When Empathy Hurts - a Question for the Group

When Empathy Hurts - a Question for the Group

I think that I'm like many people who get into recruiting: I enjoy working with people. The danger of this role is that the sheer volume of people we work with can wear you down. The longer you work in this business, the more nuts you meet. And the longer you work with some candidates, the more nutty they become. 

Some people will burn you out and sometimes recruiters become hyper cynical about the people we work with, or even just about people in general. I've met them many times: colleagues who have had one too many nuts come past the table. So, everyone they meet just becomes one more nut and their attitude leaks cynicism at every turn. 

I never want to become like that. So, I tend to err on the side of empathy with candidates and give them at least one shot of earning trust, no matter how much they act just like the last nut I met. But, you can go overboard that way too. You can make a mistake that invites a nut to become a stalker. I had that happen this week. 

Anyone in the group have good ideas on keeping that balance between empathy and cynicism? At the same time, does anyone have ideas on keeping your candidates enthusiastic about your company, without giving them false hopes? 

I tend to do my best to give candidates very real feedback, which I think helps. That's my default mode and it generally works. What works for you? 


Views: 282

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 16, 2013 at 5:42pm

I think that, with few exceptions, there has to be a finish line. Once you've either placed someone or come to the end of any reasonable submittals, the relationship is over. Doesn't mean you may not pick it up later, but you're not going to be BFFs with every candidate you talk to. Some may become hiring managers, or coworkers (if you're internal especially) but these are not meant to be lifelong relationships. It's just not sustainable. Again, that doesn't mean you can't be connected on linkedin or touch base periodically, but the close contact you have during the recruiting process cannot go on indefinitely. You'll drive yourself nuts.

Comment by Ian Millar on August 19, 2013 at 12:47pm

You make a good point Amy. Actually, I've always regarded it as imperative to treat candidates with respect because you never know when they will become the next hiring manager (if not for other reasons). I have had that proven true numerous times over the years.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 21, 2013 at 1:54pm
It is not a matter of empathy. The first rule of recruiting is to be ble to weed out the "nuts". That is what we do before we get into qualifications on all levels.

When you identify a nut, cut off communication immediately. We are not social workers or shrinks. That does not mean that othwise sane people can't and won't "go nuts" during a long or frustrating job hunt or do goofy things. Those actions can be addressed professionally with empathy and quickly.

We don't place nuts. A nut doesn't care if you like them or not, they are normally looking for an audience. If you provide that audience your nut will turn into a stalker or some kind of problem. When you get a nut feed it to the squirrels and move on. Nobody but squirrels and other nuts like nuts.

If you can't identify a nut quickly you are in the wrong business.
Comment by Ian Millar on August 21, 2013 at 8:46pm

Sandra, thanks. I find your comments humorous and insightful. But, honestly, I was looking for your insights on how to, not a judgment against my competency :)  My purpose for the question is conjecture, to edify the members of the group. 

I also have to take exception to your premise: a good recruiter must have a balance of both empathy and cynicism. Too much or too little of either puts you in a weaker spot. You can miss the Right Fit of people and programs on a consistent basis unless you are using both. Candidates are people not widgets The number one complaint of candidates out there is that recruiters are too focused on the clinical side of the equation and too weak on discerning personal competencies. 

I personally believe that you will miss some of the best candidates and best hiring decisions if you don't look beyond raw data. Often the candidates cannot express some of their greatest strengths, until you investigate. Good investigation requires enough empathy to ask and listen. Yes, sometimes you discover they are nuts; but sometimes you find they are skilled in areas they struggle to see themselves.

After all, candidates are people not widgets. 


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