One thing you notice when you’re a recruiter is just how bad a lot of companies are at recruiting.
A year ago, shortly after my daughter had turned one, my husband was caught in a round of layoffs at his company. While this was a curve ball for our family, my husband had a great background in his industry and is incredibly intelligent, passionate, and driven. He was basically all the things any company would want in a rising star (though, admittedly, I might be a bit biased). So when he started his job hunt I knew things would be fine.
Something surprised me, however. As I watched my husband interview, I was shocked at how uncommunicative, unengaged, and unresponsive companies were. He’d apply for a role and wouldn't get a response until weeks later. And if he had an interview, he’d have to wait weeks before knowing if he was moving ahead. While this was in a very stiff hiring market and he was in a very competitive industry, it was hard not to shake the feeling that his application was not important and his candidacy was not a priority.
The situation troubled me, and not just because it involved my husband. It troubled me because what I saw from these companies was a counter to everything I believed about recruiting. To me, being a recruiter means I am responsible for every candidate I engage with. It’s my job to review applications, to move people through the process quickly, to keep in touch, to provide feedback, to be responsive and to generally do everything I can to make their experience with my company a positive one. Sometimes this is hard and sometimes I have to tell really amazing people that they aren’t the right fit for the role, but that’s still part of the job.
This is an empathy-first approach to recruiting, and if more companies embraced it, they would make life a lot easier for the people who want to work with them. Here’s what it entails, and why it matters.
1. Being responsive
Something I’ve thought about a lot is that, if the companies my husband was interviewing with were more responsive, we’d probably still be living in California rather than New York City. If you’re an applicant that’s just been laid off from a previous job, fewer things matter more than quickly finding a new one. Every day counts.
For this reason, you should always reach out to applicants as soon as possible, regardless of whether they’re the best fit for the role they're applying for. Schedule interviews quickly, provide feedback quickly, and train your team to treat hiring like the priority that it is. Speed matters.
2. Being honest
The job search process is a time of intense vulnerability for applicants. It’s hard, and it’s scary, and it very often ends in rejection. (There’s a reason why people so often compare it to dating.) For these reasons, applicants really appreciate when you’re honest, forthcoming, and communicative throughout the entire process. This is especially true because the reality of recruiting is that there are many more applicants than there are roles. That means you can do everything right and still not get the job.
This is why feedback is so important. While it's not always easy to hear it, candidates want true, actionable feedback. This is particularly true in tech, where the difference between getting and not getting a job can hinge on whether you have a very specific technical skill. But it’s also true in general. Everyone would want to know if they use a few too many “uhs” when they speak, for example.
3. Being human
At the end of the day, when I say “be empathetic” what I’m really saying is “be human.” There are fewer things more demoralizing then putting hours of your life into a job application and then never hearing back. No applicant tracking system should be a black hole. It's important to take the time to review all the applications that come in and respond to them.
You’d be surprised at how people respond when you take this approach. Here’s just one example. At Button, one thing we see again and again is that, even if we’re unable to offer a candidate a job, they’re so impressed by and grateful for the interview process that they leave us positive reviews on Glassdoor. Believe me when I say that that’s the complete opposite of what most companies experience.
Why Button’s people team thinks empathy-first
At Button, this kind of responsiveness and engagement is built into our recruiting process, and I think its one of the greatest things we do as a company. If you apply for a job, you will hear from someone on our team — no matter what. If you took the time to consider us, we will fully consider you. And we’ll do so in an incredibly timely manner.
You don’t have to be at Button to be good at this, but you do have to recognize that it takes work to be regimented and serious about making candidate engagement a priority. And while this can be more challenging at bigger companies, with the right tools, resources and manpower, its more feasible than you think. Its better to aspire to it and miss your goals than not try at all.