Putting Candidates at Ease During a Social-Distanced Interview

If you’re one of the many Southern California employers that are starting to bring employees back to corporate offices and other on-site locations, you may need or want to hire new employees.

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While many employers have decided to continue interviewing via video conferencing, you may decide you want – or need – to interview candidates in person.

This, naturally, could make some candidates nervous. After all, most people understand how contagious the virus that causes the SARS-CoV-2 disease is and may be worried they could a) be exposed to the virus or b) pass the virus on to their interviewer under the chance that they or the interviewer could have the virus but be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms).

Making the decision to interview candidates in-person. Or not.

Every employer has different needs. You may be comfortable hiring with video-only interviews, or you may have decided you really need to see someone in person to get a true “feel” for their personality. After all, it isn’t as easy to evaluate a candidate’s personality traits in a video interview as it is in a “real-life” interview.

So if you have decided to bring candidates in for in-person interviews, here are some tips to help both you and the candidate feel safe…and have a productive, positive interview experience.

  • Naturally, you’re going to have to make sure your location meets – or exceeds – the CDC’s guidelines for making sure your workplace is safe for conducting business on-site.

The CDC offers guidance to reopening business on how to ensure your facility is clean/sanitized and is configured so that workers may properly social distance while at work.

  • Offer candidates written interview guidelines so that they know what to expect.

Will you require masks? If so, what can a candidate expect if they refuse to wear one (or can’t, for medical reasons)? What are you going to do about handshakes before and after the interview? Will candidates be allowed in restrooms? Will you be providing an office/site tour? Will the candidate meet with one or more people?

The idea is that these guidelines will give candidates information about what to expect at the interview location. Providing them with the “logistics” of their interview can help alleviate concerns and help put candidates at ease.

  • If you decide to have in-person interviews, will you allow candidates to request a video interview (in case they are leery of coming in for an on-site interview)?

This is a legitimate question for at least two reasons. One, people have varying tolerance for risk and – especially if the job will performed remotely – may simply be too nervous to come to your location for an interview.

However (reason two), if the job will be performed on-site – even if only a few days a week or month – how will you decide to look at the candidate’s virtual-interview request? Is it a deal-breaker for you? If not, and you want to grant the candidate’s request for a virtual interview, you’re going to have to come to sort of agreement about working on-site with the candidate if they become your employee.

  • Give candidates clear details as to what next steps are.

Employers should do this for all interviews, pandemic or no pandemic. However, it’s especially important now due to the uncertainty about, well, everything.

For example, it’s probably a good idea to give the candidate an estimate as to when a decision may be made and that a hiring choice could take longer than usual due to current circumstances. If that’s the case, it’s a really courteous move if you encourage the candidate to feel free to reach out to you if they haven’t heard from you in some capacity within a certain number of days.

If you need workers oriented and prepared in COVID-19 best workplace safety practices, contact Helpmates’ Rosalie Villa, our chief revenue officer, at 949-225-5016 or via email at rvilla@helpmates.com.

Showing Empathy When it’s the Last Thing You Want to Do

What’s that old saying? “Life would be so much better except for the people”? Is that it? You’ve no doubt heard something similar. After all, as wonderful as people can be, they often … aren’t.

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And this especially is true of employees. Or at least the ones who over and over and over again come to you, the human resources manager or representative, to complain about something.

Actually – and in defense of your employees – complaints to HR often aren’t given by the same one, two or handful of people. But complaints do come. Often and regularly. And if you work in HR yourself you know all too well how easy it is to become desensitized to employee complaints and concerns.

This worries you, of course: after all, many employee complaints are valid and should be looked into. But what happens if you’re stressed, you’re tired, it’s the end of the day, you’ve heard this complaint before, and on and on?

As we mentioned in a recent post on keeping the human touch in human resources, showing empathy when interacting with unhappy employees can go a long way to ensuring workers understand HR can be a true resource for them.

First, understand the different types of empathy

There basically are three: cognitive, emotional and compassionate.

  • Cognitive empathy is when you’re able to interpret the persons’ feelings and thoughts, helping you figure out the best way to move forward. In a way, you’re able to see the other person’s perspective on the situation.
  • Emotional empathy is when you feel the same emotions as the person. For example, let’s say someone you know is caught in a lie and you feel shame when you think about if you had been caught in a falsehood.
  • Compassionate empathy is when you see someone go through pain and you experience the pain yourself. It’s different from emotional empathy in that it compels you to take action to help alleviate the person’s pain yourself.

When working as an HR professional, as tired as you may be, as often as you’ve heard these concerns (or similar ones), as short-tempered as the person speaking or writing to you may be, it’s important that you respond in a professional, calm and even empathetic way.

We know: it’s really hard to do so. And we want to help.

Some tips to help you maintain your empathy when it’s the last thing you want to do

  • If you’re absolutely sure you won’t be able to handle. One. More. Complaint, ask a colleague to take over.

You may want to do so as you feel your fatigue rising before an employee comes to your office. You certainly may want to take your colleague aside privately when you ask him or her to do you this favor, especially if you need to step away from the employee to do so. The point is – if you’re definitely at your emotional limit – to see if you can ask someone who has more emotional bandwidth at the moment to listen to the employee.

  • Take a deep breath after listening to the complaint before responding.

Also, the first thing you should say is to ask if you can reiterate what the person just told you so that you can be sure you understand the issue. Take your breath, ask and then when the person says yes (almost always), say words to the effect of “So what I’m hearing is…,” and then repeat the situation as you understand it.

If the person corrects you, restate it as you understand it until the person says you have it correctly.

  • It’s OK to ask the person to slow down. It’s also OK to ask the person to stick to the facts and to stop with name calling, if applicable.

Nothing good comes from allowing someone to vent in a vitriolic manner. Quietly ask the person to stick to the facts. If the person is unable to, let him or know know gently that spewing is not helpful and that you’re happy to hear them out, but that they need to state facts, not venom. If the person is more upset than angry, you naturally will help him or her calm down.

  • Aim to find the core issue and focus on that.

Once you appear to have heard the individual’s main beef, ask questions. How long has the issue been going on? What has happened as a result?

This is where you can really start trying out your empathy skills. When you repeat back what happened, you can add something along the lines of “I can imagine that when you heard Sara received the promotion that you’d worked so hard to earn yourself that you felt unappreciated, at the very least.”

  • Ask the person what they’d like to see happen.

Obviously, if the person wants someone fired immediately, you need to state that that’s an inappropriate request. But no matter what the person wants, if it’s an issue that’s in HR’s sphere of interest, state that you’ll look into it.

And then, of course, make sure you do so.

Perhaps this one “reminder” can help

Whether you’ve worked in HR for a year or for decades, we know that you’ve heard employee complaints and concerns that are very similar to each other. Many times.

In other words, it’s old news to you. Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt and donated it to the thrift store long ago.

But remember: to the employee, it’s all brand new. Remember that as much as possible and you’ll more often than not show a true empathetic and human face to your company’s employees.

Hard-working people when YOU need them

Whether you need workers for long- or short-term assignments, call upon Helpmates to help you find and place them. Reach out to the recruiters at the Helpmates location nearest you to learn more.


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