Let's walk in their shoes

May 19, 2010

By Jim Gibson

More and more bloggers and trade press reporters are writing about the tightening HIT labor market. It's becoming clear that we're entering a period of intense competition for  HIT talent.

Yet it doesn't feel that way to everyone. U.S. unemployment remains stubbornly high and many people, even in HIT, have been out of work for weeks or months.

For those involuntarily unemployed, fewer things can feel worse. For someone trying to return to work, unemployment can lead to disequilibrium. It can threaten one's self-esteem, dignity, and even family life. It can feel like one of life's worst hands to be dealt.

From what I've seen as a search consultant, I'm convinced that most people end up in a better place. I've seen people pushed out of jobs they thought they loved, go through agonizing job searches, and ultimately find new positions providing greater responsibility, pay, and/or personal fulfillment. But this reassurance rings hollow to someone unemployed. It's difficult to imagine things improving.

We all like to think that job interviewing is a two-way street. The employer is evaluating the candidate, and the candidate is sizing up the employer. But, to the unemployed candidate, it often doesn't feel this way. He feels at a definite disadvantage. He needs this job.

You can't hire every candidate, and candidates know that. Most rationale people don't expect job offers to emerge from every interview. They will be passed over for some. But what really hurts on a human and professional level is being mistreated during the process.

Which is why it's especially important to treat candidates with respect and compassion. This includes timely, candid, and meaningful communication. Whether working directly with candidates, through HR, or through an external recruiter, keep candidates informed in a sincere way. Make them feel that you value their candidacy and respect their intelligence. As delays arise, make sure explanations are credible.

It's all too easy to get caught up in the challenges of the day. After all, filling this position, no matter how important to the department, is only one of several priorities competing for too little time.

Yet priorities come into clearer focus when we remember that we are dealing with people trying to earn a living.

Hiring managers and recruiters alike fall down on the job. I know I do. I sometimes have to remind myself that, to an anxious candidate, silence is worse than yet another call to report that I have no news. I need to remind myself to take a walk in their shoes.

Jim Gibson has been in healthcare for 25 years. In 2002 he founded Gibson Consultants after several years in healthcare IT and group health insurance. Gibson Consultants is a national search firm specializing in healthcare IT companies. Like Jim, the other professionals of Gibson Consultants enjoyed successful healthcare careers before turning to executive search. Follow Jim on twitter http://twitter.com/jim__gibson or reach him at (203) 431-1536 or [email protected].

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