the ability to understand and share the feelings of another."
…Not to be confused with sympathy. Which is what I have for every candidate and client alike who has the misfortune of dealing with a recruiter who is without innate empathy.
Sure, we all “feel bad” for others sometimes, of course we do (excluding psychopaths, sociopaths and high-level narcissists of course, but that is for another conversation!) but just “feeling bad” is not empathy. What I’m talking about is what drives the passionate careers of countless philanthropists, care givers, social workers, and of course our creative UX friends. Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to the effect of actually feeling their hardships, almost as if they were your own.
At its core empathy is simply about deep understanding, but at it’s very best, it’s what compels us to want to improve the experiences of others so that they can feel better, and in turn, we can too.
To get personal for a moment, after at least 37 online tests, watching 14+ hours of youtube documentaries and reading a shelf full of self-help/psychoanalytic books, I have come to the self-evaluated conclusion that I am probably what a psychiatrist would describe as an “empath”. (For those that are into Myers-Briggs and were wondering, I’m also an INFP… life ain’t easy!)
If I am indeed an empath, this means that my level of empathy is somewhat intuitive. It means I am highly sensitive not just to my own emotions, but also to those of others. It means I’m a mood absorber, which even includes other peoples anxieties and stress. And then in addition to all of that fun stuff, being around people (high-energy people in particular) can be extremely draining. Probably not the best traits for someone in a people-focussed, target-driven sales environment like recruitment to have right?
Well actually, with the right management, work culture and a good work-life balance too, a highly empathic person could thrive in a recruitment career and be all the better recruiter for it!
You see, sucking up the moods and emotions of the people we interact with isn’t all bad because as humans we have plenty of positivities to suck up too. It can be a rollercoaster, but if you’re doing your job right as a recruiter it should always end on a high.
Having that first call or meeting with a client should feel excitingly anticipatory if you know you have something valuable and meaningful to offer someone in need. You’ve put yourself in the clients shoes during that meeting and you’ve sniffed out their desperation almost - but not in a predatory sales way. No, no! In an empathic way. You’re entering their world, you’re understanding how the need for a new hire came to be, you’re learning and feeling the clients pain points, and you’re communicating exactly how you’re able to help. The client needs a service, and you’ve professed you’re able to deliver it. They’re feeling optimistic and happy, and so are you! Even more so in fact, because you KNOW your capabilities.
Now off you go to find your client that star candidate. When speaking to prospects you’re exploring their history, you’re chatting away about motivations and you’re digging into their reasonings. Talking to someone about their career aspirations can quickly reach deeper levels than your average basic conversation and you begin to really feel like you know these people well. You’ve shared the details of the role and they’re being submitted. They’re feeling optimistic and excited, and so are you!
Time for the client to feedback. Some people didn’t quite fit the bill. Damn. Now, everyone hates giving bad news, (some crappy recruiters choose to just not give any at all) but with every set back comes a lesson and an opportunity for growth. So for me, this is where I get to uplift, share true niceties, advise, and give constructive comments that will hopefully help the candidate moving forward. To this day, I am yet to have a feedback call go badly. Most candidates in fact, are grateful of my empathic approach and ask to be contacted by me again for future roles. They leave the call feeling disappointed but positive, and so do I!
One candidate however, well they’ve gone the whole mile. The client is super impressed. They’ve whizzed through every stage with flying colours, and now it’s time to make that call to say “you did it! you’ve got it! the position is yours!”. Finding someone a job, maybe even their dream job, is massively emotionally rewarding. They’re ecstatic and looking forward to the future, and so are you! Not only have you billed this month earning yourself some well-deserved commission, but you’ve also got a happy client who will hopefully give you more opportunities to show your worth. Ahh, a feel good story :)
Recruitment isn’t always ideal and it isn’t always easy. Particularly for someone who “feels a lot” and is highly empathic. You’re not always going to be able to do and remember everything, it’s a busy job! You also won’t be able to help everyone you come across, the world just doesn’t work that way. However, if you approach this human-centred industry with compassion and understanding, and you always try your hardest to treat others as you wish to be treated, there will be a whole heap of positives to absorb every single day that will trump every negative and provide you with a wonderfully fulfilling career.