I got laid off in December. It's a pretty common refrain these days. I'd been the Manager of Recruiting for a Federal Systems Integrator for three and half years and in the space of a brief meeting that tenure was brought to a close. The company had worked through some challenges during my time there, but we had begun to win new business and add exceptional talent. I was proud of the work I had done and was completely committed to the ongoing success of the firm. I did not see it coming. As a result of a banking change the company was going to be cash-poor for a period of time and had to make significant overhead cuts immediately; I and a number of others were let go. To his credit, the president of the firm handled the situation very graciously and I continue to wish them great success in all of their efforts.
In the blink of an eye I had to process everything that had happened and how I was going to proceed. No matter the circumstances, losing a job is a blow to the ego. Did I do something wrong? Why was I not of more value to the company? That visceral reaction is quickly replaced by more important questions. What do I now? How can I protect my family financially? How quickly can I find another job?
I was fortunate in many respects. I reached out to countless friends and colleagues and that web of connection was extraordinary in its reaction. Through leads and connections made through that web, along with my own efforts at identifying a position, I was quickly interviewing and hired into my current role within three weeks. During the course of that three weeks, however, I was moved from my hiring chair into the candidate chair and it was not the most comfortable fit. After all my years sourcing and vetting candidates it difficult to once again have to sell myself and adhere to all the job hunting and interview advice I'd given to others. I engaged with some excellent recruiters and hiring managers, but also experienced some who do our industry no service. I worked with people who were responsive and knowledgable, but also some who were clearly ill-suited for the work. I spent 15 minutes with one recruiter outlining my agency recruiting background only to receive an email, two weeks later, indicating I would not be moving forward to an in-person interview because I lacked agency experience. Really?
My unemployment was blessedly brief, but the experience reminded me of some obvious truths. We are not working with a commodity like cars or furniture, we are working with people. These people have families and responsibilities and their job search may be undesired. Their self-image may have taken a blow. Even if their search is not the result of a layoff the interview process can be tedious and frustrating. We owe it to those we recruit to be honest, sincere, empathetic, knowledgable, and professional. Even if someone isn't right for a job we owe it to them to close the loop, to let them know why it wasn't a fit, and to offer suggestions and encouragement for their search. In the rush to fill positions we can sometimes forget how personally draining a job search can be and how uncomfortable the person in the candidate chair may be. I sat in that chair and I didn't like it much. I owe it to candidates and the recruiting community at large not to forget that.