These Are Real Lives We’re Dealing With

Jul 28, 2011
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

I received some sad news yesterday. A friend committed suicide. He was despondent because he had been unemployed for over two years. He likely had other emotional problems. After years of looking for work, getting rejected or ignored, and financial difficulties, he gave up.

This isn’t uncommon. Joblessness increases the risk of suicide.

And yesterday, the New York Times ran an article about companies that discriminate against the unemployed.

As recruiters, our routine actions can be a direct blow to the emotional health of hundreds — even thousands — of people we’ll never meet. Our inaction, our silence, our casual attitudes, can add to someone’s set of worries. Our decisions impact families. Lives.

Stop. Think. Before dismissing entire categories of people. Our economy, this job market — they are complex. Simplistic thinking (e.g., “all the good ones are working”) doesn’t hold up. “Unemployed” is an easy filter to apply. Just like “years of experience.” Only junior recruiters and rookie managers rely on such criteria to assess talent.

Real recruiters and real managers ask:

  • Has this person done this job successfully in the past?
  • Does this person have the attitude and the will to get the job done?
  • Will this person help the company save money, achieve goals, serve customers, or improve products?

I’ve said it before. Unemployment is getting worse because of advancements in technology and improvements in worker productivity. Companies experiencing record revenue and profit growth are laying off workers by the thousands. We are going to continue to see perfectly good workers among the ranks of the unemployed. As recruiters, we can’t do much about the shrinking number of available positions. But we can ensure that the process is fair, transparent, and respectful.

We can remember that our work directly impacts the lives — and livelihoods — of real people.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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