Recruiters Are People
I know lots of recruiters. I like lots of recruiters. In fact, maybe I like all the recruiters I know. Recruiters are regular people. And like regular people (yes, that means you too), recruiters are prejudiced. We are all prejudiced. We don’t necessarily know that we’re prejudiced. We don’t think or believe that we’re prejudiced, but all humans are. If this were a geometry problem, I would have just proved that recruiters are prejudiced, because recruiters are people and people are prejudiced.
If recruiters are prejudiced, then why should you care? You should care because if you’re looking for a job, it has an impact on you. If the recruiter believes negative or positive things about people ‘like’ you–young, old, fat, African-American, Asian, Southern, Republican, Catholic–then it can affect whether they pass you along for a job. Worse, recruiters are frequently under instructions from someone with a different set of prejudices–maybe about education, skills or particular schools. So you’re up against (or supported by) layered prejudices.
What Can You Do About It?
First of all don’t waste your energy railing against it. I’m not saying it isn’t wrong or unfair, but sitting around complaining about it is not going to do any good. Recognize it as a problem that you have to figure out how to overcome. Just the same as if you need a certification to get a particular job or you need to know how to use Access. You HAVE to address it or look for other jobs with other recruiters. How do you address it?
- Don’t get paranoid. I know, I know. I just told you that recruiters’ prejudices may be keeping you from getting passed along for a job. But look at it as a matter to be dealt with. Be strategic. Don’t take it personally.
- Understand what may be triggering the prejudice. Is it your age? Are you ‘too’ young? ‘Too’ old. How can the recruiter see this? Does your resume tell it? How can you make it less obvious? Take the dates off your education. Leave/put as much work experience on as is necessary for the job. Show adequate depth of experience, but don’t go overboard. Don’t put personal things that aren’t necessary and that might be a hook for prejudice (sewing, cooking, gaming, sports).
- Use the words that the recruiter used in the job description in your resume. Mirror the job description as much as you can. A lot of time and effort went into creating that job description. The words mean something to the person who wrote it. Use the words to describe your qualifications.
- Check out your image. Minimize the prejudice triggers to the extent that you can–dress older or younger, remove the multiple piercings, cover the tattoos, dye your hair, lose weight, dress professionally, stylishly. (I can hear you objecting through the electrons that separate us. I am not telling you to not be who you are. I’m telling you to do things that get you around the things that are in your way. I’ll bet big bucks that you dress differently when you go to church or to school or to work or camping. Put the foot forward that will help clear roadblocks out of the way.)
- Form a relationship with the recruiter. Keep working at the relationship. Humans think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us.’ Humans like ‘us’ better. People who we know and like become ‘us,’ even when the new ‘us’ has traits we are prejudiced against. In other words, if I’m prejudiced against people ‘like’ you, but I like you, I think you are different and I’m not prejudiced against YOU, just those others. I KNOW that sounds crazy, but go read some psychology research–you’ll find that this craziness is supported by the research.
- Don’t ever give in and believe these prejudices. Just because you are young or old or less educated, doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable.
Once You Have The Job
Examine your own hiring prejudices. You have them. Challenge yourself, remembering your recent experiences, to act against those prejudices and to hire people based on their individual abilities, not on stereotypes (even if stereotypes are faster, as George Clooney said in “Up In The Air”).