Software Development

How can employers improve the job hunt? ‘Please just have some goddamn empathy’

Unemployed QA engineer Rachel Drane has six suggestions for how to make hiring more humane.

Applying to jobs?

(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is a guest post by Rachel Drane.

Last April, after having steady employment as a QA engineer, I found myself unexpectedly, and involuntarily, unemployed.

I took a couple hours to be upset and then buckled down to begin my search for a new job. I hit the ground running with several referrals and applications submitted that first week. Now I sit here jaded by the especially trying time I’ve had looking for employment.

How trying? Well, in the past 29 weeks, I have completed 50 applications, had 14 phone screens, 6 onsite interviews and submitted 4 projects. Out of the 50 roles, I have only received 11 explicit rejections. And, as of this writing, I have received no offers. Ze-ro.

You might be saying to yourself: “Oh, she must not being trying hard enough. She must not be connected well enough. She must somehow be at least a little bit of an asshole.”

And I don’t blame you. All of those thoughts parade through my head before breakfast! However, I do think it’s unfair for me to be the only one to blame.

We’re not doing well as an industry in the hiring arena. And maybe the standard has been rather low because it’s seemingly much more straight-forward for engineers. Successfully complete a code challenge while not being a dick and you (more or less) get the job. And there’s always a job.

Sure, maybe my experience is an outlier. I’m hoping it is. Because simply being unemployed is stressful enough already:

  • Financial insecurity
  • The stigma and prejudice around unemployment
  • The choice between expensive healthcare or nothing
  • Filing for unemployment benefits
  • Having to remember to file for those benefits every two weeks
  • Having to remember to file for those benefits every two weeks while the website is open (yup… the website has hours)

We should be doing better. And (good news!) we can be doing better. There are several simple changes that could make job-hunting less demoralizing for everyone, all while hopefully streamlining hiring for both candidate and company.


So, here’s what I propose: 6 Hiring Changes That Can Happen Right Now

1. Be as transparent as possible.

Sure, situations change unexpectedly, but leaving the candidate in the dark as you navigate these changes isn’t always wise. Being upfront with candidates is beneficial for both parties, giving them the power to manage their own expectations. You don’t know how “desperate” they are for the job, so giving them arbitrary dates or milestones can potentially cause disappointment and distress when not met.

2. Set up some sort of response for every applicant.

Even if it’s a rejection, hearing from a company is a thousand times better than never. Even if it’s just an automated message to say “You’re great, but no thanks.” There’s a lot of silence when you’re applying for jobs. A lot. Hearing back from a company can really help candidates feel like their applications, resumes and cover letters aren’t just being shot out into the void.

3. Try not to string candidates along.

Be as expedient as possible, allowing candidates to either move on or begin their transition. I can understand wanting to take your time to avoid hiring a “bad fit,” but every additional day that passes for candidates can be critical. Also — I can’t believe I have to say this — please don’t put a candidate’s process on pause for someone to go on vacation. Don’t.

4. Coach team members on how to interview candidates.

Does anyone do this?! Sure, help with crafting the right questions, but maybe also supply some instruction on how to ask. How to handle a variety of situations. There really should be no awkwardness or anxiety added to the encounter by the interviewer. There’s already enough to be had on the other side of the table.

5. Stop it with the forms!

If I’m already submitting a resume, I shouldn’t have to tab through a form to supply info that’s already on my resume. It’s tedious and is keeping people from applying to your company.


6. Please just have some goddamn empathy.

Sure, not everyone on the job hunt is in such dire straits. Some might even be passively looking. It’s impossible to know everyone’s situation, but at the very least, an applicant is looking for a change. They are at least slightly unhappy with a main component of their lives, and they are doing a brave thing in pursuing a better situation. They are being vulnerable in offering themselves up on a platter to be weighed and measured, often by complete strangers. Take the time to put yourself in their shoes before each communication. Try to understand how important the opportunity could be to them. Believe me, a kind word or indication of empathy — even in a rejection — goes a long way.

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