I’m bored, and it’s all recruiting’s fault.
That’s right. I completely blame recruiting for my current state of ennui (or apathy, more like) – and I regret nothing about finally saying something about this problem in public. In fact, I’ll even say it again – I. Am. Bored. That’s right. Bored. Bored by talent acquisition, by HR, by the never-ending, self-congratulatory, puissant and god-forsaken industry that is recruitment today.
Now, I don’t mean bored in one of those, “I’m going to go take a walk, clear my head and try to refocus my energies” sort of boredom. Nor am I talking about a “hey, maybe I can make this into a game or something to add a little bit more fun” sort of approach to my antipathy. No, my friends. I wish it were that easy – but trust me, I have tried almost everything. And nothing seems to work, really.
No, the kind of boredom I have with recruitment is more a deep, bone weary, want to cry myself to sleep and say, “screw the world” sort of way. This is a type of bored that’s omnipresent, inescapable and immutable.
I don’t know what the exact cause of my boredom has been – whether it’s endlessly talking to recruiters, or reading endless articles on recruitment, the ones that are always on the exact same topics, do nothing but state the obvious without ever actually fixing a single, solitary thing.
In recruitment, we’d rather talk about a problem than actually solve it, which is a problem we don’t really talk about enough. But somewhere in the circular argumentation and vapid, vacuous “content” that always flows endlessly through my LinkedIn feed (and I’ll guess yours looks more or less the same), something has killed the light inside of me, and as far as recruitment goes, what used to be a passion for the profession has dulled and gone gray.
Nothing I do seems to help reignite that flame I used to feel. I feel a little lost, frankly.
I’ve gone through this endlessly over the last few weeks, this fading feeling I have for recruitment, picking and pulling at the scabs – and wondering what, exactly, it is that’s urging me to want to throw myself out a window every time I open up my computer at work. I know I can’t be the only one, either. I’m not blind.
I mean, I see the dejected faces of other lost souls like me, those uniform “professional profile” pictures which stare back at me with strained smiles, sad eyes and that soulless look of surrender. For the record, I count my own professional headshots in with this description – my LinkedIn picture looks like I’m some corporate automaton fresh off the assembly line, just another drone in search of a personality (and completely devoid of an identity). It’s truly terrible. What’s worse is most days, this is how I actually feel, too.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? Recruitment is all pretty terrible – and I couldn’t understand what had happened that suddenly soured me on this business and was steadily draining me of my last vestiges of hope.
Why is an industry based on the noble idea of helping good people get good jobs, predicated on personal interactions and meaningful relationships – things that I’ve always thrived on – suddenly become so, well, boring?
Now, let me set the record straight. My antipathy for recruitment has nothing to do with any modicum of misanthropy. In fact, I LOVE people. I know this is a sweeping statement, and there are obviously quite a few exceptions, but for the most part, I really, truly do. I know that for the most part, people can be annoying, demanding and fickle – we’re real pains in the ass, as a species – but even those who lack personal hygiene or common courtesy I can normally find some sort of redeeming quality about.
I know that it’s probably not cool to admit that I actually like people, but it’s the truth.
We’re all so weirdly different, our interests and interactions and world views so disparate and diverse (not always in a cool way), that I genuinely think we can all learn a hundred things from every other person out there you never knew about this strange and fascinating world we live in. Sometimes, and these are the best times, someone teaches you something new about yourself, too. And that, I think, is the point of our entire existence. The purpose of humanity is to share it with others.
People, for the most part, are pretty great.
And yet. It’s people – real, actual, walking, taking people crammed full of personality and humanity, the kind whose unique complexities and contradictions are so compelling, are hard to find in recruitment these days. Sure, there’s plenty of bodies floating around this business. But they’re like the undead, mindless drones without any depth or dimension or really anything special about them at all. It’s as if somewhere along the way, recruitment lost its humanity – not replaced by robots, but with our collective loss of personality and individuality.
This will be the very thing, I think, that kills the industry in the end. Any business built on people cannot survive being run by those whose individual traits, quirks and personalities have so long been suppressed in favor of stasis, the status quo and job security. We’d rather be safe than be ourselves in recruitment, and there will no longer be much time to meet the faces that we meet, with apologies to Eliot.
Recruitment has, as an industry, some abhorrent and deeply seated fear of perceived as ‘unprofessional.’ Now, in this industry, the stigma of saying someone is “unprofessional” is akin to calling them the C word, a scarlett letter of shame that once bourne is almost impossible to shake in such an incestuous and cloistered industry as ours.
And we’ve all become, as a consequence, so caught up with appearing to be “professionals” that we’re professing we’d rather be obsolete than be ourselves. We’re so busy focusing on professionalism I think we’re largely ignoring the existential threat this creates to the continued existence of our profession, period.
I mean, look at yourselves, recruiters. We’re all so damned polite. We stand on ceremony, all the time. We don’t joke with clients, candidates or even our colleagues because we fear that something will be misconstrued or misunderstood and we’ll end up with a massive lawsuit on our hands.
When we write about recruitment, it’s done in tones drier than your average textbook, and our propriatary, bullshit jargon and meaningless buzzwords with which we speak about our profession mean little to anyone in the recruitment business and even less to everyone else. Yet, like lemmings marching ourselves off a cliff, we keep doing business as usual because this is the way we’ve always done things – or at least for so long that we seem to have forgotten how, exactly, to step out of the line.
Now, it’s my job to work with new recruitment companies to build websites, marketing plans and brands. I am tasked with helping these fledgling firms write content, curate the best articles about recruitment and use stuff like social to somehow make it seem like they know what they’re doing instead of just making it up as they go along, like everyone else in this business seems to be doing.
These are my recurring responsibilities, and I’m bored.
I want the sparkle, and pop, and magic dust back in this business. I want the laughter, and the traits, and the weird habits and occasional neuroses real people really have. I want to talk about issues of substance, and have conversations that do more than scratch the surface, or interactions where we can be ourselves and not worry about breaking the rules of whatever absurd game it is we all seem to be playing – and most of all, goddamnit, I WANT THE TRUTH.
I can handle it, and so can you.
Because the truth is that recruitment is rammed full of simply incredible people and even more incredible personalities. I know this because I’ve met so many of them.
I’ve sat with recruiters in the pub on a Friday night and laughed until I cried or talked until I was hoarse; I’ve spent my weekends hanging out with them shooting the shit or telling stories, spent countless coffees and infinite meals getting to know recruiters – I mean, really get to know them.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. We’ve had the best chats about everything from pop culture to our own sense of mortality, talked about life, death and love – and everything in between. Recruiters, you know, are real people, believe it or not, not the much maligned, amorphous aggregate of assholes that is the only side of recruitment so many others see. This is because the moment we get into work on Monday morning, it’s like we’ve all gotten lobotomized in the lift on the way up.
Somehow, we metamorphose into these strange, soulless and empty shells of the people we are outside the office, instantly afraid to tell the truth, be candid or be ourselves. Our true colours get hidden behind so many shades of gray in a world that’s depressing, dull and drab.
This, I’m afraid, is the world of recruitment today.
Well, I’m calling bullocks on the whole business. It’s time we cease and desisted with this bullshit, people. That’s right, let’s stop this crap, once and for all, because I just can’t bear to be this bored for much longer – and need to finally take a stand. So, what do you say?
Will you come stand with me, and maybe let your true self show just a little bit, and get out of the line you’re marching in and start marching to a different beat. Will you never forget that we’re in the business of improving lives and livelihoods instead of putting butts in seats, and that a job is more than a requisition, but represents a large part of our self-identity and personal dignity?
What we do isn’t who we are, but that’s what we’ve become, and I think it’s time recruiters gave each other permission to be ourselves in the office and in our working lives. Let’s stop these stupid hashtags and silly conversations about meaningless crap like “employee engagement” or “building brand advocates” and all of that nonsense that has nothing to do with finding candidates or actually making hires happen or hiring managers happy.
Let’s stop being led by the blind and start showing the world that recruiters are more than mindless drones ready to be automated out of existence.
Let’s start writing articles about the shit in recruitment that really pisses us off instead of simply dabbling in hackneyed cliches and atrocious aphorisms. There’s plenty of material there, I assure you. Let’s start treating our candidates like real people instead of interchangeable commodities, bags of money to be moved around the board as we see fit.
Let’s start telling our clients what we’re really going to do when we open a req and how, exactly, we’re going to help them find the top talent they’re looking for instead of hiding behind that “world class service” speech that’s like the worst pick up line out there.
Recruitment has spent altogether too long working in binaries, and it’s blurred our collective vision; just because there are parts of recruitment you find irritating doesn’t mean that you necessarily hate your job, you know. Just because you take the time to show some chill with your candidates and not call them a hundred times a day doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly drop out of process or lose interest in that position you’ve got them in process for.
Just because you tell your clients you’re going to work your ass off for them doesn’t mean that they’re going to believe you’re doing a thing other than bilking them out of their time and money, like every other recruiter out there.
The Game of Life.
The human condition is, unfortunately, by no means binary – and it’s the fickle nature of humans and the predictable unpredictability of our behavior that gave rise to recruitment in the first place. If we were all rational actors working in a logical, black and white world, in fact, we’d have no need for recruiters in the first place.
This is, of course, why I find it so ironic that we’re trying to force an industry predicated on the human condition to try so hard to suppress the very same impulses that make this a viable business to begin with. We need to stop thinking of “professional” or “unprofessional,” in short, and start thinking about people. Period.
I know. You probably think I’m some sort of naive waif or crazy hippie living in some Utopian fantasy land that’s never going to happen, and I say to you, go screw yourself. There’s enough negativity around this industry we don’t need to add anymore than we’ve already got, so lose it or get lost.
As our world consistently moves towards merging the formerly distinct distinctions between our work and our lives into some constant state of being on call, if we let our professional personas win out, we all lose.
We can’t just have a few fleeting hours a day or maybe a rushed half day on the weekends to be a real, live human before reverting back to being robots the rest of the time. That’s not a sustainable life, nor is it one that anyone can live too long without losing their sense of identity, self-worth, or, worse, that personality that makes them unique and human and different from everyone else. Those are the best qualities in a person, and we shouldn’t encourage anyone to give these things up so easily – particularly in the name of “work” in general, recruitment in particular.
So, if we could kindly all take that stick out of our asses and stop pretending to be “professionals” all the time, and instead relax a little bit and just be ourselves again, then maybe, just maybe, recruitment can start to breathe again. And we can both stop being bored out of our minds and maybe move forward as a profession instead of simply treading water.
Hey, a girl can always dream, right?
About the Author: Salma El-Wardany, Head of Marketing, Recruitment Entrepreneur cut her teeth in recruitment at a global Plc, working in business development to win new clients and accounts into the company. She gave up corporate life in favour of the startup world, specifically recruitment startups.
Salma spends her days advising recruitment companies on their marketing, digital and branding strategies, and how to make their voice heard in an industry that is already overcrowded and full of voices clamoring to be heard. By night, she writes about many things, mainly all the things in recruitment that vex her.
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