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- Salesforce, Compass, and Amazon recently laid off thousands of what they called “low performers.”
- In the past, recruiters might have been skeptical of candidates who’d been laid off in this manner.
- But in the pandemic era, recruiters have more sensitivity, compassion, and empathy.
Losing a job is never a boost to one’s self-esteem. But it stings even more if your employer was using layoffs to cut low performers.
To wit, Salesforce announced this week that it’s slashing 10% of its staff after managers were asked to rank employees and — not coincidentally — identify their bottom 10%. Compass, a real-estate brokerage, meanwhile, is preparing for its third round of cuts in eight months and targeting its “lowest-performing” employees.
Late last year, Amazon pressured managers to identify low-performing workers and has since embarked on its largest-ever round of corporate layoffs, which are set to claim roughly 18,000 jobs.
The publicity around cuts of so-called subpar staff begs the question: How are these ex-employees viewed now that they’re unceremoniously back on the job market? Are they seen as problematic or lazy? Are they marked with a “scarlet F” for essentially being fired for low performance?
Workers on the chopping block might heave a sigh of relief: Recruiters, by and large, say that while hiring managers in the past might have been skeptical of candidates who’d been laid off in this manner, they now have more sensitivity and understanding. Thank the pandemic for that.
“If you’d asked me this question four years ago, I would say that most recruiters probably would look at the candidates in a negative light,” Dan Roth, a veteran recruiter and consultant who works in Big Tech, said. “But the pandemic, as awful as it’s been, has created more empathy. Everyone knew someone who was affected, and so recruiters now take a more compassionate view.”
What’s more, a tight job market means that hiring managers can’t afford to be so choosy. Job growth remains strong: The US added 223,000 jobs last month, more than forecast. Meanwhile, data shows there were about 10.5 million jobs available in November, outnumbering the 6 million unemployed Americans looking for work.
Recruiters take an empathetic approach
Data suggests that hiring for tech workers remains robust despite a softening economy. Job postings for tech-focused roles were up 25% from January to October last year, compared with the same period in 2021, a report from Dice, a tech-careers site, found. And a study from the workforce-data provider Revelio Labs estimated nearly three-fourths of the tech workers laid off last year found new jobs within three months; more than half found a job that paid more than what they previously earned.
But as we enter the new year, and recession fears mount, the continued strength of tech hiring is an open question. And the conventional wisdom that it’s easier to get a new job when you already have one rings true for a reason.
Still, recruiters say that candidates laid off by virtue of supposedly poor performance are not disqualified from consideration — far from it.
“I don’t care if you’ve been on maternity leave or you had a career break or you were laid off,” Roth said. “If we’re judging people based on those things, we’re not doing our jobs as recruiters.”
A manager’s selection of a low performer could be idiosyncratic. The person might be perfectly competent but disliked by their boss. Or maybe the employee is an overperformer and the manager senses a threat.
Recruiters are also mindful of the broader economic landscape, Teegan Bartos, a career coach in the Chicago area, said.
“Many of the people being impacted by these layoffs were having some of their best years, but the possible recession is forcing companies to do cuts,” Bartos said in an email interview.
Some recruiters say they take an empathetic approach based on personal experience. After all, many have been through mass firings and know that high-quality employees get laid off all the time.
“I myself have been laid off, and I can tell you, I have a strong work ethic and it was not a performance issue,” Heather Colvin, a corporate and agency recruiter for the tech industry, said.
Instead, Colvin looks at what the candidate can do and has done.
“A position is open because a problem exists,” she said. “When I am talking to a candidate, I want to know: Have you solved a problem like that in previous roles? What have you done, and how does that align with what’s going on at this company? That’s all I am listening for.”