Mental Space: the Final Frontier for Recruiters

A professional friend of mine who has worked her way up through recruiting and HR saw my article on hiring a denial diplomat and wrote to me with a question: "How does one stay objective and find ways to be creative in a job that is often repetitive – wading through a never-empty email account full of negative impatience from people who filled out an application yesterday but expect an answer today?"

My answer was objectivity. Create your own mental space within your workspace. Certainly, many recruiters will say: "Space is a nice idea, but I've got clients and a boss, and I'm not on company time to do anything else but what they pay me for."

That is an admirable attitude – but inaccurate. You were hired because you could make good hiring decisions that would promote your agency, align candidates with companies, and provide companies with quality employees. That demands objectivity. A strong recruiter has got to back away from the barrage of input and regain that professional objectivity a few times per day.

One can create space to maintain that objectivity. With a little schedule-remodeling, one can make better decisions than if one simply tries to "attack the stack."

1. Take 15

Take 15 minutes after every two hours of "study" to do something else – write, draw, knit, write a music score, etc. It should be something that is not interactive (like Facebook, for example), but something that you love to do. Surfing the Web isn't purposeful; writing the next stanza of a poem, or adding some shading to a section of a drawing, or writing a love letter to your sweetheart – with paper and pen! – or taking a short walk outside is purposeful.

2. Personalize Your Mind, Not Your Office

My recruiting for college programs was done in a conference room. It had none of "me" in it. However, I had my journal and pens in my briefcase. Between every session, I took 15 minutes to work on my novel – now finished, completed in a room that wasn't mine, so something needed to be.

3. A Table For One

Use lunchtime to heighten your created mental space. Sure, go to lunch with your coworkers at least once a week, but if you come back more stressed than when you left, you have done yourself no favors. Make lunchtime your alone time, your personal space. One has to sometimes divorce oneself from people in order to appreciate them more.

4. Goal Control

As a professor, I could not lose objectivity. Therefore, I decided that when I took in a load of composition papers, I would evaluate 20 per day (often having more than 100 per week). That's it. If I had a bad run in the morning, I would refer to guideline No. 3 (lunch). Refreshed from a quiet lunch, past the negativity of a run of poor papers, I could then fairly evaluate the afternoon work. Students expected fairness from me. Your clients expect that from you, too.

A good recruiter has to make time in the workday that is respectful to the company. Playing on the Internet is not. Taking breaks to engage only yourself, controlling those breaks, regaining your objectivity, and even – if you feel like you have overused your created space – staying a few extra hours some evening to help the company backlog are ways to show respect.

Following these few steps, I keep my objectivity. I can then give my manager better decisions, address more student (client) concerns, not misuse company equipment to surf the Web, and return applications and scores with more objectivity and fairness.

The Web is covered with articles on "creating personal space." Recruiters, however, have the responsibility to create mental personal space. Clients – those of us who know that recruiters are the first line of defense in what may be our future careers – really count on recruiters to be objective. If our resume or cover letter fails, so be it. But make sure that you, as a recruiter, are objective enough to tell us why it failed. Creating your own internal space is one way to be able to do that.

Hopefully, even now, my friend is sketching an idea in her new artist sketchpad before returning to the helm.

Dr. Thomas Eaton serves as a project coordinator and lead writing associate for Empathinc: A Public Writing Center.