The Sad Existence of the Active Candidate

Aug 9, 2010
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

“To see the right and not do it is cowardice.”

–Author Unknown

A recent article by John Zappe entitled Should We Be Telling the Unemployed Not to Apply? was excellent. Furthermore, judging by the varied, contentious, and well-thought-out comments, John’s work clearly struck a nerve with a cross section of ERE readership, this writer included.

Tell the unemployed not to apply? Why not? Welcome to the ugly underbelly of capitalism, artificially induced fairness, and employment rage of the masses. Welcome to the new world order that simply does not have enough to go around, combined with the enabling technology’s required to outsource as many possible jobs to the most dirt-poor places on this planet. Think of how Ralph Lauren lives and think of how those who make his clothing live. Beyond despicable.

Welcome to the sad realization that capitalism tends to work far better when there is a surplus as opposed to a shortage; when there is an oily excess that tends to hide the evil of discrimination and of inequity and of monstrous corruption. Welcome to the post-surplus economy of underemployment and lost careers, of investments vaporized and the numbing fury that accompanies learned helpless. Welcome the myopic CEO who views employees as an expense to cut as opposed to an investment to nurture. Welcome my fiends, to the new normal.

Not hire the unemployed? Horrifying, of course, but let’s be honest here. Discrimination of the unemployed has been going on for as long as I have been recruiting. (Also among the short, gay, old, obese, and assorted others but later for that.) Unspeakably evil in its intent as well as its outcome, but let’s be realistic: most companies do not want to hire the unemployed. After all, if they were any good, they would have a job right?

If, as a recruiter, if you do not see this as an almost everyday reality, then you fall into one of four categories:

  1. You work for one of the small handful of organizations that try to do what is right.
  2. You recruit for some type of a job that is so hard to fill that no one really cares about anything if the person is qualified to do the job. Two heads? No problem here.
  3. You push like hell to influence decisions that allow you to sleep at night.
  4. You are living under a rock.

Not hiring the unemployed used to be a dark little secret, but not anymore. Care to know what gave it a sense of being OK? The passive candidate movement, of course. See The Myth of the Passive Candidate and read the comments; your comments. Passive recruiting, although not necessarily evil in its intent, was the beginning of the legitimization of discrimination against active candidates, as it preached the wonders of going to the “deepest, darkest corners of the web” to identify candidates. Quite frankly, passive recruiting lined the pockets of many, and told us that those looking for a job are losers. Honestly, if this is not a felonious embarrassment to the world of recruiting, what is? Want passive candidates? Go and get them after the active ones have been ruled out because they are unqualified, not before. (I am always on the hunt for work so that makes me an active candidate. Think I‘m an incompetent?)

How to fix it?

  • Do we need “smarter, more-business-savvy recruiters with backbones” as per Steve Levy’s suggestion? Of course.
  • Do we need more government in our business to help us to go from inefficient to less efficient? God no.
  • Do we need self-policing and internal audits to secure the elusive fairness for which we claim to struggle? Nope.

We need what has been lost in our society: a sense of fairness, decency, and community. A belief that we need to do what makes us right as opposed to what makes us rich. Even in this age of bad behavior and gushing oil, trips to rehab and corporate looters, it is important to manage this situation and remember that if we fail in the effort to achieve decency, no small gains form any company profit will help us come to any good. To tell anyone that active candidates are of poor quality solely because they are active in the midst of the worst economic times since the great depression is unconscionable.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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