I hate hearing those words because i know someone is going through almost the worst life crisis in the world second only to the loss of family member or a life threatening disease or injury. ( Oh Yuck, this is going to take time, energy, i'm busy, i hate this for both of us.)

As recruiters, i believe we spend our days working with people in crisis so we become "armchair psychologists" whether we are trained to do it or not.  Even a good job change to a better job or to make a move to a new city involves a lot of life changing decisions and the well being normally of several other people, but the worst is the loss of a job.  The worst of the worst is when it happens with no warning.

A person just lost the ability to pay their bills, keep their kids in school, provide medical coverage for themselves and their family and last but certainly not least a big part of their self esteem or in some cases their reason to be.  Shock, panic, fear, anger, depression, resentment to name just a few are about to set in across my desk.  How to handle it?

My take is meet it head on.  When i get that call, my response is, "get to my office right now and let's get a game plan."  "If you have not yet told your spouse, kids, significant other or your mother, let's talk and then you can handle that one."  My first words when they come through the door and crash in a chair are, "First my friend, i have been a recruiter for several decades, i have never had a candidate or known anyone in all this time who died in a refrigerator box under a bridge whether i helped them find a job or not."  "So dont' think for one minute you are going to break my record, now tell me what happened and how you feel about what you were told as to the reasons you were terminated and let's work through some of this."  My first objective is to help them get the "reason" down to what it will eventually need to be when they start interviewing.  That may take some time because it's like asking someone why they got a divorce.  When the wound is fresh they start babbling with something like...well...back in 1994 we had a fight about the bitch squeezing the toothpaste out of the middle of the tube and then, and then.  I let that run until they are out of breath, then we talk a bit and start planning what is going to happen in the next day or week or whatever time it takes.

My first objective is to be a sounding board, a support, a lifeline, a resource whatever you want to call it with the first session enabling the person to go home, deliver the news in the best way possible, followed with, "and i have already talked to a recruiter about finding a new job."  Everybody feels better because everybody is thinking, "what are we going to do".  A resource has already been offered up, action taken, everybody can breath out and hash through what needs to be hashed through.  Nobody is going to sleep a lot that night.

In the following days we work through the resume, things to do, things not to do.  I don't send a candidate on a job interview for at least 10 days to two weeks after a termination ,in most cases ,because they are not ready emotionally to interview well.  Most people want to jump right out there and have another job tomorrow thinking they have to have one..now.  They may, but they won't if they have to interview with someone they do not know in the first tidal wave after a termination.

Sometimes i have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing what i know about the job market for their skill set but that is some of the knowledge that i keep to myself for the most part in the initial stages of helping a person get through a termination and launched in a new spot.

Some of you are reading this thinking, "I am a recruiter, i don't have time to be a babysitter or a counselor.  Very true, but if you have ever been on the other side of the desk ,cut adrift with no job, you will always remember the person who took a few minutes when you didn't know whether to commit suicide or go bowling.

Some of those are some of my best clients today and we laugh now because i told them i knew they didn't know whether to scream, go blind or eat an apple but they were not going to mess up my record and end up in a refrigerator box under a bridge.

Tis the season..for a lot of year end/first of the year changes that result in somebody being pushed out the door.  Spend a few extra minutes, send an email everyday checking in to let someone know you haven't forgotten, send a suggestion or two of where to look, offer the use of a back office if you have one or a place to take a breath before an interview if there is a long drive to an interview, critique a resume, refer to other recruiters who may be more atuned to their field, suggest how to contact creditors if there is a financial problem looming or other resources, encourage physical exercise, volunteer work. 

Part of what we do is to help people in transition even if we don't get paid for the transition.  It will make a better recruiter of you in the long run and unless you own your own show...there but for the grace of ,go every damn one of us.

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I hate these calls, and always try to do something for people that are in this position. Thanks for the post about the human side of it all, THIS is what candidate experience is about.

I think when i start rolling fast and hard the powers that be send some my way to remind me that candidates are people and not digits or resumes.  I have had three this week, i'm drained.  I hope i made a difference but i sure need something with a lime in it.  My mantra is:  "Dont get too tired, too hungry or too lonely, you will find another job and you will be glad someday that this happened.  Today it just sucks buttermilk."

Sandra, good post my friend.

Some people are either are too macho or believe in the short term bottom line and may not recognize the value of what you just said. That's what makes a "Rock Star" in my mind..


Such a nice post.  I received a call from a doctors wife, begging me to get her out of her current location (of 6 years).  She said it was killing her family and her husband.  It took hours, days to get them placed...as you know physician placement is a long cycle.  Sandra your customer service is exemplary and matches your heart/passion.

Great blog Sandra!

Awesome post Sandra! 

Thanks all, I think one of the things that make these situations so difficult is when someone is terminated and instead of being honestly told why, they are given some goofy trumped up reason by their employer to protect the company in some way.

I had one last week who was told that he was being terminated because he failed to verify one of 800 orders he had approved since the first of Nov. He was dumbfounded and asked if that made any sense to me. No it didn't. As we talked he indicated that he had taken the job a year and a half ago at a paycut because the company had assured him they would give him the flexibility to finish his degree. Six months later he was written up for not spending enough time in the field with his reps. In Dec. he had notified his supervisor that his last final before graduation had been scheduled for the same time as a phone conference. He was told he would have to reschedule his final because he had been late to a meeting in Sept. he had taken all classes either at night or online except this one that was only offered on campus so had come in early, taken a late lunch and worked late to offset the time for this class. His supervisor had been supportive of him finishing his degree until it came to the final. When he advised his supervisor that he could not reschedule his final, the boss left it that he could not miss the phone conference.

The week before the final and the phone conference HR showed up, called him in and told him since he had been written up once a year ago, had been late to a meeting and had failed to verify an order in Nov. he was being terminated. He was in shock, mad, thought it was a crock and he had been "done wrong".

Then I asked the question, "Were you planning on looking for a new job when you finished your degree?". He looked funny for a moment and said, " absolutely, the only reason I took this job was because they promised me the flexibility to finish school, but I built a great sales team and produced better numbers than they have ever had,"

We both sat quietly for a long minute. He looked up and said, " this wasn't about failure to verify an order, they knew I was going to be looking, but why would they try to sabatoge my last final?"

Who knows, my friend, but most companies get testy when they know they have an employee who really doesn't want to be there. I would suspect that if you think about it, you probably sent that message in several subtle ways over a period of time. There might have been a better way they could have handled it such as simply having a discussion with you and giving you the opportunity to resign, give enough notice to help them transition your position, but would you have done that?

He hesitated, smiled and said, " no, probably not."

Probably errors on both sides of this situation. That happens in the business of people and jobs but I think we got to what he needs to say to a prospective employer to accept part of the responsibility for his situation. The company might have been more upfront rather than trying to make it a firing for cause so they could avoid an unemployment claim. Maybe not, they sign the front of the check and it's a right to work state.

He did get unemployment benefits because it was determined that there was no triggering event, the company went back to one error two months ago so the termination was not related to job performance.

He will be able to be honest about the reason he took the job, was planning on looking when he finished his degree. His employer knew it and gave him full time to look for his next success.
Most potential new employers will understand both sides of this situation.

Digging for reasons and being abel to explain them is what we do or what we should be able to do..I think. Helping a candidate be able to explain a less than optimum situation is a vital service our profession can perform.

I read a lot on here, but don't post much.  This put a smile on my face.  Thumbs up Sandra.

Thanks John.  What is the worst firing situation you have ever worked with?


The firings that are gut-wrenching to watch are the long-time business and family friends nearing the end of their career.  More specifically, individuals that need one solid job where they can have fun, make an impact and retire gracefully from.  This economy has taken such a drastic toll on retirement funds for many people. 

I've been in the search business with my father for 20 years (I'm 44, my father is 69).  Unfortunately I'm seeing this happen more frequently with friends and business contacts in the 60-69 age bracket.  Very sad indeed!

Being a good listener, offering suggestions and making sure common sense prevails is an honor and a perk of our business.  I'm very happy to be able to do this for someone in need.

- John

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