The ‘R’ Word in Recruitment and why it shouldn’t be Ridiculed

There’s an awful stigma attached to redundant candidates. We see redundancies occur across all levels from graduates to CEO’s, but our bias makes us believe the person was not performing in their role, that they somehow did something that made them a target for redundancy. Often this simply is not the case.

A person is not made redundant, the position is

If you’re made redundant, you are either redeployed or retrenched. You haven’t been fired. You haven’t been let go because of poor performance. You haven’t been walked.  More often than not it’s not your fault you lost your job, it was just that the company had no need for the position anymore. Teams fold all the time because of management decisions, business units are no longer needed due to automation and technology and we’re all aware restructures happen every second year.
Whilst I’m aware some companies use redundancies as a way to get rid of the ‘dead wood’, this is not an indicator that the person was an underperformer. If they were an underperformer, they should have been performance managed out of the business or fired. If a company is using redundancy to performance manage, all it shows is that the company is too scared to tackle their people issues head on.
Being offered a retrenchment packaged means the role changed, the goalposts have shifted and often the redundant individual was just caught in the middle of all of that. Being made redundant shouldn’t burden you with the assumptions of others – we should all know what a redundancy entails, and there is nothing shameful about it.

Redundancy can be a personal choice

Employees are more strategic these days and many of us wait for a redundancy for the income boost it can provide. Most often seen amongst senior leadership, a redundancy package is often a way that an individual and business can amicably part ways.
Recently I met a graduate who was made redundant after 12 months into their grad program. After having worked with their dream business for a year, the 12 month program came to an end and the business didn’t have enough permanent roles for the prospective graduates. The business extended a voluntary redundancy package for 10 graduates and my client was one of the ones who took it. They took the opportunity and the severance package to start their own business!
So redundancies are a perfectly common and reasonable strategy for people to manage their careers and relationships with their employers. Which yet again raises the question: why are they perceived so damn negatively?
I know of a high flying Head of Strategy who opted for a redundancy to pursue a career change. After 20 years in corporate he decided to take a voluntary redundancy to pursue life as a (gasp!) full time Dad. He made space when his work requested it, and they compensated him after decades of work – fair and evenhanded. Yet after 18 months of raising his kids, working for himself and taking a break from ‘real work’, he was asked if he wanted to go back to a corporate role. When he declined he was told that he would no longer be employable anyway – he was out of the game too long. Say whaaaat?!

Shame on the industry

I know for a fact candidates feel shunned when they share their story and the ‘R’ word comes up. Often they find it twice as hard to get back in the game because of the hurdle of explaining – often in detail – why they were made redundant.
I have worked with hiring managers in the past who have flat out concluded that redundant candidates are basically rejected employees (ironically this hiring manager’s role was made redundant 3 months later).
It’s time for this type of thinking to stop. If you have to ascribe a quality to a person’s redundancy (and since it’s usually totally out of their control, should you?), then they should be seen as a positive experience in a candidate’s history. If a candidate has been made redundant, then they’re either capable of making important strategic decisions, or are resilient for seeking new employment, or at worst are a victim of bad timing. Statistically, we are all likely to be made redundant over our working life, so who cares, stop being judgey and let’s get on with it.
And with the rise of the contingent workforce, and with emerging trends around freelancing, contracting etc., more voluntary and involuntary redundancies are going to occur.
Something needs to change about our negative bias as we’re losing sight of some fantastic employees out there.

3 tips to get you hired faster

It’s time to stop feel ashamed, angry, hurt, undervalued and confused. Let’s get into action mode and get you back out there. It may have been months, maybe even years since you’ve had the confidence (or just decided) to get back to work – here are three tips to help you get back on the right path.

  1. Check your language

Again, it’s the role that’s been made redundant, not you. So when you’re speaking to recruiters and hiring managers alike, don’t forget to make that point. If you’re in an interview and you’re trying to explain a redundancy always say “my position was made redundant” instead of “I was made redundant”. This will help immensely – not only it is the whole truth, but it’s also wholly positive.
Don’t even begin to try and explain your anger at being made redundant – they don’t want to hear it, and they can probably guess. Just take yourself out of the situation and talk about the decision (whether you made it, or your employers did) objectively.

  1. Get networking

Only 20% of positions are advertised. Read that again – only one in five roles! More and more employers are using job ads as a way to increase the brand, with actually recruiting someone being a useful side-effect. Almost 40% of hired employees are referred to the business through personal networks, so get networking today. Have coffees, make phone calls, get out of your comfort zone. Applying for jobs from behind your laptop is no longer a good strategy. It’s just one tool in your belt.

  1. Start journaling

It’s a well-known fact that journaling helps many of us slow down our thoughts and find clarity to clear out the cobwebs and get on with the new. Writing down your thoughts for 10 minutes a day will draw out all the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s helped in many of my clients’ journeys towards finding some peace and some direction. Many who’ve come out of a redundancy or career break are still on the hunt for their next dream job, or perhaps reassessing if it’s good time to try out a new industry. Journaling all of this will help you find some solace.

Challenge yourself

So my challenge to us all is to be open minded when we come across redundancies. Look beyond the bias. You’ll find the reason someone’s position was dissolved had little and less to do with their quality as a candidate, and significant amounts of time in between roles is just part of life – the birth of a child, a desire to pursue an independent role, etc. – that happens to all of us at one time or another. After all, if you were handed a quarter of your salary in one go, wouldn’t you think, ‘geez, could be a good time to take a break and holiday, study, spend time with the family?’
There may be a star performer applying to work with you. Just because there’s a gap in their resume, doesn’t make them unworthy of an interview, or even a job. Let’s all leave behind these damaging assumptions about redundancies.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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