Honoring the Willy Loman of Recruiting

“There is something to be said about the Willy Lomans of the world,” Derek Zeller wrote in an ERE article four years ago. Willy Loman, of course, is the tragic main character in Arthur Miller’s classic play “Death of a Salesman.”

Derek’s article title, “Death of a Recruiter? I Don’t Think So,” is a play on Miller’s play. And it has fresh relevance today.

Derek died earlier this week. That the loss of Derek leaves a gaping hole in the talent acquisition community is undeniable. I did not know him personally, but I knew of him. He had strong opinions and was widely recognized as a star sourcer.

But more importantly, he leaves behind friends, family, and others who were touched not by Derek the professional so much as Derek the human. The outpouring of sorrow and grief since his death makes clear that Derek’s main impact had less to do with being a Boolean badass (which he was) and more to do with being someone who filled numerous people with love and joy.

Which brings me back to Derek’s article from 2017. At quick glance, you might assume that I’m referencing the story today because of its morbid title in light of Derek’s own death. But if so, you’d be wrong.

The article itself is anything but morbid. Quite the opposite. It is a celebration of what it means to be a recruiter, to live as a recruiter. To. Live. Period.  After all, the rejoinder to the question in the title is “I Don’t Think So.”

Derek wasn’t writing about death. He was writing about life.

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And that is why I want to bring you his article again today. The views that Derek expressed four years ago were relevant for him — and likely you — then as much as they are now.

Likewise, “Death of a Recruiter? I Don’t Think So” is as much a celebration of the life of a recruiter as it is Derek’s own life. For in the article, Derek writes, “I suppose that I am a Willy Loman of recruiting, I simply would not know what to do with myself if I was not doing the job that I love.”

So, to honor the Willy Loman of recruiting, here is Derek’s article. If you’re lucky, you’ll see yourself in the story. In Derek.

Death of a Recruiter? I Don’t Think So

Vadim Liberman is editor of ERE.net and TLNT (the devil wears TJ Maxx) — a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows. Bring it!

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