What You Don’t Dare Tell Job Candidates (But Wish You Could)

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 job seeker?
  • 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 76 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.” 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 have 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.

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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 job seeker — forget it. Employers are looking to retool their workforces with workers who are multi-dimensional 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!


25 Comments on “What You Don’t Dare Tell Job Candidates (But Wish You Could)

  1. Wow, yet ANOTHER article designed to scare the hell out of job seekers in a bad economy.

    Old? You’re screwed. Unemployed? You’re screwed. Care about your family and took time off to raise them? You’re screwed.

    And listing your cell phone # online… really? Being able to email someone isn’t good enough?

    I appreciate your attempt at providing some solutions, but if helping job seekers is truly a concern, I’d have loved for you to have built out the “and what you can do about it” portions a lot more.

    And at the heart of the issue, shouldn’t we demand more from our recruiters? I know there are many, many great recruiters out there, but there are also lots of bad ones.

    Recruiters who think that not having a job right now means you’re somehow not as qualified. Who think that personality traits like being quite or meek makes you less desirable. Who think taking time off to raise your kids makes you less valuable.

    Those recruiters suck, and they ruin it for everyone else.

    – Chris

      1. It is definitely a combination of both.  I could bend your ears for a while on this subject

  2. Yeah, I knew about the old fact. Many employers simply want younger employees because they scream young and lively ha but what’s wrong with someone with some life experience and more common sense? I do think the economy is getting a lot better lately. After all, we are out of the recession, according to many.

  3. I totally agree with you Chris. While this is how many recruiters operate and think, no job seeker needs to hear this. But I think Stephanie is also right. As a recruiter, I know how this job can shape your thinking. Clients’ demands shape the way we view resumes and job seekers (for the worse usually). You develop a very critical eye (you have to!) and are only able to work with and help the very best candidates out there. But that’s what our clients pay us for. I think many people view recruiters as gatekeepers to jobs, but in fact, we are only the middle man. We don’t work miracles, especially not in this economy. We can only find specific skill sets for demanding clients.

  4. As an ex-candidate, i can tell you that recruiters have high or very high expectations from candidates, but most of the time make compromises, mainly because they know that what they’re looking for does not exist or that they cannot afford it.

    In conclusion, candidates need jobs, but companies also need employees, and the same way candidates cannot afford not to have a job for a long time, companies cannot afford to have less employees than they need.

    This does not apply during recessions, when companies can afford to wait for the perfect candidate, which in my opinion is an abuse, because it not only affects the job market, but also existing employees and even customers of the company.

  5. If you don’t want to use your regular phone, ladies, use Google Voice, Skype, or something similar. For resumes that are posted on the web, to recruiters that you have no idea who they are or their reputation, and just plain guarding your ID, they work. People can find you, but you are untraceable or nearly so. A full forensic trace would find you, but few people possess those skills. The beauty of this-I have mine forwarding calls to my regular phone and voice mails to my email. I never miss a thing.

    1. Great suggestion. I’ve been doing this for years, not so much to mask who I am but to allow companies in my target markets across the US to call me on a local number. I use Skype and the cost per number is fairly low.

  6. ehm… many people now haveholes in their resumes due to… let’s say… shit economy.

    how they can justify that hole? can they be frank?

  7. When it comes to executives, much of what you’ve written is just not valid.

    Age is a plus when someone’s looking for senior management.

    Having a plausible employment gap (child rearing, caring for a sick spouse/parent, sabbatical, layoff) is not much of a problem if you have an outstanding personal brand, a robust network and a history of success.

    When I work with executives who are looking for a job, all of them get hired. Whether they’ve been out of work, are already in a job, want to do something different… it’s not only possible, it’s very, very doable.

    Perhaps sourcing IT people is a different gig – more like replacing widgets, huh? (I jest, of course) But readers should know that your advice is not necessarily transferrable to everyone.

    — Michele Woodward

    1. Agree completely, with the only exception in sourcing IT people. I’ve been in that world for more years than the author would care to consider as a viable candidate. As long as the IT person has been evolving with technology, I have an easier time placing an “old dog” than a “young turk” every day. Not to say I can’t place the younger set also, there are many places and situations that call for all enthusiasm, no experience. 🙂

  8. Maureen, heaven forbid that someday YOU should get old, or have someone in your family develop a dreadful disease (or you yourself get ill and need extended time off) and there’s need to take care of them for an extended period. Even worse (at least for the potential child) is the idea that you might HAVE one someday and decide in your regal tone that no one else is capable of raising said offspring as well as you, and you need to take a few years off before you stick them in an expensive private school on their road to Harvard or Yale. THEN what would you do with the holes in YOUR resume?

    Life is what happens while we are making plans, as the saying goes. Nobody PLANS to have cancer, and need to take time off to deal with it. Nobody PLANS to have a husband die of a deadly disease and have it take months, or years of intense care. Nobody PLANS for situations where emotional issues from your life impact you on the job, to the point where even if you don’t talk about it, you’re disciplined or eventually forced out by it. I’ve known women who have had that happen because they were going through abusive relationships. And nobody can keep themselves from getting older. Now the economy is in the tank, and jobs are few and far between. People can’t sell houses, because no one can afford to buy them, and you can’t walk away from them without ruining your credit, if you are able to keep up payments at all. And EVERY potential employer these days checks credit ratings, so that’s another blow in this economy. Particularly if you aren’t working, and have problems keeping the basic bills paid. When you have experience in only one or two areas, and the open jobs aren’t in those areas, employers aren’t going to hire you when they can hire someone with some relevant experience. Administrative workers don’t get hired at grocery stores and restaurants, young kids do, to your point. But we still have bills to pay, and your callous attitude doesn’t help. A job would.

  9. There are some truths in this article. Like the resume that is too long and yes age definitely is a factor. I am not convinced that having a gap in your resume is a killer as long as you can explain it. Employers are not monster they have children too. And I am not sure that publishing your telephone number all over the place is smart. Crank calls anyone? As long as your email address is out there and you check your email and respond regularly that should not be a problem. I highly recommend having an email address just for job hunting.

    1. Ah, the joys of freedom of expression. Yes, sometimes things gets published and circulated that we don’t really agree with. Some think that’s a really good thing, while others bemoan what gets published.

      The answer, of course, is to offer up those actual solutions. Some may see this as fear mongering, while others believe it is a real representation of what is going on out there. If you have the answers, don’t hesitate to share them with everyone else …

  10. In my opinion this article is useless. We really don’t need any more news on why people aren’t getting jobs. Just as others have said here, life happens and it’s a shame that some employers or some recruiters who don’t want to have to think too hard don’t realize that or are unwilling to accept that. The point is, they may be missing out on a good, long-term employee because of their prejudices (yes, let’s call it what it is). You cannot prevent yourself from getting older so even to include that in this article is ridiculous. With age comes a lot of wisdom…too bad some hiring managers don’t realize that. Not to mention the work ethic that older workers seem to have much more than the younger ones these days. As far as gaps in a resume is concerned, I agree that in technical fields that may be an issue. For some others, however, it may make no difference at all. Many people are going to have gaps these days. As far as relocating is concerned, if you’re young, single and childless it may be no big deal. There’s much more to it than just selling your house (I know. I’ve done it twice). The only sound advice in this article is making yourself more “findable” online and developing face-to-face skills. But even that we’ve heard before.

  11. While these may reflect Maureen’s experiences, some of her guidance is not true everywhere. I work in Human Resources in the San Francisco Bay Area where (contrary to other parts of the country) there is a serious shortage of qualified talent. My company as is the case with many others in the area, could care less if you are a mother, how old you are, or if you are currently unemployed (although we may ask why).

    While I have a different perspective on some of Maureen’s advice, some of it is good: Being warm in an interview, companies want to hire people they like and to whom they can relate. Keeping your resume simple and focused on what you’ve accomplished in each job. Being findable, get over your fear and sign up on LinkedIn…..if we can’t find you, others can’t and who knows how many opportunities are passing you by.

  12. I wanted to make a few comments and also ask a question. I am in my mid-40’s but don’t look like it and what was interesting is that one of the people I interviewed with said commented that they interviewed others (that I know) and said that they were seemed old and had no energy…wouldn’t you say it’s all about energy and the perception that we give off in the interview. The problem is that when the job applications ask for the date of college graduation or something like that, they will figure out how “old” we are. I think it depends on the industry. In the pharmaceutical industry, looking at mid-senior management level positions, I think it’s ok and to have a longer resume (3 pages) has not hurt. The one thing I wanted to get your thoughts on, that if one is offered a interviewing someone from CA and knows that then wants them to move to PA or NJ for a national sales job (meaning you’d be traveling a lot across the country anyhow (what’s the point of relocation and uprooting a family and trying to sell a home in a very bad economy)? What I am worried about is that I have been told a job offer is coming, and they want me to relocate, but I cannot sell my house in this market and the market I would be moving to is more expensive. What do you do? I don’t mind traveling at all. But to take such as large financial hit on a job that that is literally national with customers from one end to the other, what do you do? How do you work with a company or negotiate? I like the company and person I would be working for very much. But right now, the taking the job as a relo would cost me a lot of money. I have just spoken with our accountant and he said it’s not good to relo in this market (esp since they don’t buy the home after a certain period of time). The average in our area is over 274 days on the market and it’s a nice area. Thoughts on how to approach?

  13. Crap and cruel article by a smug recruiter who doesn’t know how to properly present a qualified candidate who may have a perceived “strike” against them. Lazy and irresponsible.

  14. I couldn’t help but comment on this – this article is exactly why we can’t people back to work…most of this article is pretty bad advice and I would hope great recruiters aren’t following it.

  15. Original Article: http://tinyurl.com/2df98l9  Interesting the difference in responses between jobseekers and recruiters.  Just sayin’.

  16. Shooting the messenger who alerts on the cold reality of employment bias is aiming too low. Aim higher at the hire-er.

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