• Negin Safdari

Dear Artemis: Help! I found the perfect candidate but they're near burn out.

Welcome back to Dear Artemis: Where you ask us tough questions and we use our collective 45+ years knowledge in the recruiting space to answer them.


Dear Artemis,


I found the perfect candidate but I’m afraid they’re near burn out. What should I do?


Product Leader, B2B SaaS Market Leader


Dear Product Leader,


This is a tough question - there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Kristina wrote a blog about this in July and she highlights that sometimes a change isn’t as good as a rest.


As an employer, you’re in a catch 22: Candidates leaving companies because they were overworked is a fair reason but the fear of a burnt-out employee is equally valid. You’re hiring because there’s a gap in your organization, and you need the employee to fill that gap. (And if you’re a startup or scale-up, you needed them to fill that gap, like, yesterday.)


We don’t have a definite answer to share with you, but rather some guiding questions to work through with the candidate. Context is queen, so these questions will help you assess the situation before making a decision on it. We’ve split the questions into two sections: (1) Diagnosing the burnout, and (2) Determining a reasonable solution/approach to bringing them on successfully.


These might be tough to approach if the candidate hasn’t explicitly stated their burnout - but if they have, bonus points to them for self-awareness and transparency.


Guiding Questions, Diagnosing the Burnout:

  1. What caused your burnout at your current company?

  2. What work do you find energizing, and what work do you find draining?

  3. What do you wish was different in your current situation?

  4. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently to prevent this?

  5. Did you take all or most of your vacation time? Why or why not?

  6. Is this your first time experiencing burnout, or do you tend to work yourself too hard?

  7. Sometimes burnout can come from personal reasons. Was there something in your personal life that you needed to attend to and dedicate energy to? [follow up question below, in the other list]

  8. Do your benefits or company perks offer support for employees (ie. counselling, wellness days, etc) and do you take advantage of those benefits? Why or why not?


Guiding Questions, Determining the Solution/Approach:

  1. How can I, the hiring manager, support you in finding a better work-life balance?

  2. What do you think will be different in this new role?

  3. How will you manage your energy levels?

  4. What do you need from me, the hiring manager, to make this decision more clear for you?

  5. Would some time off in between roles help you recharge, and is that an option for you?

  6. [For leadership roles] Leading by example is important - how can we ensure that you empower the team to find balance by living that yourself?

  7. As an organization and team, how can we ensure that you have the space and support necessary to work through personal issues as they come up?


Hopefully with these questions you can determine if the burnout is an acute or chronic problem - will it be solved with a change or will the candidate end up back to burnout in 6 months?


We also have a few interview process tips that are relevant for all candidates, not just those verging on burnout:


  1. Make sure the interview process is catered towards the candidate bringing their best energy levels forward. For example, ask if they’re a morning or afternoon person and schedule interviews accordingly.

  2. Help manage their expectations of the interview process. In most cases, candidates are balancing their current full-time job with (likely multiple) interview processes. Make it as easy as possible for them to do their ‘homework’ by delivering as much as you can over email ahead of time, being clear with expectations, and setting reasonable timelines.

  3. We mentioned it above - but really encourage them to take time off in between jobs. Ideally a week, but even a few days can be a great reset.


Let us know what you think: Did we miss a question? Do you have any other ideas? We’d love to hear from you.


Until next time,

The Artemis Team