How a Little Empathy Can Go A Long Way When it Comes to Hiring

em •pa•thy (definition): the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another….(Source:

Recruiters are matchmakers, hunters, negotiators and, most definitely, therapists. There’s not a week that goes by — or maybe even a day — when we’re not providing some sort of mental release for a job seeker frustrated with his/her search and the process as a whole. I don’t mean this as a complaint. Just a statement of reality.

A sample of things that I commonly hear:

  • “I had five interviews, making it all the way to the C-suite, when all off a sudden, everything went radio silent.  Nobody will return my calls or emails. I can understand if they don’t want to move forward but you’d think they could have the courtesy to just say so. A little closure, please.”
  • “I put a weekend’s worth of work into doing a project that was requested of me and then I never heard “boo.”  Did they just use me to get a project done for free?”
  • “I was hired by a company and then a week after I started, the division I was hired for was dismantled. I lost my new job before I even turned the computer on and missed out on other opportunities that I had in play at the time of acceptance.  Why would a company hire someone if they knew the division was going down?”
  • “Every time I set up a time for an interview with the hiring manager, the meeting gets rescheduled. I can understand this happening once or twice as I “get” that people have business to conduct while they are staffing up.  But three, four times?  That’s just rude. I’ve got a life too.”
  • “All the experts tell us to turn our phones off when we go into an interview.  Do you know how many times I’ve been interviewed and the person has picked up the phone or answered a text while I’m talking to him?  Seriously?”


It seems to me, for the issues illuminated above, the underlying factor is a lack of empathy on the hiring teams’ behalf. The people behind the companies conducting the interviews just simply forget what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk. It’s similar to going to a Doctor who has zero bedside manner — the #1 turnoff in physician care.

So, how do we get employers out there to adopt an empathetic approach to hiring?  The first step is awareness. We’ve all got to talk about it and be open and honest when we see mistakes being made.  As an external recruiting partner, I’ll do my part, reminding my client partners that they are dealing with people’s lives and livelihoods. Maybe if all the other recruiters out there did the same, we’d start to make a difference.  Anyone else have other ideas?  Bumper stickers?  I’m all ears…

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