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.