SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

Why Empathy, Not Dollars, Is Key to Candidate Experience

At Optimizely, building a TA strategy around “understanding and sharing others’ feelings” lead them to be named number four in Silicon Valley’s best places to work—and it didn’t cost them anything.

Lurie returns to Hiring Success 19 – Americas, February 26-27 in San Francisco!

In talent acquisition—a profession that is people-centric by nature—it’s easy to forget that employees drive business success, especially when pressure to boost efficiency and cut costs dominates conversations around company priorities. However, a little empathy goes a long way, with examples of how Facebook or Pandora adopted more inclusive hiring practices for the better being well known. And the results show that employees and candidates value these practices now more than ever before. According to Businessolver’s 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study:

  • Ninety percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs.
  • Eight in 10 would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer.
  • More than two-thirds of employees in tech, healthcare, and financial services reported they would be willing to take slightly less pay for a more empathetic employer.

The report highlights that 68 percent of CEOs say that the state of empathy at US companies needs to change, up eight points from last year. But executive leadership is unsure how to facilitate that change, with 45 percent of CEOs reporting difficulty in demonstrating empathy in their daily working life.

Couple that with the fact that 92 percent of the employees surveyed who believe that empathy is undervalued, and it seems that today’s workplaces need a holistic reboot. To speak more about culture at large organizations, and how empathy can—and should—play an important role in the hiring process, we invited Sandi Lurie, Senior Director of Global Recruiting at Optimizely, to chat with Luke Lightning, Chief Evangelist at Good&Co, at our Hiring Success conference in San Francisco.

Both Luke and Sandi turn conversations around human capital into discussions about people and what motivates them. At Good&Co, Luke and his colleagues design personality assessment tools “to help companies seamlessly add the right talent to high-performing teams without sacrificing productivity or sabotaging chemistry.” Their mission is simple: to create happier, more productive workplaces.

Sandi Lurie’s impressive CV boasts major tech companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Google, and Medallia before her current role at Optimizely, where she oversees the business’ global recruitment function. According to Lurie, hiring is “a team sport,” with recruiters as the captains, “responsible for candidates’ emotional experience.”

This is why Optimizely recruiters participate in interview training programs that teach them to “start at a place of yes, so candidates walk in knowing that we want them to get the job.” Lurie explains that Optimizely aims “to build long-term relationships that result in a hire,” but even in those cases where the team rejects a candidate, “we want to own the decision whether we make a hire or not.”

To this end, Lurie and her team constantly refine the company’s hiring process to maintain a high level of empathy. Each year, Optimizely conducts surveys to evaluate its success in building relationships and offering a positive candidate experience. According to Lurie, some of the findings aren’t all that surprising. “It’s all about their experience and how nurtured they feel through the process,” she says.

However, what was a revelation to the team was how positive experiences didn’t require expensive gifts or swag on an employee’s first day. “We didn’t have to spend a dime,” explains Lurie. “Our success was really about training the teams to be prepared for interviews and how the recruiters prepared candidates.”

With candidates and recruiters primed before an interview, more time can be spent discussing what the candidate brings to the organization. “We talk a lot about culture add rather than ‘fitting in’,” says Lurie, as “‘fitting in’ doesn’t create a diverse workforce.”

This attitude towards company culture reflects a larger shift in recruiting strategies across organizations, many of which move away from biased concepts like “culture fit” towards diversity and inclusion efforts that improve company image—both internally and externally.

As companies look to make better data-driven hiring decisions, Lurie argues that “right now, the data we need is really the human experience data.” From what Lurie and her team have gathered through experimentation and candidate feedback, attracting the right talent comes down to how applicants view the hiring process. What matters, Lurie claims, is empathy.

“Candidates are not looking for an efficient experience,” she says. “They are looking for a compelling experience.”

Scott Wardell

Scott Wardell