Hiring Through Exhaustion

I’m exhausted.

Fatigued by a week-long deluge of “Dear Hiring Manager” and generic cover letters.

In the latest entry to our epic hiring adventure, we decided to disregard our previous experiences with online job boards.

Organic applications had stalled and we found ourselves in the position of wanting to hire pretty quickly. So we embraced the firehose—ready to douse any substantial fires—thinking we might get a few hundred applications.

😳 Instant regret

To date, I’ve read through 846 applications from the last week alone. And there are another 78 in the queue awaiting my judgment. Imposter syndrome be damned! 🙈

The worst thing? I’d say about two thirds were little more than spray and pray applications. While the thoughtful applications had genuine answers, the others were littered with generic responses about having a “strong work ethic” and a “keen eye for detail”.

You know, I think I’ve even started dreaming in these tired hiring clichés. Dreams that end with the inevitable jolt of a “no hire”. 😬

I won’t lie though, it’s been tough.

There are some gems. Of course there are. Hidden amongst the weeds. Christ! I can't even string together a coherent metaphor right now.

There are weedless gems amongst the sea of weeds we're sailing across in our little boat of dreams.

It's fair to say being on this side of the hiring fence has taken a toll on me. It's much more difficult than I'd anticipated, even after watching from the sidelines as Jake struggled last time.

It’s not so much the volume though. Sure, the workload’s intense but it’s more than that.

It's the personal investment in applicants.

The sudden personal connection that makes you want and hope beyond all else that this person succeeds.

An opening line that grabs your attention. A personal story.

One of my biggest failings is struggling to distance myself.

Because the truth is, I’ve been there. I mean shit, we all have. Right?

I’ve lost count how many jobs I’ve applied for and the amount of times I’ve been sent the stage 1 stock rejection email or been totally ghosted altogether.

I guess the assumption is if you haven’t heard within a year, you should probably stop waiting right? 🤷‍

The feeling of rejection you get when the pro-forma lands in your inbox is enough to make you feel worthless. After you’ve spent hours crafting the perfect answers to what seem like relatively inane questions, that’s all you get?

“No thanks, and good luck with your search”.

Compensating for Biases

I heard somewhere that people hire others like themselves. It's a bias thing apparently. And while I don’t wanna shock anyone, it’s true that I’m a white, cis hetero dude. And I’m thus inherently privileged. 😱

The truth is even as a poor white kid growing up in social housing, I had a pigment, gender and identity advantage over many others.

Doors might not have always been open to me, but they've not been all the way closed.

My experience of hiring is vastly different anyone from an underrepresented group. Because in my experience, if you do a half-decent job and don’t break the law, chances are you can live a relatively successful life.

You can progress from the impoverished working class to the middle class without too much friction. Sure I’ve struggled from time to time. Who hasn’t?!

For many, simply being themselves is enough to deny them the job. Simply walking down the street is enough to get them arrested or worse.

I'm not soapboxing here. But when it came to my part in the hiring process, I was keen to confront my personal biases.

Personal Connections and Heart Wrenching Disappointments

It wasn’t until I was hiring that I really understood there’s no good side to be on in the hiring process. Well…apart from being the one who finally lands the job!

Rejections suck when you’re on the receiving end—I remember it well. But they also suck for the poor sap tasked with poring over applications. Reading into the nuances of answers to decide who to hire and who to reject.

For me, the toughest applications are the ones I connect with on a personal level. And they’re like stealthy, heart-tugging emotional ninjas that attack from nowhere before disappearing back into the shadows.

It could be the choice of words, or perhaps the applicant’s personal story echoes some of the struggles I’ve faced over the past decade—God knows I’ve had a few. 🤷‍♂️

Often though, I find myself drawn to the single parents looking for the opportunity to make something of themselves. Struggling to make ends meet while providing a stable, loving home for their tearaway kids.

I know that struggle. I was brought up by that kind of person. For the briefest of moments I find myself remembering my Mum when I stumble across an applicant like that. A crumpled heap. Crying into bills and statements strewn across the table of our small kitchen diner. Stressing about how we were gonna afford food that week.

Times like these hit home hard and I’m reminded it’s not just a job I’m playing with here. These are people’s lives. Sure for some it’s just another step in their career ladder. But for others it’s a lifeline. A door to a new life. A path to something better not just for them, but for their family.

My brothers and I’d have done anything so my Mum didn’t have to struggle. We did, when we were old enough. That’s a story for another day.

And when I’m holding the power to change a life and I hit “no hire”, it’s soul destroying.

I find myself willing people to succeed. I’m rooting for them the whole way, and then out of nowhere something subtle just sinks the whole thing.

And it is usually something subtle. Subtle, but there. Whether it’s multiple consistent typos. Or a concerning non-inclusive choice of language. Often I can overlook a lack of experience, but there are some things that are real stoppers.

Whatever it is, my heart breaks every time. And every time I’m reminded how hard hiring can actually be. 😞