The truth? Everything is not okay; it hasn’t been for months.
What makes it terrible is not the months of unemployment; I have seen this twice in my career. What is terrible this time is the loss of simple common decency that seems to be the new norm. It has been what feels like a progressive march toward meanness within the recruiting process.
Since April of this year, I have applied to hundreds of posted positions. I keep track of every application and every contact; this is my nature. Tracking applications and contacts make it easier to avoid re-applying for the same position. I keep track of every communication I receive, every time a company acknowledges receipt, every conversation, and of course, every ‘thanks but no thanks.’ What I found in this long and soul-crushing process are the following:
1. Only 1 in 10 applications are acknowledged; even an auto-generated acknowledgment is better than nothing.
2. Only 1 in 25 will formally reject your application. What is so difficult in telling an applicant they didn’t make the cut?
3. Only half (1/2) of the companies that initiate an initial interview will follow-up, no matter where in the process; the other half ghost the applicant if they do not intend to proceed. This is demeaning and worse than the easily produced letter of ‘thanks, but we are moving on.’
a. Recruiters are even worse than direct HR. They demand an immediate response to their requests, and if you fail to respond quickly enough, they will call you, incessantly, until they get what they need. Then, nothing, nada, zip; you will not know whether they have presented you to their client. If they did present you and you did interview, you will get no feedback unless selected.
b. Let me caveat the above; the rare few are great, who treat you as if you are a human being and have some value beyond their own personal gain if you are placed. These rare few are hard to find in this increasingly cut-throat world.
Now let’s talk about the job amalgamators, all who charge you for their services. At best, these services provide a source of information for those who wish to take some of the hard work out of the search. At worst, they are a scam for those desperate for any hope in what feels hopeless. Some of these services offer glimpses of high-paying positions only accessible to their members. Others provide additional ‘free’ services, e.g., resume reviews and marketing assistance. For a fee, sometimes an exorbitant fee, they will provide re-writes and follow-up.
What you need to know. The pay to play services are not receiving their job listings directly from clients. They are scraping the internet, e.g., Dice, LinkedIn and direct company websites. They scrub for duplicates and post to their ‘exclusive’ sites. By the time you, the paying customer, see this ‘exclusive’ posting, it is from one (1) week to thirty (30) days old. The smart consumer can look at their listing without paying, check the hiring company name, and then validate the listing directly on the company website or LinkedIn. Don’t pay for services you don’t need.
Let’s talk about position descriptions briefly. Today’s applicants must have multiple certifications, higher degrees (MA vs. BA), more years of experience, and be cross-functionally skilled. They must also have specific industry experience, despite the job calls for ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. All of this and we must all be prepared to accept lower pay, fewer benefits, lower seniority levels, e.g., starting at the bottom again although we are taking on the same responsibility. Allow me to say this to all the hiring managers and others involved in the hiring process. If you are hiring into your IT group, especially at the PMO or Project Manager levels, being seeped in industry knowledge benefits you very little. These experts in their craft have spent their careers learning; this is what they are best at; learning and mentoring teams to produce solutions. Your ‘industry’ is not unique when it comes to how to do what they do.
Finally, there is the hiring company themselves. Sometimes, they use an outside recruiter other times, they are direct. My primary source is LinkedIn; yes, I pay for the privilege of using their premier services. Some of the things I have noted in this most recent time of terrible is the following:
1. Companies will post the same position repeatedly. You can see the previous posting if you are smart and save each time you apply. You can see how many other applications they received. You can see when they opened the position and approximately when they closed it. I have seen the same job posted by the same company up to 5 times within three months, with hundreds of applicants each time.
2. Companies will leave positions open for weeks, collecting hundreds of applications. They don’t acknowledge receipt; they don’t send ‘thanks but no’ to applicants. They simply collect resumes.
3. Amalgamators and outside listers are posting, e.g., JobBot, Dice. These postings force the job seeker to another list, where they are must add their name and details, possibly pay for access to the position. These are not hiring companies; instead, they are resume collection sites and amalgamators.
This is, of course, the tip of a very real iceberg. There are so many genuine issues in the market today, so many qualified job seekers who have been without work for months. Companies can afford to be choosy. Companies can eliminate benefits that do not serve them. Hiring processes can be changed, e.g., personality tests, multiple interviews, group presentations if these make sense for the position. In today’s market, the power is entirely in the recruiter’s hands, and with the hiring company, the applicant is at their mercy. This is especially true if they have been unemployed for months and are growing desperate. This is even more true as Federal Unemployment Insurance comes to an end and life becomes even more unsustainable for so many.
So why do I say it is terrible? All of the above, plus the simple lack of kindness, compassion and empathy I see everywhere in the process, including in the Home Page discussions of LinkedIn. The lack of manners, the free for all we seem to have adopted in our treatment of others. The “I got mine, everyone else can burn” attitude I see and have been scorched by in this process of looking for work. I am at the point where I have had to question my abilities, competency, perception of past success. Frankly, I have had to question other people and their agendas. I have more than once felt I was on the wrong side of social norms (ageism, sexism) during an interview process. My confidence in myself and others has been badly shaken, to the core, shaken. This is why I say it is terrible and tragic.
The truth? Everything is not okay; it hasn’t been for months.