The Candidate Experience & The Power of Empathy

7.30.2021 | A candidate recently landed an interview for his dream job, but the hour leading up to his appointment was nothing but a nightmare. Despite careful preparations, he found himself running behind due to an issue with the elevator in his apartment. And while trying to shave time off the drive, he made a quick turn and spilled an iced mocha on his clothing. He arrived at the interview late, stained, and frazzled.

Upon meeting the hiring manager, he was quick to offer apologies and explanations, but the hiring manager would not hear them. Instead, she told the candidate to take a seat in the lobby and offered him a beverage and a “do-over.” As promised, she returned in 10 minutes and introduced herself as if they were meeting for the first time.

The candidate was amused, relieved, and completely relaxed for what became a productive interview that led to a job offer. He did not hesitate to take the offer.

The Power of Empathy

In today’s talent market, candidates are holding the cards. Employers need to remain focused on the candidate experience and a little empathy goes a long way. Yes, it’s important to identify candidate behavior that may be problematic, but quality candidates have imperfect interviews too. Regardless, candidates will remember how you made them feel. Even if a candidate doesn’t land the job, they are more likely to have a positive association with your employer brand.

Empathy matters to employees, as well. According to Businesssolver’s annual State of the Workplace Empathy Study, 88% of employees are willing to stay with an empathetic employer and 74% will work longer hours for one.

Demonstrating Empathy During an Interview

As you prepare hiring managers and other employees for conducting interviews, address the importance of empathy. Ask them to reflect on their own interview experiences, share examples and tips i.e.:

  • Before meeting with a candidate, put any frustrations or stress aside so you can convey a positive outlook and focus on the candidate. Put yourself in the candidate’s place; how would you want to be treated?
  • Maintain open body language i.e., don’t cross your arms or legs. Make note of a candidate’s non-verbal cues and respond to them. If a candidate is nervously tapping their feet, try to put them at ease with small talk or a more relaxed interview approach.
  • Give the candidate time to process and answer questions. It may be helpful to say, “It’s a difficult question, take your time.”
  • Listen actively by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking questions.
  • Thank them for participating in the interview. Most likely, they’ve invested a fair amount of time in preparing for the interview. For many, scheduling an interview amid a busy schedule requires a lot of effort.

Empathy can be powerful. Use it to compete in the ongoing war for talent.

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