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Optimum Talks Blog

The Mindful Recruiter

by Nathalie Francisci
May 18, 2021

It is always in times of crisis that the best leaders emerge. Those who are known to mobilize their troops, close ranks behind them, and face the storm with courage, strength, and empathy. Mindfulness has become an essential behavior to face these unprecedented times and recruitment in the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a sharp turn. Now more than ever, our role as search professionals must focus on taking care of both our candidates and clients with a conscious approach. Knowing how to recruit with mindfulness is based on three essential principles: authenticity, openness, presence and connection.



  1. Authenticity: Recruit without bias by knowing how to identify conscious and unconscious biases to make a fair and equitable assessment. Be transparent about the mandate and the context of the position without minimizing or hiding the reality. Give constructive feedback to the candidate and prepare them for the interview so that they can give their best, as well as be able to effectively explain the reasons why they were not selected, if applicable.
  2. Openness: Listen deeply to the candidate, take an interest in them, their background, their life, their dreams, and their ambitions. In short, look beyond the resume and analysis grid. Suspend judgment without trying to analyze every gesture or word and be fully present in the exchange. Instead of staying in a defensive or persuasive mood, the mindful recruiter will ask more questions to understand the individual and help them realize both their potential and limits.
  3. Presence and Connection: The mindful recruiter knows how to give space in the interview by using pauses, allowing for more in-depth listening. Sometimes what is not being said is more revealing than a long speech. By listening to their inner voice, a mindful recruiter will use this to deepen their understanding about what may bother or impress them about a candidate.



Since the beginning of the pandemic, some searches have been postponed or canceled, but many others have moved forward as companies need to fill key roles that will help position them for current success and into the future. Here are two examples:

  1. A financial services company looking for a Chief Technology Officer. Despite the pandemic, the CEO confided in us that it was critical to fill this role with a candidate whose experience in digital transformation management was not only recognized but that they had also experienced major failures related to this skillset and learned from them.
  2. An engineering company wanted to recruit its CHRO and there was no question of postponing or canceling the process. Rather, the CEO told us that human resources and talent management remain a top priority for the organization to find solutions, avoid layoffs, and be ready for the return of post-COVID activities.



While executive search has carried on, obviously the current environment has meant our approach to candidates and their assessment must be adapted. In the age of lockdowns and telecommuting, candidates can be reached at very different times that work around their family’s schedule, whether it is nap time, later in the evening, or while they go for a walk. But rather than jumping straight into the typical interview questions, a mindful recruiter will begin by checking in with them, ask how their family is doing, and listen to their emotions, whether they are content, anxious, sad, or angry. In this exchange of empathy and listening, the recruiter is in a state of awareness. These real and trusted relationships that recruiters build with their candidates will serve them throughout their careers because we never forget those who truly cared about us when we needed them the most.

One common question we get asked these days is: “Are virtual interviews as valid and effective?” Given our access to technology and high level of connectivity, I would say for the most part, “yes.” Of course, we can’t rely as much on body language and don’t feel the same way behind a screen. But by increasing our level of empathetic listening and meeting the candidate in their environment (sometimes with a child popping up in the middle of the interview or the cat jumping on the keyboard), we can assess personality traits and derailment factors that are impossible in a traditional office interview. While post-COVID recruiting will surely bring a return to some more traditional processes, practicing full consciousness throughout a search will be here to stay.



The act of recruiting is all about building and managing relationships and utilizing that knowledge to make the best decisions for both the hiring manager and the candidate. If we want more conscious leaders, this inevitably requires processes that are based on the same values. Today, companies need individuals with a high level of emotional and relational intelligence to face transformations and embrace change especially as we come out on the other side of this pandemic. This will require both courage and humility to survive this period of crisis management and what then follows…


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