June 19, 2018

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Keeping Your Emotional Distance

At a recent seminar, a recruiter told me that she’d only fill positions with companies she’d want to work for herself.

To me, that’s like an attorney saying the only people worthy of representation are those who are innocent. Last time I checked, we’re all guaranteed a competent defense—innocent or not.

So, let’s put our role as recruiters in perspective. As advocates, it’s our job to help hiring managers find and capture the best available talent. Whether or not we’d want to work for them ourselves is totally irrelevant. For the record, I wouldn’t want to work for any of my clients. Nothing personal; I simply prefer a self-employed lifestyle, and wouldn’t want to go back to drawing a paycheck.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll take up the cause for every prospective client. In fact, I recently said goodbye to a company after I learned they were making false promises in their offer letters. Knowingly participate in a fraud? Sorry, that’s an ethical line I’m not willing to cross.

Walking in the Shoes of Others

Empathy (“I see that you’re in pain”) is an admirable quality. But it’s quite different than sympathy (“I feel your pain with you”). And one of empathy’s strengths is that it allows you to keep your emotional distance. If you let too much grit get under your skin, it can drive you crazy.

I try to view difficult situations as a series of multiple-choice tests, in which you can either touch the hot stove and get burned, or take a step back and keep your cool. For example, how would you respond to each of these situations?

Situation 1: After interviewing with your client, the candidate bumps his salary needs from $85,000 to $90,000.

Thin-Skin Response:

You feel betrayed, and confront the candidate for being untruthful.

Thick-Skin Response:

You accept the new information, ask questions and plan your future strategy with the person accordingly.

Situation 2: You learn that the hiring manager has a personality that’s hard to deal with: He’s blunt, isolated and critical of his employees.

Thin-Skin Response:

You decide not to work with the manager, as he makes it more difficult to find candidates.

Thick-Skin Response:

You find a positive quality to offset the negative. For example, if the manager has outstanding technical skills, an understudy role with the manager would most likely accelerate your candidate’s career.

Situation 3: The employer tells you that a candidate you placed with them a year ago is not performing up to expectations. They want their money back.

Thin-Skin Response:

You see their point of view and offer to find a replacement at no additional charge.

Thick-Skin Response:

You observe that 12 months is more than adequate to evaluate an employee’s performance. If they didn’t spot red flags sooner, they weren’t paying attention.

Years ago, I received a nasty letter from a neighbor who didn’t like my landscaping. Bottom line, he threatened to take legal action if I didn’t make some expensive changes that suited his taste.

Rattled, I called my attorney and asked if I should cave in to his demands.

“Forget it,” he told me. “He has no legal standing; he’s trying to exploit your fear of litigation and your sense of fairness.”

So, I took my attorney's advice. Over time, the nasty letters stopped coming. And in the process, I learned that sometimes the best way to stand up to a bully is to stand back and keep your cool.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and