Handling Candidates’ Job Search Burnout With Empathy

Man interviewing and shaking hands with another person.

During a lengthy job search, candidates may experience job search burnout. Multiple rejections or several rounds of interviews without a positive outcome can lead to feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and decreased motivation. Even the most capable and qualified candidates may lose confidence over time.

In a 2023 Insight Global survey, 55 percent of active job seekers reported feeling “completely burned out” by the job hunt, with Gen Z workers struggling the most. Respondents saw about a 13 percent return on their applications, with an average of 4 responses for every 30 submissions.

Job search burnout can erode the confidence of potentially great employees. In the survey, over a third of unemployed workers were so discouraged that driving for a rideshare or delivery service sounded better than sending out more resumes.

This is why empathy is essential in recruiting and hiring. As a hiring manager, it’s easy to misidentify the signs of job search burnout and miss out on an outstanding applicant.

So, let’s get into how you can recognize job search burnout in your candidates and how to manage the hiring process with empathy—especially during a tough job market for candidates.

Avoid Missing Out on Qualified Candidates

Detecting burnout benefits both recruiters and candidates. It helps you make informed hiring decisions. Candidate burnout can be misinterpreted, resulting in missed opportunities for a good hire.

Here are some of the ways candidate burnout can be misinterpreted:

  • Not qualified. Job seekers who are burned out may come across as lacking experience or skills because they feel defeated and lack the confidence to put their best foot forward.
  • Unmotivated or disinterested. Exhaustion or hopelessness can be misinterpreted as disinterest in the job or a lack of motivation.
  • Poor interview skills. Candidates dealing with stress, anxiety, or fatigue are less likely to nail the interview.
  • Personality issues. Burnout can make candidates appear lazy, negative, unmotivated, or hostile.

Causes of Job Search Burnout

Competent, successful people may be unprepared for the emotional, mental, and financial toll of a prolonged job search. Here are some of the causes of job search burnout.

Prolonged Uncertainty

Uncertainty is inherently stressful. Uncertainty lowers a person’s ability to cope with negative events when they happen.

In our survey, job seekers averaged about 30 applications a month with only four responses. This low reward-to-effort ratio can grow exhausting.


Acceptance increases self-esteem, and rejection wears away at it. Rejection is a normal, inevitable part of the job search process, but it can wear candidates down, causing them to question their marketability and value.

Search Fatigue

Job seekers may scour multiple job boards, plus network online and in person to maximize their reach. The result is exhaustion as candidates are overwhelmed by choices and uncertain about where to focus their efforts most effectively.

Financial Pressure

Unemployment or underemployment can lead to financial strain for candidates voluntarily or involuntarily separated from their prior roles.

Lack of Feedback

Without constructive feedback on their applications or interviews, candidates feel left in the dark, uncertain if there is something they need to do better or if they just aren’t suitable for the job.


For unemployed candidates, the lack of daily social interactions in the workplace and feeling out of the loop contribute to feeling isolated.

Signs of Job Search Burnout

Job seekers who seem tired, irritable, unfocused, or disconnected from the process may show you signs of burnout. Pay attention to their body language for signs of stress or fatigue.

Some signs of job search burnout include:

  • Decreased enthusiasm: Passion and excitement are often the driving forces behind a job search. When these feelings wane, it may be an indication of burnout. Candidates may seem disengaged or have a negative attitude during interviews.
  • Forgetfulness or lack of follow-through: Overwhelming stress and mental fatigue cause forgetfulness. For example, a candidate who asks the same question repeatedly or fails to submit requested documents.
  • Decreased confidence: Confidence defines how candidates present themselves. Repeated rejections during an extended job search can erode a person’s confidence. Underselling their achievements or appearing overly nervous during interactions may be signs of burnout.

Related: How to Beat Hiring Burnout: A Guide for Hiring Managers

Why Is Empathy Important in Recruiting and Hiring?

As a hiring manager, you are meeting candidates as a professional. Even so, a workplace relationship is still a human interaction. By showing understanding and compassion, you build trust and foster a sense of comfort that allows more open communication.

When you see and treat a candidate as a person, giving them space to acknowledge the challenges of their job search journey, you start the relationship on a strong footing. You demonstrate your company’s commitment to employee well-being, which leaves a positive impression whether or not they get the job.

Addressing Job Search Burnout with Empathy

Recognizing and addressing burnout with empathy is not just a compassionate approach. It’s also a strategic one. It will help you separate top talent who is burned out from less suitable candidates.

Open a Dialogue

Taking an empathic and compassionate approach and opening a dialogue with candidates about their job search journey can help uncover the source of their behavior.

Ask open-ended questions. Their answers can provide insights into their state of mind and their challenges. You can even ask them how their job search is going. Their candidness can help break down barriers of stress and nervousness.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening ensures candidates feel heard and helps you understand their perspective. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that might indicate burnout and respond with understanding.

Offer Resources

Whether you hire an applicant or not, you can empower them with tools to combat burnout. Resources, articles, or workshops on managing job search stress and burnout aid the candidate while positioning your company as one that genuinely cares.


After an interview with a candidate experiencing burnout, send a follow-up message to check in on them. This is a simple gesture that can make a big impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being while fostering positive word-of-mouth for your employer brand.

Even if they don’t get the job, you can let the candidate know. A contributing factor of job search burnout is that candidates are left in the dark with their applications and interviews. They may know they didn’t get the job, but you can provide context why—or at least give the candidate closure.

Related: How to Make a Job Offer Candidates Will Accept

Remain People First

Awareness of the job seeker’s experience builds a more inclusive, compassionate, and effective recruitment process.

At Insight Global, we are a staffing agency committed to empowering people. For an experienced recruiting team with an extensive network of qualified candidates, connect with us today.

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Questions? Call us toll-free: 855-485-8853