Use Empathy When Hiring Your Next Employee

It might be before my time, but I have heard tales of a time when searching for a job was as simple as printing a stack of resumes, putting on your best navy-blue suit, and pounding the pavement for companies that looked promising – and after a hard day’s work searching your local community, you might have been lucky enough to come home with an interview lined up or even a new job. Wow, how things have changed!

The world of work has changed dramatically since the time described above. With never-ending increases in technology and information available at anytime, anywhere, and in speeds faster than ever imagined. The human element of “giving someone a job” is diminishing rapidly. I formerly worked for a company that provided B2B solutions for its clients by gathering pre-hire intelligence on their candidates in order to arrive at objective, informed hiring decisions. And I’ve written previously on the advancing market for pre-employment assessment technology- an ubiquitous additional step in the online job application. So to be sure, I’m not trying to come across as a hypocrite.

My point here is not to discourage innovation, or to even suggest a viable alternative to the “new normal” of finding, applying, and being selected for job opportunities. However, with the emergence of Big Data and integrated web-based solutions, I can confidently say that the process won’t be going backwards anytime soon. These capabilities exist to serve a purpose, and if used ethically and correctly, they most certainly do. It really comes down to empathizing with the candidates’ experiences, and what the organization is doing to minimize deleterious experiences and increase it’s own hiring effectiveness in the process. Finding the perfect balance is not easy, but when it’s there, both the organization’s employer brand is more appealing, and the quality of hire is going to be stronger in the long run.

Just think about what a candidate likely experiences, step-by-step when conducting a modern job-search:

1. Searches on an aggregated job board where moderate effort is used performing boolean string keyword search combinations while paying attention to recency and proximity of postings.

2. Finds a really good opportunity that is hopefully a live, active requisition.

3. If the job is actually posted from a company’s internal careers’ page or job board, the next step is to register with the company’s ATS and create a profile for just that step.

4. Begins the process of completing endless fields of information that is painfully identical to what the applicant’s resume already contains (uploading a resume is also a step).

5. Answer any supplemental questions for the position that may also automatically flag an applicant as rejected if not answered “correctly”.

6. Complete and submit the application. Usually the candidate will now receive an auto-generated email informing them of the successfully submitted application. The wait officially begins after what is, on average, a one-hour process.

What happens next varies so much depending on several factors: maybe the job was just a requisition generated for a candidate who was internally referred in, and an aggregated job board’s crawler picked it up unknowingly; maybe the applicant was automatically rejected at a supplemental question, but the ATS doesn’t send an email and the applicant never hears back; maybe the hiring manager actually changed her mind and the candidate pool stays open and active indefinitely; or maybe the candidate is rejected and receives the inauthentic auto-generated rejection email (if you’ve received a few of these, you know exactly what I’m referring to). Then again, maybe the applicant is moved forward to any number of other screening and selection processes (e.g., assessments, background checks, reference checks, etc.) before finally reaching the ultimate experience of coming in for an interview! And for those who aren’t deciphering my facetious tone of that last sentence, there are countless articles on why in-person interviews often leave much to be desired from both a candidate experience and quality of hire perspective.

If we seriously try empathizing with the typical active job seeker, and also account for the reality of how most hiring is actually practiced, it’s not difficult to arrive at a very sad place. And when compared to that nostalgic time mentioned above, we see a lack of humanity missing from a process that was, at once almost magical.

Think about work, and what it means to have a job or career. Sure it is a means to an end, but it also has the potential to fulfill a person’s sense of self-worth. It doesn’t matter if you eke out a living and spend all of your free time surfing in Half Moon Bay, or if you are a pediatric cardiologist who saves children’s lives so they can go on to live long, fulfilling lives, with jobs of their own.

At some point, we all had to apply for the job, and we all had someone on the other end give the job to us.

My message is not to stop all of these modern advances in talent acquisition and talent management technology. But, to take a moment and think about what your candidate might be going through, and put yourself in their shoes for a second before you pick up the phone for a phone interview. Because after all of these formal processes of screening out candidates who definitely would not fit your role or your organization, remember that the human being you’re about to call or meet with has been through quite an ordeal to arrive at this moment. And at the end of the day, we’re really just talking about giving someone a job!


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