit" of kindness...
Good article. It's simply the right thing to do. One of the things we tell our clients is that we treat candidates in such a way that reflects well on the client - in good times and bad. In our business, we have to say "no" to candidates many more times than we get to say "yes!". Doing that well is a best practice.
Outstanding. There are ways to differentiate between people who go through the motions in whatever job or career they have chosen and those who truly reflect a world-class approach to being the best at what they do. I'm a fan of professionals who take responsibility for creating a positive experience for ALL the stakeholders in their business. Bill has offered specifics any recruiter can use to truly make a difference to the most overlooked and ignored "cog in the recruiting wheel"
I want to thank everyone who enjoyed my article regarding compassion for unemployed candidates.

I've found that recruiters' attitudes towards candidates form a sort of bell curve. At one extreme, there are those who are so focused on their own achievement goals to have empathy for others. And at the other, there are recruiters who feel it's their sole duty to help the less fortunate.

Most of us can be found somewhere in the middle.

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