The Surprising Ways In Which Helping Others Can Also Help You

In 2009 I contracted as a recruiter in a boutique organization that sourced and screened resumes for Ma & Pop shops to Fortune 500 companies. It was a maddening, hectic time fraught with office politics, instability and hostility as a natural byproduct; but more than that, working in such an erratic environment offered my opportunities for growth in ways I didn’t expect.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being prepared for what we now know as the Gig Economy, where temporary employment is just about the only position the labor force can rely on. Long gone now are the days when – in my parents’ era – you could find a “good company” to work for, sacrifice 30 years of your life in return for a steady check, and retire with a decent pension. In the gig economy, we are all bidding, auditioning and word-of-mouthing every penny we earn. When my kids ask me (with concern and incredulity) what I do for a living, I sigh and promise to tell them when they’re older.


So I was at this firm and was given a somewhat difficult position to fill. It seemed I had a knack for sourcing resumes that the other recruiters on my team did not. I attribute this to two things: my work as an author and my life as a girl who grew up broke. I instinctively knew what keywords to plug in to find talent, because no one bullshits more than someone faking his or her way to their dream position, and I have slung my fair share of it. I am fluent in interview BS. And that’s how I landed on a resume from a soon-to-be *college grad that would’ve been an ideal candidate save for one thing: His resume – structurally – was abysmal.

What hiring managers used to do with trash resumes in the facsimile era
Image source: A sales guy

Many job seekers don’t know this but on average, a recruiter spends 7 seconds looking at the resume that took you many hours to craft. We have to go through hundreds of them in a day, and if it doesn’t arrest the screener immediately, it will either be doomed to the reject pile or the ‘This could be okay; I might come back to this later’ pile. We rarely go back to the ‘might come back to’ pile because something better inevitably comes along. Unless it’s a hard to fill position, as it was in this case.

Our client for this account was getting antsy because they had been receiving the same sort of resumes for two weeks and our sales team had promised them ‘excellence’. We had overpromised and at this point were in jeopardy of under-delivering. So when I came across this particular resume – which had all the elements of an ideal candidate but not the adornments of one – I had two choices: reject him outright or fix the problem(s) and submit it. All it needed was a little polishing, editing of sentence structure, reorganization of work experience…This could work. I wasn’t really changing his resume. There wasn’t anything dishonest about what I was doing, nevertheless I cold called the candidate, informed him about the position I was considering him for, emailed him a copy of the revised resume and submitted it to the client soon after.

   Three days later he was called in for a face-to-face interview. Shortly after he was offered the job. Hours later we happily closed the requisition. My team lead got a bonus for filling the position (we were not eligible for bonuses), but I got to walk a away with something valuable as well; that being a new skill.

I was hired to do a particular job in the recruitment world (sourcing and screening), but in helping this graduate I discovered that I was really good at revising resumes. At least good enough to get someone in the door for an interview. In its previous state, the client not only would have rejected it outright, but might have possibly terminated our contract as we were obviously not serious about the type of submissions we were sending in.

My gig with the firm ended, and as with any temporary position, I live with the residual impact of having worked in that environment. In this case I’m happy to say it’s positive. Over the years, I have rehabbed numerous resumes to the satisfaction of friends, peers and clients sent by way of recommendation.

When you are helpful, expecting nothing in return, the benefits are manifold. In my case, I unearthed a new skill set. Being helpful  

  • Is great for mental health
  • Is good for the community and/or workplace
  • Encourages empathy
  • Can help make you more productive
  • Can strengthen your network
  • Will encourage others to emulate your example

What have been the benefits of your altruism? Share them in the comments below!

*NB: The college grad went to an HBCU, and that TOTALLY influenced my decision to swing into action. I’m not totally altruistic. God is still working on me.