Why Does It Take a Crisis for Recruiters to Help?

When Russia invaded Ukraine over a month ago, millions of Ukrainians fled their homes with little time to worry about anything but escape. Once they had reached the relative safety of another country, these people were suddenly faced with the herculean task of recreating a life outside of their homeland — where to live, enrolling children into local schools, caring for pets, and, finally, how to make a living. 

The need to find stable work is often forgotten when considering the well-being of refugees. The immediate focus is rightly on personal safety, food, and shelter. But volunteer organizations can only provide so much support to those who have been forced from their homes, especially over the long term. Finding a job is challenging enough, let alone trying to do it in a strange country after fleeing war.

When the first tweets started from Ukrainians looking for remote work, the response from recruiters was tremendous, heartwarming, and ongoing. Local organizations also took up the cause, tapping into the growing refugee population to help fill open positions while providing a livelihood for those suddenly without stability. 

The level of proactive outreach has been phenomenal. Recruiters are activating their networks to help match Ukrainians to roles that fit their backgrounds, skills, and circumstances. This overwhelming desire to help should put to rest some of the grumbling that recruiters are more interested in filling a position than helping a human being.  

As I have watched this unfold, I can’t help but think: Why is this level of helpfulness the exception instead of the rule? 

Candidate experience continues to be problematic and costly for most organizations, as 83% of job-seekers say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or a company they once liked. In a hypercompetitive job market, recruiters can make or break that candidate experience by either being a trusted resource who shepherds candidates and hiring managers through the process, or a roadblock to progress who acts like candidates are inconveniencing them by asking questions.

In some ways, it’s understandable that recruiters struggle to provide personalized levels of care on a day-to-day basis. Requisitions continue to rise, with 11.23M job openings reported in the U.S. alone at the end of February. Hiring managers are scrambling to backfill positions and continue to put pressure on recruiters to move faster. Unfortunately, speed does not always equate to helpfulness, efficiency favors volume instead of individualism, and candidates are often left to their own devices as the hiring process roars past them.

Article Continues Below

Essentially, recruiters feel overwhelmed. They want to care for candidates and others as they do their work. But…well…work gets in the way. 

Except it doesn’t have to. And the current crisis in Ukraine proves that. 

Using the situation in Ukraine is an extreme way to make a point about the fact that recruiters are human and want to help. It’s also an example that serves as a reminder that there are humans on both sides of the process. Beyond that, it speaks to the notion that gaining a reputation of being helpful can differentiate recruiters from their competitors. 

It doesn’t take much to make a difference in a person’s life. 

Mary is a principal with IA, a boutique consulting firm focused on HR transformation. She is also a talent strategist and business leader with almost 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. After working on the operations side of start-ups and small companies, Mary landed in HR by way of learning and development, with extensive experience in leadership and organizational development, coaching, key talent planning, talent acquisition, performance management, business partnering, HRIS, process and policy creation, and instructional design.

In addition to her work within companies, Mary authors a leadership development blog called Surviving Leadership to continue the dialogue around the challenges of leadership – both being a leader and being led. 

Topics