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Renowned shame researcher at the University of Houston and five-time New York Times bestseller, Dr. Brene Brown has spent decades studying shame and empathy. Brown teaches Fortune 500 companies, school districts, and organizations across the globe about the values of vulnerability and courage. Her TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the most-viewed talks of all-time.

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.


It’s no secret that the world may feel uncertain right now. With rising rates of COVID-19 infection, upending of work life, and distance learning, armoring up feels like the next natural step. Yet Brown explains, that’s the very opposite of what we should be doing in a scarcity culture. She defines a culture of scarcity as where everyone is hyper aware of lack. Whether it’s lacking money, time, or safety, we possess a tendency to meticulously calculate what we have, what we don’t have, what we want, and how much everyone has or wants. Scarcity culture is emotionally exhausting and creates the most severe casualty, vulnerability. Brown states we lose our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. 

This includes how we engage in our places of work.

With remote hiring, AI in recruiting, and digital onboarding, talent management is clearly online. These past few months have seen a rapid increase of online pre-employment assessment, video interviewing, and online team building.



Chatbots have become a preferred tool during this digital talent management process. 

What are chatbots? 

Recruitment chatbots are conversational interface platforms that perform the preliminary recruitment process. These chatbots use AI to make them more helpful and powerful to both recruiters and candidates. 

Organizations like Deloitte and KPMG use chatbots to answer the most commonly asked questions applicants have, saving time and frustration. Chatbots are used to perform a variety of tasks during the recruitment process.

What do they do?

Screen candidate applications
Once candidates apply on a company’s job site, chatbots can initiate a conversation with them.

Schedule interviews
Intelligent chatbots can access the calendar of recruiters to check for their availability.

Answer general queries
Before joining any company, it is obvious that candidates will have a few queries or doubts about the job position, work environment and salary structure.

Improve candidate experience
To stand out of the noise, recruiters should potentially tweak their recruitment strategy and make it more candidate-centric.

Improve speed to hire.
A chatbot can remove delays and streamline hiring so recruiters are able to engage candidates more quickly and make job offers to qualified candidates sooner.

Increase recruiter efficiency.
Recruiting chatbots handle repetitive and administrative tasks so recruiters can spend more time with candidate engagement while still getting the administrative work done.

Improve the candidate experience.
By making the process faster, easier and more convenient for candidates, chatbots help TA teams create a modern hiring experience that candidates appreciate. In addition, recruiting chatbots can use an organization’s vernacular, so they carry the talent brand forward in their interactions with candidates.

But hiring managers have a challenge when it comes to chatbots:

pre-employment assessment

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots are pretty great things. After all, they’re powered by highly advanced technology, like AI to answer questions. However they do fall short on gauging emotions and expressing sentiments.  They’re not humans. Depending on the programming, the dialogue between applicant and chatbot may feel stilted. 

Chatbots are designed with limitations. They’re given a series of instructions and/or information about the company. If candidates ask questions that chatbots don’t have information on, these chatbots become quickly confused and thus, useless to candidates. Needless to say, this could create a certain amount of frustration to candidates and be a time-waster to recruiters. 

So what’s talent management supposed to do in talent acquisition? Can empathy be programmed into chatbots? How can applicants feel more empathy from an organization despite often-isolating digital tools?

Brene Brown may have a few suggestions for hiring practices. One of them is addressing the issue of vulnerability through the candidate experience. One unexpected way is to use chatbots for infusing empathy into the recruitment and application process. 


Dispel the myth that vulnerability is weakness

Vulnerability often means emotional exposure. For candidates this may mean feeling like giving up control of the outcome, which is understandable during the application process. Applicants are being vulnerable to receiving a rejection or being on the receiving end of a bad candidate experience. At work, people usually shy away from vulnerable situations. In the hiring and recruitment process, it can be more apparent. Chatbots could be one way to address this portion of the job interview process. 

Chatbots can be programmed to thank candidates for their interest and share how they recognize an applicant’s courage to apply to a position. Hiring managers could record short video clips of themselves or individual employees expressing this recognition of vulnerability. This demonstrates that empathy is not only valued during the talent acquisition process but is a company principle.

pre-employment assessment

Embrace a culture of belonging.

Chatbots can be one tool to communicate the cultural values from the top. Business leaders are working to be more thoughtful of how they infuse empathy into the workplace. Chatbots, recruitment processes, and candidate experience can be amongst the opportunities. These digital recruitment tools can share quotes from management, news about company’s outreach, and other indicators that the organization values a culture of belonging. 

Brown explains “when we build cultures at work where there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, where perfectionism and armor are rewarded and necessary, we can’t have productive conversations.” Chatbots can be programmed to reinforce an inclusive culture as candidates fill out an application or submit a video interview. 


Lean in to difficult conversations.

Difficult conversations are inevitable in the workplace. Whether that’s giving feedback on a poorly executed project or delivering the news of a downsize, difficult conversations are never easy. However they possess a special power to spark growth. It becomes a space of vulnerability. 

Chatbots can be used to facilitate preparing for these areas. For example, a chatbot can be programmed to help a team leader give empathetic performance evaluation. A chatbot can be used to talk about the results from a candidate’s pre-employment assessment. These kinds of conversations are meant to engage growth rather than stagnate it---even if they are hard. 

Forming mutually empathetic relationships that facilitate reaching out to others: When we reach out for support, we may receive empathy, which is incompatible with shame and judgment. We recognize that our most isolating experiences are also the most universal. We recognize that we are not defective or alone in our experiences (we normalize).

pre-employment assessment

Level the playing field.

In general, chatbots have less biases than their human counterparts. If someone from a less qualified background has questions, they may feel more comfortable in talking with a chatbot about the position or organization’s mission. The chatbot may encourage them to apply---despite their vulnerability in feeling inadequate about their qualifications. In this way, a chatbot could level the playing field for applicants. It could also be a boon for hiring managers in increasing the types of employees hired through AI in recruiting, creating a greater range of gender, race, and cultural diversity. 

Brown highlights that your organization or team may make mistakes as you implement vulnerability and empathy into your culture. But that’s ok. That’s part of the game of vulnerability: knowing  failure is a possibility, but doing it anyway. Creating chatbots geared towards empathy is one creative way to reach out and empathize with an internal or external candidate. Be sure to empathize with yourself as you’re daring new things. 



Leading companies leverage Retorio's AI to support their own talent management teams. Our video-based AI was featured in TechCrunch and Süddeutsche Zeitung .

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Elizabeth T.

Written by Elizabeth T.

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