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My HR and recruiting brethren are flummoxed. The biggest problem with the job market isn’t stagnant wages or a crisis in leadership. It’s that candidates are ghosting right now.

Ghosting! Like we’re teenagers!

Corporate leaders tell me it’s impossible to find capable people to fill open job requisitions or even show up for interviews. When they extend an offer and agree on a starting date, candidates never show up for the first day of work.

They call it ghosting, and it’s a lie.

I’m sure this version of “candidate ghosting” has happened a few times because people are awful. However, ghosting mostly occurs when recruiters and hiring managers bring candidates in for a job interview and never follow-up after the meeting.

Regardless, the recruiting-industrial complex®™ wants you to believe companies are working hard to put Americans back to work, but Americans just don’t want to work. They want to do opioids and ghost. But don’t be fooled. These are handy narratives that indolent corporate professionals use to justify all kinds of behaviors from ageism to bigotry to indifference.

“We can’t find candidates. People are ghosting us.”

They’re whining like a bunch of middle-school girls about how life is unfair. Also, mom won’t let me get an Instagram account. I could die.

So, it’s my full-time job to tell you not to believe the hype around ghosting or “the ongoing war for talent.” Instead, get smarter. Here’s what’s truly happening in the job market.

1. Companies don’t want to hire anybody. People are an expensive hassle, and, even though we’re facing record unemployment, companies are risk-averse and would instead leave a position vacant — and interview 1000 candidates — instead of taking a chance on someone new.

2. Companies only want to hire young people without defects. I can’t tell you how many times recruiters and HR professionals use the word “unemployable” to describe applicants over the age of 35. You are unemployable if you’re older, expensive, opinionated, ornery, fat, disabled, short, gay, transgender, have natural hair, wear the wrong clothes, not far enough along in your career to justify a recruiter’s attention, too far along in your career to seem loyal, or look anything like “trouble.”

3. Companies simultaneously hate younger workers. Young Millennials and Gen Z workers are spoiled, impatient, taught by a broken public school system, illiterate, and obsessed with celebrity culture. They lack the maturity needed to get work done, so positions stay open.

4. Everybody is way too judgy. Recruiters don’t look at resumes for long, and, when they do, they judge you based on font and presentation instead of the content of the CV. Hiring managers still use interviews to screen for culture and fit without having a consistent definition of what those two words mean. We assess candidates on personality, a tone of voice, smell, enthusiasm, articulateness, and values without benchmarking what success looks like in an organization. And we get it wrong all the time and hire people who blow it. Or we get it right and hire someone who is awesome, but we’re still surprised and disappointed when employees act like capitalists and quit for more money or more compelling work.

What a mess. And nobody — and I mean nobody — is being honest about what’s happening inside HR departments and recruiting shops.

Do you never want to hear the word “ghosting” again? Looking for solutions besides getting rid of recruiters and staying out of the job market? Here are my thoughts.

1. Support universal health care and basic income. Let people contribute to our society based on aptitude and not a desperate need to feed their families. There’s more than enough to go around.

2. Fix your finances. Improve your money so you can live on less and chase your dreams — or chase your kids in the park on a Tuesday afternoon — instead of chasing the almighty dollar. It’s not about the four-day workweek. It’s about the no-day workweek. You have autonomy when you don’t have debt.

3. Know better, do better. If you work in HR or recruiting — or if you’re a corporate professional who leads a team — step up and don’t work for companies that keep jobs open for six months and then complain that they can’t find someone. Got a job opening? Fill it. Find an older worker or a veteran. Find a student or a non-traditional worker. Don’t have the power or influence to change your company’s behaviors? Improve your communication skills, or quit that job. We’ve got record unemployment. Go work for a company that’s doing it right.

What’s wrong with the job market has been wrong since the early 2000s: companies are powerful, cheap, and hoarding profits at the top. Workers are risky, expensive, and impede profitability. There is no skills gap. There isn’t a shortage of talent. There is tension in the job market because companies won’t pay what people are worth, won’t stop discriminating, and won’t share their profits with the people who make it happen.

Anybody who tells you otherwise has got it wrong.

2 Responses to Job Market is Jacked Up
  1. Steve LaMotta, SPHR, HCS

    Love this – and agree, Laurie. I would temper it with when I was running corporate & field – talent acquisition for various companies, it was the managers expectations of “the perfect candidate” that slowed the process down…but when HR/TA leaders “step-up” and hold their space as the experts you can coach managers into making quicker decisions to fill openings.

    A point to validate your “unemployable” comment – check at MOD Pizza…they’ve turned that “category of hire” to their advantage by focusing on hires that are humans who have been incarcerated and giving them hope and faith back in themselves and the system – it’s a beautiful story that needs more attention. And wow, is it creating LOYALTY & Engagement at MOD Pizza!

    Lastly, I am working on developing a product that speaks to all humans refocusing themselves on what’s truly important (since work should NOT be the only source of a Human’s Self-Worth) – Actively Living their Incredible LIFE! We all have incredible lives…we just forget, compare ourselves to others and need the tools to design and take action! Soon to be introduced….”Incredible LIFE Network”

    And, well, I’m also working on a Digitally Authenticated Professional ID (DAP-ID) for Job Seekers leveraging the blockchain – this will be REALLY cool for speed-to-hire that will remove one more obstacle for job seekers!

  2. rogerthegeek

    You would think that supply and demand would kick in somewhere, but wages haven’t skyrocketed. People are being low balled all over. Companies don’t want to pay market wages. They are hiring contractors.
    How can it surprise anyone that younger people jump from job to job when employment is so adversarial. If you are a contractor, jumping jobs is sort of baked into your world.