Recruiting, Misery, and the Opportunity for Hope

“Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.”
Sloan Wilson

“Try not; do.”

We recall a time back in late November 2002 when, out of shear pain and frustration, Howard wrote Recruiting Today: Good People in Difficult Times.

As we read it now, its content and tone seem strangely familiar. We hear the same fear and grief from so many today as in those miserable days gone by. Lost again, adrift in a sea of uncertainty, anguish, and doubt. Revenue, stability, normalcy — once again threatened as we seek a road out, a spit of land where we can rest and think of why so many of our lives have been disrupted. First-time angst for newer recruiters; multiple times for others.

As with most misery, there is pain and that sense of unfairness. The feeling of “why me?” comes to mind. Yet entitled as we are to these dark feelings and tendencies toward self-pity or rage, good news looms in the distance, and his name is Barack Obama. Seeing him just before his victory speech, we could not help feeling that in just the right light and posture, our soon to be president smiles the same smile with which Jack Kennedy warmed, charmed, and challenged us in 1961. That might seem like long ago, but time is meaningless when you are in trouble, and make no mistake — as a country, we are in big trouble.

So despite all that is broken, we have much to celebrate.

Regardless of the financial meltdown, the bailout(s), and the evaporation of unspeakable amounts of money and jobs, we urge you to see the good news: Eight of the most ugly, brutish, and crushing years we can remember will end on a sparkling day in January as Barack Obama assumes the Presidency. For this opportunity of optimism and renewal, we are endlessly grateful. We do not remember the last time we felt this sky high with possibility, energy, and hope. We also do not remember a time that doing well by doing right had more meaning and greater importance then it does right now.

Article Continues Below

In our society, most of what we do is connected in ways both far reaching and profound. Stop spending money in one location, and you put a person out of work in another, as saving oneself rich simply does not work. The engines that fuel our greatness run on money, and money is generated by the growth, profitability, and ongoing innovation (see Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently) that accompany the careful building of great organizations. The bottom line is actually quite simple: we need to get this country back to work and we need to do it fast.

But what is to happen to recruiters? What is to happen to those individuals who build the organizations? Do we hang in and wait? Do we go off on our own? Leave the business?

Sadly, there is no easy answer, but we do urge you to consider the following five points upon which to reflect:

  • Help others. No one succeeds alone. Employing the spirit with which Kennedy challenged us, “ask not what your country can do for you.” With that thought in mind, reach out to people you know who have lost their jobs and help guide them on how to reinvent themselves as best you can. As recruiters, we are specialists in knowing what companies are looking for, often just by reading a requisition. Share this knowledge and feel good when your friend or neighbor gets their new start with your help. (See Are You Really Meant to be a Recruiter as it will help you get that little lift that makes us feel better in challenging times.)
  • We will come out of this. We have seen this before. It is nasty and unpleasant, but it will not last. Fight on and keep heart. Tough times do not last; tough people do. Become one very tough person.
  • Question the futurists/thought leaders. Do you ever wonder about thought leaders and how they are anointed? Is there a secret ceremony? A special handshake or some type of a magic decoder ring? Want to continue reading them? Feel free, but take it all with a grain of salt as so much of it is yesterday’s news. We need to invent the future, not reconstruct the past.
  • Lead the charge. Your brain is as good as ours or anyone else’s. The future is up for grabs. Can you add to the collective progress in terms of building great companies? If so, do it and do it now because to look back and wish that you did would be tragic. Innovate, restructure, and design your own future because the time to do great things is now.
  • Outthink, outwork, outhustle. Bill Russell once said “hustle is talent” and this is a man who knows a few things about both. Working for a fool? A company that will never succeed? Change jobs or strike out on your own, as it is far better to fail because of your inability than because of their abysmal leadership.

We would like to dedicate this article to all of the great recruiters out there. We strongly believe that new opportunities will be unearthed and great things will happen to those who move forward with dignity, a commitment to excellence, and an unwavering belief on one’s personal sense of value.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at

Corinne Adamsky has been recruiting for 14 years, much of it working with Howard Adamsky at HR Innovators. She is now working as a staffing consultant for a Fortune 100 company.


19 Comments on “Recruiting, Misery, and the Opportunity for Hope

  1. Normally the articles I read posted on ERE are educational and give me more skills and abilities then I had previously. This article on the other hand did not. The obvious biasness makes it difficult to read on top of the fact that it seems like a complete cop-out to me. If you are recruiter, buckle down these are hard times. Work harder than you have before, pick up the phone, network. Whatever you do, please don’t wait for Obama to change your situation. He may be a great man but he is not your saving grace. If everyone does their best to pull themselves out of this sliding economy it will create more change than Obama can do as President.

  2. Wow – is my daily truly the proper forum for a slanted politcal cheering section? Eight ugly, brutish, crushing years?? Really?? Have you been out of work for the last eight years or have you been earning a living in the U.S. economy that you just insulted? The propaganda from the incoming regime has been in terms of “fairness” and “distribution of wealth”. This means that you work hard and earn, you are then told how much of your earnings are appropriate for you to keep (if you keep more, you are the “evil, greedy, selfish rich”), and then the rest is taken to support those who chose not to work hard and earn. To the five points:

    “Help others”: this originated long before Obama and Kennedy . . . as a matters of fact the supporters of the current government (Conservatives) have been proven to be far more charitable than the supporters of the incoming regime (Liberals). Liberals tend to be very charitable with MY money.

    “We will come out of this”: yes we will, particularly if we learn that taxing the people who create the jobs is not how you spur an economy. Drop the corporate tax burden and companies will fly back into the US bringing their jobs back with them and tax revenue immediately rises along with the economy.

    “Question the futurists/thought leaders”: great advice, currently taking the Adamsky column with a giant hunk of salt.

    “Lead the charge”: Amen, brother. Get out there and work your tail off. Be a productive, innovative leader. Then, pray that the Obama government will not be allowed to confiscate the fruits of your hard work and turn them into a hand-out (or bail-out) for folks who chose not to be productive and innovative.

    “Outthink, outwork, outhustle”: see above.

    My two cents . . . and yes, my political leanings differ slightly from those of the column author.

    Happy Headhunting!

  3. I love articles that provoke thought! Keep em coming Howard. In my opinion we need more Joe the Plumber types. President Obama isn’t going to save anyone, but he does deliver a good speech and he has my support. God bless him and America. The past 8 years have been pretty good for most Americans. What’s going to lead America out of this recession are businesses and people who build them. Hard work will create good luck.

  4. I guess anyone can post an article on ERE who has the “energy and drive,” but Howard and Corinne Adamsky would have done best to keep their commentary to a more appropriate forum like the Huffington Post. ERE is for professionals.

  5. I am disappointed that ERE chose to publish this article. Not just because of the overly dramatic and very poor writing, as well as the spelling and grammatical errors, but because the core competency of the ERE is (was) to provide support and advice to recruiting professionals. This article is hardly what I would consider professional.

  6. Obama is just a man. He is not going to save the world like so many people believe. From the mouth of US Ambassador Bost in South Africa, the expectations, around the world, of him and what he can and will do are a bit unrealistic and he is going to need all the prayers and help that we as Americans can offer up. (

    As an American, I am pleased that he has been able to get the American public interested in the presidency again, but he has made an awful lot of lofty promises, and I just don’t see how he is going to fullfill even half of them. I hope, for our sake, that he creates a good balance in government and does not alienate the half of the country that did not vote for him. Robert, I applaud your positive attitude and agree wholeheartedly that hard-working and responsible people are what will change our present situation, not government!

    Agree with Kristen as well that none of us should wait for the President-elect to fix our problems before we fix them ourselves. I agree we need to get this country back – but that is going to be best accomplished by each of us individually taking responsibility for ourselves and not sitting back and expecting that the government, or anyone else, will take care of us.

  7. Once again, the Adamsky’s in their down-to-earth manner, spiced with the brilliance that only comes from those so deeply experienced in recruiting, we have a message that springs from the hearts of many of us in staffing! I can say they honestly took the words out of my mouth! I appreciate it when anyone has the courage to put their heart out there, whether or not I agree with it or not.
    Personally I’m rejecting this recession! NOT PARTICIPATING OR ENTERTAINING THIS RECESSION AT ALL! The last one stank, so no MORE RECESSIONS FOR US AT HUMANATEK! LOL!

  8. I too am disappointed and a little dismayed by the “poor me” pity party article. With EVERYONE in government (the “leaders” of the government) and the media calling this the worse economic times since the depression, I wonder back to a time that was worse than this and it was NOT the depression.
    It was the mid 1970’s. With gas rationing, (does anyone remember every other day gas lines?), inflation at about 11%, unemployment at 15% interest rates at 20% and a president and Congress who got us there, there was a turning point, a shining house on the hill so to speak and his name was Ronald Reagan. President Reagan came into office at a time that had much more turmoil, much more strife, much more “hard times” that we can even start to compare right now.

    I am getting sick of our Government blaming the past eight years on Bush, the past eight years. Here is a factual look at the last eight years:

    George Bush has been in office for 7 1/2 years. The first six the economy was fine.
    A little over one year and a half ago:
    1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
    2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
    3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.
    4) The DOW JONES hit a record high–14,000 +
    5) American’s were buying new cars, taking cruises, and vacations overseas, living large!

    But American’s wanted ‘CHANGE’! So, in 2006 they voted in a Democratic Congress & yep–we got ‘CHANGE’ all right.
    In the PAST 2 YEARS:
    1) Consumer confidence has plummeted;
    2) Gasoline is now over $4 a gallon
    3) Unemployment is up to 6.5% (a 20% increase);
    4) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $12 TRILLION DOLLARS & prices still dropping;
    5) 2% of American homes are in foreclosure.
    6) As I write, THE DOW is probing another low

    And the new President thinks we are going to spend our way out of it. Our Government is on the brink of becoming a defacto socialist state by propping up all of these different entities. We are a Country built on capitalism and the free market, in the free market there are winners and losers. SOME MOUS LOSE. If you put this into a recruiting perspective, look at the Generation just coming of age who has been brought up in this “new age” where no one loses, everyone gets a trophy and we “dumb down” instead of working to lift everyone up.
    By propping up these companies and unions that the incoming President and the lackadaisical self serving Congress are beholden to we are driving our economy down even farther, blaming it on “deregulation” the whole way to the dump.
    What needs to happen is the President and Congress needs to cut taxes EVERYWHERE, Stop spending money, and GET OUT OF THE WAY. By doing this, we, as the most ingenious country in the world, will build ourselves back up and we will once again SUCCEED

    it is really interesting to me that Why don’t we look at things this way. What are we going to do in 2 years when Congress has spent us into oblivion and we are right back there in the 1970’s again? Is there another Reagan on the horizon? And why is it that we have to go all the way back to Kennedy to see “change”? The real change came in 1980

    If you don’t believe me or this article, take a look at Wikipedia

  9. You and Chris Matthews should get a room!
    How disappointing to turn to a daily source of information in our industry and realize a deluded Obama-ite has used this valuable resource as a political sounding board. So the last eight years have been ugly, crushing and brutal and they’ll be all better on the “sparkling day” when Obama is inagurated? You have got to be kidding me. You clearly are uninformed regarding some of the most fundamental reasons that our economy has failed, including the CRA with Barney Frank, Harry Reid, Acorn et al leading the way. Oh, to be full of hope and cast your vote for someone who ‘has a smile like Jack Kennedy’. I would be embarrassed to even make the comparison. For the rest of us who have not been drinking the kool-aid, we understand the cyclical nature of our economy and know that it will bounce back. Hmmm, as recruiters, have we seen this before?
    Regardless of who is to blame, I don’t think this is an appropriate lead article for a recruting industry leader such as ERE.
    ps. Let me know how it goes for you when Obama takes 50% of your billings.

  10. Hey Howard, Great job 🙂

    If there is one thing I like about you, it’s that you’re willing to assume a position. That’s a big part of what leadership is all about.

    Also, true Thought Leaders understand that leadership often involves polarizing people. For every person that hates what you say or write, there will be one who loves. It’s the middle ground that is truly dangerous; what Economists and great Marketeers call the “Corridor of Indifference”. What’s comical here is that 99% of the shots against you are politically driven – evidently, the chasm still exists.

    Sure, ‘playing it safe’ and writing sterile articles might be a good way to get the average reading crowd checking out your articles each time they come up (but that’s what they would have done anyway, regardless of who wrote it.) It’s even the fastest path to “Thought Leadership”, but if you want people to look forward to your work, then you can’t be afraid to go “All in”. Life’s too short for half-stepping. Either you lay it all out and give it 110% on the field . . . or you always think back to ‘what could have been.’ That’s no way to live, at least not in my book.

    Perhaps what is most amazing about the American Spirit is that we can always find ways to hope . . . and that hope helps us make it through difficult times.

    Again, Howard – Keep up the great work and remember that someone might question your political views, but your professionalism is never (and never was) in question. If so, then I join Yoda in standing by your side because I firmly agree that “great things will happen to those who move forward with dignity, a commitment to excellence, and an unwavering belief on one’s personal sense of value.”

  11. Joshua,
    I do not “hate” Howard or what he is saying, I am just pointing out the fact that I am old and I remember when it was REALLY bad. And, yes, it is political because it has been made political. One thing I disagree with you about is that anyone in the middle is NOT reading these articles. It is the people who, on either side of the spectrum, are passionate about what this “change” mantra means to all of our futures, not just as recruiters but as citizens.

    This rhetoric:
    Regardless of the financial meltdown, the bailout(s), and the evaporation of unspeakable amounts of money and jobs, we urge you to see the good news: Eight of the most ugly, brutish, and crushing years we can remember will end on a sparkling day in January as Barack Obama assumes the Presidency. For this opportunity of optimism and renewal, we are endlessly grateful. We do not remember the last time we felt this sky high with possibility, energy, and hope. We also do not remember a time that doing well by doing right had more meaning and greater importance then it does right now.

    This is quite ridiculous because I did feel the hope and “sky high” when the market was at 14000 and there was 4% unemployment. I was in the south tower on 9/10, I lost hundreds of friends and colleagues and we came out of it stronger and more united until factions on both sides distroyed it. I don’t know about you but the last 8 years were not “crushing” to me or to America, I made a good living recruiting great talent. The last 2 years have been and this mantra for Change seems to be blind to what that change is going to be. One thing we all need ot worry about, as recruiters, is the new union laws, the laws that say that we will do away with the private ballot. That is the doom of our industry and of manufacturing in this country.

    I agree so totally with this quote:

    in our society, most of what we do is connected in ways both far reaching and profound. Stop spending money in one location, and you put a person out of work in another, as saving oneself rich simply does not work. The engines that fuel our greatness run on money, and money is generated by the growth, profitability, and ongoing innovation (see Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently) that accompany the careful building of great organizations. The bottom line is actually quite simple: we need to get this country back to work and we need to do it fast.

    BUT, I do not agree with the current “let the Government put us to work” I agree with what I said before,

    I do not care what party you are affiliated with, no matter what, we need to keep innovating, we do not need a “New Deal” unless of course you are recruiting for a Government contractor!!!

  12. While I don’t agree with all of the comments in the Adamsky’s post I do celebrate their courage to share their thoughts about what is inspiring them. What is interesting to me are the political comments in return. I suppose we’re seeing the diversity of political views playing out. Does all of this belong here? I guess the question is what do you want out of the ERE community? Do you want a gate keeper that determines what is appropriate or do you want the opportunity to express relevant ideas and interests and have the choice to read, ignore, comment or not.

    I’m choosing to read and comment because I think what we as a nation have been through this past couple of years and the 6 beyond that is reflective of something that is near and dear to my heart – leadership. That to me is what so many people are so excited about today and fuels the hopefulness they have with the approaching date of January 20th. Leadership excites me! Its not something we see often enough in business or government so when we do we are taken in by it. I wonder if its possible to put politics on the sideline to objectively assess leadership differences. One easy way to assess the hope and faith people have in leadership is to look at their behaviors, actions and faces. Take a minute to look at this photo: – the main one in the middle 😉

    Are expectations too high – yes, probably. Is there an opportunity to enable change – yes, most definitely, as there is with any good government, business and leadership team! Imagine what corporate environments would be like today, and some are, where there are true leaders in place.

    So, perhaps there are a few things related to the industry from this conversation that can be recognized, and we may even find some commonality –

    > we each have some invested in the recruiting space
    > talent is appreciated
    > leadership as talent is valued
    > leadership enables change, innovation and progress, which can benefit many leading to more jobs, a better economy which has a positive impact on the recruiting industry!

  13. As you might imagine — since we have had so many articles on ERE at this point — there are ERE articles that in retrospect I wish we wouldn’t have published. That comes with the territory when you’re publishing thousands of articles. But with Howard and Corinne’s piece, I think we did the right thing. It was a motivational article, and a part of what is inspiring to Howard and Corinne right now is President-elect Obama. I don’t see it as my job to censor out mentions of Obama, or of politics.

    A couple people said things to me off-line about avoiding politics on ERE. But some of the posts here — about unemployment rates and such — they’re really not all that off-topic, in my view. Our audience hires so many people that if anything, frankly, we should probably be more, not less involved in influencing Washington and state capitols on issues like immigration quotas, minimum wage, regulations, tax incentives for hiring, and so on.

    Politically, I agree with Duane Hill and David Morris, who posted on this page, and not much with Howard. But like Susan Burns, I think ERE should err on more views being expressed, not fewer.

  14. Todd and Susan,
    Thank you Todd for not censoring this article and the comments. No matter what any of our political views are, or what we think about the future President, it is imperative to have a forum for comment. right now in our Country Politics is center stage and it is important to any corporation let alone us recruiters who “flame the fire” that we keep abreast of everything.

    Susan, your points are well said, like all others here. My problem in this election cycle, ( like others here, I have seen MANY presidents elected) your comment “to put politics aside and objectively assess leadership differences” is exactly the point. There is no objectivity right now. Right now, in some corners of this political world many have no objectivity and do not want open and honest debate. Hope, Change, Hope, Change, well, I lived at a time and in the Bay Area, when a guy named Jim Jones said the very same thing. I am not equating Jones to Our future President in any way shape of form, BUT, it is sycophants on both sides of the isle that scare the life out of me. This and the fact that we have NOT HAD IT BAD FOR 8 YEARS. I am sorry I yell but it is just insane to say we have had. Bush has brought us through some of the most tumultuous times in our history. Although I do not always agree with him, and many of his policies, to demonize him is just wrong and that is what a large faction in this country is enabling to be done. That was the one thing in this article that got me on this tangent.

    I hope and pray for Obama and that he does well, but I will not sit by and let my government, who is supposed to work for us, ram things like the “employee free choice act” down our collective throats. This bill along with many others ready to be enacted by a totally one sided government, will take away liberty and rights from me, my company, and the people I recruit. This is why it is so important to keep this conversation going.

    The one thing that is really chilling in this whole cycle is that total power corrupts totally and our Government is taking very big steps to take over many private enterprises under the guise of helping the economy, and thereby, in my mind, end the free market. As a capitalist and a Reagan era economic fan, this chills me to the bone.

    I will end with a quote that means allot in these days:
    Louis Brandies Said in the 1928 case ‘Olmstead vs. The United States’ a wire tapping case of all things:

    Experience should teach us most to be on our guard when the Government’s purposes are “beneficial”. Men born of freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

  15. “We need to invent the future, not reconstruct the past.”

    We can’t do that without THINKING and that’s what Howard and Corrine have made us do, once again.

  16. It’s been a while since I saw this many passionate posts about an article. So, I say thanks for writing it. I honestly didn’t take much politically from it. The most important points for me were:

    Keep spending
    Help those out of a job reinvent themselves (even if you won’t be earning a fee)
    Work harder and network more

    For those that were so passionate in their responses to the polictics in the article, I really hope you are volunteering to support your party because every party needs people like you to give their time to support their efforts!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *