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Emphasizing Empathy for a Successful Candidate Experience


We’re in the process of improving our candidate experience, and we just don’t know where to start. What should we consider as we re-vamp this process?


In an industry that contains a high percentage of rejection, talent acquisition can often times become somewhat demoralizing, both for the job seeker and the recruiter. One of the rising focuses within the recruitment industry is prioritizing the candidate experience. Companies are beginning to assess how they communicate with potential employees and the impressions they leave behind with those that aren’t a fit. As employers break down the components that make a strong candidate experience, there’s one key that comes out on top: empathy.

Before we dive further into how empathy fits into the recruiting machine, what is candidate experience? As Melinda Canino wrote in her article “Candidate Experience: How Small Tweaks Can Make a Huge Impact”, she describes candidate experience as “the collective whole of a job seeker’s interactions with and perception of a company during the recruitment and hiring process”. This means that there is so much more than just the voice behind the phone – candidate experience covers everything from the job ad to the application process to the final communication as you wrap up the requisition.

So how does empathy find its way into the process? When recruiters have that ability to understand and share in the feelings of their potential candidates, it allows them to craft their messages and actions towards them, including them in the process rather than leaving them out on an island.  As Greg Savage details in his article “You Are Not In ‘Recruitment’. You Are In ‘Rejection’.”: “we are in the rejection business. And classy rejection is a skill worth refining.”

Whether or not you agree with the classification of being in the “rejection business”, everything is better with a little bit of empathy. Empathy can be demonstrated in several different ways throughout the recruiting process:

  • Let candidates know when you’ve received an application: many candidates are sending their resumes into unresponsive black holes. Even an automated message alerting them to the receipt of their resume is enough to recognize the hard work they’ve already put in.
  • Don’t leave them out in the cold: If the process is taking a while, let your candidates know where you are in the process. It doesn’t have to be incredibly specific (i.e. “the hiring manager is reviewing your resume, but you’re sixth in line to interview”), but enough to let them know that the process is ongoing. Keep your candidates warm, and recognize the agony that the wait can produce.
  • Communicate early, often, and clearly: In a candidate’s market, talent acquisition professionals no longer have the luxury of working on their own timeline. Sometimes candidates have multiple potential positions in the works, and many are juggling different combinations of benefits, salary and PTO to find their best fit. By connecting with them early, and creating an empathetic connection, they may be more willing to continue down the path that you’re trying to lay.
  • Train your memory: Don’t you love it when someone remembers a small, but personal detail? If you’re balancing several requisitions at one time, or if you’ve had an overwhelming response to a posting, it would be near impossible to remember every candidate’s name and each line of their resume. However, taking notes and remembering personal details will help candidates feel significant, cared for, and give the impression that they matter to your organization (because they do!). Make sure you’re taking note of questions or concerns during your conversations, and file them away in connection with each candidate. You don’t have to remember their childhood pet’s name, but it will benefit you in the future if you remember their prowess in a difficult-to-master skill set.

Not every candidate will receive the position they’re vying for, and many of them will be disappointed. In order to keep candidates interested and engaged with your company, even after they’ve received the rejection notice, consider emphasizing empathy within each step of your recruitment process.

Recruitment is a critical HR function. strategic HR inc. knows that finding and keeping talented employees is the key to company survival. That’s why our Talent Acquisition Consultants utilize a variety of resources to help client’s source, screen and select the best candidates and employees. Please visit our Recruitment page for more information on how we can help you effectively and efficiently find your next employee.