Recruiters and HR directors don’t get you jobs

After spending nearly two years unemployed, I may join the ranks of those long-term unemployed individuals who ‘give up’ on their job search.  After this long struggle, I now understand why qualified professionals reach the end of their ropes.  I may be at that point.

In this blog, I’ve highlighted some of my frustrations with the way employers treat prospective candidates.  I’m lucky. I get calls back. I get interviews.  I’ve networked with colleagues, friends and associates. I’ve filled out hundreds of applicaitons and sent more than 600 tailored resumes. For a long time, I felt it was something I did or said in those interviews that was the reason I did not get an offer.  The reality is that employers already have someone in mind for these jobs, and there’s nothing the candidate can do to overcome that mindset.

Let me give two examples.  Late last year, I had a recruiter call me back about a management job in Colorado. During our conversation, she said I was a “perfect match” for this job and she would be in touch after looking at other candidates for the employer.  She called back and conducted a long interview.  We emailed each other several times and she indicated to me that I was a top candidate.  Finally, she said the employer would select the top four canddiates to fly them in for an interview. 

A few days later, I receive this curt email that job seekers are all too familiar with:

     “Thank you for your interest in the XXXX position at XXXX.  Your resume and accomplishments are impressive, and have made the selection of our initial candidate pool a difficult choice.  At this stage, only a limited number of candidates for the position will be moved forward in our process.   The client is focusing on candidates who are in Colorado or have a connection to the area.  Should that change, I will be in touch to discuss next steps. I have enjoyed our conversations and hope that you have found them productive as well. I look forward to working with you again in the future.”

Of course, I felt like responding: “No, I did not feel our conversations were productive, and why did you waste my time?  Why didn’t you know that your client only wanted local candidates?  Is it because you’re paid to select a certain number of candidates to present to your client?

A few weeks later, I receive a call from an HR director of a local company (in a nearby county). She schedules a phone interview with me and conducts a very detailed, extensive interview.  She calls me back and wants me to interview with the hiring manager.  Excited, I research the company, prepare my portfoilo, and arrive at the facility, where the HR director conducts another interview with me. She tells me the pay scale and gives me the company’s benefit summary for managers and directors. Now, all I have to do is seal the deal with the hiring manager.

When I meet the hiring VP, I discover she hasn’t even bothered to look at my application in depth. Instead, she spends the first few minutes asking me to wait until she looks over “my file.” She takes two phone calls during the interview. She focuses more on why I was let go of my last job  (I was downsized in a corporate restructuring effort that included the CEO, COO, and CFO), so I try to discuss my achievements and successes and what I can bring to the table. I know my chances are lost when she says ‘Well, we were really looking for someone who does not have experience in this field because we want this candidate to think out of the box.”  Uhh?  She wants someone who is NOT qualified?  Clearly, she already has someone in mind for this position.

All job searchers read about “expert” advice from headhunters and recruiters designed to get you in the door; to get noticed by the employer.  But the rules of the job market since the recession have changed. It doesn’t matter if you get your foot in the door, because in this economy the hiring manager has someone else in mind for the position.  I had one recruiter conduct an extensive background check on me; interview my references at length; interview me twice, and pump me up about my candidacy, only to fail to get me “in the door” to interview with the hiring manager.  What’s worse, she wouldn’t even let me see the results of the reference checks so I could use them for future job searches: she said that was “proprietary” and not releasable (I later had a reference fax me the sheet she said was “confidential”). Why do recruiters go through this exhaustive process of background checks and reference interviews if they fail to land you the real job interview?

I understand why people are giving up their job search in this market.  To read what it feels like for older, experienced workers to be ignored by hiring managers, see this poignant letter in the Dallas Morning News:


Unemployed to Congress: Don’t use me as bargaining chip


 I refuse to be a bargaining chip for Republican congressmen wanting to help the rich.

As everyone knows, some two million Americans face the end of unemployment checks this holiday season. Republican congressmen say the country can’t afford adding an estimated $65 billion to the deficit. Yet these same congressmen want to add an estimated $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now, Washington rumor has it that a deal is in the offing, with Republicans willing to give an unemployment extension to the long-term jobless if they can get their tax cuts for the wealthy.  They’ve made it clear they don’t care about the 97 percent of Americans making below $250,000 a year; their priority is getting the tax cuts for their rich friends (particularly the millionaires and billionaires who helped spark the Great Recession).

This proposal is not only immoral, but it is madness.  To link tax cuts for the rich to the unemployment checks for the jobless shows how insensitive, brazen, and indifferent our political leaders are to the plight of the jobless. One Republican representative from Arizona – John Shadegg – says he thinks unemployed workers hold off spending their checks! (“The truth is,” he said, “the unemployed will spend as little of that money as they possibly can”).  What? The truth is that the unemployed, having no other source of income, will spend that money immediately on food, gas, and other necessities.  Economists have found that $1 in unemployment benefits generates $1.61 in economic activity.  A dollar in tax cuts—not just to the rich, but to everyone—generates about 32 cents.  The rich in this country are getting richer at the expense of the working class, and few seem to care.

I am tired of reading comments from the right-wing labeling the unemployed “lazy” who want to live off the government.   We’re not. We want a job. Unemployment insurance is not an entitlement program or government handout; it is insurance employers and employees pay into to provide minimal assistance to the unemployed who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. We search diligently for jobs every day: we network, write letters, fill out long applications asking for our social security numbers, driver’s licenses, high school addresses, and credit history; send resumes to numerous recruiters in our field; register for countless job sites that send us daily spam;  scan countless job boards and send out emails only to hear nothing back from jobs we are well qualified for. Our job is to look for jobs that are not there, or jobs that go to someone’s nephew or other internal employee.

When I was laid off in early 2009, I thought it would take about four to six months to find a job, even in this economy.  I’m luckier than some of my unemployed friends – I have managed to land several interviews – but each time the position is put on hold, offered to an internal candidate, or to someone with less experience.  I’ve applied for more than 500 jobs in 21 months, with few job interviews locally.  Ninety-nine weeks may seem like a long time to find a job, but, as news reports bear out, jobs that vanished in the Great Recession have not returned. The private sector added about 159,000 jobs in October – half as many as needed to reduce the unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, which is expected to hover around 9 percent for all of next year.

When my unemployment check ends at the end of this year, I may have no choice but to work at a car dealership and apply for food stamps, while trying to hang on to our home.  Meanwhile, the crooks on Wall Street who caused the recession are now making more money than they did before the bailout, and they want more tax breaks. Where is the bailout for the middle class?


99ers featured on 60 Minutes

   If you didn’t see the story on 60 Minutes October 24, be sure to read or view the story online at;contentBody

   60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley traveled to California’s Silicon Valley to find unemployed professionals whose unemployment benefits will end this fall.   At the end of November, more than 1.5 million unemployed workers will cease getting about $350 per month in average unemployment income.  The U.S. unemployment rate is officially at 9.5 percent, but Pelley noted that the real unemployment figure is closer to 17 percent.  That figure will be even higher once the “99ers” — those who have exhausted their 99 weeks maximum unemployment benefits — will not be counted among the unemployed.

    One 54-year-old financial analyst was laid off from a real estate firm. She  she spent her savings, lost her home and finally found herself sitting in a truck with her dog and all of her belongings.  Another over-50 engineering manager out of work for two years says he finally got a job offer — with Target as a floor sales worker paying  9.25 an hour.  “He’s taking the job at Target and he’s glad to get it,” Pelley said.

   If you look at the unemployed professionals Pelley featured in the story, they all shared one thing in common besides being unemployed — they were all over 45 years old. As Pelley said, they are too young to retire and “maybe too old to rehire.”  Did I hear that right? “Too old to rehire?”  How do you spell AGE DISCRIMINATION?  Most of these out-of-work professionals were not laid off because they couldn’t perform, they were let go because they were too expensive and the employer needed to save money on compensation and medical insurance.  In fact, a new survey shows that there is a direct link between age and the amount of time someone is unemployed ( ).

Many of these older workers who lost their jobs registered their comments on the 60 Minutes website. Here are four of them:

    Has the 60 minutes team or anyone addressed the issue re: those whose jobs were eliminated – are they over 40? Seems like most of the folks in Scott’s story were over 40. The large company I worked for has been eliminating a LOT of positions over the past couple of years and it just so happens everyone so far is over the age of 40. Even w/ corporate legal documentation, age discrimination has got to be a factor in this equation. It reminds me of something discussed in the movie “the Rainmaker” – the insurance companies keep denying medical benefits and know that most of those insured just choose not to fight back because they believe it’s a losing battle and give up. Same applies for those over 40 – severance packages, while enticing, do pressure employees to take the package because they can’t afford legal action.

* I agree 100%. I worked for the same company for almost 15 years and was let go despite glowing reviews and accolades from co-workers in all those 15 years. NEVER any problems. I contacted the VP who just happens to be the owners son and my former supervisor. I took a pay cut and took a lesser position with the same company for a while until I learned that they were hiring younger people to do the jobs I could have done (I even went through the interviewing process for one but didn’t get it.) I’m convinced my age was a factor. Tenure and experience is no longer valued and as far as I am concerned, although age is part of the EOE schpeel, proving age discrimination is next to impossible.

* What I think needs to happen is for the government to setup ‘sting’ operations on corporations. They are blatantly violating the age discrimination laws, and it needs to stop. Hire out-of-work Americans over 40 and if necessary, have the government subsidize the company at least partially for medical benefits and any OJT retraining to allow them to become current again!

    *Many of the people in this story are probably victims of illegal age discrimination. Why wasn’t this angle included? Is CBS trying to defend the employers who keep excluding them?

As these comments show, there is a deeper issue behind the layoffs during the past three years. Despite job recruiters continuing to insist that age has nothing to do with why people don’t get hired, it is a major issue in the job market today. Now if only 60 Minutes could do a story about THAT!

Unemployment extension to run out

   This Sunday evening, 60 Minutes will run a segment about the “99ers” – unemployed Americans whose unemployment extensions will run out at the end of next month. From all reports, Congress will not renew the extension, despite the fact that millions who have diligently sought work in their fields are about to lose their main source, if not their sole source, of income.  I look forward to seeing the piece because it is an issue most of the mainstream media ignores, and because the segment will focus on unemployed professionals with advanced degrees who have been unable to find decent work. 

   Earlier this summer, all Republican senators and representatives voted against a small extension to unemployment benefits.  I wrote my congressman – Republican Howard Coble — about my disappointment over his vote.  Here is an excerpt from my letter:

Dear Rep. Coble:

I was appalled and shocked about your comments today on the floor of the House arguing that the long-term unemployed should not receive extended benefits from the federal government because “it is not paid for.” As one of those 2.5 million Americans, I am mortified that I am being used as a political pawn in the fight between the Republican and Democratic parties.  I have been battling every day to find a full-time job since being laid off from my previous employer last year.  I don’t want a handout, I want a job.  Even though I was a director, I have resorted to applying for jobs that pay less than half of what I was making. I’ve tried networking, social media, recruiters — everything.  I got laid off through no fault of my own and this unemployment insurance has been a lifeline to support my family and keep our house (we’ve already lost our health insurance because we can’t afford it). Without it, we would probably lose our home.  Now I hear you say we don’t deserve this insurance like it’s some sort of government handout. Listening to part of this debate today, I see a real disconnect between congress people like you and real people who are trying to support their families.  Both Republicans and Democrats think these benefits go to just the “truck drivers” and “janitors” who lost their jobs. Well, here’s a news flash, this Great Recession has affected everyone, including long-term professionals like myself who have 20 years of experience in their field. I’ve applied for more than 500 jobs in the last year without success. Many times I hear the position has been closed or they picked an internal candidate or some other excuse.  Each time I pick myself up and try the job search grind again. So listening to you get up there on your high horse and talk about “when the Democrats did this” and “when the Democrats did that” when I’m trying to save my house and support my family, shows to me you care more about political posturing and the blame game than you do about your constituents. 

   Congressman Coble wrote me back and I wanted to share that in this post.  It’s an example of how political and ideological in-fighting has paralyzed Washington from actually serving anything but big business:

 August 30, 2010

    Thank you for contacting our office to request information on recent legislation signed into law extending federal unemployment insurance.  We appreciate hearing from you. 

 President Obama signed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213) into law on July 22, 2010.  The bill extends unemployment benefits through the end of November.  We are acutely aware that the recession has hit Sixth District residents especially hard and that persistent unemployment is making it difficult for many families to make ends meet.  Despite our concern for unemployed workers, we voted against this bill for several reasons. 

 First, Congress has recently focused all its attention on extending unemployment insurance.  We voted for several extensions while the economy was in danger of a complete collapse, but Democratic leaders in Congress have simply extended unemployment insurance instead of enacting policies that will create jobs.  We firmly believe the economic stimulus bill, the new health care law and financial reforms will actually prevent job creation.  When businesses are saddled with new regulations and new costs, they simply will not hire new employees. 

Second, H.R. 4213 added an additional $34 billion to the deficit.  Republicans in the Senate offered an amendment that would have offset this cost by using unspent stimulus funds.  Despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s insistence that unemployment payments were a form of stimulus, Democratic leaders refused to allow a vote on this amendment.  The White House recently stated that the deficit for Fiscal Year 2010 will reach $1.47 trillion.  Increasing the annual deficit and the long-term debt is no small matter.  For every dollar the federal government spends, it must take one dollar out of the private economy.  These are dollars that businesses would normally use to hire new employees.  The federal government cannot create long-term job growth.  By sucking resources out of the private economy, they will merely extend the misery of persistent unemployment.  In fact, White House officials have projected unemployment to remain above nine percent for several more years. 

 Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views.  Please feel free to contact our office if we may be of assistance to you in the future. 



     Member of Congress

Half of all laid off workers still can’t get work

Here’s a startling statistic: According to a new Labor Department survey, half of all Americans laid off from 2007 through 2009 remain out of work by January 2010. That’s the lowest percentage since the survey began in 1984. 

You may have also heard that more than 40 percent of the 15 million unemployed have been out of work more than six months. That’s also a record high set during the recession.  The new survey shows that most of those employers now require new skills and new job duties for those positions, so even though job openings exist in your old field, you may no longer qualify for them. 

(See .)

One recruiter, Rita Ashley, says that employers are not hiring “older” workers (50 +) because they are inferior and possess substandard skills. (see ). The new survey and recent news suggests otherwise:  employers are requiring existing workers to do more after cutbacks, and they don’t want to rehire, despite record profits. For instance, they may require CPAs to do bookeeping and secretarial work, or they may require the public relations specialist to do marketing.  Tech companies are now combining business analyst and system analyst positions into one job.

That’s why American workers today are doing two, three or more jobs and working longer hours, but still afraid they will get laid off.  Employers are squeezing more from their staffs to do more with less.


Our economy has seen the largest sustained job loss since the 1930s
Why do reporters sound more like economists these days?  I just read a story in the Associated Press about how “applications for unemployment benefits fell last week for the fourth time in five weeks, a sign that layoffs are declining.”
Huh?  While this may be positive news for economists and Wall Street, it’s not good news for the average worker or the unemployed.  While the AP reporter, Christopher Rugaber, is correct that initial claims for jobless are the lowest level since July, he deceives you because he, like so many other reporters, frames the story from the viewpoint of Labor officials and economists.
A more accurate headline would read:  “Nearly 24,000 people are losing their jobs every week…no end in sight to job loss.”  That’s 96,000 people who lost their jobs in one month (September)!  More than 16 millions are now out of work through no fault of their own, and yet we read stories about these “positive developments” about jobs being shed “at a lower rate.”
It’s hard to make sense of incongruous headlines during the same week: “Job openings increase for second month” (10/7) and “Four straight months of job loss” (10/8).  What is going on here? 
What is going on is that some reporters are snookered into looking at new applications for unemployment claims as “a sign that layoffs are declining,” as Rugaber wrote. 
September’s unemployment report is not good news: Not only did the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent, but two independent surveys showed private sector employers cut 39,000 jobs that month. Another report indicated that employers are planning for more job cuts.  And both state and federal government is slashing more jobs than it has in nearly 28 years. Overall, the economy has lost more jobs for the longest period of time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It’s worse if you count the number of people who are underemployed or who have quit looking.  If you use the broader measure of unemployment, we have an unemployment rate of more than 17 percent (according to the 10/8/2010 Wall Street Journal). Employment is falling in all sectors of our economy, including the private sector and at large, medium and small businesses, with even large businesses (over 500 workers) losing 11,000 jobs in September. And that doesn’t include government jobs, with more states and municipalities laying off teachers, firefighters, and even librarians.  We are losing jobs every month since the recession began in late 2007, yet journalists tell us what economists and government officials want us to believe. 
For more real numbers that don’t fudge, see, a great site full of job search resources.

New York Times to older workers: bad luck

 According to the New York Times, the main cause of long-term unemployment among the over 50 crowd can be attributed to two things:  out-of-date job skills and bad luck (see “For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again,” in the September 19 edition of the New York Times, at ).
In her stark assessment of unemployed workers over 50, NYT reporter Motoko Rich does recognize that many of these “older” workers are college-educated, but writes that they have “rusty” job skills that are not in demand anymore.  “Many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes,” she writes.
Now, most economists and labor experts see this group not with empathy, but as a potential “policy problem,” as one Rutgers professor said.  Rich indicates that since many of these older workers do not possess adequate computer and software skills, they are passed by in favor of younger applicants.
Rich does give a sympathetic portrayal of a 57-year-old Seattle woman who lost her job as an auditor four years ago and can’t find full-time work, but she fails to realize that the major problem facing “older” workers is not their job skills, but age discrimination, and a desire by employers to hire younger workers they can pay much less.
For example, my wife is an expert in QuickBooks, used for business accounting, and has more than 15 years’ experience in accounts payables and receivables. Yet she is often passed over by companies seeking less experienced workers who can be paid less. She finally took a part-time accounting job that pays half of what she made before as a comptroller.
My problem is not “rusty” job skills – I keep up with changes in my field daily and work for free for a marketing publication in hopes of greater exposure to employers. Recently, a recruiter told me that the main obstacle in hiring me for a marketing position was my copious, broad experience – the company might see me as “overqualified” for a marketing director role that required no management of staff (though I managed only a staff of two for three years and don’t want another position that supervises employees). The recruiter hinted that the employer might think I’ll jump ship once the economy and labor market improves. She suggested I confront that issue directly in my upcoming interview by asking the hiring manager if there were any concerns about my background.  That didn’t help — the hiring manager rushed my interview and was clear she wasn’t interested in me as a viable candidate.  Apparently, she had already made up her mind that I “wouldn’t be happy in that position” for long (according to the recruiter, who said the person they hired “actually was not as strong a candidate” as I was).  I’ve also applied for jobs that required management of staff, but usually don’t get an interview because of the strong competition. So I’m stuck: I can’t land responsible director jobs because of the competition and I can’t get manager or coordinator jobs because I’m seen as “overqualified.”
What I’d like to see reporters investigate is how many mid-managerial jobs have disappeared and how many college-educated individuals with solid experience in their fields are finding it difficult to find work.  Is it right that employers are hiring less qualified candidates because they don’t want to bring in a worker over 50? It’s not just the over 55-crowd, but the 45 to 55-year olds, too, who are finding extremely difficult to find work in their fields. Just how many individuals with college degrees and more than 15 years of experience have been let go in this market?   How many of them are applying for jobs that are perfect matches for their skills and experience, only to be seen as “overqualified” and not hired?  How many newspaper ads like this one below will we continue to see because experienced workers are seen as a liability instead of an asset?
I’m intelligent, Honest and
I have a MASTERS IN FINANCE, wife, 3-month old daughter, and a mortgage!