Fight Fear

Oct 7, 2008

Given the bad economy with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch being purchased by Bank of America, Washington Mutual being sold, the war in Iraq and other news, it can be a challenge to keep a positive attitude when recruiting.

As staffing professionals we should never underestimate the power of a bad attitude to undermine the recruiting process.

If we as staffing professionals are not able to connect with people at their level and really listen, understand, and sometimes let them vent, then we can never truly meet their needs and ultimately, as recruiters make quality hires for our organizations. This requires recruiters to separate themselves from everything and focus solely on the hiring process.

The pervasive spirit of “it’s about me” has deluged the recruiting industry; self-promotion and marketing has quickly taken over the goal of a great candidate experience. A person spends a majority of their time at work; choosing a new career, job, and company is a major life-impacting choice that branches out deep into the family roots. We as staffing professionals have been given the greatest gift: to guide someone through that process. If a candidate says that he has spoken with his wife and now isn’t the right time pursue this opportunity due to the impact it will have on his family, will you still press him to continue in the process?

Before I move on, let me say I have struggled. Fears, Uncertainty, and Doubts (The FUDs) affect everyone. Dealing with ambiguity and an uncertain work environment can be one of the greatest challenges faced by a recruiter or sourcing professional. Your company could be one of the lead stories on Valleywag or the lead story on or you could hear rumors of layoffs in the hallways. It has been my experience that recruiting is one of the first groups to be impacted by layoffs. It’s difficult to not think about that during challenging times.

Before Wetpaint, I was recruiting for Yahoo out of its Bellevue office during the Microsoft, Carl Icahn proxy battle period. Yahoo is an incredible company with great people and with interesting and challenging positions, but of course the news impacts the way I had to approach recruiting from sourcing to hiring. We still had to make hires, regardless of the current situation.

My father worked for IBM for 30 years in sales. Sales is very much recruiting, and recruiting is very much sales. He approached each sale by overcoming the FUDs: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. With the news swirling about regarding Microsoft and Carl Ichan, I approached each candidate from the FUD perspective. What were their fears about considering a position with Yahoo? I addressed the uncertainty and we discussed their doubts.

Below are some of the ways I recommend to deal with the FUDs when a company is facing uncertainty.

Candidate Perspective

Listen to the candidate’s concerns

Come prepared

  • Check and see if the company provided talking points. Read them before a candidate conversation so it doesn’t sound like you are reading from a script.
  • Incorporate previous feedback about the current situation.
  • Address concerns before they arise. I started off a conversation by talking about the current situation and addressing the issues. It’s easier to point out the elephant in the room than to ignore it.
  • Know in advance what can and cannot be said about the situation.
  • Seek support from your manager and team.

Increase the Personal Touch

  • Make the extra call, send the additional email, or take time to write a note to mail.
  • Make them feel welcome during the interview process. Be sure to meet with your hiring teams in advance to share the challenges and develop solutions/answers.
  • Listen every step of the way and respond acknowledging their concerns.

Bring in Your Hiring Managers, Directors, or VPs

  • Nobody can sell the role better than the team, and the manager, director, or VP are a great asset.
  • Set up a special lunch or after-hours meeting.
  • Understand why current employees came to the company and why they are staying.
  • Give the candidate a tour of the office. This will help them develop a picture of how they could fit into the culture and what a day at work would look like for them.

No offer deadlines

  • Soften the “must accept date,” but continue to affect change by steering the candidate in not-so-overt ways.


  • How would you like to be treated? What concerns would you have?
  • Realize that this is a hard decision for the candidate.

Your Perspective
Remember why you came to work there:

  • Was it the people?
  • Was it the products? Do you use the company’s technology or services?
  • Is it your manager?
  • Was it the challenge?

It’s OK to be discouraged; just don’t let it show

  • Be professional at all times, even if the walls are burning down around you, stay focused.
  • Focus on the end goal. The bumps in the road are just bumps in the road.
  • Focus on the hire always.

Treat Yourself

  • Mix up work hours if you can. Break the routine.
  • Go out to lunch or go wireless if it’s a nice day and get outside.
  • Change up your workspace, change chairs, add or remove pictures, and add things you enjoy.

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid reading the blogs, news etc.; stay on mission.
  • Don’t get caught up in rumors and gossip; you have a job to do. Do it.
  • Don’t take it personally, it’s a job.
  • Don’t stay too long. Know when you have done everything you can, but leave on a good note.
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