“I like hot girls,” shared a four-year-old boy with his Mom. After her initial shock at these words from her son, Suzanne decided to explore the meaning of this statement. “What’s a hot girl,” she asked? “A sweaty girl,” he said nonchalantly. After breathing a sign of relief, Suzanne saw the clear logic in his statement given her son’s normal frame of reference centered around vigorous, age-appropriate, playful activities with both boys and girls.

Context is everything and understanding the underlying framework of someone’s comments is essential to true and deep understanding. Yet, I often watch people in our business make assumptions as to the meaning of words and statements in a conversation. These assumptions are the root of misunderstanding and inaccurate communication, and when left unchecked often spirals into service that misses the mark and relationships that end in discontent and disappointment.

Creating context is as simple as asking, “what does that mean,” and must be applied in all dialogues, especially in regards to modifiers and comments in conversations such as:

“I need someone with SOLID skills.”

“We need this RIGHT AWAY.”

“We’re looking for BETTER service.”

Taking the time to create context not only creates better understanding, it also demonstrates a level of care and concern that distinguishes you from your competitors, who will often settle for cursory details. This differentiator in your behavior makes you and your offering appear very “hot” in the eyes of your buyer.

Views: 175

Comment by Suzanne Levison on May 23, 2011 at 2:53pm
Much Truth to this post..A Rock Star XXX may take on various meanings
Comment by Greg Savage on May 23, 2011 at 5:53pm
Good post Scott. Simple reminder, but so very true of many communication slip-ups. Thanks
Comment by Andrew Hally on May 23, 2011 at 10:44pm

Scott, your post certainly gets the award for most attention-grabbing title! I loved how it turned out to actually be a good, related post.

Comment by Recruiting Animal on May 24, 2011 at 8:27am
Is it right to use a salacious title to attract readers to a strictly business posting? I was looking for something more. About booth chicks or the pitfalls faced by attractive candidates. This is unfair
Comment by Keith Plesha on May 24, 2011 at 12:02pm
Those 3 questions are all so important on the "agency" side.  Typically every hiring manager considers their opening the most important of the bunch when in reality they might not have the budget approved or a host of other variables that will prevent anything from moving forward in a timely fashion.  Your point to clear up ambiguous language is a very SOLID one =)  We use to refer to really good skilled individuals as "hammers".  The definition meant different things to different people.  As a recruiter that would facilitate candidates to hiring managers, I would always ask the recruiter to clarify why the candidate was a "hammer"...to get down to more of the tangible qualities this individual possessed that the hiring manager could identify with.  However, I will say there is a point where I client will be annoyed with clarifications, and as long as it's setup properly, they will still answer those clarity questions.  "I'm asking you these questions to save us both time as this process goes on.  The better idea I have of what you are specifically looking for, the better quality candidates I will pass your way.  This will save us both a lot of time and effort to hash out these specifics on the front-end."
Comment by Mark Bregman on May 24, 2011 at 5:51pm
One of my favorites is when candidates say "I want something more challenging" and we ask "and what does more challenging mean to you?" -- What a wide range of responses!!
Comment by Michael Webb on May 25, 2011 at 3:26am

I often relate the true story to Recruiters I am training about the importance of asking the right questions.

A Candidate approached me who had a technical background in computers and was living on the Central Coast, about 40 miles north of Sydney. He was travelling South to the city each day, but said he wanted a job further north.

I looked everywhere for something further north than his present employer. I contacted all the computer sites that were using the same technology. I found nothing. A week or so later I contacted him with the sad news, I was not able to find anything for him. He said that’s okay he had found something. I could not believe it.
“Where I asked?”
“Port Moresby” he replied.

Now for my US friends that is considerably further north than I had assumed. There’s that word again, assumed. To help you with the logistics, imagine a computer technician living in say Huntington Beach but travelling each day to San Diego and wanting a position further north. You would probably start looking around the Newport area. Then he rings and says I have found a job further north, Seattle.

When he said North, I wish I had asked “what does that mean?”

Comment by Charlotte Byndas on May 25, 2011 at 8:35am
Brilliant title.  In our group we utilize the CLAMS "homework" to follow up an interview with a candidate that we will be presenting to a client.  In this homework we ask them to rank Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money and Stability in order of importance in their job search....then we ask them to define each one.  It is amazing how many people send back different information than what they shared in the initial interview.  Not only does this homework help the candidate clarify in their own mind what they are looking for but it really helps the recruiter HEAR what the candidate really wants/means.  Further north...that one made me laugh
Comment by Scott Wintrip on May 31, 2011 at 10:00am
Thanks to all who commented on this post. To sum up, the difference between an average recruiter and one that is good or better...the good recruiter assumes nothing, asks lots of questions, questions the answers, then recaps those answers to ensure nothing was missed. And that is just the first conversation. Every conversation thereafter, the process is repeated.


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