Early in my career as a recruiter, I was working on a client service director position with a large advertising agency. I wanted to make a successful placement to build a strong relationship for future business. Every day, I would search for candidates, struggling to locate those with the unique skills and experience my client was looking for.
Weeks went by, and my stress mounted. I only seemed to be speaking with candidates who were either uninterested or unqualified. The client questioned my ability to find what they were looking for.
Eventually, I did find a candidate who accepted the job, but the search had drained my energy and raised significant self-doubt. Even once my fee was paid, I remained worried about how successful the placement really was and how long the hire would really last.
I’m sure many recruiters can relate to this story. You, too, have probably found yourself engaged in a stressful search where all you could think about were those results that seemed to elude you. You’re looking at the future, focused only on the milestones and goals to come while suffering through the journey to reach them.
The thing is, stress kills productivity. It may motivate you to get the job done, but in the long term, it inhibits the greater success you want. That’s why, over the years, I have trained myself to enjoy the journey of executive search. If you want to achieve your full-potential as a recruiter — or even just give yourself a bit of a mental break — I recommend you do the same.
I’ve found that focusing on the following three aspects of recruiting has helped me inspire my work and invigorate myself:
1. Enjoy Networking With People
Every time you speak with someone, see it as a networking opportunity. Instead of being focused on the position you are looking to fill, focus on the person you are talking to. Building relationships will bring you greater joy. Finding mutual interests — anything from rooting for the same team to a mutual enjoyment of good Chinese food — makes conversations more fulfilling and worthwhile.
Many recruiters are in a rush. They focus on the qualifications of a candidate, the fee they stand to earn, or promotion potential first. Try to put that aside. Avoid leading with, “What do you do?” Focus on the more important, “Who are you?”
Remember, you will speak to many candidates, but only one will be offered the job. Here is your opportunity to care about the person, not the position. Some of my best networking calls have never led to a placement but have built successful relationships.
2. Adopt a ‘Field-Trip’ Mentality
Begin your conversations with a “field-trip” mentality. That means empowering your value of curiosity when speaking to your candidate or client.
Recruiters who are pressed for time begin conversations by bottom-lining the job qualifications. They have a “test” mentality — that is, they are looking for answers. When you are on a field trip, however, you are not looking for answers. Rather, you are looking for discovery.
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With a field-trip mentality, you don’t lead with job spec information or questions about skills. Instead, you are interested in finding out what the person you are speaking to wants. You will be amazed at how positively candidates and clients react when you are really listening to what they want. Encourage them to lead the conversation; you will learn much more than you expected.
Recruiters are often focused on their own desires, wanting only to take the next step forward in the search. Some will try to convince a potential candidate who fits the job description to look at the opportunity without knowing who the candidate really is. They are not listening to find out who the candidate is — they are instead projecting their own image onto the candidate. This only makes building a strong network even more difficult.
3. Build Authentic Relationships
Building authentic relationship will lead to friendship and support. My best days are those where I make a difference in someone’s life. Every day, I speak to candidates and contacts who sound stressed on the phone. They are dealing with difficult circumstances at work. I talk with them to find out what is causing the upset, and I help them shift their perspectives to find inspiration.
For example, a CFO I reached out to was feeling overworked and unappreciated. We spoke briefly about the cause of his frustration, which led me to suggest he embrace a moment in his life that was calm and relaxing. He chose to think about being with his family over the holidays, and his perspective began to shift. He saw many of the people he works with as being part of his company family. He started to remember the good times, which deflated his stress and brought a smile back to his face.
Our relationship has continued to grow over the years. We are friends for life, and we speak in genuine, caring terms for each other’s best interests. I have many inspiring relationships like this, and they all started with a call in which I sought to build an authentic connection.
When you approach networking with a field-trip mentality and seek to build authentic relationships, you will limit your stress in recruiting. Make every conversation worthwhile, no matter how it affects your search. This approach will put you on a daily adventure that leads to higher productivity and inspires your greater success and satisfaction.
Barney Feinberg, PCC, CPCC, CPA, is the founder and CEO of The Chemistry Factor — Executive Coach and Recruiter and the author of The Chemistry Factor – Create Powerful Business Relationships for Greater Success. Follow him on Twitter: @chemistryfactor.