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What Caught My Eye: Husband Forgets 29 years, Employers Forget Applicants Forever

A series of weekly outside-the-box news stories and the lessons they hold for recruiters, by TAtech CEO Peter Weddle.

Husband Thinks It's 1993 as He Awakes from Accident. Then He Recovers — and Proposes to Wife Again (

The stories are always similar, and yet, always still entrancing. Two people meet and fall in love, and then some terrible situation intervenes and their relationship is put to the test. Happily, the couple finds a way to prevail, and they walk off into the future together.

That’s what happened to Andrew and Kristy Mackenzie, only their love story was … well, you might say, it was timeless. It began in 1984, when Kristy was still in high school and Andrew was a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Despite the age difference, Kristy said, “When I met this man, I knew he was the one.”

A year passed and the romance blossomed. They were happy and enjoying life, and then, the Army stepped in. Andrew was reassigned to a unit in Europe, and suddenly they were confronted with the prospect of a very long separation. It wasn’t something either of them wanted, so they threw caution to the wind and married.

Fast forward 37 years, and they’re still happily married and the parents of two adult daughters, who roll their eyes at their unshakable romance. "Our daughters say we're gross because everywhere we are, I'll kiss him or he'll kiss me," Kristy says. "We're holding hands everywhere." It was the perfect love story … until a terrible situation intervened earlier this year.

Andrew and Kristy were heading home from a Father’s Day celebration when a car ran a red light and smashed into their motorcycle, putting them both in the hospital. They each suffered concussions and multiple broken bones, but Andrew’s injuries were so serious he had to undergo emergency surgery. When he finally awoke and the nurse asked him his name and the date, Andrew knew who he was but believed it was twenty-nine years earlier. He thought it was the year 1993.

The story has a happy ending, however. After cajoling the nurses to put them in the same room and to move their beds closer together, they were able to talk to one another and Andrew’s memory did at last return. It took some time to recover and they had to spend even more time in rehabilitation, but by late summer, they were able to leave their wheelchairs behind and get on with life.

To celebrate their recovery, the family went on their traditional vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It was there during an afternoon’s stroll that Andrew dropped to his knees and proposed all over again to Kristy. She accepted, of course, and two days later, they renewed their vows with their kids and grandkids looking on.

What can recruiters learn from this story?

Talk to former applicants at almost any employer and they will tell you they often feel like Andrew. They obviously haven’t suffered a traumatic injury, but they believe they have been harmed in two debilitating ways.

First, if they haven’t been selected for an opening and are consigned to the employer’s ATS database, it’s as if the time they invested in applying to the company has somehow been lost. In many employers, there’s no further contact and no effort to continue, let alone reinforce a relationship with them. So, it’s almost as if the hours they spent filling out the application form, answering recruiter questions, scheduling and enduring multiple interviews and just plain thinking about the employer have been wiped away by the trauma of the company’s rejection.

And second, that lack of follow-up communication leaves them stuck in the past. They aren’t seen as an evolving, maturing person of talent, but as a digital document that forever defines them by the skills and experience they had when they first applied. It’s as if they are who they were five or ten years ago and not the person they’ve subsequently become. And tragically, that’s the only way the employer will ever know them. They are an accidental anachronism which devalues their humanity and the contribution they could make on-the-job.

Employers normally think that their storage of an unsuccessful applicant’s resume in their ATS database is an act of kindness or at least a positive aspect of the candidate’s experience. From the job seeker’s perspective, however, it’s behavior that harms them in two ways, and that view, in turn, undermines recruiters’ ability to tap the full range of talent available to them. In today’s tight market, that’s a harm that must be healed.

Recruiters should rehabilitate the people whose documents they hold by regularly connecting with them so they don’t feel as if their time as an applicant has been lost or that they are stuck in some time warp that forever diminishes their talent. They should care about those men and women by caring for them, for they are more than the data on their records. They can be renewed as even better applicants.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.