Why Corporate Recruiters Secretly Label You A “Homer”

urlAre you a “Homer” or a “purple squirrel”? The answer depends on whether you have connections. According to an article in the New York Times that will make you want to burn your interview suit and go live in a yurt on the Oregon coast, “random” job applicants who send in resumes over the Internet are frequently referred to as “Homers” by corporate recruiters. As in Homer Simpson, icon of loserdom. Desirable applicants, on the other hand, are “purple squirrels,” because they’re rare. Blech.

It’s conventional career wisdom that one of the best ways to get a job is to have a connection in the company. A friend’s recommendation goes leagues farther than a resume blindly emailed to an anonymous-sounding email address like HRJob@dreamcompany.com. (“Dear Sir or Madam…” *delete*). But apparently this old wisdom is truer than ever. According to the Times, there’s been a a “fundamental shift in the job market”: Employee recommendations count for more than ever.

See, employee recommendations are cheaper than casting a wide net and combing through hundreds of those “Dear Sir…” cover letters. So big companies are relying on them more and more. Ernst & Young, the giant accounting firm, wants to increase the percentage of new nonentry-level hires that come from employee referrals to 50%; it has already increased its numbers to 45% from 28% in 2010.

That’s good news for the LinkedIn-savvy, network-y types who already have jobs and great connections. Referred candidates are about twice as likely to land an interview as “Homers,” and even among those who make it to the interview stage, they’re 40% likelier to be hired.

It’s terrible news for the country’s 4.8 million longterm unemployed, or for those trying to get their foot in the door in a new industry.

“You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” one human resources consultant tells the Times. “You’re not going to find top performers at a job fair. Whether it’s fair or not, you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.” He says his cohort refers to Monster.com as “Monster.ugly,” adding that “In the H.R. world, applicants from Monster or other job boards carry a stigma.”


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    • Person

      Another point not mentioned here is how this practice is ridiculously classist. Networking is, frankly, part of rich and middle-class livelihood: friends and family, as well as all ridiculous secondary connections, are a hand to pull you up into a higher position. Essentially, mediocrity is rewarded because you’re related to the right people.

      On the other hand, working-class and poor kids trying to move up don’t have these connections. From my perspective, as one such adult, you have to work at least twice as hard to be noticed, and then some overly-connected, lazy rich brat ends up getting the job. Because you don’t conform (or look awkwardly doing so) to what’s acceptably “middle class,” such networks end up being closed off to you, regardless of how hard you work and how friendly you are.

      While most can agree that pulling yourself up from the bootstraps alone is a myth, such hiring practices in the piece above essentially keep a class divide: rich/middle class get an automatic open door, and the rest of us, regardless of experience, drive, and knowledge, arrive to find it permanently locked.

    • Dana K

      Funny how homer was still able to support a home and family for all his ‘loserdom’ and someone like me who is actually a purple squirrel is scraping by at the ‘dream job’ that turned out to be a joke. The lesson here is that the world is so complex that is is virtually impossible to pigeonhole people and situations.