“I can’t say that! It would hurt their feelings. I don’t know how to tell them. Can you do it for me? You’re so good at that. They listen to you.”
I didn’t make up the above. This is what I get told every so often by some of my professional colleagues who shy away from telling job seekers the things they’ve observed which the job seeker needs to hear. So you’d wonder wouldn’t you, at the inability of the Employment / Job Consultant, Job Coach, etc. who has a problem telling someone they are working with, the very information that person needs to hear.
Well don’t be too critical. After all, it’s not pleasant or enjoyable to tell someone something personal that is getting in the way of them being successful. I mean it’s easier to tell someone that their résumé is a complete disaster than it is to tell someone they have body odour issues, point out their bad teeth need attention, or their disposition is constantly negative, brooding, or downright intimidating.
I understand the moral dilemma in pointing out another person’s flaws; after all, who are any of us to tell someone else what are in the end our personal opinions? Well, I for one think that it’s our responsibility in the role of Job Counsellors, Coaches and Consultants to be honest with those we work with and point out areas for improvement that will if addressed, improve one’s employability.
So here’s how to go about it from my point of view.
First of all, it’s important to set up the framework of the relationship. Before I get down to working with a job seeker, I tell them that they must be open and receptive to honest feedback. I acknowledge that anything I might tell them is only one man’s opinion, but they need to be open to hearing what I’ve got to say and only then decide what to do with the information I pass on. This could mean anything from ignoring it altogether to taking it in and making some changes. I tell them right from the start that it could be some critique of their résumé (external and easy to hear) or it could be something personal (internal and harder to hear).
The one thing I do stress is that any feedback I’ll offer will be delivered with sincerity and sensitivity; never meant to embarrass but rather always meant to be helpful, even if, awkward to both say and more so to hear and receive.
Having set up this agreement or verbal contract, it’s important then to get the person’s permission to give them what could be valuable information. A person who is blissfully unaware that they have a major problem sometimes needs to have this information shared with them. It’s not something to look forward to with glee, but it is a necessary service to offer, if one truly respects the person and their intent on reaching their employment goals.
Yet, we don’t want to hurt their feelings do we? Perhaps we know only too well our own shortcomings and we know ourselves how it feels when others point them out. So we want to avoid hurting this person we’re working with; we don’t want to endanger the professional relationship we’ve got or that we’re building on. Completely understandable…no reason to justify going on ignoring the elephant in the room mind…but yes, understandable.
Passing on this information should be done privately; one on one, apart from others so the person receiving the information isn’t shamed or embarrassed. The technique I use myself is to share what needs to be said, listening and watching for indications the person has indeed accurately heard what I’ve said. Then, having passed on that information, there is no need to go on and on drilling it home. The next thing to do is move on and talk about possible solutions or strategies to drop the problem. These can be quick fixes or longer term solutions.
It is a disservice to work on getting a great resume and working on improving a person’s confidence in job interview skills, sending them out with brimming new-found self-assurance only to continue to be frustrated and rejected because of a well-known flaw of a personal nature. This is not helpful.
The key is to get over our own embarrassment and level of discomfort. So it may be that we actually say, “You know, I’m having a personal problem myself. I want to help you find and keep employment as you know, and together we’ve made some progress. However, I’m struggling to share with you something that might be hard to hear but I feel would be really helpful for you. Is it okay to share this with you?”
In delivering whatever needs to be said, don’t minimize it. You’ve now got the green light to pass on what needs to be said so do so. Offer some solutions only after giving them a chance to share their own ideas. Praise their reaction in taking it in, agreeing to think about it and any positive steps to change. It’s also important to point out the benefits of change to get some agreement.
Honest feedback can save someone a lot of time continuing to be frustrated and rejected. Saying what needs to be said may actually get you greatly respected in the end.