If there is a buzz word in the world of HR today, it’s empathy. Recently, we read this article on CNN.com entitled “5 Holiday Hiring Lessons Everyone Can Learn From,” and this word was right there in the mix. The article referenced a SkillSurvey study, which included feedback on about 17,000 job references for nearly 4,500 applicants to sales or customer service positions. One finding about applicants was that “more than one in four (27 percent) need to work on their ability to give customers specific recommendations about company products and services, based on information about the customer.” This points to the need for good communication skills, including empathy.
What is Empathy?
We hear this buzzword, but it’s not always broken down as a concept. We know that some people have this intangible quality in abundance, and others appear to have none. These people are not popular in most work settings. Then, there’s everyone else falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. If you have a high level of empathy, you can easily imagine the perspective of another person. You can decipher what a customer or a colleague wants and needs. You can adjust your communication style and behavior to fit each situation, all while taking that person’s current emotions into account. Someone’s emotions reveal a lot, especially nonverbally speaking, that her words won’t tell you. If you practice empathy, you’re also quick to acknowledge emotions from whichever person is involved in the conversation. You are attuned to your own emotions and can effectively manage them. The goal is always to maximize the outcome of the conversation and to preserve the business relationship. If you can do this, you will be a better recruiter. You also want to find applicants with demonstrated empathy.
The Staffing Franchise Dilemma
When you’re running a staffing franchise, you’re screening applicants every day. Some of them have a more urgent need to find employment than others, but you get a chance to learn about their personalities with each interaction. Look for the qualities that client employers want. For many companies, empathy is at the top of the list, and not just for customer service and sales positions.
Sometimes, as the owner of a staffing franchise, you must implement certain software applications to facilitate the recruitment process. You don’t have time to interview every applicant for a position to which he applies. You can use application tracking software to streamline some screening activities. The software can automatically weed out those individuals who aren’t qualified. It can flag others who might need a second look. You can also use an automated questionnaire to collect information about each person. An online questionnaire, for example, can feature questions that gauge a person’s level of empathy. This information then goes into that person’s profile in your applicant database. When a position calls for a high degree of empathy, you can look for applicants in the database who scored highest on empathy on a questionnaire.
Think About the Bigger Picture
In the end, client employers won’t be thrilled if your staffing franchise sends them applicants who don’t fit their culture. Develop better questionnaires for employers, helping them to identify the top qualifications they want to hire for. Over time, hiring for qualities such as empathy gets easier. You will build on your instincts as a recruiter and develop a better feel for how applicants rate in this area. An online questionnaire offers only one perspective, and some applicants are excellent test-takers! The screening tools in an applicant tracking system just get you started.
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