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Why ‘Recruiter’ is Becoming the Loneliest Job

Given the tight labor market, recruiters can't expect their jobs to get easier anytime soon.
By: | December 20, 2018 • 4 min read

Not so long ago, recruiters would bemoan being flooded with more resumes than they could handle. These days, they’re dealing with a different problem: candidates who don’t show up for interviews, or who do show up–and appear to be eager and enthusiastic–only to disappear without a trace afterward. As my colleague Danielle Westermann King wrote yesterday, this trend–“ghosting”–is spreading into the existing workforce, with employees increasingly willing to exit their jobs without bothering to give the traditional two-week’s notice.

All of this is taking a mental toll on recruiters, as the Wall Street Journal reports in a recent story headlined “The Loneliest Job in a Tight Labor Market.” “You want to bang your head against the wall,” Lauren Boyce, director of talent acquisition at a tech company, told the WSJ. Today’s recruiting market is tougher than it was during the dot-com boom, she said.

The interview no-shows, along with the un-returned phone calls and texts, are affecting Boyce’s recruiting team, she told the WSJ. She said she’s learned to spot when the stress is getting to individual recruiters and “sends them home early.”

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Another recruiter told the WSJ about how his own livelihood is being affected by no-show candidates. Chris Dove Jr., a San Antonio-based recruiter, said he lost $9,000 in commissions recently after three candidates failed to show up for their first days of work as diesel technicians.

“It’s a lot like being punched in the gut,” he said. Dove’s client subsequently dropped him after they were ghosted by the new hires.

Despite recent economic turbulence, there’s little sign that the labor market will slacken anytime soon. Obviously, poorly managed candidate experiences (and unhappy workplaces) makes it likelier that people will ghost companies. And a tight labor market increases their confidence that doing so will have little to no consequences.

Can better onboarding help stem the tide? As my colleague Julie Cook Ramirez writes, a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder and SilkRoad finds 93 percent of employers agree a good onboarding experience is critical to influencing a new hire’s decision to stay with the organization.

“Culture and mission should be front and center when somebody walks in as a new employee,” Beth Browde, a principal at Mercer, told Cook Ramirez. “People pick an organization because they believe its purpose resonates with what they value and they feel they can make a difference there. If their first week is not at all like that, they frequently still have another offer in the hopper.”

Many employees are playing a game of “musical ‘job’ chairs,” a new survey from Adtaxi suggests. The survey, which looked at job seekers’ goals, habits and preferences, reveals that a majority (52 percent) of employed Americans are either currently looking or plan to look for a new job in the next year. Of the individuals planning to look for a job within the year, 54 percent searched for their last job less than a year ago.

“While it is often debated whether ‘job hopping’ is beneficial or detrimental, the fact of the matter is that this practice is on the rise,” says Chris Loretto, executive vice president of Adtaxi, a programmatic-advertising company. “Thanks to search engines, online job boards and social media, looking for a new opportunity is simpler than ever before—after all, information on any given company is only a click away. This makes it easier to routinely switch jobs and gives rise to the passive job seeker: an employed individual who is open to learning about new career options, but does not actively apply to specific positions.”

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Adtaxi’s findings are hardly unique—a different survey, this one from Ceridian, finds that a sizable chunk of the workforce is open to new job opportunities. Although 37 percent of respondents are either looking actively or casually, another 36 percent would still consider a new position if they were approached. Only 27 percent said they have no interest in a job outside their current employer.

Even for employees who are happy in their current jobs, it’s still all about more dollar bills to pay their bills. The latest workplace report from the Addison Group finds that 59 percent of job seekers are leaving their current role in order to get a higher salary (despite 72 percent of them reporting being happy at work). Just 46 percent of survey respondents say they believe they’re being fairly compensated at their current job.

Even if organizations are limited in how much they can increase employees’ salaries, financial wellness programs may alleviate some of the turnover pain. John Hancock’s just-released annual Financial Stress Survey shows 69 percent of American workers (up 3 percent from last year’s survey) are experiencing “moderate to extreme stress” as a result of their finances. Seventy-two percent of them indicate they worry about finances while at work.

Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor at Human Resource Executive®. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]

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