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Empathy and Understanding Resistance

Considering how your recipients feel about your messages

Empathy and Understanding Resistance

By In Blog On March 21, 2017


A few years ago I received an eight page resume. Let me explain, I’m an executive recruiter. I see a lot of resumes. The only thing that made this one unusual was the fact that it was eight pages long. The sender pasted in a nice introductory note, attached the eight-page resume and likely sent it out to a lot of people since my name was not included in the greeting.

Again, I get resumes all the time, including plenty of unsolicited resumes. I encourage it. Even so, this particular eight-pager created a very specific feeling, one so acute that I had to go looking for the cause. Discovering it was an interesting learning opportunity that helps me do a better job for my own customers today.

The feeling I’m referring to – I think resentment. Why? Why should receiving an unsolicited resume create a feeling of resentment? Because this one asked me to work harder than the others without the promise of value. The easiest thing would be to delete it. I didn’t though.

It was the experience of feeling resentment that caused me to wonder if the sender ever considered how I, or any of the other recipients, would feel upon receiving his eight-page resume. He didn’t personalize the email message, didn’t do any research to determine if I was an appropriate recruiter for the type of position he was pursuing, and didn’t try to anticipate any of my needs. The message he sent said “I didn’t spend time trying to understand exactly what you’re looking for but I’m sure I did it at some point and I can probably do it again. You can find it in here somewhere if you really look.”

Bottom line: He sent me a pile of work with the expectation that I would do it without putting in a similar effort himself. How am I supposed to feel about that? How would you feel about it?

Like I said, I’m used to getting resumes and I’m used to reading them quickly. It’s not a big deal. However sending a resume eight pages long represents a transfer of work that goes against the nature of the job seeker / potential employer dynamic. Instead of trying to learn how he could help, this sender created unnecessary resistance by making me try to figure it out.

Why isn’t he thinking about the resistance he is creating by sending generic cover letters and eight-page resumes?

Wait a minute… Light bulb! Am I thinking about the feelings of the recipients of my own email messages? Am I doing the work to anticipate their situations and needs?

What’s the word that describes this? Ah, “empathy” – the ability to understand another person’s needs, situation and feelings. If my original eight-page resume sender had done a little research or somehow demonstrated that he thought about my situation, I would have been a lot more receptive to his message. Beyond resumes, interview techniques, and all other sales or communication methods; empathy is what makes the difference.

This was not a discovery. I’ve been doing this for a while so I know about empathy. It was a sharp reminder though. To be effective, I, we, should ensure that we’re speaking to the person we’re speaking to and not broadcasting to a crowd. Our messages not only convey information, they create feelings, and the feelings they create are in large part up to us, the senders. I may not always be right but I believe people recognize it when an effort’s been made, and more importantly, they appreciate it – and that can help us all move forward. Now if I can only follow my own advice… I suppose I should thank the guy who sent the eight-page resume.

Follow @MoJoSearchon Twitter (Photo: London Eye, London – 2010)

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