Why Empathy is a Vital Part of the Recruitment Process

It’s no secret that competition for jobs right now is fierce and as employers brace for a tough winter ahead and unemployment rates soar, the market shows few signs of improvement. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many places still hiring and though there might be more applicants than usual, recruiters are still on the lookout for the best people.

Good recruitment is all about striking a balance between finding the best candidates and treating each applicant with the time and consideration they deserve. Understandably, the latter isn’t always a top priority for employers and when the pressure is on—as it so often is in the charity sector—engaging with unsuccessful applicants may well feel like a waste of time. It might even be a little uncomfortable—after all, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.

However, empathy has to be a more vital part of the recruitment process. Employers need to understand the reality of the current job market and put themselves in their candidate’s shoes—not only will they find the best people but going the extra mile will do wonders for your reputation. From job ads to the interviews, people rarely forget their first impressions of an organisation, especially in the current climate, and will remember how those interactions made them feel. People want to work for organisations that care about them, and the recruitment process is the best place to start.

work for empathetic employers

Give quality feedback—especially if they ask

Feedback is a vague term—it can cover everything from an automated email to a personal phone call. Whilst it might not be possible to go through every candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, explaining to unsuccessful candidates where they went wrong is like gold dust. Most people don’t have networks of connections they can fall back on to double-check CVs and train them for interview questions—most jobseekers go it alone and rely on employers to point them in the right direction.

If that helping hand never comes, they’ll be doomed to make the same mistakes time after time and watch as the rejection mounts. There’s a certain moral responsibility that recruiters, especially in the third sector, have to their applicants to take care of them throughout the hiring process and ensure their time spent applying hasn’t been wasted.

Advice blogs and career experts like to talk about the importance of failure, that we learn from our mistakes. And while that may be so, knowing the why is where the learning really happens. Employers can provide that, especially if the applicants ask for feedback—by referring to applicant notes, their CV and supporting documents—and be a guiding light in a truly tough time.

Communication is key

Sadly, most applicants won’t even make it to the interview process. It’s tough, but even more demoralising is finding out you were unsuccessful through a Twitter update announcing a new addition to the team three months later.

Again, getting back to each applicant personally is probably unrealistic, but keeping your website and social media updated is absolutely vital. Let people know when you’ve stopped accepting applications, how and when people will hear about interviews and, most importantly, thank everyone for their time and effort. It’s a relatively low-admin gesture, but it will make an impact.  Not only are you keeping applicants in the loop, but you’re showing that you respect the time and effort they put into you as an organisation.

Recruiters often reject brilliant candidates that they sincerely hope will reapply in the future. If they’re given effective feedback and treated with respect and dignity, applicants are far more likely to keep organisations that treated them well in mind when new vacancies arise.

introducing applicant manager

Try being flexible wherever possible

It’s easy to make snap judgments of candidates—especially when they do something wrong. Showing up late, rescheduling interviews, forgetting documents, it all works against you in the eyes of the employers. Whilst those failings may well be an indicator of an applicant’s unsuitability, having empathy and understanding the wider context is important.

We live in a particularly uncertain period where job losses and government restrictions are putting serious strain on our daily lives and, importantly, financial capabilities. Recruiters need to understand this and approach each candidate in their entirety—taking into account any factors that might be affecting their performance like their mental health, family obligations and ability to travel to an interview.

Listen and learn

There’s a lot that needs to change in the charity sector and online movements like #ShowTheSalary and #nongraduateswelcome are revealing just how disillusioned young jobseekers are, particularly in the charity sector. Many argue that salary secrecy in the sector allows inequality and pay gaps to expand unchecked, whilst plenty of jobs still treat a university degree as a prerequisite.

Listening to these conversations will give employers a deeper understanding of the multitude of barriers job seekers face and change their hiring process accordingly. Not only is it important to develop as an organisation but staying up to date with current conversations will allow you to lead by example and show that you are committed to structural change.

Empathy is vital right now, but it’s also a win-win for recruiters and applicants; applicants may well be unsuccessful in the process, but they’ll be able to grow from their mistakes and will remember how you made them feel in the future. Recruiters will hire the best people and defend their reputation as an organisation that truly cares. These are not normal circumstances, and recruiters need to realise that and adjust their hiring process accordingly.

Need more advice on how to communicate with candidates throughout the recruitment process? Check out our new Applicant Manager or speak to one of our Account Managers today.

Tags: empathy, finding the right people, job market, job seeker experience, recruitment

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About the author

Rosalie Minnitt

Rosalie Minnitt is a freelance writer, comedian and journalist with experience in the arts and charity sector. She has been published in Funny Women and Journo Resources, and was most recently featured on BBC Radio.