Sometimes We Recruiters Forget that Looking for a Job Is the Hardest Thing

In a post about the homeless a while ago I made a pretty bold statement, even for me, which is rare: “The three most stressful life events according to psychologists are, in order, getting married, buying a home and looking for a job.” I have been on both sides of that coin and I know what sort of horse manure you have to swim through to get a job — any job. It’s a painful and scary process no matter what your pedigree is. I have had it pretty lucky, but there was the time I lived in my car outside of an apartment building that had all my worldly possessions padlocked behind a door of the apartment I use to have.

I made it I guess. I am solvent, have money in the bank, a roof over my head, and am with an excellent company doing what I love. Sometimes I get emails sent to me … I am pretty easy to find. Most are saying thank you for writing about this or that, and it makes me smile. I’ve gotten hate mail, too. I was even threatened with a lawsuit, which was fun, from thin-skinned folks who are afraid of the truth. Then there are ones that pull at my heart strings, ones that make me say, “sh*&, I touched someone. ”

I got this below from a person I have never met live. They are not a recruiter, yet took the time to write to me.

I saw your posting in regards to homelessness. I’m a single mom, I had worked for Wells Fargo and moved to Colorado with a $5600 savings account and a promising job offer thinking I could move up here to finish the handful of courses I needed to pursue a Masters in Neuroscience. I grew up in a group home, so I have no family to fall back on. Literally no child support and two kids under five. I came up here, and the job fell through, the savings was drained in two months as we stayed in an extended stay. 398 job applications (just on linked in alone) placed in a two month period and I ended up with a job. As a single mom, all it takes is one emergency for us to fail. I make too much for food stamps and programs but not enough to survive.

I wanted to say thank you for posting your post because not everyone who has been homeless is lazy, a druggy or a criminal … And those I ran into in the shelter was mostly vets, moms, some were aging and disabled, and none of them wanted to be there. Denver has a high homeless population. It’s amazing at my work we have had people make horrid comments about homeless people, the irony is they were talking to me about it while I was living in a shelter with my kids. Your posting was very touching.

I’m not too proud to admit that after my first reading this I just stared at the words and teared up. It took me back to those days of sleeping in my car wondering what I was going to do, where was I going to get my next gig. The world had crashed down around me and no one was looking for recruiters in the IT space. Companies were hemorrhaging money and employees, not looking for more bodies to type superfluous code. I had placed a .NET developer at one of these companies, and he was good, really good, but he was now delivering pizzas to make ends meet.

We are on an upswing in technology now and the future looks bright, with a side of haze, but like Erma Bombeck wrote, “the grass is always greener on the other side over septic tank.” Our unemployment numbers in this country are based on fictional statistics IMO and if you walk the streets of any major city in the United States you will see a problem no one wants to chat about. Having a job just in most circumstances means you are a paid slave nowadays, and if you are in the Middle East, you more than likely are not getting paid at all.

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If you have never had to look for a job, then you are in a very unique, very minuscule group, or you are still in the sixth grade. It’s a grueling process involving HR people who use antiquated job descriptions because that is just the way they have done it. Managers have no clue what we do, nor do most care. They would prefer to blame HR who in turn blame us and at times we take our frustrations out on candidates and at times each other, myself included. No one is imunne.

What our take away should be is the memory of the pain, the angst, and the fear that we as job seekers went through while looking for a new position. When I am training or mentoring a new recruiter, I tell them to look in the mirror, every morning, and remember what it was like to wake up in the morning with no job. Take that with you throughout the day and use it as a shield to block the negative that you see and feel. I am telling you this is one of the best pieces of advice I could give anyone entering our world. #truestory #zellerout

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing in the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions for Engage Talent. He has experience with both third-party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland area. Now, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage.


8 Comments on “Sometimes We Recruiters Forget that Looking for a Job Is the Hardest Thing

  1. Good read for this morning to remember we have to keep our mind open to possibilities and always think “big picture” not only for the companies we support, but the people we come in contact with. I keep the below message to remind me that what I do can change I life, and in this case, it was for the good:

    “Just want to express my appreciation for you, for the exciting news, for all the time you spent on my application, and for making today all of sudden really beautiful.
    In the professional world, we tend to contain ourselves no matter what the situation is. If I sounded calm earlier, inside I was nonetheless jumping up & down like a little kid.
    I thank you very much.”

  2. Thank you for this article. I have also been in that situation before, fresh out of school. I took on day time waitress jobs and always have a hotel graveyard clearing the restaurants so that I can go for interviews in the daytime to find a job. I chose the hotel jobs because they took care of the meals I couldn’t afford then. I remembered my new boss walking into the restaurant and stumped to see me waiting at tables after work. I had 2-3 pieces of work clothes that I had to wash every night else I will run out of things to wear by Wednesday…so I understand what it means to be in that situation so I do try my best to help people who are out of jobs and who are really, really in need. Nonetheless, people in the tech space are paid relatively well and when the difference between having a job or not just affects the kind of car they drive…I have very little patience for that. Just today we placed someone who has not been working for the past 5 years – a combination of the customer’s trust in us and our firm belief that our candidate is the right guy for the job. There’s a sense of satisfaction that hey, we did something out of the ordinary and put him back on a decent payroll again. That makes our work as a recruiter, meaningful.

  3. Thank you for sharing that valuable reminder. It sure is easy when we have a comfy job to forget what it was like when we or I did not have one. I have two instances I could personally share. The first was back in 1999 when before graduating from college I came down to DFW and interviewed for positions. I was told I had a job so after graduation the wife and I packed up and moved to Texas. The next morning when I called them they said, “Oh, sorry but we filled that position”. We had no money left after the move, the apartment deposit, first month’s rent. I scrambled to find work, almost took a job getting minimum wage right before maxing out my credit card. Then my wife convinced me to follow up with another one of the companies I interviewed with (who I thought I had a horrible interview with which is why I didn’t want to). They were happy I called and wondered where I had been (phone was disconnected). I started the next day.

  4. Derek,thank you for your thoughtful article. In my opinion, the takeaway should be that – you’re on your own and the only way out from under, is ‘through the fire’. But it’s doable and easier than most people recognize.

    Unfortunately most people have fallen victim to the job search industry that preaches – networking – networking – networking as ‘the way’ to get a job. With absolutely no proof that it actually does work people fall victim to the process and become despondent after rejection after ejection.

    Are there better ways to find a job? Absolutely!!!!!! But the employment industry doesn’t like to talk about them – as if letting the secrets out would ruin their livelihoods. I too hear the stories weekly and it’s criminal BUT there’s no incentive to change. Even when you prove to people there’s a better way, an easier way, a more logical way, they stay stuck – until there’s nothing but hopelessness in sight.

    In the short term, here’s a link to a video on alternative job search strategies and tactics that may help someone who comes across your posting:

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