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Empathetic recruiting: how to be considerate (but still compelling)

We are all struggling to find the right words right now. (I almost said it’s because these are unprecedented times, but I won’t because those are definitely the wrong words.) We’ve also lost our patience for tone-deaf and insincere messages. Our mindsets and emotional states simply aren’t what they were at the start of 2020.

If you’re a talent professional, you may be finding it especially tricky to reach out to candidates in this environment. How do you assure them of your resilience and stability as a company? How do you keep folks interested and build your pipeline without promising a job will be available? How do you address the elephant in the room with laid-off talent newly on the market, without coming off as gloating?

Whether you’re able to seize the opportunity to hire great talent in this moment, or you’re just trying to maintain interest, here’s a step-by-step framework for being both compelling and considerate in your candidate outreach.

Do a mindfulness check

Your first order of business is to clear your mental clutter. You don’t want to bring background thoughts or the wrong emotions into your message. This is true any time, but especially when you’re aiming to be empathetic—you want this to be about them.

Take a second to settle into the task so you can be thoughtful with your note. We all know mindless recruiting messages go unanswered; they can also negatively impact your employer brand.

Do a messaging check

Think of this step as running through a short, mental “creative brief.” Quickly go through the following prompts and consider how the answers should impact your messaging:

  • Who is my audience? You should always have your recipient’s profession, industry, and location in mind. But especially now, you should also be asking yourself things like: What’s going on in their part of the world? What’s their employment status? Could they be feeling anxiety about the fate of their industry, or insecurity about their own skills after a lay off?
  • How do I want them to feel? Are you going for “intrigued” or “respected” or “assured”? Maybe a combo of these, or something else?
  • What do I want them to think or do? Optimize for the response!

Highlight relevant strengths and benefits

What was most important to a candidate a few months ago has likely shifted today. At the least, people certainly have a different context in which to evaluate job opportunities. Perhaps some folks have reassessed their values, and are hoping to do more meaningful work. Others might be particularly motivated by a healthy balance sheet. Some people could be open to a variety of roles, so long as they’re offered the flexibility to work remotely.

Be sure to share the benefits and aspects of your culture that are likely to appeal to candidates at this time.

Choose your words with intention

Now you know everything you want to say—time to figure out exactly how to say it. Keep in mind that words can have surprising and unintended impact. Take care to craft your most thoughtful message and choose your words intentionally.

Do your best to use language that does not contain bias. Use phrasing that is aligned with your company values and employer brand. You might ask a colleague to take a look too, to let you know if the empathy and compassion you hope to convey is truly coming through.

Does this all seem like a lot to consider for one message? It is. (Augmented writing helps!) But the cost of getting the words wrong is quite high. Not only might you fail to get a response, but you might also permanently harm your employer brand.

If you’re feeling unsure about reaching out, give these guidelines a go. They’ll help you hit send with confidence.

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