The AWKWARD Side of Recruiting (….and no….I’m not selling anything with this blog)

No matter what your profession, we all have circumstances that make things a bit awkward.  Look at Justin Bieber and how he’s been dealing with the paparazzi.  And how about those folks in Washington DC right now trying to justify all the spying scandals.  Boy, that’s got make some sleepless nights.

Let me tell a little story that got me thinking about this.  This weekend our 11,000 member church is hosting it’s annual festival complete with live music, mountains of food, rides and games for the kids, and a safe place for the community to get together.  Each year, my wife and I work one of the ticket booths for most of the weekend.  We meet, greet, and sell tickets for food and games to hundreds of new faces and also people we know. 

About a half a year ago, I was contacted by one of the guys at our church who knows I run a recruiting agency here in the city.  I know him and his family pretty well as his kid goes to school and is in the same class as my kid.  Nice folks indeed.


He explained that after 12 years at the same company, his IT department was being restructured and his last day was in three months.  He’s in his mid-40’s and has an engineering degree.  For years, the focus of his job has been on the promotions and marketing side of the IT department.  (I have no idea what that means.  This is completely outside our industry and I explained that to him.)

I expressed my remorse for his circumstance and suggested that maybe this offers him a new opportunity to divert his career into another area.  Building on the first 20 years of his career, I told him that he should probably start researching recruiters on LinkedIn, looking for specific companies that could use his expertise, and, of course, combing through job ads online that match his skills and background.

He knew all that.  (!!!)  So he clarified.  He was wondering what I could do for him. 

Now six months later, we ran into these folks at our festival and quite honestly I had forgotten the story.  I hadn’t heard or seen him since our phone discussion six months earlier.  My wife and I were selling the tickets and really were distracted but she mentioned that he seemed a bit “cold” and I didn’t know why.  I’ll have to fix this in time.

My wife and I talked about it and we wondered if he was possibly irritated with me for not “finding him a new job”.  I don’t know but it got me thinking.

I deal with this no less that three times a day at work.  My recruiting office is a pretty high-charged environment with LOTS of phone calls coming and going.  I have to say it.  I have to say it out loud...

I’m often amazed how bright, educated, high earning, and very productive people think that third party recruiters are essentially a phone call away from being their personal job hunters.

This is our area of awkwardness in recruiting.  At least for me, this conversation sometimes catches me off guard when I have someone basically asking me to go out and find them a new job.  In fact, it seems (and I say this because I don’t have real statistics) that probably half of those calls result in the candidate becoming agitated and angry that I can’t immediately find them a new job.  Sometimes, though I do my very best to neutralize the conversation and tone, the candidate will yell into the phone demanding that I take him or her “off my list”.  (I don’t have a list.)

Our profession as third party recruiters is already tainted by bad recruiters out there and we have a monumental task of reversing those perceptions. 

I’m not rich so I don’t have a maid, personal chef, or chauffeur.  But think about this.  Maybe when we go to a restaurant and order a meal, maybe for five minutes or so when the cook is whipping up our entrée that he’s our personal chef.  I’ve never thought this way and I think it’s kind of silly.  So why would people out there think that because we’re recruiters that we are here to go out and find them a new job for free?  Where did this concept come from?

The way I deal with these awkward conversations is essentially the same way I did with the guy who goes to my church.  I’m always calm and respectful and explain the three sides to job hunting:  Getting your resume to recruiters in your industry, researching specific target companies, and applying online to job advertisements.  I know there are other things people can do and there are scores of books out there.  My point is that I try to offer something in return to extinguish their misinterpretation that I am their personal job hunter.   By the way, this conversation takes some time, normally about 10 minutes so it’s NOT cheap and free advice.  I’m simply hoping that the person will appreciate that I’m attempting to be genuinely helpful to their circumstance.

I may try something new.  I’m anticipating that I’m going to be broadsided into one of these conversations again soon.  What I may do next time is simply ask, “Bill, are you asking me to be your personal job hunter?”   I’m anticipating silence for the answer.  We’ll see.

-  Steve

Views: 310

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on June 9, 2013 at 9:36pm

YES!! This is SO true and I have experienced it more times than I can count. I honestly though (silly, naïve me) that when I got into corporate recruiting it would stop. Nope, now apparently I'm holding the keys to my company kingdom. When I try to explain that the roles I fill are very narrow, niche specific that require a very special kind of education and experience, my friends can't understand why I can't "get them in" to Microsoft. Sigh. I am happy to pass along resumes, or as you mention give some brief career advice, but I don't have a magic password, ya know??

Comment by Jacqueline Bozorgi on June 10, 2013 at 2:11pm
I agree. I don't know anyone who holds a grudge against me for not finding them a job, as I explain we work for the employer yada yada yada, but it always surprises me that people just expect this.
Comment by Stephen Nehez, Jr. on June 10, 2013 at 3:38pm

Part II in AWKWARD today... Candidate calls regarding one of our job openings.  I ask him to confirm we have his latest resume.  "No," he says.  He says he'll need to send his updated copy.  He just started his new job two weeks ago.

(sigh.)

Comment by Mitch Sullivan on June 11, 2013 at 12:39am

This happens because agencies have, for decades, been guilty of overselling their own capabilities. 

You only have to look at the difference between the amount of noise they make compared to the amount of jobs they fill to see how that disconnect might happen.

My advice is to tell this bloke to put his trust in God.

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