The way we work has shifted and hiring practices also need to be adjusted to reflect these changes. The Undercover Recruiter writes that “empathy should be a key attribute in all organizations’ wider diversity and inclusion initiatives as well as their recruitment processes”. Additionally, LinkedIn predicted—pre-pandemic—that “empathy would reshape the way employers hired and retained talent in the new decade”.
Of course, the team at LinkedIn had no way of knowing what 2020 would have in store for everyone, but empathy has proven to be a crucial element in continuing to hire and retain top employees. LinkedIn writes that it’s “essential for talent professionals to practice empathy at every stage of the hiring process to attract great candidates and show that your company cares” and that “empathy reduces the likelihood of screening out great candidates for bad reasons”.
Empathy in hiring should emphasize creating connections and caring about applicants' unique experiences, values, and interests.
Here are some of the ways that you can incorporate empathy into your hiring practices:
- Understand that people may be dealing with their own stressors. Handling everyone—team members, those involved with hiring, and candidates—with kindness and understanding is essential.
- Be more patient with candidates: LinkedIn writes that, whereas previously, “slowness might have indicated a lack of interest in the role, but today, it’s just as likely a sign of a busy home life or a stressful moment for the candidate”. Hiring managers should be willing to offer some extra leeway for time between responses—a courtesy that job candidates have been giving organizations for decades.
- Remember that interviewees are probably more frustrated about any connectivity issues or interruptions than you are. During virtual interviews, if a candidate is having issues with their Wi-Fi or is interrupted by a cranky toddler or impatient pet, be patient and give them a moment to collect themselves.
- Consider offering asynchronous interview options, where candidates can record their interview at a time of their choosing.
- Stop thinking of interviews as transactional: Take the time to really connect with the candidate, not thinking just about what you hope to get out of the interview (i.e. a new hire) but about the individual person you’re meeting with.
- Practice active listening: Nod your head and engage with what the candidate is saying. LinkedIn recommends that “when they’re done speaking, take a moment to summarize what they said and ask follow-up questions to ensure understanding”. Active listening will help candidates open up more.
- Honesty is important. Organizations should stop trying to seem like they’re the perfect company—this comes across as disingenuous. Also avoid using phrases like “we’re like a family here”, as it can be viewed as a red flag of a dysfunctional workplace.
- Make the hiring process clear. Many organizations will now include a section on their careers page about what the hiring process looks like with their company, outlining the application process, screening calls, interviewing, and onboarding so candidates know exactly what to expect.
Providing empathy in hiring for potential employees can pay off for your organization in the long run, too. Even if you don’t end up hiring a candidate, creating a positive experience for them can help with your organization’s reputation. Candidates can and do share if they had a good experience applying and interviewing for your organization—either on review sites such as Glassdoor, on social media, or within their social circles—and this feedback speaks volumes about your overall company culture.
Empathy should already be a fundamental part of your company culture, so integrating it into your hiring practices should be simple. As LinkedIn puts it, empathy is a skill “that will never lose its value, so helping your team master it is an investment that will continue to pay off, no matter what the future holds”.