Most people, if asked, would say trust is incredibly important to them. It is a value that goes to the core of who we think we are and how we interact. It impacts decisions we make every day: who to buy from, who to spend our time with. It also impacts decisions we don’t give much thought. Each time we get in our car, we trust that the brakes are working and that other drivers are likely to behave responsibly. But what does trust really mean? And can we build it into the recruitment process?
People often talk about earning trust. Especially when trust has been lost or dented, we talk about re-earning someone’s trust. What I learned from hearing Rachel Botsman, who is an authority on trust, speak at a conference is that trust is not earned; it is given. In other words, for me to demonstrate that I will do what I said I would do, you have to allow me to do that first. That trust hasn’t been earned; it has been given. For instance, an organizational leader may want me to earn her trust by arranging some candidate interviews for her. I can’t do that without her permission, and at that point, she has already decided to trust me.
The second key thing I learned from hearing Rachel speak is that transparency is not the antidote to trust. I can’t simply increase transparency in the recruitment process to make candidates or hiring managers trust me more; I have to build in other strategies.
How Recruiters Can Increase Trust
The first way recruiters can gain trust is by listening. Why should someone trust me to deliver for them if I haven’t listened to what they need? Listening is a skill often forgotten in recruitment, as recruiters rush to move to the next call or to sell the benefits of whatever position they are offering. By listening and demonstrating I have understood the candidate or manager, I can begin to build more trust into the process.
Not selling is another key way to build trust into the process. Changing jobs is often a major life decision. It’s easy for recruiters to forget that, since we deal with these decisions several times a day. By the time a candidate considers applying for a new job, they have probably been thinking about doing so for several months. They want to feel that they are making the right decision and are working with someone who can help them achieve their newly defined goals. They don’t want to feel as though they have entered a sales environment or have become a commodity. Talking through the pros and cons of a position and how that aligns with their goals is important. In my experience, a candidate or client who feels like the recruiter does not have their best interests at heart will never fully trust that recruiter, even if they proceed with the working relationship.
Feedback is a key way to build trust into the recruitment process. Candidates often complain that they don’t receive enough feedback throughout the application and interview experience. This is most frustrating when an application has been rejected, but it can also be frustrating when applicants are moving through the stages but not told what the hiring team likes about them. By sharing feedback, recruiters can really demonstrate that they respect the time the candidate has spent on their application and interview. It shows they care about their experience. Crucially, it also shows that the hiring manager feels the same way. This feedback can open a conversation about how best to move to the next stage, whether that is another interview or another role. This is where trust can really be built, as feedback turns into advice.
This leads me to my final suggestion for building trust into this process, which is to show respect for the time someone is taking to go through applying for a new position. Searching for a job is time-consuming, and attending interviews involves giving up personal time. Being understanding of that and, where possible, working with a candidate’s schedule, can help build that trust. Recruiters also need to have some respect for their own time. I often see recruiters chasing candidates for resumes or interviews and being ignored. Respectfully closing that process until both parties are in a position to move forward shows respect for everyone’s time and can help build trust in the quality of that recruiter. Successful, busy recruiters don’t have time to chase candidates who aren’t really ready to move jobs. That respect for a candidate’s time will help build a relationship as a trusted partner.
As we move into a world where AI in the recruitment process becomes more normal and tolerated, trust becomes ever more important. The human connection in the recruitment process needs to add value if it is to avoid being replaced. By using these tactics to reframe the thought process on trust, candidates and companies will find that recruiters are able to deliver that value.
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