The View From Your Recession

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I've been relatively isolated from the recession.  I'm employed, my friends are employed, and my young adult children have found jobs.  But that isolation ended this month when the nonprofit I work at advertised for a 30 hr/week Administrative Assistant.  We received 180 applicants - easily three times what I would have expected.  Well over half were qualified.  The process of narrowing the list down to seven for interviews was close to arbitrary.   Four of the seven had been laid off over a year ago.  The other three had had their hours cut or expected to be laid off.  Most of those we interviewed had trouble disguising their desperation.  The person we hired had been laid off a year ago and was thrilled to take a job paying 40% less - barely enough to pay for a one-bedroom apartment.  The second-runner up had to get off the phone as she burst into tears.  Three others we interviewed wanted to know if there was anything they had done wrong.  They REALLY wanted to know.  In thirty years of hiring I have never experienced anything like this.

One way I coped was by being very kind.  I made sure to promptly acknowledge all applications and received repeated thank you emails for doing so.  I hear again and again that people have applied dozens of times without ever hearing anything.  I made sure to talk personally to all those we interviewed but didn't hire.  Their gratitude was palpable.