Recruiting: Are You Labeling Job Seekers?

by Deb Andrychuk

13 July, 2012

I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Nationwide Insurance Talent Acquisition conference at the end of June in Columbus, Ohio. Slotted to present the day after their keynote speaker, Eric Winegardner who is VP of Client Adoption & Strategy at Monster, all I could do was wonder if I could measure up to my friend and former co-worker who is a freaking rock star with a microphone and Powerpoint. For those of you who don’t know @ewmonster, he is a bigger than life personality and one of the most fun people I know. He’s a fascinating blend of ex-HR person, fashion policeman, recruitment industry thought leader, fashion advisor, culinary critic, recruitment trends analyst, stand-up comedian and fearless customer/jobseeker advocate all wrapped up into one uncanny resemblance to Jack Black. He is also one of the most engaging speakers in human capital that you could ever have the pleasure of spending time with and he is damn funny!

But, I have to tell you, watching Eric was a real eye opener for me. In that conference room at the Hyatt, Eric got the crowd (me included) thinking about how important it is to treat your job seekers like you would your own consumers and to focus on the sacred candidate experience. After poking fun at Nationwide’s use of Lotus notes, he next dared everyone to think about how job seekers are labeled and the lack of equity that exists in a job search by the unemployed versus the gainfully employed. With 12.7 million unemployed Americans in June 2012, the equivalent of the population of the 30 smallest states (individually), Eric shared that many of the unemployed were just victims of circumstance. How could this classification be an okay practice based on the current economic conditions and the jobs crisis across America today?

He went on to say that “Unemployed” is without a doubt the biggest stigma you can attach to a job seeker right now. It’s become so uncool to hire the unemployed that some companies have begun putting a line in their advertisements, “Unemployed need not apply.” Eric stated wryly to the group, “It’s like saying that only married people are worth dating.” Quiet filled the room as I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Had I not made a living pounding into my clients’ heads how it was imperative that we get their brand and positions in front of the elusive yet exclusive passive job seeker? Don’t we all put a premium on the passive seeker and look down our noses at the active? Haven’t we all been told “That the active seeker couldn’t possibly be talented, he’s looking for a job!?” How is it that just a few short years ago, it was perfectly très chic to search for your next venture on a job board, and now candidate hide the fact that they saw your ad there? It’s no wonder that candidates don’t apply to job postings at the same frequency that we witnessed ten or even five years ago. They are afraid they will be labeled. And, we have taught job seekers that they have to find a more cunning entrance into your company. Whether the candidate feels like they must leverage that they are a “referral” when applying, or we teach them to indicate in your ATS that they saw the job listing on a social media site or simply “other” resource. We have taught them that it is simply not okay to be an active seeker looking job posting and that they need to lie in order to get their foot in the door. Sound familiar?

Now a few weeks later after the conference, I’ve had time to reflect and I’m really glad that Eric spoke first…it made me realize that I had something to learn and it didn’t really matter what I was going to look like or sound like the next day. It was about me being there to hear his message and it really touched me. I absolutely feel some shame and responsibility for adding fuel to the fire all these year and being part of the problem when it comes to labeling job seekers. I want to own up to my mistake. So, here I am sharing with all of you (there are like 12 people who read this blog, right?) Hear me people, “I was WRONG!” Further, I pledge that I will be open to promoting all jobseekers to Arland and client openings, regardless of how they come into the funnel.

I beg all of you who influence or make hiring decisions to offer everyone a fair and equitable chance at employment. Make your choices based on what’s right: Who is most qualified for the job? Everyone deserves the chance at the American Dream. Give them their chance, okay?