What Happens When You Look An Applicant In The Eye?



Hard data, concrete evidence, and real, quantifiable results generally motivate people to make the economic decisions they make on a daily basis. But all of us, to some degree or another, are driven by our feelings. Even and especially in an area where rational thought should normally rule the day, we often find ourselves making decisions based on empathy, or our understanding and sharing in the feelings of others.

For example, the food at a restaurant may have been horrific and the service slower than you’d prefer, but since you connected with your server on a deeper level – maybe she complemented you or told you something personal that caused you to relate to her, or maybe you saw her manager chewing her out in the entryway – you may be less likely to complain or leave a lower tip. Likewise, if you genuinely like a salesperson, you are more likely to buy whatever they are selling. Most of us are put off, at first, by the very fact that someone is trying to sell us something, but an effective salesperson understands how to use the power of a personal connection to turn that initial distrust-based reluctance into a mutually-beneficial (hopefully!) transaction.

This translates to the staffing world more than you might think, because every transaction, even the kind that involves someone accepting a job from someone else, is affected by both parties’ perceptions of each other. Imagine a scenario where a prospective employee, John, signs up with a temp agency and interviews with Regina. Regina is standoffish, even a bit snobbish. She clearly thinks she’s ‘better’ than John, and doesn’t do a very good job at hiding it. She rushes through the interview, goes through the motions of asking him basic, standard questions, but seems barely interested in his answers. In fact, Regina spends more time trying to ‘sell’ him a job than she does getting to know John. It’s abundantly clear that she’s much more interested in filling an open job order than she is in getting to know if John is the right fit for it. Regardless, needing money, John brushes it off and accepts Regina’s offer of a $9 per hour warehouse laborer position starting tomorrow. Her work complete, she shuffles some papers and stands to give him a quick handshake before rushing him off to processing. Only two more jobs to fill… next!

John goes through the processing and passes his drug screen. He thinks Regina is a snob, but he does plan on being at work tomorrow… if nothing better turns up. That afternoon, wouldn’t you know it, something else does. It’s not much ‘better,’ per se, than Regina’s job, but he’s really not too keen on working for her or her agency anyway.  John mulls calling Regina to apologize and let her know, but what’s the point? He’s just a number to her.

The next day, when John is a ‘no-call no-show’ and Regina’s client is upset, she is shocked and angry at John. But, should she be? Sure, John was wrong for not calling, but if Regina had treated him differently would John still have actively sought out and accepted the other position, or, at the very least, would he have called Regina with regrets that afternoon, giving her some time to find a replacement?

When we bring a staffer on board it’s easy to teach them the nuts and bolts of the job, the computer system, the right interview questions to ask, and the proper procedures for every process, but it’s much harder to teach them how to actually interact with and relate to the people they deal with on a daily basis. When staffers learn to look their applicants in the eye, to genuinely express empathy with whatever situation they are going through, to walk ‘side-by-side’ with them through the scary but potentially exciting process of beginning new employment, and when a staffer learns to not just see the person they are sending to work as an extension of themselves, but to communicate that fact in such a manner that the average applicant will truly feel bad when they let their staffer down by not showing up, not working well, or not being safe on the job, that staffer has turned the corner from being adequate to becoming truly great at this job.

It’s easy to treat clients with respect and even deference. We all know an individual client can make or break a staffing agency much more quickly than an individual applicant. But without those applicants to send to work we are just as ‘out of business.’ Connecting, truly and genuinely connecting, with them will not only yield immediate short term results, but can also pay off down the road in ways we never expected.

This post originally appeared on StaffingTalk.com.