The great hiring deep freeze…

I’ve been fairly stable over the last 25 years on tech….a couple hard years and layoffs here and there but it hasn’t felt tumultuous by any means. It was typically much more feast than famine in terms of opportunities, companies hiring, etc. However, by the time June and July of 2020 rolled around it was clear there were some catastrophic things happening beyond just restaurants and other in-person industries shuddering. The level of uncertainty across Silicon Valley was tightening its grip on every single company, no matter how much cash they had in the bank. Everyone just stopped in their tracks waiting to see where the world was going.

It’s an interesting industry. Most tech companies are almost immune to standard issue US recessions. Throughout my career in tech, I’d read in the news about “the recession we are now in” or are about to be dealing with. I’d see crazy fluctuations in the US unemployment rate and see or hear about thousands of untold stories regarding economic struggles due to the recession. Meanwhile in tech, most (not all) people were generally coasting along in their careers, in their commercial office buildings, getting coffee in the morning in the break room, kicking off new projects, launching new products, doing big events like Marketing Summits, Sales Kick Offs, acquiring more and more companies to build their empires.

Of course not every single tech company flourished during past recessions but if you were lucky enough to not be on the ass-end of an industry affected by the recession (I’d say over 75% were – especially SaaS companies), it was typically business-as-usual.

Black Holes & Deaf Ears

I had never experienced anything like this before while applying for jobs. When applying for jobs in a competitive market like tech, if you have a fairly well put together resume and meet 75% of the criteria on there, it’s common to get a phone screen maybe 1 out of every 5 places you apply, followed by at least an 80% chance of getting an initial interview. I’ve never had a problem banking on those stats and typically if I got the job, I’d find out what the competition was like to get it and there were maybe 2-3 other strong candidates they were considering but things moved quickly and the odds were pretty good most of the time.

Once we hit Q3 in 2020, it was so weird. On LinkedIn you could literally see thousands of jobs floating around as if companies were hiring like normal, but the you’d look at the stats at the bottom of each job entry and like 500 people were applying for any level of job on there within 48 hrs of the job being posted! From what I’d read from others and what was in line with what I was experiencing, most were getting no response at all from anyone, no matter how good of a fit on paper they were….just nothing. Crickets across the board.

On LinkedIn you’d see these entry level jobs – 1-3 years experience in marketing required, then scroll down where they show you applicant stats for that job and you’d see something like

Entry-Level – 328 applicants (1-5 years exp)
Mid to Senior – 112 applicants (6-15 years exp)
VP level – 43 applicants (15-25+ years exp)

So you have an untold number of seasoned job applicants willing to (or maybe needing to out of desperation) go backwards almost two decades or more in their careers to just work a job, any job, that is just shy of the office version of flipping burgers?

I ran into those stats over and over again when combing jobs on LI and other various job sites. What was unnerving was that I couldn’t find one influential HR/Recruiter anywhere that was boldly telling us all what they were seeing out there. Like there was some big secret no one was talking about. Why were companies still posting job opps but not actually hiring anyone? Are there too many applicants and understaffed HR departments? Are the application systems these companies are using broken? Does my resume suck? Am I over-qualified? Am I under-qualified? Why isn’t anyone talking to anyone out there?

From May 2020 to May 2121 I had sent out over 100 fairly targeted resumes, cover letters accompanied 35-50% of them. Of those that resulted in ANY type of response, I’ve gotten 12 phone screens, 5 actual interviews, zero offers and more importantly (outside of the automated message here and there) zero feedback as to why I was not hired.

I’m usually ok if I get feedback because I can act on data. Resume sucked? I can work on that. Interviewed poorly? Tell me how I came off or what was missing so I can course-correct for the future. Overqualified? Under-qualified? Salary requirements too high or too low (too low can mean low self-confidence)? Is it my age? The color of my hair? WHAT IS IT???

I’ve had situations where I had high profile, highly influential people internally at a company give my resume to the hiring manager directly for a role and they say “you have to hire this guy” and I would just get no response.

All those internal referral tactics, friend circles, what in the past would have been “shoe-in” moments – nothing worked anymore. I have a huge network in tech and I can’t tell you how many situations like this I’ve been in over the last year. So disheartening…

Deep depression has entered the chat.

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