We talent acquisition and HR practitioners are conditioned to expect an end of the year or holiday-themed article. One that is usually some mix of light-hearted, high-spirited, celebratory, predictive discourse. Or perhaps a grinch-like, exhaustive list of all of the things we hate, double-hate, or loathe entirely.
This will not be that article.
I made a promise to myself that under no circumstances would I subject Recruiter Realness readers and supporters to a feely, fluffy 2021 recruiting trends/predictions type of post. Doing so would be disingenuous and somewhat of a cop-out and a disservice to myself and to those who value my insights. Essentially, I’m keeping things above board and resisting the urge to recycle and repackage my 2020 predictions that didn’t materialize in a pure and indisputable fashion.
While I’m shying away from the aforementioned, for some of you, this post may come across as fluff-adjacent as it delves into sound, actionable strategies to turn recruiter problems into recruiter solutions. Which is ultimately what Recruiter Realness is all about. And which is why this just may be my realest post of the year.
2020 Was a TRAP
I didn’t start 2020 with any grand expectations or hope for better. To be blunt, 2019 was a complete and utter shit show for me personally. There were professional hiccups and my personal life was such a dumpster fire, the professional challenges were the preferred smoke. So when 2020 took a nose-dive into the pandemic and racial-unrest abyss, my overall disposition had already been situated at that level of chaos long enough that it was my “normal.”
Now, I could have extended myself some additional (and frankly well-earned) grace and doubled down on cynicism, anger, disgust, and maladjustment. But watching so many of the people I looked to for occasional rays of hope and sunshine struggling to stay above board forced me to take a different approach.
Much of my work is about pouring into others: job-seekers, recruiting peers, and employers in need of consultation and support. 2020, being a year of unmasking and transparency, removed the ability for me to pour from a half-empty, sometimes empty, cup. So to serve others in the most meaningful ways, I made the decision to take care of myself and my needs first. I decided to return to the foundation of my brand, those attributes I advise others embrace. I leaned into the TRAP.
Paraphrasing Stephen Covey, one of the first jobs of a leader is to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility. However, the way that I’d lost trust in HR and TA because of the bad behavior that went unchecked by a few in the spotlight made it almost impossible for me to model trust to the job-seekers and organizations I was supposed to be supporting.
I was forced to do some serious soul-searching to overcome this. It was a hard pill to swallow knowing that I had made innocent bystanders collateral damage because I was uninspired and distrustful of a few bad actors.
I’m proud to say that I did the hard work to reestablish trust in myself and my abilities and am well on my way to once again being the bridge-builder who models trust between organizations and job-seekers. The first and most important step to doing that was to once again extend trust to the organizations that had a proven track record of creating safe spaces to be openly and honestly collaborative and communicative. Armed with transparency as it related to their hiring processes and culture had empowered me to be more intentional with how I engaged with job-seekers to connect them with employers where they could add value.
Over the course of this year, I have let a number of professional relationships go because they added no value. They were one-sided, based on superficial attributes, or just terribly toxic. On the flip side, I have invested time in nurturing and building sustainable relationships with others who, under different circumstances, I would have overlooked. I’ve availed myself to being accessible to the people who are genuinely interested in building with me. I did this through effective communication and employing the platinum rule: Treat people the way they want to be treated.
I believe all recruiters can similarly benefit from refocusing energy on building valuable and worthwhile professional relationships. To apply the platinum rule, de-center yourself and take into account that the onus is on you to tailor how you engage with job-seekers and stakeholders in the hiring process. Recognize that your aim should not be to make people bend to your preferences.
Surprisingly, this was the easiest part for me. My desire to hold myself accountable and acknowledge and address the areas where I have “situational privilege” was the catalyst for my reclamation.
I am aware that being a recruiter, someone who has access to jobs and networking opportunities, affords me a certain level of privilege. (This should not be confused with power. Situational privilege only means I have a closer proximity to power in some regards.) I started to examine the areas where less obvious biases were barriers to people advancing in the hiring process. These were areas that I previously didn’t see as problematic because they didn’t directly and adversely affect me.
Addressing situational privilege also made me fight harder for those who are marginalized in ways that are different than I am. It made me more compassionate. It inclined me to be more forgiving and slower to cancel.
For example, someone’s child showing up at a video meeting or conference will no longer receive a negative judgement from me. Not only will I assure the parent that there is no reason to be embarrassed or fear being viewed as unprofessional, I will likely (if the parent allows) spend some time getting to know my potential “new coworker.”
Lastly, I stopped over-planning, which had made me procrastinate even more. I stopped spending countless hours planning steps that equated to nothing more than being busy and focused on the destination. Filling a planner with a rainbow of ink colors, motivational and affirmational stickers, and ideas that (for the most part) remained just that was not serving me well. I was merely recording wins and appointments that were fail-safe.
Over time I realized I was just “making noise” to avoid rejection. That modus operandi was terribly short-sighted. So instead, I demanded of myself the same advice that I offer to job-seekers: Get to a no as quickly as possible. Rather than expend a lot of unnecessary time and energy trying to hear a yes, sometimes it’s better to accept a silent no.
And so just like job-seekers who know they are being ghosted but keep sending emails, making calls, and hoping for a different outcome, I too was knocking on doors that I knew wouldn’t open. I was waiting for a yes that I knew deep down wasn’t likely to come. I realized I was far better moving on by taking risks that could ultimately yield greater rewards. And by doing so, I slowly but surely eased up on things that weren’t really aligned with my purpose and passion anyway — and focused on opportunities that would position me for greatness within the TRAP.