An open letter to headhunters

No, this isn’t an appeal to remote islanders looking for cranial trophies.  Instead, I’d like to make some requests of those actively seeking prospective employees in the United States.

The current economic implosion has poured hundreds of thousands of hardworking professionals onto a market unable to place them all.  There are certainly jobs avaialble, but many of us are being told we are overqualified for them and summarily dismissed.  Laws of supply and demand are hard at work, allowing recruiters the luxury of being highly selective and weeding out many candidates who could perform the role but may have some deficit on their resumé.

To help both job seekers and people placers, I’d like to ask the following of those on the demand side of this equation:

Make the job descriptions clear, accurate and complete

Some of us are excited by a listing only to be told after applying that we’re not the good match we seemed to be.  One fellow job seeker I know was disqualified for lacking software testing experience– a requirement not listed in the job description.

Don’t describe the listing as “urgent” if you’re not ready to submit or hire

I’ve already applied for a few of these so-called immediate needs only to find myself orbitting the same black hole that contains every other opportunity.  If the need is urgent, why aren’t you the recruiter calling me back ASAP?  And why isn’t the position filled within a week or more after posting?  Which leads to…

Don’t keep prospects in the dark

Some of us are ready to rejoin the workforce NOW and so we’re going to call and email you relentlessly.  You’re better responding with even a curt “the position has been filled” rather than putting us off.  We’ll call until we’re sure the offer is expired or we’re employed again.  And this segues to…

Don’t provide contact info if you don’t intend to respond

Sure we’ll just hunt it up on Google or LinkedIn anyway, but it’s an insult to include it if you’re just going to ignore us.

There is no such thing as overqualified

We job seekers know exactly what’s going on.  We’re well aware of the deflation of college degrees and the surplus of free agent professionals on the market.  So we understand the next job we take will likely come with a lower salary, and that erosion of pay may be permanent across the board due to the (depressed) global economy.  So humor us.  Overqualified just means highly flexible and able to rise up to greater challenges when they arise.  You know they will.

Finally, don’t post positions you don’t intend to fill

Urban legend has it that you do this for a variety of reasons, one being to build a list of prospects you can keep on a string for future opportunities.  But we can’t afford to wait for that far off possibility.  And if you make a habit of listing phantom jobs, that reputation will haunt you when times improve.

Bottom line

Yes, your time is valuable, and so is ours.  So let’s both not abuse it.  We job hounds have become highly adept at narrowing in on the most likely leads.  We don’t have time to waste on improbabilities (I am now up to 70+ applications since being given notice) and you don’t have time to waste putting us off given our high persistence.  Let’s work together and make the hiring process as efficient as it can be without losing our humanity in the effort.  You’ll certainly be glad you did when you’re rewarded by our loyalty once the economy recovers.


7 responses to “An open letter to headhunters

  1. Well said…now if you can just get the hiring people out there to read this. Things keep going the way they are, they will get a chance to experience the job seeker’s frustration first hand.

  2. Heh… I have half a mind to send the link out to some unresponsive recruiters… 😉

  3. Joseph Charpak

    Overqualified is codeword for “we fear you’re going to bail on us the second you get a better offer from another company. We want someone young and inexperienced we can hold hostage for 3-5 years”

    It’s not about the salary; it’s about the assumed commitment to the company. Which is wierd considering most American mid-level workers don’t actively look for a different job while they are actively employed. That’s something usually done by upper management types.

    Overqualified used to also mean “you’re too old” as in “we don’t want to actually have to pay out your pension”. But with the switch to 401k’s, for many companies this doesn’t apply as much anymore.

    Keep on searching. Don’t let it get you down.

  4. Yeah, I know that’s one concern, but it’s one that a solid company need not fear. But my main point is that “overqualified” is meaningless when extremely large numbers of professionals are near-simultaneously dumped on the market.

    Oh, and as I’m sure most of us know, companies are laying off in ever-shortening cycles so “loyalty” and retention seem to be things of the past. When the typical tenure gets below 3 years, why would any manager care that employees left after 1 or 2? That was just rhetorical. 😉

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