Observe, Engage, Immerse: How to Build Empathy into Your Recruiting Process

Whether you just started your career in recruiting or you’re a veteran of many years’ standing, you’ve no doubt had to flex your empathy muscle in your job many times.

My job is to recruit people from all over the world, so every day my team interacts with people who speak a different language or have customs and traditions completely different from ours. Exercising empathy can mean the difference between success and failure; but in today’s increasingly diverse society, I think the same is true for anyone working in talent attraction.

What does “empathy” mean in this context? It’s the ability to understand and heighten your awareness of how the other people involved in the recruiting process (i.e. job seekers, fellow recruiting partners, hiring managers) feel, perceive or experience the world. But what does that mean in practice? And how can we get better at it?

And what if you wake up and you’re just not feeling all that empathetic?

Well, the good news is that according to experts in design thinking, empathy is a muscle that can be developed with exercise. Below are three steps to build empathy and embed it across your candidate engagement strategies.

Step 1: Observe the role you want to hire for in action

With this step, your goal is to study the people performing the tasks you are hiring for as they go about their daily routines.  

This way you can see how they interact with their environment, understand the experiences that influence their behaviors, and identify additional information about their decision making or thought processes.

Here’s how Lorraine, a member of my team tasked with recruiting for Inside Sales, carried out this step.

Lorraine spent a day shadowing an account executive to observe how he interacted with his environment, from his workstation to his colleagues. Her goal was to understand the specific work experiences that led to a heightened sense of job satisfaction, and to understand the decision making process when calling prospective customers.

From this, she gained some key insights, inspiring her to try new ways to attract future candidates.

  • She recognized that the environment is KPI-driven and highly structured due to the level of activity. This helped her to look again at the type of the questions she was asking in her initial phone calls with candidates, and to zoom in on the ones that really focused on evaluating the right skills for the job.
  • In regard to candidate messaging, she realized that an informal and casual message with a clear call to action worked best with this audience, due to the demands of the job: “short and sweet” was best.
  • Lastly, she gained new perspective on the day-to-day responsibilities of a sales executive, enabling her to speak authentically and with authority about the job.  

Just as interest compounds overtime, these small tweaks have led to recruiting success. This example was for an account executive, but practicing observation will provide powerful insight into any role.

Step 2: Engage with actual job seekers

With this step, your goal is to interview a job seeker in your…

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