Career Advice, Interviews

Victims Don’t Get Jobs

A recent quote in an article in the Wall Street Journal was a perfect summation of something I think has been coming to a boil over the last 6 months. Colleen McCreary, the head of HR for Zynga, was talking about mistakes that jobseekers make when applying online. Colleen’s warning to jobseekers was direct and dire: “You are going to be remembered – and not in a positive way.”

What does this mean? I think it means that recruiters and HR professionals are starting to point out that in this economy jobseekers should beware thinking that populist rage is a solid strategy for finding a job.

According to many “experts”, jobseekers are getting screwed by (take your pick): incompetent recruiters, stupid management, ignorant hiring managers, HR dullards, bad processes or general incompetence. Reading these “You should be mad as hell and not take it anymore!” screeds are intended to make jobseekers feel good about where they find themselves. “It’s not you, it’s them!” Wrong. Recruiters and HR professionals are getting tired of taking it on the chin.

If you are serious about finding a job you need to drop the victim narrative. For every jobseeker who is angry because of their job hunting experience, there is a recruiter who is just as mad because of jobseeker behavior. The experts are stoking a blame-delegation and finger-pointing exercise that can only lead to fewer real solutions and more bad blood. And in this economy the jobseeker is going to be the ultimate loser.

Think that the jobseeker is the only one with a right to complain about the awful recruiting experience? Think again:

  • Do you hate it when companies post jobs that aren’t really open? How is that different than a jobseeker applying for a job that they really don’t want? Every recruiter I know has to sift through hundreds of applications from candidates who later admit “I didn’t really want that job; I just thought I would get noticed if I applied for everything.” You will be remembered for all the wrong reasons if you are applying for jobs in batches.
  • Do you hate it when companies put all this great language in the job description about how wonderful the job opportunity is, and then you take the job and find out that the “marketing language” was nothing but baloney? How is that any different than a jobseeker making a community college algebra class into a “training in advanced mathematics?” You will definitely make an impression (the wrong one) when the recruiter finds out you “exaggerated.”

None of these behaviors is acceptable by either party. Recruiters shouldn’t do it, jobseekers shouldn’t either. When jobseekers spam resumes, batch apply, exaggerate (or worse) on resumes, and fail to show up for interviews or phone calls they waste recruiter’s and hiring manager’s time. This is time that should be spent responding to jobseekers who have an honest shot at the job, guiding people through the recruiting process, answering questions and otherwise creating a superior jobseeker experience.

Does this mean that jobseekers are to blame for the poor state of recruiting? Of course not. But so what? Does your indignation about the recruiting experience increase your probability of finding meaningful employment? No. All you can control is your beliefs, perspectives and behaviors. So let me give you an alternative point of view which can help you skip the cynicism and frame your interaction with recruiting in a more positive light.

Most of the people I know in recruiting and employment pursued their profession because they love the feeling of finding someone work. They believe that they are helping people, doing good things for jobseekers, companies and hiring managers. It genuinely hurts them when they have to tell someone they are not qualified for a job. They really do want a good outcome for you. Not all of them, and not all the time, but most of them and most of the time.

Recruiters are going to make mistakes. So are you. We need to cut each other some slack and focus our time and energy on getting you a job and fixing the system, not on blaming each other for a crappy reality. Please, be remembered – positively.