· Comment

How to interview candidates with a war-induced trauma

People who have experienced a war-induced trauma respond differently to things we consider normal outside of an area of conflict.

If you’re interviewing those whose lives have been affected by war, there are six things to be aware of.

1. They might get emotional, and that's okay.

War-induced trauma intensifies under stress and since 99% of candidates experience stress when being interviewed, recruiters and potential employers should be ready for that.

It might manifest in different ways: some candidates freeze mid sentence, some start crying, while others might get aggressive or even suddenly switch the subject. While this could have raised red flags for any other candidate, remember that being emotional after a traumatic experience is normal.

Show empathy by giving them space to let it out or offer to have this interview any other time if you feel overwhelmed by all the emotion showered on you.

2. Don’t try to steer them back to positivity.

While some might think that listing things to be grateful for can help the candidate change their perspective on things and power through the pain, in reality, it’s only devaluing their emotions and intensifying the pain, and with it, their emotional response.

They’re entitled to feel shocked and grieve. So, as an interviewer, just let them go through this at their own pace and empathically support them without trying to cheer them up.


Ukraine conflict: how should HR engage with employees?

Businesses keen to employ refugees but need support

HR’s role in refugee integration


3. Active listening does wonders.

Active listening is a tool to help you de-intensify the candidate’s emotions. Don’t look away, don’t check your inbox, and don’t offer tips the candidate hasn’t asked for. You will establish an atmosphere of trust and encourage the candidate to be honest, vulnerable, and transparent.

Talking about their pain won’t solve anything but it will help calm down their overwhelming emotions and go back to the interview.

4. Don’t ask unnecessary questions.

While you should be empathetic and fully present, be very careful with the questions you ask. It’s best to let the candidate choose what they’re comfortable with sharing.

If you want to ask additional questions about their experience, be sure to do it in a way that comes across as caring and not prying.

5. You might have to conduct several interviews to get all your answers.

Sure, an interview isn’t a therapy session. But sometimes with candidates who had a traumatic experience, it makes sense to use the first interview to establish trust and then have a second one to talk about their background and expertise.

It’s a rewarding experience to conduct an interview with a candidate that already trusts you. So, it’ll definitely be worth your while.

While we encourage you to be empathetic to candidates with war-induced traumas and show them grace, we also have to warn the recruiters that this is an emotional experience for them, too.

Therefore, if you feel overwhelmed after an interview, consult with a therapist or engage in an activity that helps you release the tension. Self-care is crucial after you go through emotionally charged situations.


Kateryna Osadchuk is a psychologist and CEO at Indigo Tech Recruiters