Why the recruiter-candidate relationship is vital to inclusive hiring

Retaining the human touch and acknowledging this is a stressful time to be job hunting will sustain competitive advantage through improved employer branding, says Corine Sheratte

Before I joined my current organisation, and in the midst of an extremely competitive labour market because of Covid-19, I was made redundant. To secure another job, I spent hours video interviewing across a number of platforms, undergoing timed psychometric testing and carrying out role plays. In many cases, recruiter communication was minimal and feedback often needed to be requested weeks after interview. This experience was emotionally distressing, especially at a time when there’s already a tremendous level of anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty. 

As a result of a record level of global redundancies, recruiters now have the opportunity to source from a wider pool of qualified diverse talent than ever before. Therefore, for employers to sustain a competitive advantage, I can’t think of a better time to be evaluating current recruitment practices. 

When it comes to inclusive recruitment best practice, D&I experts often focus their attention on areas such as gender decoding job descriptions, diversifying interview panels and unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training. Although all very important to a company’s inclusive hiring strategy, another vital aspect that often goes unexplored is the quality of the recruiter-candidate relationship.  

Recruiters are the frontline to the labour market and must have sufficient resources to enable them to really understand the customer, build trust and inevitably gain credibility. They have a key role in identifying and encouraging more diversity in the recruitment process. This will ensure a more effective and inclusive recruitment marketing strategy and take employer branding and candidate attraction capabilities to the next level. Ultimately, recruitment is a human activity and its success, for both the recruiter and the candidate, relies heavily on relationship building.

A good recruiter-candidate relationship rests on the notion that both parties are transparent and open with each other; both parties need to be honest about what they are, and are not, looking for. Just as a candidate needs to be open about the skills/values they bring to the role, recruiters need to be transparent about whether a candidate aligns with the skills and qualifications set out in the job description and, more crucially, the core business competencies. 

To promote open and honest communication in the recruitment process, recruiters should give unsuccessful candidates the opportunity to follow up with them and/or the hiring manager to obtain further feedback (if feedback has not already been provided), particularly after a candidate has gone through the arduous process of an interview. To state that giving candidate feedback is against company policy or simply ‘ghosting’ candidates – ie cutting off communication in the recruitment process – is unacceptable, especially considering the potential mental health impacts of job hunting during the pandemic. Including the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s contact details for follow-up purposes in candidate rejection communications will work wonders for candidate experience and ultimately improve employer branding more sustainably.

Recruitment is a human activity, so it is important recruiters get to know the career drivers of their candidates by gaining a clear understanding of who they are as people and what they are looking for. Of course, this goes both ways – it is a mutual understanding between two individuals. The job hunt can be an emotional rollercoaster for many candidates, so adopting an inclusive, empathic and tailored approach to the recruitment process will go a long way.

To be an empathic recruiter, demonstrating high levels of emotional and cultural intelligence is crucial. This means visibly recognising candidates’ commitment to understanding the company values, appreciating diversity of thought, having a solid understanding of the required skills for the role and having a genuine interest in the candidate’s stories and career goals. 

Empathic recruiters openly acknowledge the job hunt can be uncertain and anxiety-inducing and are able to build rapport and de-escalate candidate stress by making a personal connection. This might be through adopting a certain level of openness with candidates by talking about their own experiences in the job hunt and introducing themselves before spotlighting the candidate. Empathic recruiters also tailor their approach to better suit candidate needs. For example, if a candidate wishes not to be contacted by telephone, empathic recruiters will take note of this and only contact them by email unless advised otherwise. 

Investing time in the recruiter-candidate relationship will ensure an inclusive recruitment process is felt by all parties involved. By utilising essential inclusive recruitment processes and practices, recruiters will possess the ability to tap into highly qualified diverse talent pools and ultimately sustain competitive advantage through improved employer branding long term. In light of the recent wave of redundancies globally and an increasingly competitive job market, being an empathic recruiter, and sustaining a positive recruiter-candidate relationship, is more important than ever.

Corine Sheratte is a senior consultant in the diversity, inclusion, culture and ethics team at Green Park