Chris Murdock recruiting

Recruiting Connections: Weaving Empathy and Authenticity Into Your Professional Connections

May 12, 2022

Mara Edgar, Managing Director of Human Capital for a global investment firm, and Chris Murdock, Co-Founder and Chief Sourcing Officer of IQTalent Partners, recently sat down to discuss their careers in recruitment and their beliefs on the importance of establishing and maintaining connections.  The following article will highlight the best moments of their conversation regarding approaching recruitment and relationship building with empathy and authenticity.

We talked about how we build and maintain connections and how that network has helped us build our careers. How important is maintaining relationships to you?

Mara: To me, connections all come down to a couple of things, one of the most crucial being empathy. This means that I’m not just listening to someone else’s story or narrative but that I’m genuinely displaying that I care about what they’re saying and its ramifications in a professional context. In most situations, connections are made in a more personal context. But, when it comes to the professional aspect, you need to approach conversations with a more open mindset, rather than thinking, “What can I get out of this?”

If you instead focus on what you can learn from the other person, you can ask the kinds of strong, probing questions that show people you are invested in the connection and want to nurture your relationship. This naturally leads to a mutually beneficial relationship based on trust and reciprocity.

@CMurdock sits down with Mara Edgar, Managing Director of Human Capital for an investment firm, to discuss the key to #RecruitingConnections, #Empathy.Click to Tweet

Mara: I think that if you engage with individuals on that basic human level of seeking to understand their story and point of view, you come across as more authentic in your interactions. In turn, this creates stronger connections that can lead to lifelong compatriots. I’ve had people reach out to me decades after meeting, saying, “Hey, when you spoke to me at that moment, it really mattered to me that you listened and helped me through that difficult transition.” This is the goal I have in mind — to be a student of human behavior that aims to hear and understand people’s stories. To me, that's the best part about being in this profession.

Chris: Exactly. Back in 2008, when the market slowed, and there were layoffs across the recruitment industry, I had countless interactions with individuals just like that. As someone who hadn’t lost my job, I felt some twinge of survivor’s guilt when so many people within my network were facing tribulations. But what I noticed was that these people who were reaching out and talking to me just wanted one thing — to be heard.

Talking to those individuals and letting them know they were understood and that they had someone rooting for them in their corner did far more to improve my connections with people than anything else. I even called these conversations recruiting. And, what I found was that over time these people reconnected with me to become clients, employees, or just valuable professional connections.

Do you think people go into recruiting naturally? Is there a trait or characteristic that makes them successful?

Mara: I think there’s an ethos to it. For some people, it can be very draining to do this kind of work, calling and maintaining connections all the time. But for me, I love making the connections and engaging in the deep, meaningful conversations that you have with people throughout your professional and personal journey. I have found that there are some people who just don’t have the recruiter genes in their DNA, but for people who do, like us, it just seems like a natural profession.

Chris: You know, it's funny. My friends used to give me a hard time in elementary school, high school, and through college, because I would disappear for a second, and they'd see me talking to somebody. Then they’d come up to me and ask, “Did you get that person's entire life?” And the answer was always, yes, that I would. I loved talking with people about who they are, what they’ve done, and what they hope to accomplish.

When you and I connected, I felt a sense of familiarity; we're kindred spirits; we both value connections. You already used the word empathy, and I think that's the cornerstone of what IQTP is — empathy. We hire and value empathetic people.

Mara: I think there’s great value in working for an organization where you have colleagues that you respect. It not only leads to having a shared vision but also leads to you actually liking each other. There's just some magic in that chemistry of when you're around people who you appreciate in both a professional and personal capacity.

You brought up the topic of reciprocity and how in some connections, it’s something unspoken. How does this impact recruiting?

Chris: It's just like you share a connection, a love of something with that person. And within recruiting, I’ve come to find that people remember these connections. Sometimes you’ll be doing research for recruiting for a role, and then you turn up some research, and you hand it off to a client, and they go, “Oh my gosh, why didn't I think of that person?” And then the next thing you know, they're added to the list, and the search is over.

Mara Edgar, Managing Director of Human Capital for a global investment firm, and @CMurdock, Co-Founder and Chief Sourcing Officer of @IQTalent Partners, sat down for a conversation on the need to establish and maintain #Connections throughout your professional career:Click to Tweet

How do you provide that value to your network, and how does your network provide that value to you where you're staying top of mind for those things?

Mara: You know, I'm a big believer in quick texts, like, “Hey, I was thinking of you.” These kinds of short conversations keep people engaged and top of mind. You don't always hit somebody where they're at a career trajectory, and they're ready to make a move, but I think the consistency of staying in touch is a huge factor in maintaining strong relationships. You know, it’s important to be front of mind with people, and it's not that much effort. I really want to help drive material change from the seat in which I operate.

How much of recruiting do you think is working to remove self-doubt in candidates so that they feel confident making a career move?

Mara: Well, I think there are two things. I think structurally, it's all about de-risking. It’s about demonstrating to the candidate that opportunities are out there and that we, as recruiters, know how to help them tap into them. But, the self-doubt aspect certainly exists. There has been a ton of research on women and applying for jobs where they will wait until they've checked off every trait or aspect listed in a job description rather than apply earlier like their male counterparts. I’ve seen this play out in my professional and personal life. Many times, I find that I have to help candidates recognize their own skills and strengths and how those help drive value for their company.

Chris: I've seen it myself as well with many of the clients we have. They’ll say, “I really want a more diverse candidate for this role.” (Sidenote, one of the reasons why we call this “recruiting connections” is because it's not just about personal connections. It's about connecting information and data to your systems.) So, in this instance, I needed to connect this client with reality. The reality is that if you want a person to make a lateral move, you’re not going to have a diverse candidate. But as soon as I showed him the next level down of candidates, the diverse pool skyrocketed from maybe 4 or 5 candidates to 50 or 60.

The next generation of workers is incredibly diverse, but experience-wise, they're not there yet. They're not at the level that he wanted. What needed to happen was for us to connect him with reality, to make him understand that he needed to change his criteria to find the candidate he wanted.

Mara: Exactly. Sometimes you have to change some of the descriptors to get what you actually want. And if diversity is a priority, you may have to have to sacrifice some of the desired experience or be willing to train. And that comes from empathy, too, right? You have to be invested in somebody to give them the opportunity to be successful.

What's your parting piece of wisdom when it comes to that networking component?

Mara: I think my advice is to just do it. Make those connections and reach out to your network from time to time. Send someone an email and just say, “Hey, thanks. You know, you helped me at some point, and I’ve been thinking of you lately.” Make the time to connect with people that matter to you. It all comes back to that reciprocity of reaching out from a place of empathy and genuineness. Eventually, it will come back to benefit you, and it might surprise you how it does. It might not be tomorrow. It might be a decade from now. You never know when or how people will impact your life, so just make those connections and see what comes from it.

Chris: You know, it's funny. I reached out two years ago to the guy that gave me my first shot in recruiting. It had been nearly 20 years. We’d maybe talked two or three times total and had exchanged some emails from time to time. He had given me my first job at Lemming/LeVan as a research assistant in his firm. And then, a month later, Caldwell Partners, where he had been for a decade, became a client of ours. The next step was them asking about a potential merger, and now here we are now, a division of Caldwell Partners. It's those little things that you were talking about, sometimes just saying hi, that can pay off big. It all comes back around to that belief of recruiting for good. That’s fundamentally what it comes down to.

Each month, Chris Murdock will sit down with new impactful individuals in the recruiting space to discuss new strategies, software, and trends that hiring managers can expect. Subscribe to the Recruiting Connections with Chris Murdock podcast today to stay up to date on the latest conversations.

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