How I Celebrated My Birthday (It's not what you think)

You’ve probably already heard (because I am a shameless birthday self-promoter) that I recently turned 39. THIRTY-NINE. I remember when that was old. Birthday celebrations at 39 are a bit different. No more hoping for the latest toy or new clothes, wondering who’s going to show up to my party. Now all I really want is some good wine and someone else to make dinner. I did something else June 6, and while it wasn’t necessarily a “gift”, I hope that it gave something valuable to others.

I sat on an Employer Panel.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? But to the 70 unemployed participants, it was. At another stage in my career I worked for the state employment office, known as WorkSource. I saw firsthand the cringe-worthy advice dispensed to job seekers and recognized from a new angle the awful disconnect between candidates and employers. Coming back to recruiting after my stint in government, this time as a corporate recruiter, I started hearing a lot about the candidate experience. All kinds of experts and thought leaders making noise about our ATSs, spammarific emails and inmails, and lack of follow through. While there are many ways for the process to fall apart, one of the major issues is simply this – employers and candidates are not talking to each other. They don’t know what we want and we’re not always at good at telling them.

I realize this may be more of a corporate recruiting issue, but stay with me TPRs. We as recruiters have our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in our company, or client companies. We know how the ATS works (no, there are not gremlins in the machine keeping resumes out of my inbox). We know our hiring manager quirks. We know what resume formats work for which clients. We also know, contrary to popular belief, that recruiters and hiring managers are REAL PEOPLE who respond to certain stimuli. Why are we not telling job seekers?

That was the point of this panel. They are hosted at area WorkSource offices (my previous employer). I attend these probably once a quarter or so, and I’m always amazed at the response. Job seekers are genuinely grateful that someone took the time to answer their questions and offer some insight into the recruiting process. The absolute highlight of the day came at the very end once most of the job seekers left. The facilitator came up to me and said “you just changed the perception these people had of Microsoft.” What a lovely side effect. All I was trying to accomplish was to shed a little light on what happens once you hit “submit” on an application. I tried to give some direction on the best way to get noticed. I shared my opinion on LinkedIn profiles and networking efforts. In doing so, I humanized my employer.

Maybe you don’t care about your employment brand. Worse, maybe you think your employment brand is improved by your sassy tweets or automated referral systems (yeah I went there!). You might have the coolest, flashiest careers page out there with the best looking stock photography models masquerading as developers, receptionists, and accountants for your company. Hey, my company has a slick careers page and I think we do social media pretty well. As for me? I’ll keep hitting the street and talking to people where they are. In case you’re wondering, I found four candidates at this event that I will be screening for some of my open positions – candidates who didn’t apply previously because they feared the “black hole”. Now I not only have these new candidates in my pipeline, but all the other folks I met (and their networks) who are possibly qualified for other areas of Microsoft AND who will be telling their friends about the real live human recruiter they met from a big, seemingly unapproachable company. I heard from the facilitator that my local talent competitors can’t be bothered with these types of events.


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Comment by Will Thomson on June 9, 2013 at 11:09pm

39 years young- not really a way to spend your birthday. :)  Cool story Amy.  It feels good when you can impact others in any way.  For candidates, it does feel like a black hole sometimes and when you can shed light on how you can help others navigate through it.  It is great that you were able to humanize the process!

Comment by Amber on June 10, 2013 at 12:17pm

As someone who will be celebrating her 8th "39th birthday" this year, believe me things start changing rapidly! (Most not for the good, lol!)

I think a lot of people and companies are afraid if they are honest and open, it will somehow come back to bite them. There are those who just will not hear the truth, but instead hear things like racism, ageism, elitism, whatever they want to think is happening to prevent them from getting a job.

I'm glad you were able to make an impact to this group, it's a tough road looking for employment. 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on June 10, 2013 at 12:39pm

thanks Will and Amber! Too soon to tell if we'll get anywhere with the 4 I found, but still it just seems like the right thing to do. There were supposed to be a couple of other "big guys" there, but it was only 3 of us, and the other two were both staffing agencies.

Comment by Will Thomson on June 10, 2013 at 12:47pm

Stay 39 for a while.  I like Amber's advice.  The 4 number still hasn't set well with me.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on June 10, 2013 at 1:16pm

LOL Will - I have to stay 39 or I'll have to cut my hair... remember this blog? :)

Comment by Will Thomson on June 10, 2013 at 1:47pm

I do.  Love it!

Comment by Amber on June 10, 2013 at 2:03pm

I haven't cut mine yet. If I do, it will not be due to some age restriction! Although it might be due to be due to old age not allowing me to comfortably be bent over for the 30+ mins it takes to dry it.

Comment by Derdiver on June 10, 2013 at 2:14pm

Around here we have copped a statement called PAY IT FORWARD.  I like what you said here.  I have been asked by a non profit firm to sit on their monthly panel.  When they came to "sell me" on volunteering I laughed and said I brought my pen.  Where do I sign up!! 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on June 10, 2013 at 5:08pm

Exactly Derek! Amber has a point, there will always be someone at these events who won't like you/your company no matter what, but I think most of the participants are just happy to see a company like MSFT show up...

Comment by Tim Spagnola on June 10, 2013 at 8:25pm

I liked the Bday hair ; )


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