I’ve been recruiting for more than 2 decades. In that time, I’ve experienced the results of the .com bust in 2000 as well as the last great depression in 2008. Although both had significant impacts on our economy, there’s a marked difference in how candidates reacted after the most recent rollercoaster ride spawned in part by the mortgage crisis.

Living in the Post-Trust Era

Without sounding overly dramatic, candidates just don’t trust recruiters or the organizations they represent—not anymore, anyway. Why do I say that? Well, let’s consider some facts from 2008 and the impact it left on the working population at large.

2008 bullied us into the beginning of an economic collapse not seen since the Great Depression. Those who had just taken new positions (as well as those who were devoted to the same company for 20 to 30 years) were let go; in some instances, these individuals lost their entire life savings.

Meanwhile, the housing market was in full collapse; foreclosure skyrocketed; 401K accounts shrank; and unemployment reached levels we never thought possible—not since the 1930’s.

Happening at the very same time were huge belly punches to our pockets. The U.S. and part of the world were at war with half of the population; one side blaming the outgoing President, and the other putting blame on the incoming administration.

Among all of this chaos, the only thing anyone could agree on was that war was costing us billions of dollars that, frankly, the United States just didn’t have. Even with gut-wrenchingly high unemployment rates and defense costs, we watched congressional hearings on TV where both politicians and corporate CEOs flew from Washington on private jets.

All while unemployment lines were growing by the day.

Social Media’s 24-Hour Reach

Now, this isn’t the first or even second time that the U.S. experienced major financial collapse. But this time around, things were different.

It happened in a time where we were relentlessly glued to our computer and smartphone screens, inundated 24 hours a day with stories of country-wide turmoil.

Whether we liked it or not, we heard about the rising unemployment rate every single day. We also heard about banks with shady foreclosure practices, institutions receiving enormous fines, not to mention the number of bankruptcies that were filed as each day passed.

This 24-hour news cycle and our undeniable addiction to our gadgets eventually caused a massive shift in the United States. Trust became harder to earn when it came to consumers and candidates. The little trust people already had for either political party had nearly disappeared. Companies were viewed as the enemy—and honestly, many for the right reasons.

Today’s Impact

Regardless of our economy’s killer comeback, studies show that candidates still view recruiters and companies in a grim light.

By default, it seems that candidates now challenge the credibility of recruiters before they know what the recruiter has to say. With every statement a recruiter or hiring manager makes, smart candidates hunt for contradictory warning signs before they’ll believe what you say. And most of the time, many candidates assume every recruiter is sleazy, simply selling a position just to fill a role.

It’s time we stop ignoring the possibility that what happened in 2008 has eternally shifted the way candidates think and operate; so much so that the way recruiters interact with them needs to follow suit. “Old school” recruiting techniques, flashy position pitches, and pushy closing techniques irritate candidates even more these days.

If you’re a recruiter or someone who manages recruiters, ask yourself these 2 questions:

Are you engaging and communicating with candidates with a true understanding of their skepticism?
Are you building trust first or using them as a piece of a glorified database?

Maybe it’s time to make a shift yourself.


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