One of Recruiting’s Biggest Cliches Exists for a Reason

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Sep 3, 2021
This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Fall 2021.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

This may be the greatest and most relevant quote that applies to being human as much as it does to being a recruiter. It also represents such a beautiful opportunity for us recruiters. That’s because even with the advent of all of the great technological advances, the human touch is frequently missing. Automated emails and text messages are useful at times, but they often lack a human element.

As gatekeepers and ambassadors, we recruiters must never forget to bring out the human side of recruiting. This is an especially important and relevant notion to keep in mind these days as companies are struggling with addressing challenges related to tight labor markets. A hyper-focus on filling roles can easily make us forget that there is an actual person on the other side of the phone call or email. And when that happens, we only end up doing a disservice to our candidates and our companies.

I know that it sounds cliche to say that recruiters need to get back to being human. I know it’s something you’ve heard many times throughout your career. But perhaps we should stop and ask: Why have you heard this so many times?

Every candidate has a story. We can remind ourselves to recruit with empathy, compassion, and a listening ear. These are things that AI cannot replicate. 

For example, I recently had a discussion with a highly skilled candidate about getting vaccinated. My company, like many others, now requires proof of Covid-19 vaccination prior to getting hired. I mentioned this to the candidate during our phone interview and there was silence on the other end of the phone. 

After a pause of about 20 seconds, she asked me to please hear her out. I obliged, fully expecting to hear a full anti-vax argument. I was ready with my corporate policy speech and buzz words. 

And sure enough, she did begin by telling me a good friend of hers had fallen ill after getting vaccinated. Oh boy, I thought, here comes the full anti-vax speech. But to my surprise, all she wanted was for me to listen to her story. She wasn’t trying to convince me to make an exception. She wasn’t trying to convert me to some political stance. She just wanted a moment of understanding from me, to be heard. 

Ultimately, she came to the realization that, yes, it was indeed time for her to get vaccinated. She even called me later that day from the vaccination site. Meanwhile, I was giddy at observing how the simple power of listening played out here.

I tell this story to emphasize the importance of just listening without judgment. Had I gone into my corporate speech about our policy, and documents required, blah, blah, blah, that conversation could have gone so many different ways. 

I also tell this story because it serves as such a powerful reminder to fully listen to our candidates, to give them our full attention, and to be present with them throughout the hiring process. 

Every candidate has a story, and we are all connected.

Garry will be presenting at ERE Digital, Sept 23-24, the premiere practitioner-led event for talent acquisition professionals. Join him and other presenters from leading organizations like Uber, Marriott, Boeing, and Best Buy to discover advice on how to tackle your most pressing recruiting challenges. Learn more and register at

This article is part of a series called ERE Digital: Fall 2021.
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