Make Life Great Again — An Open Letter to Recruiters

At new heights (at the top of the Slemish, Northern Ireland) — drone footage by: http://stephenjreid.com

This has been cooking for a long time. Years in fact. But I let my thoughts simmer, the wounds heal, the pain fade, and give space to passion. Pure, unadulterated passion. For life. Zest, if you may. The one that gets you up at 5:45 every morning without an alarm, makes you run a 5K just because why not, and sets an upbeat mood for the rest of the day. And the secret is, that there is none. Life is just life, and our task is to make it count. There is nothing mystical or complex about it. Life is simply time, a resource if you may, that we’re given to use towards our own and others’ happiness.

Time

I cannot recall how many hours, days, and weeks I have wasted with recruitment agents. Calls, meetings to go through my CV, meetings to talk about certain positions I was “the perfect fit” for, emails, LinkedIn messages, some relevant to my skills, some completely bonkers. If I could get paid for the time I spent on recruiters, I could take a year off and travel around the World without even being worried whether I turned off the lights and the heating before I left, or not. And you know what? While back then I was disappointed and disheartened because it was yet another dead-end, looking back at it now, I realise most of you generated completely blank spaces in my life. Moments and days I cannot recall because they lacked substance of any kind and produced a zero outcome, completely disproportionate to your KPIs.

Because that’s what I was. Admit it. You had 20–30 minutes set up in your Outlook calendar to do what you could have done just by paying more attention to what was in the CV. You see, I also know that you skim CVs because frankly, how many can you read in a day? But you know what? It’s not my fault you work with archaic systems and you’re forced to read and edit .doc files with your recruitment agency’s logo and whatnot.

Truth is, if I had a solid 6–12 months available, I could sit down and single-handedly code a platform that would do your job. Better, faster and it wouldn’t even require AI.

Yes, much what you’re doing now is that dumb and irrelevant. And you know it. And you hate that you know it, but you still keep doing it because … well, it pays the bills. But you could do something else — and some already do — add back the human element …

Love

No matter how well I would code my platform, heck, even if I’d throw Google’s almighty AI at it, the human element could still not be replaced. Because, well … love. It’s probably the last place you expect to read about love. In recruitment. But just like fake UK prime-minister Hugh Grant said, love is all around. One of the three reasons people do things, is because of love of some sorts, even if its scope is often themselves.

All people really pine and die for is to love, be loved, and do something they love.

And this is something that no code can replicate. There is no programming language that can replicate me sitting down with you and talking about a role that you truly believe suits me and I truly am passionate or curious about applying for. Both you and I need to feel almost, if not exactly like before a date with someone really intriguing. I love going on dates. They’re fun, because I only go on dates with ladies I truly believe are worth meeting. That used to be the case with recruiters as well. But few and far between seem to have the interest or the talent to have a proper chat, a chat where you forget what time it is and I forget I am being interviewed — Matt, if you’re reading this, excellent chat! ;)

You get to be matchmakers, and you’re wasting it all away.

You get to make people happy, enable their dreams, yet all you care about is placing Jane/John Clueless into this “award winning company”.

Because of bonuses and whatnot. And the poor bastard you just placed left two months later from the company and got picked up by another recruiter and placed into yet another “award winning company” and the cycle goes on and on. And all you see on the street are grim faces. Because no matter how much money you throw at people, that’s not the trick. Read my first paragraph. I did not mention a single word about money. I spend more time in a week working on stuff that might never make money than I do for my monthly paycheque. Because I love doing it! With or without the money.

And none of you had anything to do with that. Except for one. Jill. That’s what? One — or maybe two or three — out of twenty or so recruiters? ( To be clear, I’m talking strictly about recruitment agencies here, not internal recruiters. ) She wanted to find a match. And it wasn’t easy either. Back then I had zero industry experience, no college degree; all I had on my side were some Coursera certificates, and an interest towards eBooks. She wanted me to do what I loved doing. She wanted to start the story. She did. And it’s a great story (for another day).

When was the last time you sat down with a candidate trying, really trying to find that little unique something that gets them into the job they’re really meant for, in a company that’s a perfect fit for their personality?

Oh, right, you’re still sifting through keywords and buzzwords. Forget personality, let it be the next recruiter’s problem …

And y’all wonder why many developers burn out by the age of 35 or 40 ... Imagine yourself going through 5 bad marriages in a mere 10 years just because your ignorant friends didn’t really pay attention to you, and kept suggesting you marry the wrong person. Wouldn’t that make you want to die inside every time?

Death

People die every day. Inside. Some don’t even realise it until they’re 70 and way too tired and wrinkled to walk the catwalk. We are all racing against time, trying to do what we love, to cheat death at least in our souls by being happy as much as we can for as long as time allows. Statistically we spend more time on work than we do on anything else in life. And many allow themselves to die inside from their early twenties, just so they can have a couple of weeks of holiday somewhere, or so that their kids can go to college later. And unless you’re one of the lucky few to realise early enough that you’ve steered your life horribly wrong, memories and happiness will boil down to a few holidays and some moments with family. And that’s it. Those few summers, some Christmases, maybe a couple of weddings and first steps of your kids walking, and you’re dead. With over half of your life not lived. What a waste.

But it doesn’t have to be that. Jobs don’t have to be jobs and recruiters don’t have to be recruiters. There are people who love making and serving coffee at Starbucks, and there are those who love laying tracks for trains.

Don’t recruit. Coach. Want to talk about our careers? Don’t. Talk to us about life.

Invite us over for a coffee at this new place you discovered. You don’t need an office to know that someone’s right for the role. All you need is for you to love what you’re doing, and we’ve already established that you don’t. And I don’t blame you. You’re probably just as dead inside as most of the people you “misplace” to different “reputable and award winning companies”. You’re quite likely doing this because you decided that doing what you really love is not worth the effort or the risk. Frankly, I think if recruiters could all do what they actually love doing, we’d hardly have a recruitment industry.

How is it that I know all this? Just look at LinkedIn. It’s practically a war-zone these days. It’s a “dog eat dog world” out there, and the candidates — real human beings, with real lives — get caught in the middle. Nothing speaks of life and happiness, great memories. Besides the occasional upbeat story from HubSpot, Elon Musk and a few other startups, it’s all a very dull and dark place. Mostly numbers and pictures of new laptops people can work on — like any of that is going to matter on your deathbed at 85.

Love, time, death

Collateral Beauty makes an excellent point in Will Smith’s initial discourse, so let me paraphrase it into context:

What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you go to work? Other than the fact that your boss would fire you and hire someone else if you didn’t show up, but…
Not that. The big “why.” You’re certainly not at work to just do shit. You are there to connect. Life is about people. Recruitment is about illuminating how jobs and roles will improve people’s lives. Now, how do you do that? Love. Time. Death. Now these three abstractions connect every single human being on Earth.
Everything that we covet, everything that we fear not having, everything that we ultimately end up doing, is because at the end of the day we long for loving what we do, we wish we had more time to do it, and we fear feeling dead inside. Love. Time. Death. Let’s begin there.

I know… None of the above was easy to read or hear, and perhaps there is plenty of blame to go around, but I am a “bottom line person” and the bottom line is you’ve got the power, and with great power comes great responsibility, one that can and does change lives. Look beyond jobs and companies, look at people and their holistic value. Look at people as relationships that can last a life-time. I still tell Jill every time I get a new (always better) job or a promotion, even if she had nothing to do with my last three career successes. But she’s the one who enabled it, and by keeping that communication channel open, should I ever need her in the future, she’ll have an intimate understanding of me as a person and a career individual. Those kind of relationships are pure gold, and in the right recruiter’s hands, will render miracles.

Make people’s lives great again! Make them want to get up at 5:45 and stay fit, make them want to do the work, not because they get paid for it, but because they love doing it. Don’t let another soul die inside. Create stories. Not on Instagram. In real life. Be the ones who enable dreams and make work-life worth living again.

Sincerely yours — a big fan of life.

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