In the 20 years that I’ve been recruiting, very little has changed. I thought a global pandemic and widespread racial unrest would somehow be the much needed catalysts for changing the recruiting landscape. It was my sincere hope that we would take this time to acknowledge our role in supporting discriminatory hiring practices, make any necessary individual adjustments, and no longer participate in or uphold those practices inside of our organizations.
Perhaps it’s the effects of quarantine, veils being lifted, or masks coming off to reveal who people really are. Or a likely combination of all three. In any event, having a front-row seat to view the worst of human traits on display by fellow recruiters has me feeling distressed, angry, and some days totally hopeless.
The first two months of quarantine gave me, what I now know, a false sense of hope. As we all scrambled, tried to settle in, and make sense of what was going on, I saw compassion and cooperation amongst recruiters that I hadn’t seen since leaving the corporate life behind.
Recruiters from all over the country (and in some instances the world) came together as one community to help those who had lost their jobs to find new employment. They organized virtual meet-ups and happy hours. They offered free services to job-seekers, expanded their networks, and provided a safe place for fellow recruiters to share their concerns and worries. They hosted webinars and trainings designed to assist employers and job-seekers under unusual circumstances.
Despite all of the chaos and uncertainty, recruiters seemed to be elevating and securing their place as trusted, reliable, accountable, strategic partners. I was so proud.
Then came May. People started to get restless, pleasantries started to wane, and negativity started to resurface. The pandemic was taking its toll on everyone, including recruiters. Aside from the occasional “COVID is hoax” and “wearing a mask violates my civil rights” debates, there was only one time I felt compelled to inform, gather, and send a recruiter on his merry way.
In response to a campaign to honor Ahmaud Arbery on what should have been his 26th birthday, a (former) recruiting manager for a global corporation tweeted a racially biased justification for Arbery’s murdered. After a spotlight was shined on his comment, this recruiter claimed he was hacked instead rather than take responsibility for his hurtful words. He rallied support from “people who know he’s not a racist” and spent days in my LinkedIn comments trying to prove that I and others who called out his behavior were the ones at fault and being racist.
Still, I hadn’t given up hope for positive change because I know the mental and emotional tax that recruiters pay to be effective under the best of circumstances. Plus, forced isolation for a bunch of people who thrive in social settings was an unwelcome, uncomfortable situation. So I extended grace. I also privately and gently expressed concerns when I saw or heard a recruiter in my network was supporting problematic narratives like “there’s a talent shortage but diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are not needed to address it”….