When Marcia LaReau was laid off from the human resources job she’d held at Cigna for five years, co-workers who knew her asked: “Will you help me find a good job?”
LaReau had specialized in coaching new hires who weren’t integrating well, as she diplomatically puts it, and co-workers knew that meant she could help people figure out exactly what kinds of jobs played to their strengths.
LaReau initially thought the business she founded because of those requests would be built around helping fresh college graduates figure out what direction they should go. But as the economy tanked in 2008, she found her year-old coaching business, Forward Motion, shifting to displaced mid-career workers, and that’s still true five years later.
Generally, the people who come to her are not having near-misses, where they are getting to in-person interviews for advertised openings but the company ends up going with another candidate. Most of her clients are applying to jobs through online systems and hearing nothing back. “Everyone finds it as this black hole,” she said.
LaReau helps them expand and rewrite their resumes, and she talks to HR workers around the region to figure out the filters. She even gets permission from them to submit mock resumes to see which ones result in a call for a phone interview.
The business world has tried to turn hiring into an automated, industrial process, but it’s not very good at it, she said. “They want the perfect person. That’s not how it works.”
She develops relationships with HR officials, telling them she will help them find the right person faster, and with outside recruiters, telling them she will help them build their reputations.
But the relationships she develops with her clients are most critical. “They feel like a failure because they lost a job. They feel like a failure because they don’t have a job,” LaReau said. She said many of her clients tell her: “I never needed help to get a job before.”