Recruiting Pro Tip: How to Overcome Candidate Communication Barriers
Talent selection is a delicate, multifaceted process. No two candidates are alike, and each presents the recruiter with a unique set of circumstances to navigate.
The selection process is entirely predicated on the quality of communication. With this in mind, recruiters need to do their best to become familiar with the candidates and understand what they do or don’t bring to the table. This depth of insight helps recruiters make the most informed decisions.
It’s important to realize that a number of variables determine the quality of candidate communication. For example, communication channels, the setting, the candidates’ cultural background, psychological makeup, and so on. All these variables can create specific communication challenges and difficulties. Notably, this communication noise prevents recruiters from forming a complete picture of the candidates.
What are the most common communication barriers in the recruitment process?
As the working reality becomes increasingly globalized, it provides unparalleled access to the talent pool. On the flip side, it also creates new challenges for recruiters. Surely, the work of a recruiter has never been more complex. For one thing, there are a growing number of factors to take into consideration during the selection process.
It is virtually impossible to capture the full extent of the complexity of the present-day recruitment landscape. Instead, we will cover some of the most common candidate communication barriers in the selection process. We will examine examples and provide suggestions for overcoming these barriers.
The most common kinds of communication barriers are:
- Cultural barriers
- Physical barriers
- Personality barriers
Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas.
Cultural communication barriers
Indeed, the way we interpret the words and actions of others is greatly shaped by our own experiences. Moreover, recruiters have historically been faced with a high degree of differences among candidates. In earlier times those differences would manifest themselves within a certain cultural context. With technology-enabled access to the global workforce, that is no longer the case.
Approaching candidates from different cultures from a “western” perspective can easily create communication barriers. Let’s take a look at some of their more common manifestations.
Obviously, every culture has its own norms of expression. Something as simple as a head nod can indicate agreement in one culture and disagreement in another. Because of this, a lack of understanding of these differences can easily lead recruiters to false interpretations.
For instance, making eye contact during an interview is interpreted as confidence by western cultural norms. Some other cultures consider it rude and impolite (Chinese, for instance). The same can be said for talking loudly.
As another example, personal questions that we find acceptable in our culture can be too invasive in others. Westerners find name-dropping and referencing influential personal ties to be inappropriate. Conversely, it may be perfectly normal in societies with a strong community aspect.
While it may be true that certain cultures are more explicit, emotional, and passionate in their expression, others may be more restrained and subdued.
These are only several examples from a vast array of cultural differences.
The English language has become a ubiquitous means of international communication. However, recruiters should not assume that everyone uses it at a high level. To be safe, it is best advised to simplify the language and avoid metaphors and other more abstract manners of expression. Generally, this ensures a high degree of clarity and mutual understanding with non-native English speakers.
Recruiters should be particularly careful to avoid the trap of stereotyping. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all fall prey to stereotyping. Making assumptions about others based on their fundamental characteristics is part of our nature. Often, humans need to categorize the world around us to interact with it in an efficient manner.
Without a doubt, stereotypes can seep into the way we communicate with others. This creates difficulties stemming from false assumptions. Stereotypes lead us to believe that a person from a certain group will behave in a certain manner. Candidates can easily (and often correctly) interpret stereotyping as an offense.
How to overcome cultural communication barriers
It all starts with understanding and respect.
The more we are familiar with other cultures, the easier it becomes to navigate and interpret them properly. Recruiters should understand the candidate’s fundamental cultural norms and desirable patterns of behavior.
With language, it is all about finding common ground and adjusting our vocabulary to ensure that we are clearly understood.
Stereotypes are more difficult to overcome, as they are often deeply ingrained into our being. Recruiters should do their best to avoid making assumptions beforehand. They must approach all candidates as individuals, removed from any group context. It’s all about their qualifications, not any group labels.
Physical communication barriers
This category refers to the physical setting of the selection process and the candidate communication obstacles it may present.
Candidate interviews take place either in a shared physical space or online. Both come with their own sets of potential obstacles that warrant closer inspection.
The main physical obstacle in an in-person scenario is discomfort. Generally, interviewees always experience a certain degree of anxiety and it is up to the recruiter to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Here are a number of steps recruiters can take to prepare the interview setting and make it more comfortable for the candidate.
- Find a space that is free from interruptions and distractions such as background noises.
- Show the candidate the restroom location and allow them to use it.
- Offer the candidate a hot or cold beverage.
- Have any other participants in the interview in place to avoid delays.
- Give the candidate a tour of the office (walking can have a calming effect).
- Have water and glasses available during the interview.
Holding an interview in a virtual setting eliminates many challenges of in-person interviews. It also creates new ones. Basically, the formal goal is to eliminate distractions and allow both parties to focus on the conversation.
Certainly, technology can be unpredictable. The number of tools we use to communicate nowadays creates a situation where things can easily go wrong. However, solid preparation can minimize a lot of these risks. Here are some tried and tested practices for conducting online interviews:
- Planning and scheduling: Clearly communicate the course of the process. Schedule the interview well in advance. In addition, inform the candidate about the communication platform and check whether they can use it. Inform them about any other participants. In short, make sure you cover every relevant detail in advance.
- Technology: Test your equipment (camera, microphone, headphones, computer, Internet connection, etc.). Don’t forget software (interview platform, login data). Also, arrange a backup option (different platform or a phone call) in case something goes wrong.
- Distractions: Ensure no interruptions. First, turn off ringtones and alarms. Minimize background noises. Prepare all necessary items to avoid getting up or shifting around.
- Voice and gestures: Pay greater attention to your tone of voice and facial expressions. Also, show engagement with the conversation. Account for any streaming delays by making brief pauses after sentences. Try to look at the camera, not the screen.
Personality communication barriers
Candidate personality can create a variety of communication barriers. In this section, we will examine some of the most common situations.
The silent candidate
Some candidates are not very talkative. It can be a case of nerves, lack of proper answers, and many other reasons. Usually, recruiters can attempt to overcome the lack of input by:
- Asking additional questions
- Hinting at a longer answer (“Give me a more detailed overview of…” or “Take a few minutes to tell…”)
- Allowing them to come back to the question at a later point
- Being direct (“Can you be more specific about…”)
The chatty candidate
Some interviewees tend to give long and winded or generalized answers that often meander away from the question. Because of this, recruiters can choose to write it down as general chattiness. It can also be an indication of nerves or the lack of a proper answer. To keep the interview on track and get the answers they seek, recruiters should:
- Ask specific questions
- Summarize the key points of an answer
- Hint at a preferred shorter answer (“Can you briefly clarify…”)
If none of this works, recruiters should embrace a more authoritative approach by:
- Being direct and letting the candidate know that they’re not answering the question
- Interrupting the answer to get back on track
- Referring to time constraints and reminding the candidate of limited interview time
The nervy candidate
Sometimes, despite the recruiter’s best efforts to relax them, candidates cannot fully reign in their anxiety. Unfortunately, there is only so much a recruiter can do to alleviate the situation, and these are some of the steps they can attempt:
- Display a relaxed state.
- Acknowledge the candidate’s nerves without making a big deal about it. Letting them know that it is OK to be nervous can help.
- Engage in small talk (weather, journey to the interview, etc.) to try to relax the candidate.
- Offer refreshments.
- Be patient, make eye contact, and utilize supportive and encouraging gestures and expressions.
Attracting and managing a globalized talent pool is becoming more and more complex. Thus, recruiters must be more knowledgeable and adaptable than ever before when it comes to candidate communication. Also, communication barriers are multiplying in a fast-evolving world. However, recruiters can still overcome them with a fundamentally astute approach to their work. This includes being prepared, being respectful, and having an open mind.