Calling All Recruiters - Humaneness For the Under and Unemployed

A couple weeks ago I started attending a local jobs networking group at a church near my home in Frisco.  I am not sure why I felt compelled to show up, but I wanted to go see what it was all about.  I have to be honest, I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made for my own career.


It was weird, walking in to a room of people that are under or un-employed when not only do I have a job, I have a job helping other people get jobs.  The group didn't make me feel out of place but I could tell they were suspicious about my attendance.  I represented the person who they were emailing, calling, linking into.  I also represented in many ways a lot of no's, rejection emails, and unreturned phone calls.  Here are the reasons I think these meetings are going to prove to be a great thing for me personally and in my career.

  1. In talking to these people I was taken back to some of my earliest days as a TPR and why I was better than most of my competition; I cared.  I can remember the calls with the people who were desperate for work, the people who needed help, the people who needed a voice.  I can remember placing a guy who had been out of work for 2 years.  I can remember his wife crying when I called to give her the good news.  I can remember the pride on his face when we walked with him to his first day of work.  He still has that job, has been promoted once, and is still one of my best success stories in recruiting.  Do you remember your best success story?  I hope it was more than the biggest placement fee you earned or the best sale you made.
  2. Each of these people is more than the resume they use to represent themselves in their job searches.  They are people.  Each one is someones mom, dad, uncle, brother, friend, and neighbor.  Each of these people have mortgages, rent, car payments, and dinner to worry about.  Each of them is a person.  Have you lost site of who you are talking to on the other end of the phone?  Do you see resumes instead of faces?
  3. These people want to work, and not just because they want a paycheck.  Most of the folks in my group were really good at what they did, and that makes it that much harder on them.   I have met a call center manager, an aviation stress test engineer, an M/E with 33 years of experience, a controller, a senior buyer, and a strategic planner.  I have met a helpdesk engineer, a mechanic, a financial planner, collections specialist, and a programmer.  While their skills haven't matched the jobs they have applied to recently, all of them are skilled.  Do you look for the skills in all the people you talk to?  Do you counsel the folks that might have an uphill battle or do you walk away?
  4. What if it were me?  What if I were sitting there as a job seeker?  I would feel lucky to have a network of people all sharing in an experience that an outsider like myself can't fully understand.  I would feel blessed to have a group so committed to people "landing" their favorite times are donuts and saying goodbye to people that don't need the meetings anymore.  This group is self moderated by volunteers who keep up to date with job boards, movers and shakers in the industry, and members of the group.  They schedule speakers, industry leading speakers in social media, resume writing, career coaching, and interviewing.  In fact, some them know LinkedIn better than I do!  

So what is my point?  Simple! Please take a step back and remember these are people we are talking to.  Human beings.  Maybe it was you some day, maybe it was a family member, or maybe it is your neighbor.  Not everyone we speak to is in this boat, but 10% of Americans, maybe more, are.  Do you take the time on that 10% to help or do you move on?  Many of you have a voice, an influence, the power to help.  You all are experts at getting people jobs.  Help people get jobs.  Take a chance on a resume you may have normally passed over and see what you find.  Share your knowledge with the people who need it.  You have he power to rebuild self esteem, you have the power to teach, you have the power to champion people, you have the power to be humane to people who need it.


If you want to help my group, please share your own tips, tricks, and best practices that I can give to them.  Share with them heart warming stories of success that can inspire them to keep going.  Share with them your own humaneness in a tough time.  Share them with a comment, share them with an email to me, or come to the group and present if you are in the DFW area.  Please share with my group, and share with your networks as well.  

Views: 898

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on September 2, 2011 at 10:27am

Nice post, Kirby.  I am an advertising recruiter in New York.  I know all the other competitors in my field.  Right now, I estimate advertising unemployment to be over 15%.  And, like the federal unemployment situation, many former advertising people have simply given up and taken either other jobs or some kind of menial work to get by until the advertising business improves. 


But in the meantime, I see candidates who tell me all kinds of horrendous stories about my competitors who insult or belittle their candidates.  I hear the stories and I cannot believe them.  In one case a well known recruiter saw someone who had worked for some minor ad agencies and never worked on a major national brand name account. The recruiter said to this guy, "Why should I help you?  You have third world credentials."  Ouch.  It was so unnecessary.  I have always tried to build up my candidates and make them feel good about themselves, even if I don't particularly care for them and know I cannot send them out. 


Recruiters have a bad enough reputation.  Your attitude is refreshing and wonderful.  Keep it up.  It helps us all.

Comment by Suresh on September 2, 2011 at 10:32am
Good post.
Comment by Christopher Perez on September 2, 2011 at 1:15pm
Kirby, magnificent post! There are a lot of nuts and bolts to the recruiting process, but a philosophy like yours is what makes it a profession and even a calling. Kudos to you and the uplifting energy and empathy that you bring to the people you are helping.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 2, 2011 at 3:39pm

Please, please, please Kirby, tell your group and anyone else who will listen.  Don't tell older candidates who are unemployed to shorten their resumes and leave the dates of their education off.  The minute an employer sees the education without dates they redflag the resume as someone who is so worried about their age that they have put out a bogus resume.  It doesn't fool anybody and my experience is that it is detrimental to the candidate.  If they do get an interview with that kind of resume they have to walk through the door, fill out an application that will ask for dates or an employer is going to take one look at them and know that they are not 40 something they are 60 something.  It is irritation to anyone that they brought a candidate in thinking they were one thing and got hit in the face that they were something else.


I have been successful placing older candidates with resumes that reflect their whole career /dates of education.   If an employer knows how old they are and invites them in there is a much better chance they will be considered for a job than if they get in the door under false pretenses.  One employer mentioned that he has no problem considering older candidates but he does have a problem considering candidates who are not proud enough of their background and experience that they are willing to hide it to try and trick him into interviewing them.

Comment by Dr Simon Harding on September 2, 2011 at 3:41pm
Good post !
Comment by Kirby Cole on September 2, 2011 at 3:46pm

Thanks for all the messages!  


Sandra - I think you hit on a major topic in recruiting right now.  I see resumes edited like that all the time and I have to be honest I am not sure what to think.  I have heard from folks on both side of the fence on this issue but think I lean toward your side of the conversation.  Thanks for the advice!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 2, 2011 at 4:12pm

I ran into it yesterday.  Got a new position in, did an internal search and picked up what looked like a good candidate.  It was an 09 resume so i called the candidate to update.  As we started to talk he said, "i need to be totally honest with you, i am not a young person, in fact i am in my late 60's."  "A recruiter told me to leave off my dates of education and half of my career."  "Now i am so worried about doing that if i get an interview i go in aplogizing and telling people that i need to be totally honest with them as i feel i have not been with that resume."


Well wonderful.  The job i called him about is physically demanding, shift work and i know that my client is probably not going to hire him.  They have and  do hire people in their mid to late 50's but not folks in their late 60's.  Now i feel badly that i gave him some hope by calling him which i would not have done if i had been privey to a real resume.  For an office type job it would not have made any difference but this one, yes it probably makes a big difference.  Now what, do i not submit him or do i submit with full disclosure and put my client in the position of turning him down because they know the job might kill him or make him sick because of his age.  Let's be real, even those of us who are in perfect health in our late 60's can't do what we did even in our 50's or we don't want to unless we are desperate.

So now all three of us are in an uncomfortable spot.  It would not have happened if the resume had been honest.

Comment by lisa rokusek on September 3, 2011 at 11:21am

Thanks for being a good guy, Kirby.


One reason I went out on my own is to get to do some work with folks I can't place personally. I figure that is one way I can give back - help folks looking for work by donating my expertise.  This post is one iteration of an article I wrote.  I share it with groups about job hunting and also with candidates I can't personally place.  It is a little bit dated but still helpful, I think.


Recruiters have a unique stance on how the employment process works.  We should share the knowledge and those skills we hone daily. What is life for if we can't make things a little easier for each other?  

Comment by Valentino Martinez on September 4, 2011 at 1:02pm


Good and necessary post--and good to hear about meaningful recommendations (Sandra's) and efforts (Lisa's) to be of assistance to the "Under and Unemployed".

Having cut me teeth working in minority community based organizations early in my career--and as I continue working with them today--I have found the choice to be part of the solution, in such matters and challenges, is its own reward.

Comment by Eric R. Derby on September 7, 2011 at 12:43pm

I am a staffing consultant working primarily with smaller technology companies. In the past year about 2/3 of the people that I have found for these companies are people there were unemployed at the time the job offers went out.  With small companies is it especially important that the employees are a good fit, as they will have a bigger impact on the survival of the company.

My suggestions:

1) For other recruiters.  Focus on the skills and abilities of the candidates.  Employed or unemployed does not matter, neither does age, sex, ethnicity, etc.  The real question: Can the person do the job well?   And on the other side: focus on finding out what skills and abilities the client needs, not what they think they need.  If the client company is discriminatory against certain candidates, dump the client.  There are enough good companies out there that care about people that you can still do well.  And your candidates will respect you for only working for good companies.

1a) Side note: I actually find that unemployed candidates are sometimes better.  They have been through hard times, and they will work hard to be successful and make their company successful.  They often have less ego.

2) For candidates: Do not pretend that you can look for a job full-time.  Unless you have worked in recruiting, you do not have the skill set and you will burn yourself out.  Pace yourself, and take care of yourself.  Look for companies that have good work environments and that treat their people well.  Ask the people on your network about what companies are good.  Look for companies that are smaller, as they will (often) be more concerned with getting the right person than (imho useless) discrimination.

2a) Side notes:  I have been laid off twice and fired once.  I have been there.  I understand the difficulties. There is always a reason.  It may take you years to understand it, but eventually it will make sense.  There are gifts to be found via unemployment.  Your job is to find them and apply them.

There is always so much more to write... but I need to get back to work!  I have bills to pay.  :)


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