Recruiters please, shut up and listen!

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Most of us are told that recruitment is a sales job. And it is.


But the truth of selling is badly misunderstood. Selling in old-style recruitment means volume of calls, pleading for client visits, and pushing people into jobs where maybe the fit is dubious, at best.


But in fact the real selling in staffing is based on an ability to uncover and understand. Uncover and understand our customers needs and motives, that is. So being a great recruiter is going to require many so called ’soft skills’, like listening, probing,uncovering and questioning.


Successful recruiters will have the interpersonal skills to really get to know their client hiring managers on a person to person level, including their leadership style and knowing the type of employee that responds to that style.


And so as the staffing market recovers, it’s important we start talking about things we never considered before. Like the client mindset.


Let’s think for a moment about the mindset of clients as the market recovers. We need to remember that clients will be bruised from layoffs and cutbacks. They will be under pressure to deliver. They may be confused themselves about the strength of the market and whether it’s time to hire. Their own corporate strategies will have changed, culture will have evolved, management style will have

changed, corporate needs will have changed, and indeed there is a good chance that their own manager may have changed under a restructure or a downsizing. So initial hiring will be tentative. There may be some tyre-kicking by clients. Clients will want to get an “exact fit” because they will be terrified of making mistakes.


So that brings us to the importance of asking questions to truly understand client needs. I have been on thousands of visits to clients with recruiters. Most recruiters ‘talk at’ the client. Few really seek to understand. Bear in mind the client may not know themselves what they really need. It may be a journey of joint discovery. We need to take great job orders, be consultative and question clients briefs carefully.


The biggest cause of placements falling through is people making assumptions. Recruiters taking what they are told at face value. You need to develop a relationship with your client and talent where
questioning is actually welcome. It’s like a doctor asking questions while working towards a diagnosis. Why is a candidate really wanting to move jobs? What are her true motivators? What is a client’s real ceiling when it comes to salary they will pay? Why does the job require the candidate to have 10 years experience in a certain environment?


Traditionally recruiters are the best of talkers. But now we have to learn active listening as a core skill, and we have to question everything.

Views: 50

Comment by Bobby Whitehouse on June 22, 2010 at 10:58am
Well said! When both sides of the equation are equal, you get a win x3. A win for the client who has a new star, a win for the candidate who is in a great job and a win for the recruiter who will be invited back. Nice piece.
Comment by Bill Ward on June 22, 2010 at 2:26pm
Amen!!! and as far as candidates go, the same is true. Stop trying to sell candidates that you don't even know! My wife gets recruiter solicitations all the time. They always say the same the same thing; "your resume looks great, I think you would be great for..." they haven't even interviewed her yet and they say this within the first few minutes of the call! Talk about desperation!
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on June 22, 2010 at 9:44pm
Great post Greg. Far too often the focus is on selling rather than understanding the need first, followed by suggesting a solution. Clients like options and this is where the consulting part should kick in. When you have a great relationship with the client you can approach the situation much more like joint problem solving exercise.

I think you have nailed the cautious approach we can expect combined with high expectations.

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