Job Search 2010 (or “why are you treating me this way?”)

I’ve recently begun volunteering with a group of professionals who are under or unemployed and looking for work.  Wow, what an insight to “job search 2010”.  Let me be clear, these are educated, experienced professionals who can read, write and solve problems as well if not better than anyone reading this blog.  I’m talking about engineers, certified project managers, HR professionals, M&A Accountants – you name a profession and these are the folks I’m talking about.


job seekers

First of all, they are exhausted.

No wonder.  Job searching in the digital age is a labyrinth of dead ends and bogus directions.   I’m getting some amazing perspective on the “advice” these folks are being given on a daily basis.  Not by their dry-cleaner, but by so called “experts”; resume writers, outplacement firms and even corporate recruiters.  My conclusion?

We have to do better by these people.

This is a call out to all of us “so-called-professionals” – we MUST do better by these people.  Why?  Because the “buyers market” we are enjoying today will not last forever and soon enough the tables will be turned and we’ll be begging these people to come work for us.  When the job market turns (as it always does) these same people who are being given the royal shaft by US will be in the driver’s seat and all the employer-job seeker karma we are tossing out there will come back three fold.



Stop treating these people as commodities.  See them for what they are, human beings.  Dads, Moms, Husbands and Wives who have committed to providing for their families and promised them a bright future.  They are not “widgets”, they are not “applicants”, they are not “candidates”.  They are first and always, humans.  If you don’t have the time to treat them with the respect they deserve, you need to get out of the HUMAN resource business.  If you are bombarded with applicants and don’t have time to treat each one well – stop advertising your jobs like a desperate love seeker on every online dating site.  Attracting job seekers only to treat them like crap is THE NUMBER 1 DO BETTER.  If you can’t do better you shouldn’t be in the human resource profession.

Okay, so that’s a little harsh but in reality there are only a few reasons this terrible disservice to job seekers exists:

1. Recruiting Department laziness. Instead of working like headhunters, developing networks of talent and strategically tapping that talent – we post jobs.  It’s so lazy it’s laughable.  Ask any business owner how she built her business and I’ll give you $5 for every one of them who says “I put an ad in the paper and waited while customers bullrushed my store.”  Post and pray is a huge suck of resources, money and time and fails to accomplish the business’ objectives.  It just makes recruiting easier.  Lazy.

2. Over-zealous interpretation of DOL laws. I’m going to call out the legal and compliance teams as well as HR and Recruiting on this one.  There are NO laws that say you have to post your jobs on Monster, much less on Monster and Careerbuilder and eFinancial Careers, and The Ladders etc.  If you are a company over 50 employees you have to get your jobs to disadvantaged people and you can do this for $25 at JobCentral and be covered for your DOL requirements.  Don’t blame your “post happy” habits on your legal and compliance teams.  How about becoming an expert on OFCCP yourself and advising YOUR legal and compliance teams on recruiting requirements. Don’t have time?  See #1 above.

hr poke

3. Horribly written job descriptions. I conducted a free webinar earlier this year on writing creative, targeted job descriptions to reduce the number of applications while increasing the quality of them.  I had a company that is doing this with amazing results present their data and it was shown that with a small investment of time you can STOP the flood of unqualified applicants.  I had 20 people attend.  Clearly this demonstrates the lack of interest or understanding (or both) of the affect a job description has on flow and quality of applications.  My only conclusion is that recruiting departments would rather focus on the cool and topical (for example social media – where I got 175 people to attend a webinar in February) than the simple and effective.  Look in the mirror before you argue.  How much energy is your department putting into social media today vs. fixing one of the largest, most consistent problems facing employers and job seekers?

Ok, so in my dream world, our recruiting department is being run like a headhunting firm (with time devoted to typical HR ’stuff’ we have to deal with in-house)  and when we DO have to post a job we’ve put accurate, honest and well thought out job descriptions onto our career sites and are getting less but better applicants.  Now onto another key thing we have to STOP.


STOP telling job seekers how to “game” the system.  Even worse, STOP giving job seekers “tips and tricks” that we all know don’t work!!  Here are some examples of what the “experts” are telling these poor job seekers that, although keeping them busy, have no tangible effect on their ability to get a job:

1. Join our Talent Community by filling out a general application in our ATS so we can find you when we have the right job. POPPYCOCK!  Seriously folks, if you are saying this to ANYONE today, please stop it.  It’s a dirty little secret of recruiting that I’m exposing to every job seeker I talk to – companies DO NOT search their ATS.  (Ok, argue if you want to but before you do, produce facts about how many hires you get from searching your ATS, how many previous candidates for jobs from last year you found in your ATS and hired for a new role – I’m serious, I’d really like to hear from you.) If recruiting is a ‘black hole” this is the most hungry black hole we create.

2. Go in and change a couple key words on your resume in our system to keep it fresh and findable. Wow, could there be a larger waste of time?  See #1 above but beyond that, whoever gives this advice to candidates has clearly not been unemployed in the last few years.  My job seeker friends apply to 10-50 jobs A WEEK!  Now you are telling them to go back to each of those applications or ATS systems and edit a word or two and THIS may help you be found? Why do we put the onus on the job seeker to make themselves findable in our ATS?  Because #1 above and even if you DO search your ATS (still haven’t heard from you…) – it’s a crappy search engine because it was never designed to be a search engine.  An ATS is a “cover your ass” tool devised in a dark dingy room by lawyers and over-zealous HR weenies.  But I digress.

3. You should have a professional Resume and Cover Letter written. Of course you need a resume and yes it should be professional but not “professionally written” necessarily.  Like job descriptions, resumes should be a highly accurate description of your history, skills and competencies and the impact you’ve had on your past employers (not touchy feely impact like “won the 5th floor bake sale 3 years on a row” but business impact – revenue or cost savings) and should cause enough of a pause to anyone scanning (not reading, recruiters don’t read resumes they scan them) it to make them email or call you.  Ask a room of recruiters how many cover letters they read in a day – the answer ZERO.  Ask a room full of hiring managers how many cover letters they read – the answer less than 10% have read ONE.  Ask resume writers how many recruiters and hiring managers read cover letters – the answer EVERYONE!  See what I’m getting at.    Once you are in a final interview or next to final interview and you want to put a summary/cover letter whatever together go ahead, print it on bond paper in gold leaf if you want because you’ll be handing very few of them out.

handle the truth

I realize that this is uncomfortable for some to read – the truth is often more painful than the lie.  But you have to trust me that when I say these things to job seekers, they are shocked because the prevailing wisdom is in direct contradiction to what I’ve said here.

Whether you agree with anything I’ve written or are writing me off as a quack, please do a very simple thing and commit personally to treating job seekers with respect, kindness and dignity – it’s all they really want if they can’t work for your company and it’s what they EXPECT if they eventually DO.


  1. Mario Caycedo on September 1st, 2010 11:34 am

    I enjoyed reading your comments above. The large number of unemployed professionals looking for jobs at this time is straining a system that was far from perfect. However, respect, kindness and dignified treatment is certainly refreshing and memorable when we experience it.

  2. Karen Schultz on December 27th, 2010 7:49 pm

    I have been supporting individuals in their career path for years and working as a change agent in my community, in my neighborhood schools, as a support teacher to “special education students” and as a support in business development for a small manufacturer. My passion is to support individuals in their “deep dive and outline for self investment” and I do it for free. It is a job I enjoy and my income is priceless, so how do I tell an employer how much they should pay me. I have had a life of successful outcomes and it is not with the use of a traditional resume. That has never seemed to work to finding the jobs I enjoy but more a matter of an employer finding a person to fill a “job.” I hope to never work or have a job but to do what really love to do every morning I awake.
    Finding such a position is very hard work and generally takes more than 40 hours a week to find not only what you love to do, but make sure your skills are going to delight those you interact with and at which you provide a profitable return on investment. This is both with regard to your investment and an employers investment. Getting in the door and achieving an appointment to learn about the company you might like to work for takes some homework and generally some networking time. If you land an interview you enjoyed, then ask for the ability to interview those you will interact with during your day. Why do they work there? Finding an environment that nurtures what you enjoy and supports your success is one worth finding.
    The resume needs to speak to the person who will benefit from having you on board. What is their day like? What makes their day easier? These are important items to know prior to taking the job. A job is defined as a problem to be solved. It is what you want to work hard at eliminating or streamlining so much you can step up because you are a profit center if you accomplish that goal. This gives you an opportunity to step up with your present employer or brag to your future employer.
    Write out an outline of what you want to accomplish. Make it a lofty end result. There is no limit on time for the accomplishment. Now if you understand how to outline such a plan, you already know you have to break it down into steps, and fill in the details answering how? why? when? and what will it take? what do you need to accompish that step to get to the next one.
    So, be brave and take a chance on yourself. Be confident in your adventure because you have done your homework, you have listened and learned from others during your networking experiences and you know what steps to take and who to talk with….now all you have to do is be persistant about what it is you really want and be able to say why with an educated confidence.
    Like you who you will work with and know why and what it is you enjoy about them. This can be an amazing time to get it right and feel really great about where you land. Visit my blog for a lot of free resources. Good luck to you and let me know how you are doing by emailing and commenting on my blog. Karen Schultz

  3. Norbert Essing on January 3rd, 2011 8:20 am

    Hello admin, i think that what you say is absolutely convincingly.

  4. Benjamin on February 12th, 2011 12:56 pm

    This is “the best” article I have ever read about the employment market since I got to experience unemployment.

    After 3 months of unemployment I stopped applying for job online. Instead, I decide on the company I want to work for and march into the hiring manager’s office to tell him/her about the values I will bring to his/her team. The worst I get is just a rejection which is not any different from what you get via e-mail anyway.

    I’m 25 and was never unemployed until I decided to move to a new place where I can take my career to the next level. Unemployment has taught me a great deal. After all I have experienced in the employment market, now I am more confident and persistent to get what I want!

    One more thing I want to add though is that after reading tens of resume and cover-letter books, I concluded Anthony Robbin’s AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN is the most effective book that can help you get a job! Please do not support this corrupted market by spending your hard-earned money on books or websites that promise to get you a job! YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN GET YOU A JOB!!! It is hard work, but it can be very rewarding if you are decided to not give up!

  5. Phil Haynes on February 22nd, 2011 8:47 am

    I completely agree that there are too many “bad” experiences out there for job seekers – most trying to make a buck off the people that can least afford to flush $ down the tube.

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