What You Wish You Could Tell Candidates

I’m always hearing recruiters say they want to be more helpful to candidates.

I wonder. I wrote the following with the idea that it might help some express some of their challenges through a third-party voice.

I’m a phone sourcer. That means I am paid to find people who hold specific titles or who are doing specific job functions inside (usually) specific companies.

I’ve been doing this a long time.

There are a few things that spell disaster for you as a job seeker.

These are:

Being old

It’s a nasty dirty secret inside recruiting but the fact of the matter is if you’re over 50 – maybe even over 45 – many recruiters aren’t interested. They say they’ll look at you and accept your name in the lists I generate but they’re really not. No kidding.

I know this will bring down a firestorm of disapproval from some of my readers, but the fact remains that ageism is a very real and huge problem in our society.

Face it. Get over it. Do something — talk openly about it here.

Being unemployed

This one translates to “…desperately needs a job.” Whatever you do, try not to be unemployed when you look for another job. This is one of the paramount reasons you should always have your eye and ear open to new opportunities. Women should take special heed to this advice.

As a jobholder do you know how to also be a jobseeker?

Having holes in your resume

Again, girls, listen up. Those five years you took off getting five kids up out of the dirt are going to penalize you when you want to (have to) go back to work. I’m not quite sure what to say to you: this issue is endemic also in our society and contributes to the fact that you only make seventy six cents for every dollar a man makes.

Maybe others can help out here with advice.

A resume that looks like a treatise

Keep it direct. Keep it simple. Use a bullet plan. Most recruiters like that best.

And whatever you do, do not speak about yourself in the third person.

Not being relocatable

Being able to relocate is a huge advantage in today’s job market. So many people are “underwater” in their housing and haven’t had their “come to Jesus” moments of awakening, yet they’re in denial about what’s going on in the housing market and think they’d be better off waiting this thing out.

If you’re one of these, get on with your life. Sell your house and move if you have an opportunity to do so. Don’t wait ‘til you need to move. Put your house on the market NOW and prepare to move if you have any inkling at all that you may need a job in the near future (five years or less).

Not being “warm”

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I just heard that the single most important thing to career success is being “warm.” This means knowing how to talk to people in real time, face to face, and being able to engage with them on a human level. If you don’t know — learn how to do the facey-face stuff.

Not being findable

They pay me to find you guys. And some of you just can’t be found because the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile was when you joined three years ago and in the meantime you’ve lost the job you had and you haven’t gone back to let anyone know where you are today.

They’re not mind readers — recruiters, you know.

They like things simple, easy, and fast.

Nowadays, social media sites are beginning to monetize — fast! They’re eliminating last names to get viewers to pay to see you. Yes, there’s a way to find your last name, but most don’t know how to do it or don’t want to take the time to do it.

Many — the great majority — won’t pay (at least yet … it depends how this thing evolves) to see you.

Get smart. Think how to get your contact info into your profiles. Place your e-mail in (use the word “at” instead of the @ symbol for your email) and get your phone number in there for goodness sakes.

Read their Terms of Service. Most don’t want you doing this, so take my advice at your own risk on some sites. But some other sites don’t seem to mind.

Women: listen up again. Your names many times don’t show up on 411.com searches because your phone number is listed under your husband’s name. If you live alone many of you like to use unlisted numbers. This is career suicide these days.

If you’re only using a cell, get it out there linked to your name. Most people don’t know how to find cell numbers. Beware, though — I can see cell phone crawlers accumulating cell phone numbers for distribution lists. Is there a way to block crap calls?

If you have a common name, think to use a middle name or initial. Maiden names might also be considered.

Unwillingness to change direction

If your resume (or profile) reflects that you’re unwilling to do just about anything at just about any pay to get out of the situation you find yourself in as an unemployed jobseeker — forget it. Employers are looking to retool their workforces with workers who are multidimensional and cheap.

These are hard and fast facts of life these days. Get used to it. I don’t care that you have a PhD in fiddle-fooling-around. You’re at risk.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


42 Comments on “What You Wish You Could Tell Candidates

  1. Maureen,
    Thank you for writing this post. So true! A great recruiter develops trust and can only offer suggestions. 100% honesty may hurt a candidates ego/pride.
    I personally have never been this bold and this article speaks the truth! The only thing I thought about which I often see in resumes -98% in the third person. (Great Dad, Love to Fish, Boy Scout Coach, etc).
    Laurie DesAutels

  2. Great job Maureen! Jobseekers have to become more savvy and evolve as well – recruiters have had to do it (how many times have we heard gone are the days when recruiters do…xyz?) and now the most progressive recruiters embrace all of the changes that are now making them successful in uncovering top talent in today’s labor market.

    Jobseekers need to keep themselves at the top of the game as well. Stay-at-home moms – keep up your computer skills!!!! BIGGEST piece of advice I can give this group (and most of my closest girlfriends fall into this category). Sooo many positions these days require intermediate to advanced skills in Microsoft Office and Outlook. Install the latest version on your home computer, and use it daily to keep track of whatever is going on in your homelife.

    If Jobseekers remind themselves that it is their job to put their best foot forward and ensure they have marketable skills, brush up on interview skills, follow up, ask intelligent Q’s, etc., they honestly have already put themselvs at the top of the pack.

  3. Well said! Fancy fonts, small fonts and boxes in resumes also should be avoided. Best to use Arial or Times New Roman and at least 11 point font.
    Candidates should also avoid putting resumes on sites where most anyone can look at them. Best method is to submit the resume for specific positions only and keep track of where you sent the resume.
    Use only one recruiter or at most two recruiters. We have some recruiters that send resumes without permission from the candidate – when the candidate is submitted by several recruiters for the same job – the candidate is almost never considered for the job – the resume has lost value.

  4. It is what it is and Maureen has said it. As well as some good pointers on how to overcome. Being findable and marketable is the name of the game.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, if you are over 50 your hairstyle and color dates back to the 80’s not to mention your wardrobe. Update. Get a professional picture on Linkedin and a profile. You are marketable if you don’t look like you are ready for a nursing home.

    Stay at home moms who want to reenter the job market when Jr. starts school. Do some volumteer work like keeping books for the PTA, church, any civic group. Accounting is accounting even it’s free and it belongs on your resume. Do computer related work if that is your field, set up websites, be a court volunteer. Most organizations are desperate for volunteer help that will keep you up to date on your skills.

    Take the spam filter off your email that requires someone to fill out some link before their email can go through. Most recruiters won’t go through that drill. Paranoia about privacy that keeps you from accepting emails or listing your phone number will keep you safely sitting in your chair with the cat instead of being contacted about a potential career opening.

  5. Are there really this many recruiters out there who would cheer when someone who says we practice age discrimination?

    All I can say is that in my organization, we don’t discriminate because of age. Hey, I got hired here, and I’m over 45.

  6. You have not even touched the surface regarding hiring practices. Think of being a BLACK male over 45 who has recruited since the mid 80s in almost every industry. We are being eliminated in recruiting. I see mostly white females or females in human resources overall. I saw the handwriting on the wall 6 years ago. Diversity is a joke. I discovered an African American male should seek employment outside the USA. Now I am on my way to Afghanistan to work as a contractor.

    P.S Obama’s election only increased discrimation in America
    in the hiring pyramid.

  7. Hi Folks,

    Send these out to anyone who may be able to use them- if you/they are looking for a new position, here are links to collections of job-hunting resources:

    The Riley Guide (http://www.rileyguide.com/)

    Job-Hunt (http://www.job-hunt.org/-hunt.com )

    Ask the Recruiter (http://www.asktherecruiter.com/)

    GlassDoor (http://www.glassdoor.com/)


    Here are several hundred recent (within the past 30 days or so) non-administrative Bay Area recruiting positions.

    You can change the search parameters to match your requirements.

    CRAIGSLIST http://tiny.cc/lGLmJ http://tiny.cc/ocF10



    INDEED Leads for Recruiter, Recruiting, Staffing, Talent, Sourcer, Sourcing, Placement http://tiny.cc/VM4St


    SIMPLY HIRED Leads for Recruit, Recruiter, Recruiting, Staffing, Talent, Sourcer, Sourcing, Placement http://tiny.cc/Ikgu2


  8. The housing market will probably continue to be a factor for many, many years, for the astute reason you point out… there are a large quantity of homeowners who haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that to sell their home they may need to write a (large) check at closing if they want to relocate for that new job.

    On the topic of people who have left the workforce for a period of time, my advice is as follows:

    1.) Get really clear on your talking points: What’s the story, what were your reasons, and importantly, how does the time away make you a better employee or prospective employee? Use the time off as a differentiator.

    2.) Make sure the gap is explained on the resume. Don’t just leave the time period blank on your resume.

    3.) Identify the potential gaps that the time off may have impacted and address them. For example, if you are a web designer and technology has moved on, address the gaps proactively so you can speak to them: “Technology has really changed during the period I stayed home to raise my children, but I’m back up to speed on all the latest technology through self study, practice at home, and some side projects I have done…”


  9. Steve, I don’t think anybody is cheering just saying yes it exists in many, many place even if companies say they don’t. I think it is great that your organization does not. I have some clients who acturally prefer more mature candidates because of their maturity and experience but we all know there are many who will kick the more mature person to the curb for nit picking reasons.

    Michael – that stinks. Why to you think Obama’s election increased discrimination in the U. S.?

  10. Steve,I agree with you. I find a lot in this article really disturbing. As a staffing director, I can honestly say that I care about finding qualified candidates – regardless of their age, their current employment status, or whether they decided at one point in their lives to take time off for personal reasons. And those unemployed? I’m sure they would definitley agree – it IS better to look for a job while you’re employed. I don’t think the employer that eliminated their positions really cared about that or probably gave them a big heads up.

    The stereotyping of this is really sad.

  11. Sounds like all the recruiters Maureen is talking about aren’t very understanding. The only topics I agree with are about being warm and being findable (which sounds pretty specific to her job).

    While bullets are easy to read, recruiters get bored with cookie cutter resumes. Variety is fine as long as it’s well done.

  12. Sadly, for those of us who have been in the trenches of third party recruiting for a LONG time, we know these truths to be self evident, that all applicants are NOT treated equally. If you haven’t seen or experienced these things from our side of the desk before, consider yourself fortunate. Do this long enough, and you will.

  13. I also found this article a bit disturbing, I don’t think we should be encouraging discrimination. I have recruited for agencies and most recently in corporate. Corporate recruiters strive to find the best talent and educate the hiring managers that try to discriminate. If you are avoiding older workers or people of color you are living in the past. You need to know how to truly support your client; skills rule and the OFCCP is a very real part of recuiting.

  14. Carmen,

    Before your analysis that this article is encouraging discrimination takes any rooting let me be clear.

    Nobody here is encouraging discrimination.

    What is being said is that (age) discrimination exists and if you want to change it do something to change it rather than point fingers at the change agents.

    Killing the messenger is an age-old technique of keeping mischief afoot.

  15. I’ll stand with Maureen on this one. Just because we recognize that a bad thing happens, doesn’t mean that we endorse or encourage it.

  16. Anyone who thinks this article is encouraging discrimination must not have actually read the article. There are EIGHT topics here – only one of which mentions discrimination (age) and that section acknowledges the “firestorm” it may invoke. Speaking candidly in the world of Political Correctness tends to do that.

    Discrimination has always existed and will always exist. That includes the past, the present, AND the future. We do it hundreds of times a day as we opt for things that we are comfortable with… and avoid those things that we are not comfortable with. Age, gender, skin color, religion… there is no moral difference. If you think there is no practical difference, you’re fooling only yourself.

    *Individuals* discriminate – not companies, industries, or organizations. How and how much one does it is a personal choice. How one responds to it is also a personal choice. Deal with it.

  17. That which is not acknowledged can not heal!

    Anyone who has been in recruiting for over 20 minutes and does not think that all of the points Maureen has mentioned here are a fact of life is wearing a big pair of rose colored glasses.

    The truth is often disturbing but speaking the truth is not encouraging anything but truth. Better to acknowledge and look for solutions. If age discrimination did not exist there would never have been all the rules and regs and government agencies trying to stop it. From the viewpoint of several posts here it would seem that the OFCCP could be accused of encouraging discrimination since they mentioned that it was real and the ADA and the EEOC. Should we write them a letter suggesting that they are encouraging discrimination by passing all these rules and regs?

    Better in my view to acknowledge truth and attempt to help people level the playing field by what ever means works. One can not change their age or their gender or their skin color but one can present themselves to the best advantage if they know how. One can not change their experience but one can present that experience in a manner that will best reflect it. One can not find every job listed in the universe but one can open the doors to make themselve findable. Etc. Etc.

    That would be what this is all about. Thanks Maureen!

  18. Maureen, there are good points in your article; being findable, bullet pointing your resume, and being warm. And to those points you give good advise on making positive changes. The rest, frankly, I believe is our job as recruiters to work through and understand if we truly want to find the best candidates for our companies/clients. How can we say that candidates without jobs are desperate and therefore not worthy of our time in this economy, when so many household names have closed their doors. Alot of talented people are without jobs due to no fault of their own. The same with taking time off to care for kids or ailing parents, does that really make a candidate not a fit? They may not have recent skills but not once have I talked to a candidate returning to the workforce expecting to make or be at the level they were at when they left. And saying that people should pick up and relocate their lives is a simnplistic solution to a complicated problem.

    As the messenger you did not discourage the age discrimination, you stated it is fact, it happens. I acknowledge it happens, but a change agent would provide the encouragement to their colleagues to look past a persons profile picture or the number of years on a resume and focus on what counts: do they have the skills to do the job successfully and will they add value to the organization.

    So to clarify to all that are ready to blast me, our job as a recruiter is to find the the best talent and present a case to the hiring managers that proves our point. We should not accept that discrimination (making assumptions about people out of work is a new type of discrimnation) happens and work around it.

  19. Carmen, great points. It’s not that everyone here is so naive to think that discrimination doesn’t exist. Of course it does – and it many forms. My objection here is the flippant way in which we assume that certain types of candidates should accept their plight (you’re old, you’re unemployed and therefore not marketable) and the casual way in which we all seem to accept it. As those on the front lines of recruiting, yes, it’s great to give candidates advice on how to market themselves, regardless of their age, color, economic standing, etc. I do it all the time. But it’s another to make comments like “if you’re over 50, update your hairstyle” like people over a certain age need to conform to a certain way or give up on finding employment. I got news for you – not all 30 somethings dress so well, either, but it doesn’t keep them from doing their jobs.

    What I didn’t like was the seemingly blatant stereotyping in the comments. Let’s remember that we are in the front lines of employment and should be doing our best to put the right candidates in the right roles. I left the world of the generalist to do staffing bedause of the positive impact I can have on both the organization and the individual I’m bringing in to the company. It beats the heck out of job eliminations and I consider it my job to make sure that my hiring managers aren’t weeding people out for the wrong reasons (which, by the way, I really don’t find happening because usually they’re happy to find someone with the skillsets they need).

  20. I agree with Maureen- stating the facts is not encouraging the practice. IMHO until it becomes a candidate’s market again, if you’re looking for a job and don’t have the skills and background of the small elite which so much of ERE is devoted to discussing/attracting/recruiting, then you better dot all the “i s” and cross all the “t s,” jump through all the hoops, and learn to say “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!”

    Carmen, there are two definitions of “change agent”-
    1) “A powerful and influential visionary who in his/her secure position is able to create meaningful change in the organization.”
    2) “An annoying and disruptive malcontent who doesn’t know that you go along to get along, and gets fired.”

    As http://www.despair.com says:
    I may not agree with what you say, but I respect your right to be punished for it.



  21. Being annoying and disruptive in stating my views of the power we have as recruiters to make a positive impact on an organization by finding great talent dispite age, ethinicity and current employment status is a small price to pay for not having to say “yes,sir yes, sir”. So punish me for jumping through the hoops and dotting “i’s” as opposed to sheepishly follow the misguided shepard. I can live with that.

    The bottom line for me is that the best candidate for an organization may not be the obvious choice and if I have to stand behind them and prove my point to a hiring manager I would rather be the consultant in the situation than the order taker. We are all in the same position, why not choose to fight for the cause as opposed to enabling the natural instinct to discriminate?

  22. I have news for you Kim, those 30 year olds who look like five miles of bad road have to be told to update their hairstyles and dress also if they want to present well in an interview.

    This is not about “doing the job” it’s about having the opportunity to do it. However i can promise you , right or wrong, fair or unfair, legal or illegal. A somewhat sloppy 30 year old will get an offer over a 58 year old woman with gray hair, a finger wave perm and orthopedic oxfords. That same 58 year old woman who updates her hairstyle, wears a sharp business suit and a stylish pair of pumps will get the offer over the somewhat sloppy 30 year old more times than not.

    The question is why not make every effort to be competetive in the job market. Otherwise we could hand write resumes on notebook paper, wear pajamas or jeans and tennis shoes, show up and demand to be hired because we can “do the job”.

    Interviewing is selling, my take is that as recruiters we have the responsibility to use our knowledge of the market to help our candidates present themselves. Selling is overcoming objections whatever they may be. If that is “flippant” i am certainly guilty as charged. I will tell a candidate of any age who is out of date, be it a kid who still dresses like college or an over 50 candidate who looks like they are ready for Happy Valley to update the look and get with the program.

    A candidate has to be found, have a decent resume, present well and sell themselves to have the opportunity to do a job. It’s always been that way and it always will be that way. I learned the hard way that it’s much better to help a candidate present as well as they possibly can than hear from a hiring manager, “The skills are maybe there, but he/she looks like hell, which makes me think if he/she doesn’t care about the way he/she looks then i could anticipate they would not care about the quality of their work.” The second candidate had about the same skill set and looked like they cared about the way they looked so i am going to go that direction.”

  23. In case you haven’t noticed, the authors in the opinion forum are encouraged to walk on the edge to stimulate discussion and, hopefully, attract more readers to the ERE site.

    In this case, Maureen went up to the edge and then had the audacity to be candid. Many groups came to life. There are the people in the glass houses, the people chuckling as they hand them the stones to throw, the people singing ‘Kumbaya’ around the campfire, the indignant elite, and of course, the eternal victims.

    I find them all fascinating… but I’d never hire the folks who can’t spell, format a sentence, or use proper grammar. It’s my own special way of discrimination. ;>)

    Nicely done, Maureen. Thanks.

  24. Not the kind of “discussions” I like to have. Too argumentative. Guess I’ll remove myself from the site. (Sentences intended to be written in fragments.)

  25. Great sterotyping Dave. 🙂 emoticon noted.

    For pedagogical purposes would discrimation be to find innocent? I hate it when that happens.

  26. Great tips for stay at home Moms:

    Don’t just leave blanks on a resume or application, focus on all of the volunteering you’ve done with your children’s school or with your church or other organizations and list those in the same fashion you would a job, but with Volunteer in place of the job title.

    If you haven’t done any volunteering… you better start. Its about the only other alternative besides furthering your education that you can do to add value to your resume while being a stay at home Mom that will make you marketable in today’s job market.

  27. It seems to me that you tend to blog about things that you dont do professionally yourself. This is the equivalent of me blogging about what challenges HR Business Partners face on a daily basis, while being a Recruiter. Sure, recruiting has something to do with HR, but you are a name’s sourcer. I would like to read more challenges that you face, and help Recruiters plow through the sourcing aspect.

    About being old…I challenge any 30-something professional to compete against my father in the job market. Its about how you appear in business, not how old you are. My father can run circles around me in tech crunch stuff, twitter blogs, etc… not to mention that he dresses very sharply.

    I discriminate against people who are simply not place-able. I need to concentrate on placements. If you look very dated (even in your 30s) then that is unattractive. So long as you can do the job and remain bright, warm, and sharp….youre employable. This is not being idealistic either. If you have a marketable skill, and are willing to compete and be realistic, there should be no problem finding meaningful work.

  28. Ariel, I have to disagree with that last part:
    “If you have a marketable skill, and are willing to compete and be realistic, there should be no problem finding meaningful work.”:

    There are ~5 candidates for each current job opening.

    The total number of job openings in September was 2.9 million, while the total number of unemployed workers was 14.8 million (the latter data are from the Current Population Survey). This means that the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 5.0-to-1 in September, an increase from the revised August ratio of 4.8-to-1. The job-seekers ratio is displaying a similar trend to other labor market data – substantial improvements from late 2009 to the spring of 2010, and then stalling out what are still crisis levels. September’s value, at 5-to-1, is over three times as high as the first half of 2007, when the ratio averaged 1.5-to-1.

    Also, there’s a new term: “malemployment”.
    ….ANDREW SUM, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University: Nearly half of all young college graduates — I’m talking about B.A.-holders under — 25 and under — only half of them are working in a job that requires a college degree.

    The rest of them are working in jobs that either don’t — do not require a degree or not working at all. On average, by the way, their salary is 40 percent less than a college graduate that is in a job that requires a college degree.



  29. Well gee, it sounds like the message is getting out there. But I still believe that most of us unemployed, over aged, over qualified and underappreciated executives who continue to look for jobs in the U.S.A. do not quite get it yet. As an executive in my job, if there is a component of my work that I cannot change, is consuming vast quantities of scarce resources and producing no benefit, what action do I take? I get rid of it. I fire it. I eliminate it.

    Fire your recruiters. You don’t need them. They are leftovers from the 20th century. The world has changed and they do not get it. Like dinosaurs, they are slowly dropping dead. It is not your problem; you cannot fix it, so leave it behind and get on with your life.

    Some of us are starting to get it, but because one of our character defects is that we are also “too nice”, we have a hard time calling a spade a spade. Net working is what works. The answer is net working with other people just like us. We can help ourselves. Many examples are cited above. They are the rule in the vast majority of cases. I would be willing to bet that over 90% of us get our problems solved with net working. Remember the 80 / 20 rule? Well we are way, way past that breakpoint.

    So with great serenity accept that the problem is not yours to fix, wisely understand that you cannot do anything to change it, and courageously release it from your life. Fire your recruiters and go in peace. This should be your first resolution. Happy New Year!

  30. Re: Holes in your resume. Women should take note of their extracurricular activities during the child-rearing days. Volunteer work during that time may yield some important experience. Did you do fundraising? Take on the financial duties or other board position for an organization? Created or managed a website or blog? These experiences indicate that you were not isolated, but continued to participate in society, doing “real” work.

  31. http://tinyurl.com/cl46zxz <– "They don’t prepare you for this in college or admit it in job interviews. The harsh reality is that if you are middle-aged, write computer code for a living, and earn a six-figure salary, you’re headed for the unemployment lines. Your market value declines as you age and it becomes harder and harder to get a job." ~ Vivek Wadhwa, The Tech Industry’s Darkest Secret: It’s All About Age

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