Some days this job is tougher than others.  Some tough days are pain in the ass hiring managers, candidates that do ws, or just overwhelming volumes of works.  But the toughest days for me are the candidates that are desperate.  Not just a little, but a lot. 


I had one week about 6 months ago that was heart-wrenching.  I was recruiting for a Shipping role.  Not my normal recruitment activities but was helping out a busy colleague.  Little did I know what was in store for me... 


I called up my first candidate to screen.  Her resume was quite messy but the skills appeared to be there.  So we start going through everything and I am making some suggestions for changes to her resume so my manager will consider her.  She thanks me and then starts telling me about her life and why she works the jobs she has...  her husband left her after 25 years of marriage and years of being a homemaker.  She is suddenly thrown into the need to work with little or no skills and limited support as they move through a legal mess.  She really needs to get a permanent full time role as the two or three part time jobs are getting tough to manage. My heart goes out to her.  I was going to forward her anyway but now I have my fingers crossed for her.


I called up my second candidate.  Spotty work record for the past 3 years but has been focused in Shipping and the market is slim so figure it’s worth the call.  So I start asking about work history and he tells me about how he was diagnosed with the same disease that his mother died of, something that won't kill him immediately but will eventually destroy his liver and he will die the same painful death.  He went into a deep depression for a couple of years and has mostly worked for his Dad's company when he could.  But he is now on the path to recovery and is looking for permanent employment to be able to move on with his life.  Again, my heart goes out to him and now I am torn because I want to help them both.  In this case, neither was considered and I hated to decline them.  I wanted to help them move on with their life.


A had another one a couple of years ago that I will never forget.  I contacted a candidate for a role and went through the standard questions.  He was pretty good so I had forwarded him on.  Alas, the hiring manager did not want to move forward.  I called the candidate and left a message letting him know.  He called me back and started crying - he and his family were desperate, they were being evicted at the end of the month, they would be homeless and he wanted to kill himself.  I stayed on the line and tried my best to calm him down, give him hope and I gave him a ton of suggestions for his job search including the names of some companies that I knew were hiring.  I still wonder and worry about that on.


I admit I am a big softy.  I consider my role to be a unique one in that I get to help both my company but also everyday people and have a great impact on both.  But times like these, I worry that I am in the wrong business because I want to help them all but just can't do anything more than recommend them to the manager.  These people stay with me long after my contact with them is over. 

Views: 607

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on June 28, 2012 at 12:49pm

Erin thanks for sharing this. I think you speak for the majority of recruiters with this post. :) I have several of those in my history as well... some happy endings and others, not so much. You can't work so closely with people day in and day out and not be emotionally affected by some. Just keep moving forward!



Comment by Bill Schultz on June 28, 2012 at 2:45pm

Sad, when I was in temp staffing I would get these stories.

alot of times I would stop them midstream and say "It's not that I'm uncaring- I have to make decisions based on the best and most reliable person for the job.  So in order for us to help each other, let's stick to topics pertinent to your qualifications."

I would take the collection jar around the office when we had a reliable staffer in need, though.  

Comment by David Gaspin on June 29, 2012 at 9:36am

It's easy to brush this off saying things like "remember who your client is" and "we're not in the charity business" but we're still human. It's always tough when there's someone that you're rooting for so hard, and still you know that the hiring manager has made the right decision to pass on them.

Luckily, we're in a profession where we do get to see plenty of those happy endings too. Embrace these experiences and let them shape you. If they move you to want to help people outside of work, do some charity work - I'm sure there's at least one organization in your area that works on job-readiness programs for the disadvantaged (this can have many meanings). Volunteer your time and help those you can, when you can.

And remember to rejoice in the people that you ARE able to help.

Comment by Ellen Clark on June 29, 2012 at 11:43am

Nothing is harder than the down on their luck candidate. I too have difficulty with this issue. We wouldn't be human if we didn't care. This is why I try to answer all my calls even when I know I should be working on a search. I like to think that someday someone will listen to me when I am in trouble.

Comment by Jenifer Newport on June 30, 2012 at 10:19am

It is so very hard to turn away when you hear stories like these.  I always think, "what if this were me, and my family?"  I would want someone to help me and give me a chance.  I am such a softy as well.  However, like you I know I cannot help I help those I can.  It's not easy, but I can only do so much as one person.  I use some advise from my husband who is a police officer.  He tells me all the time, Jen, God did not create us to save the world.  We can only help those we come into contact with, to the best of our ability...but we can't constantly worry about the ones we can't help, or we are no good to those we can.  It's a hard reality, but very useful when I am faced with those I can't help. 

Comment by Randall Scasny on June 30, 2012 at 7:28pm

I'll make a confession: in my spare time I'm writing a novel about all the effect of helping people get hired has on its main character. The main character says in the beginning " ... I spend most of my time listening to personal problems, building self-esteem and comforting a sobbing customer. I think I'm as close to being an unlicensed psychotherapist as exists .... "

Your experiences resonate with me. Many job seekers have problems beyond getting hired. I have even had a job seeker who stated on his resume the reasons why someone should NOT hire hire him. I kid you not!!

Yes, we cannot help everyone.

Comment by Robert on July 3, 2012 at 7:36pm

Erin, so many of us have been there - For me a woman came to my office to apply for temp work. She sat dwon and seemed very professional. I looked over her resume and she ahd been a DOCTOR in Russia but had left for the us. She could not get a license here since her residency was not accredited here. I felt terrible but she said she would take anything. I had a 7 dollar an hour filing job at a clinet. She took it. We talekd and came up with a plan to help her make more mo ney (she had) We offered tutorials in WOrd Excel, Powerpoint typing etc. She came religiously every afternoon after her job and trained and took the test. The next assignment I got her was as a admin at the State Bar of California - six months later she was offered a perm Legal Secretary psoiton making 60k a year. She came to my office one day and broguhbt me a cake and with tears in her eyes said thanks.

I always remeber her so when I find a candidate that I can not help I keep a list of helpful hints for them  - depending on their needs resume help, need admin skills sign up with a temp agency and do tutorials even some social service info if needed.

So I think you should rephrase your statement at least I do - I can't help eveyone the way I would like but I can help.:)


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