Recruiters: Own The Silence In Your Conversations

This morning I relished in a few moments of  that sweet silence that those of you who are parents will relate to. It’s that time before the children are awake when I can sip my coffee and consider my agenda. Sometimes I do some non-essential reading. Before I was a parent, it was the time in the morning when I arrived before the rest of the bull pen in my busy office. As a person that truly thrives on chaos, a busy work environment and fast paced lifestyle, that particular silence is golden for me. It is a time that I feel like I own. I can do whatever I want with my mind. I can reflect, re-charge or just embrace my thoughts. That’s not the type of silence I want to talk about today.

During my silence this morning, I read a great article on from Nancy Parks. Park’s article outlines the No. 1 Error that Experienced Recruiters Make. I’ll let you check her post out for yourself, because it should be read in its entirety, but I want to specifically share my thoughts on her #4 “Watch Out!” point which is :  ”Allowing for Enough Silence”. As Park writes, not allowing for enough silence in daily conversations can happen when an experienced recruiter “goes into auto-pilot and simply drive processes forward without even pausing to take a breath.” What she’s discussing is one of my least favorite silent times, the uncomfortable silence that happens when you are using good listening skills!

“Waiting for the silence” is one of the most powerful business communication skills. I was introduced to this idea early in my career and it is an essential part of good listening that allows you to take leadership in a conversation. If you are an extrovert like me, and most recruiters are, the act of waiting for that moment of silence after you ask a question is excruciating! We are results driven! Don’t you just want to answer the question for them if you get “the silence”? It happens with candidates, and it happens with clients. If you happen to be speaking to another extrovert they are probably uncomfortable as well, and that is O.K.

Here’s what I mean: Let’s look at an old school example of a candidate conversation. Suppose you are interviewing a candidate that was highly recommended. When you finally see his resume, he looked so good “on paper” that you start deciding what you will spend next month’s commission check on.

You get him on the phone and you say something like, ” If I had an opportunity to share with you from your company’s competitor that would offer you a higher wage and more advancement in your career, would you be interested in hearing more?”

Do you completely stop talking and wait for the full answer? If he gives you a quick answer, we are assuming it is yes, do you ask why? We always ask why if the answer is no, but if they say yes, do you charge straight to the sell? Shouldn’t you find out more? Try to force yourself to wait several seconds, until you feel a little uncomfortable, and give them an opportunity to answer. This establishes your respect for their time and puts you as the leading participant in the conversation.

Even the most introverted person will have an opportunity to gather their thoughts and decide how they want to communicate to you. If they are unable to take this opportunity of silence, you will have some interview coaching to do before you present this candidate to your client.Chances are, the person you offer the silence of the floor to will  appreciate the opportunity to share their pain and feel compelled to end the silence with his or her thoughts.

A wonderful mentor of mine once likened this process of determining needs in recruiting to a doctor listening to a patient. What doctor gives a diagnosis before they hear what is wrong? I really liked that analogy. It’s that silence that helps you really hear the person you are talking with, too. It’s still an uncomfortable silence for me, but one I choose to own because it forces me to really pay attention. It also helps me feel as if I have control even when I’m not talking, and to Nancy Parks’ point, it helps me to really listen to the prospect’s wants and needs instead of just trying to drive the process forward.

As painful as it may be, that moment of silence is crucial to good listening. In my opinion it can be the key to having a really good inquiry in any business conversation. I have also found, it gives the perception that YOU own the call. You are in control. When you can force yourself to ask a question and then STOP and wait for the answer instead of plowing in to your pitch, you may be surprised at how much information you will receive. Try to own this silence on your calls this week and let me know how it works for you in the comments below.

Amy McDonald is the President and CEO at She has been working in the human resources and recruiting industry for over 20 years. Amy has worked with hundreds of recruitment professionals throughout her career, training best practices in sourcing candidates and refining the recruitment process. In her spare time, Amy participates as a thought leader and contributor for recruitment information with BIZCATALYST360

Views: 426

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on January 8, 2014 at 4:44pm

Thank you, Amy. This is very sensible, practical, and helpful information.

I've often been told similar things, though in a somewhat different way-

'HALPERIN: Shut the **** up!"


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 8, 2014 at 5:20pm

lol Keith I've heard that too, with my name of course :)

Amy this s a great post and probably one of my biggest downfalls. I have to work really hard at just shutting up and letting candidates fill the empty space. Definitely get better info that way. Thanks!

Comment by Matt Charney on January 8, 2014 at 5:33pm

HALPERIN: Never shut the *$%^ up, you've got too much good stuff to say. Amy, this post is awesome - I just thought not engaging would be apropos. Appreciate your taking the time to share your perspective as always and breaking through the overwhelming (and noxious) noise of crappy content out there - and yeah, guilty as charged.

Comment by Amy McDonald on January 13, 2014 at 12:38pm

Thanks for the positive comments on the post. It means a ton coming from you three and I can't keep quiet about that any longer.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on January 13, 2014 at 1:14pm

You're very kind, Amy. Please keep bloging!



Comment by Tim Spagnola on January 13, 2014 at 1:16pm
I agree Keith! I enjoyed this read. Thanks for sharing Amy.
Comment by Cynthia Doyle on January 15, 2014 at 10:37pm

Amy, I had to learn this technique over 10 years ago when I met the love of my life. He is one of those guys that must "contemplate" FOREVER before he answers a question. It drove me crazy for so long, but then I got the hang of it. I just thought of other things until he finally answered me. Sometimes, by the time he answered me, I had forgotten what I had asked him in the first place!

In recruiting, I have learned that after I ask a question, I just wait and wait, then wait some more. Sometimes, the client or candidate will ask me if I am still there on the phone. I just answer that I am listening for their answer to my question. I have had some potential clients tell me, "We don't want any type A recruiters working with us (as if they are going to get much else...LOL!) because all type A people talk but never listen.

Thanks, Amy, for a good write.

Cyn Doyle

Placements USA LLC


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