Hiring for empathy: Putting “care” in the community care sector


“There’s no such thing as good people.” – Marla Grayson, I Care A Lot.


Rosamund Pike’s evil, predatory character in 2021 film, I Care A Lot, couldn’t be more wrong in this statement. The film portrays a confronting depiction of elder abuse, neglect and the horrors that result when a group of people lack empathy. 

Sadly, it’s not pure fiction. Earlier this month, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its final report, calling for the Australian Government to immediately improve the protection of rights for older people. 

The commission urged the government to fundamentally reform the aged care system, to refocus on the support needs of older people and take a human-rights-based approach to policies and services. This comes alongside other breaking news of a doctor giving two elderly patients an overdose of COVID-19 vaccine. 

At the heart of the issue is, unfortunately, people. Among issues including a lack of adequate training and support, and breakdowns in processes and procedures, is hiring the wrong people in the first instance. 

If you’re hiring care support workers, healthcare or aged care professionals, you may face common recruitment issues such as talent scarcity, lack of diversity and limited talent pools. But high-quality candidates exist and they’re waiting to be found. 

Here are two ways to attract high-quality candidates in the community care sector, with a focus on critical soft skills and values; particularly, empathy. 


1. Make hiring for soft skills and values a priority 

Hard skills are, of course, important and necessary for your organisation’s growth and success. But assessing soft skills and personal values as part of your recruitment process is also a must. 

What soft skills and values do people need to succeed in your organisation? You may find a list intuitively comes to mind. Do they reflect your organisational values? Establish the non-negotiables and nice-to-haves. 

High-value soft skills in the community care sector could include: 

  • caring and empathetic attitude 
  • patience 
  • positivity 
  • passion 
  • self-motivation 
  • creative thinking 
  • ability to work as part of a team
  • flexibility, adaptability and resilience. 


Read more: Future proof your organisation by hiring for soft skills 


After establishing your ideal criteria, tailor your recruitment process accordingly. Reflect key words in your recruitment advertisement, incorporate related screening questions and discuss these attributes with your top candidates using behavioural-based interview questions. 

Empathy is arguably the foundational skill to assess for in your recruitment process. (After all, “care” forms part of the role title). But it’s a two-way street. A culture of support and empathy must underpin your employer brand. 


2. Instil empathy across all levels in your organisation 

When work and recruitment become transactional, people inevitably become disengaged in their roles. To recruit empathetic team members, empathy must shine through in your employer brand, organisational culture and recruitment process. 

In addition to tailoring your recruitment process to assess your ideal attributes, you must also extend empathy throughout all candidate interactions. Make candidate care a priority

Read more: A roadmap to transforming your candidate experience 

There are numerous long-term benefits of instilling empathy throughout all levels in your organisation and recruitment process. According to Belinda Parmar OBE, CEO of The Empathy Business, the top 10 most empathic companies outperform the bottom 10 by 50%. This stands across all key performance indicators including growth, productivity, and earnings. 

As an example, Parmar shares how BlueCross Community and Residential Services successfully hires more than 2000 people for its aged care residences. They place a strong emphasis on culture to attract and retain the best healthcare talent. Their strong core values guide their interviews, allowing them to select candidates who embrace these qualities and form a great cultural addition to their teams. This ensures BlueCross retains a team passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of its residents and clients. 

Team members with the right hard and soft skills are essential to your organisation’s ability to deliver the very best client care. Assessing the right soft skills, upholding candidate care and strengthening your employer brand will help you achieve outstanding service delivery. Attract and assess for empathy, and instil empathy throughout all levels in your organisation, including your recruitment process.