Connecting Beyond the Screen – Sarah Goldberg

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Jun 8, 2021

I no longer had to experience FOMO – I was finally attending my first SourceCon Digital conference! My excitement levels were at an all-time high! I was finally going to be able to watch my “Sourcing Super Heroes” live and learn from the Top Specialists in the industry.

Day one, session one. The Keynote Speaker to open the conference was Sarah Goldberg – Senior TA Sourcer for the New York Times. I had ‘met’ Sarah before when she had presented at a SourceCon South Africa Chapter meeting so I knew that this was not going to be a talk to miss! I sat riveted to my chair as she opened up her presentation with such humility. “Bringing Empathy to your Sourcing Outreach”. The BIG question of “How can we show empathy and mean it”.

Sarah put her presentation into context. She took us through the journey of 2020 and how COVID had such an impact on the world. People have lost their jobs or might be losing their jobs. They might have lost a loved one to COVID or have a special someone in their lives at death’s door. Unfortunately, for some of us, these experiences have not changed the way we operate and we have simply carried on as before. Spamming generic emails with no consideration to the face behind the screen.

Her words hit home. This was a  huge wake-up call for me. I reflected on the insensitivity of my content to prospective candidates. We have continued as before and we all need to put into context that there are humans on the other side of our emails. Sarah highlighted a quote from Maisha Cannon for the times we find ourselves in. “What would someone be doing when they read your message?” They are not in the best headspace. It’s hard to be happy and optimistic when you have lost your job or lost a loved one to COVID.

Sarah understands that we all still have a job to do and metrics to achieve, but this often drives the wrong behavior. We are still blasting out emails, without reviewing the candidate’s profiles or tailoring our message.  These candidates are receiving up to seven messages in one day. Can you imagine by the seventh follow-up mail, a funny meme asking if you’ve been abducted by aliens, might not be very well received at all? This is not funny, particularly if you are experiencing stress or grieving the loss of a loved one. It sends the wrong message and ultimately – what does it say about our brand?

My learnings and key takeaways from Sarah’s presentation: What can we do better as an industry, to get across the screen with “Empathy”?

  • What about their profile makes you want to reach out to them? Ask this question every time you message them. Read each profile. Show you are human and that they are human. Sarah referred to and recommended the book “The Robot-Proof Recruiter” by Katrina Collier.  I have read this insightful book and one of my favorite quotes from Katrina is “You cannot automate being human”.
  • As Recruiters & Sourcers, we need to place more weight on the responses you receive from the email sent rather than focusing on the metrics. Take the time to be more intentional in your outreach.
  • Personalization is the best way to go about these outreaches and to be authentic. Be sensitive in your approach to worldwide events.
  • What value can you offer? Spread out your campaigns and always be respectful of their time. Use a friendly tone and use jokes where appropriate.  Always be professional in your approach.
  • Build relationships. Sarah asked us to reflect on “how transactional we are”?  Always pivot to offering support, even if you can’t hire someone now, or the timing is not right. Ask “How can I help you or someone in your network?” Always offer help or support.
  • Building your own Templates? There were some superb tips from Sarah around building your own templates. Acknowledge that things are not fine in the world right now. Changing jobs might not be their priority at the moment – most people are not even currently looking. Don’t assume they are just sitting around waiting for a cold outreach from you. Explain in detail why you are reaching out to them. What’s in it for them? Why should they take your job over one of your competitors? Share something of value – perhaps changes that are happening in the company or more exciting roles. Sell them on that. Try to help, humanity goes a long way.

In Conclusion 

Reflecting on Sarah’s presentation, we can all show compassion and humility. All we need to focus on is being ourselves, honest, authentic, genuine, and write as we would speak. This will go a long way in building trusted relationships with our candidates.