Everyday Career Advice That’s Not Everyday: Desperation – Going Rogue!
I keep thinking about a candidate I recently stopped working with. He’s a very good upper middle management supply chain professional who has gotten stuck and is currently with a smaller, unstable company. I like him. He’s a good guy. He’s very well qualified and he should be very employable. However recently he’s become so frustrated with the job market he told me he’s now willing to do anything to get interviews, which may include exaggerating or omitting details from his experience package. I explained that I couldn’t be involved in that, either as a fee-paid recruiter marketing him or as a career coach representing him.
In a way, I don’t blame him.
In addition to being ignored all the time, navigating today’s job market includes wading through a cesspool of unethical, dishonest, and misleading people and practices. The job market itself has become an industry that includes level after level of parasites trying to extract money from desperate job seekers by promising outsized results from custom resumes, confidence building seminars, branding exercises, affirmations, and a million other gimmicks. The list of things job seekers need to optimize their job searches is never ending. The list of “gurus” happy to fulfill those needs is never ending too. It’s kind of gross.
My former candidate simply got fed up, disgusted, frustrated with a capital F.
He said to himself “if that’s the way the world is, then I will join the world and get my hands dirty too.” He told me that he sent out 600 applications. I knew he only had a few replies. We talked about his approach repeatedly. I suggested changes but I don’t think he applied them. I understand that too. When time is limited, sometimes it’s just easier to keep doing the thing you know how to do. Personally, I can’t imagine sending out so many applications, that’s not my style. I like a researched, targeted, and personal approach. Even so, he should have gotten better results. From our conversations, with limited information about what exactly he was doing, I can’t say for sure what was wrong. However, generally, taking a high-volume approach like that means applying for jobs for which you may not be qualified, just to generate numbers. This makes your job search a lottery and your application-to-interview statistics will be worse.
He said he had offers for custom resumes and cover letters that went into the thousands of dollars. We both know people who paid that much. For reference, I might charge someone a couple of hundred if they have a draft resume or notes and history I can work with. One good phone call, more notes, a bit of typing, that’s all it takes. Resumes and cover letters are easy to write, way overvalued, and won’t get anyone a job on their own anyway. I don’t get how people can charge so much and I can’t believe people pay it. Fortunately, he didn’t bite either.
In the end he offered to hire me full-time to do his entire job search for him at the same rate that I might charge a client company. In his case, it would be been between $35k and $40k. He told me to “do whatever it takes” to include creating resumes based on job descriptions and putting his name and phone number on top.
He wanted me to apply to hundreds of jobs per week, to write resumes to match whatever supply chain jobs we found, and to do the kind of volume he couldn’t do while also working at his current job. Executing this plan would have meant basically applying to every posted job in supply chain in any number of industries and locations despite the fact that his real experience is somewhat specialized.
As a strategy, this goes against everything I practiced as a recruiter and everything I learned from marketing candidates.
It’s just busy work. Generating numbers. The greater the volume of applications, the lower the frequency of responses. It is simply a matter of quality. Something has to give, if the output is that high, the quality will be crap. If the quality is bad, ultimately the results will also be bad.
Again, I can’t blame him for this level of anger and desperation. To date, our efforts to find him a job have had little success. Making matters worse, we’ve both been lied to and misled over and over again by potential employers. I guess I’m used to it but it really affected him.
He’s also extremely frustrated because nobody has had the courage to tell him why he is not being considered for any particular job. All of the feedback he’s received as a candidate have been bullshit. All of the feedback I’ve received as a recruiter who has marketed him into positions for which he was qualified was… none. Feedback, at least constructive feedback, is rare.
We are both pretty sure it isn’t either of us. I’m a good recruiter. I have the numbers to back it up both in earnings and interview to placement ratios (a quality indicator). He’s a good candidate with multiple bachelor’s degrees in business and international economics, an MBA, and a reasonable history of jobs with increasing responsibilities at companies people know. We know our market spaces and we know our value propositions. Neither of us know what to make of the situation. I think he should keep trying and keep adjusting his methods. Instead, he’s opted to go rogue. Like I said, that’s not something I want to do, but I understand.
What should he do?
What should anyone do when they feel like they are being crushed by the Job Search Industrial Complex (JSICTM)? I can’t possibly know all the answers but a few things seem right to me:
Maintain your integrity. Even if you’re amoral about it, strategically it is still the best thing to do to avoid getting fired unexpectedly. Background checks are ubiquitous and employment and education verification are just phone calls away.
Don’t outsource your job search. You know you better than anyone else ever will. You also have more vested in your success than anyone else ever will. You are the one who has to do the work. You are the only one who can be intimate with your job search. That doesn’t mean that you should send out 600 applications. There are other options and strategies.
I’m also not saying that job seekers shouldn’t seek help. There are people who have mastered parts of the job search process and do have something to teach. The best of them have made their knowledge and experience accessible in videos, books, or classes that are inexpensive and widely available.
I don’t care if you buy my book (buy my book!), someone else’s, or all of them (there are plenty of good ones) it’s better than hiring someone to try do it for you. There’s a difference between spending thousands and pinning your hopes to someone else’s effort and spending a little bit and improving your own effort. Invest in yourself, educate yourself. Find resources, use them, and adapt.
Kurt Schmidt is the author of “Modern Job Search” and the President and Owner of Capto Systems, an executive search firm focused on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy.