The Desperate Vibe? Really?

Laura Bassett, writing about something called “the Desperate Vibe” in the Huffington Post, quotes Isang Inokon, a recruiter for Amherst Healthcare as having “trouble placing jobless pharmacists.”  Inokon, according to Bassett, asserts that “the reality of today’s job market is that employers ‘want someone who’s wanted.'”

Maybe.  But as I have said before, the Inokons of the marketplace don’t get paid easily for producing candidates who have already applied for the job, who have their own effective plan for getting the prospective employer’s attention, and who (it must be said) don’t need the help of Amherst Healthcare in order to get a good job.

I believe the headhunters of the world are an enormous asset to the job market, workforce, employers, and the business community in general.  But, the headhunter quoted here has some skin in this game; describing a “desperation vibe” as a good reason for his seeking (in his own ad, in his own interest) only employed pharmacists to offer to his unnamed clients is at best disingenuous.  His alleged value to his target client is that he can locate and represent the so-called “passive job-seeker,” also probably alleged to be (via a significant leap of logic) the cream of the crop.  By advertising for (and attempting to induce fear of someday appearing desperate in) that candidate on Craigslist?   Unfortunately, “passive job seekers,” who may also be known as “those who haven’t been laid off just yet,”  are hanging on to their jobs and not sending resumes and cover letters to the Inokons with much frequency.

Any movement in the labor market is really good for recruiting and headhunting, and no one can blame Mr. Inokon for his position or his efforts.  If he dislodges and places a clinical pharmacist, he has another opportunity, to fill the job he opened.  This is his business model:  he gets paid when he adds value, places people in jobs, and earns his fee.  If you get to the job you want before he does, though,  he doesn’t get paid at all.

But “a desperation vibe. . . ?”  “Interview from a position of weakness. . . ?”  That isn’t real.  In fact, I imagine that there are plenty of employers who, if they are able to, will break a tie between the best candidates by awarding the job to the one who needs it.  And, decision-makers have trouble understanding what you want from them if you have a perfectly good, and very similar job.  Bidding wars for great candidates are sort of not happening right now.

It is never good to act from desperation, always better to exhibit confidence, and superior candidates consistently package themselves as winners, no matter the condition of the economy.  The economy as a participant in your own job search is pretty hard to quantify and harder still to manage.  So don’t bother enlisting it in any way at all.  It will not help you to buy into a belief that unemployed means undesirable;  in all my years in Human Resources, we never asked a headhunter to limit his or her search to the employed.  Why would we?  It is fully self defeating, expensive,  and ridiculously bad business.  And, it might just perpetuate illegal discrimination, a risk few HR professionals would deliberately consider.

Consider the other side of the coin:  Unemployed candidates are more willing to relocate, accept the range minimum for a particular job, are less demanding of perqs, and can usually begin work sooner.

If there is a legitimate concern on the part of an employer, it is simply that active job seekers do tend to leave the process before a big company finishes its selection.  They consume headhunter time as they juggle multiple opportunities–the advantage of being unemployed in the job market is that you can spend all your time on your search.

I’ve commented on the issue in the past.  And I believe that some employers aren’t sure what to do when confronted with choices; we are conditioned to want the less attainable and we convert it in our heads to the more desirable, somehow.  But I would not be confident, if I were a well-employed clinical pharmacist seeing Mr. Inokon’s ad on Craiglist, that the best thing for my career is to hand my resume over to a headhunter who says I’m at risk of interviewing poorly if I don’t interview right now.

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