Out in the Real World, a Lot of Jobs Just Aren’t That Amazing

Oct 23, 2014
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.30.07 AMIt’s difficult to attend an HR and recruiting centered conference and not find yourself sitting among a choir while one of our industry’s messiahs preaches to a crowd of smiling faces nodding in agreement to the sermon.

I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. Sometimes it can be therapeutic. Lately it seems our spiritual advisors in talent have learned a new hymn, or perhaps they’ve simply remixed an old one and it just sounds cooler because there are more and more voices chiming in.

The tune is the one about finding and recruiting people who have found their passion. It’s in the key of C, since C is for “calling” and we want to hire only the best people who have found their calling. A lot of people are singing it. The melody is beautiful and I suggest giving it a listen if you’ve never heard it. You’ll be changed, if only briefly.

When Jeff Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn, spoke at the company’s event this week, it was inspiring. I heard at least two “amens” come from the audience as he reminded the crowd that the world’s great recruiters are passionate about the company or companies they are recruiting for. I say “reminded” because … haven’t we always known this? We inherently know that for recruiters to be most effective they should channel the vibrant energy of their company’s culture and blast potential candidates with the warm benevolent light of the company’s mission.

In a perfect world, this is how things would be. Hell, this is how I want things to be. But let’s be serious. It’s not always like this and it can’t always be like this.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world isn’t always pretty. Talent acquisition isn’t always glamorous. There are corporations that struggle with extremely negative press and image. There are agency recruiters who have some very unsexy clients. In these situations, do we not recruit? Do you call the hiring manager or your client and say, “Look I’m sorry, but your team sucks even worse than we initially suspected and therefore we’re not going to help you find talent that could possibly turn your situation around.” (Trust me, there have been times when I wanted to do this.)

I know recruiters who’ve worked on filling outside sales positions with a straight commission compensation package. Talk about a hard assignment. In the past I helped manage talent for a company associated with one of the largest environmental disasters on record. I’ve recruited for positions that reported to managers who were so challenging to work for that their reputations preceded them in multiple states. Was it fun? No. Did I handle my business? Yes, I had to. In a perfect world we can pick and choose our clients, but many recruiters don’t have this luxury. And yes, I’ve fired clients, but you can’t fire them all.

A lot of the recruiters attending HR conferences are first- and second-year talent acquisition professionals with little to no control over what types of jobs they’re working to fill. As much as it warms my heart to hear about professionals working toward a talent utopia where all brands are glorious and all mission statements are divine, I’m compelled to play the devil’s advocate and say, “Look, sometimes even bad companies need to be recruited for.”

The bad companies need it more than the good ones. Great recruiters are passionate about the company they’re recruiting for? Agreed, but the best recruiters are able to take an unattractive position with a directionless company and help the hiring manager and anyone else involved get a clear understanding of what type of talent will best fit their situation. And once that is done, they help find and hire the person who fits the bill.

These situations don’t always call for a revolutionary candidate. Sometimes they just need someone to show up when everyone else has refused to do so. A good recruiter is often needed to find that person. We can’t all work for LinkedIn, Adidas, or Zappos. Many people have reached points in their lives where a steady paycheck is more important than finding their calling. The same goes for recruiters. I’ve known many who saw their job as a method to keep the lights on and put gas in the car. Sure, recruiters who feel this way should find a new career path as soon as possible — but that’s another topic all together.

There’s a whole population of recruiters out there who are showing up every day and finding talent for a lot of the jobs that are keeping our society running. We shouldn’t turn our backs on those recruiters, or their candidates. Their work challenges should be addressed at conferences too.

Lately I’ve been hearing so many people tell recruiters to tap into the dreams of the people they’re recruiting. It’s a fantastic sentiment, but I’d like to point out that every single day jobs get filled with people whose dreams are not aligned with any accomplishments involving their careers. The largest producers of jobs in this country are small to mid-size businesses that often don’t have the best brand or the best stability. They often underpay and ask a ton of the people they hire and provide little in return. It would be beneficial to hear those stories too.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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