Here’s something to consider: How would you respond if someone were to ask you, “Of all the questions that you pose to an active or prospective candidate, is there a single question to which you assign the greatest value?” Hi there, Paul Siker here with a quick thought about what I regard to be a really key aspect of any recruiter’s sales process.

In truth, maybe the best universal recruiting question is: Will you take this job?! Or, when can you start!? But, I’m really alluding to questions that happen in our initial dialogue. So, while you are considering this, I’ll share my “go to” question.

Back in the formative stages of my recruiting career, I attended a sales training program that really forced me to think about the recruiting sales cycle in ways that I hadn’t previously considered. You see, the sales program that I went through was really more oriented to selling traditional tangible products and services.

My sales class was made up of about 20 people from an array of different professions- technology product firms, waste removal services, medical equipment manufacturers, and then there was me – the guy who was trying to get better at recruiting.

This was a long time ago and while the sales course I took didn’t focus on recruiting, the program was invaluable in that it provided a coherent selling framework, and forced me to consider ways in which I could adapt this framework to my particular sales process. It was, in many respects, a painful process, but I reminded myself – “No Pain, No Gain.” Having been in this profession for roughly 3 decades, I guess things have worked out okay.

The sales program I experienced covered lots of material to include call preparation and execution; features and benefits; qualifying and validating; overcoming objections and closing – all good things, mind you, but none particularly wed to the basic but essential task of building rapport.

So I began experimenting, and working on rapport building approaches that suited my style, but more importantly, that genuinely work.

To this day, my go to question of any candidate is: “What do you do for fun?” It’s usually one of the last questions that I’ll pose at the end of my introductory or screening call. It almost always elicits a laugh from candidates – clearly they weren’t expecting this question – but, the answers are always intriguing and provide a moment of raw genuineness – You see, It’s really hard to BS about interests and passions – they either exist or they don’t. So, I like to ask people about their hobbies, interests, passions, and non-work endeavors. I ask because it allows us to connect as people, not merely as recruiter and candidate. I ask because it gives me insights about the actual person that I’m considering for a job. I ask because it often yields a common thread between me and a candidate (kids, pets, sports, food, etc.). I ask because I want to create a recurring touch point that not only allows me to build a relationship with a candidate, but build a trusting relationship where we are both comfortable putting cards on the table. I ask because I genuinely enjoy hearing each person’s answers – people fascinate me.

Now, somewhere out there, someone is wagging a finger at their screen and saying….”No, No, No, Mr. Paul – HR 101 says that you are not supposed to ask questions that don’t specifically pertain to the job itself. To do so is unnecessarily inviting the potential for problems later when that candidate is opted out of the process and rejected. We live in an ever more litigious world where candidates can sue a company for anything.” Well, I respectfully say, “Poppycock!” While I agree that questions should predominantly be about a candidate’s skills and experience, in my book not learning about the person, not making a connection, not having a friendly dialogue about the candidate as an individual is a lost opportunity – to distinguish yourself and your firm in the eyes and ears of a talented candidate.  And, if I’m a talented candidate, where do I want to work – at the company that was strictly business and totally uptight, or the company that was a bit more relaxed and that took an interest in me as a person. Pretty easy choice.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing success.