The Great Recruiter’s Secret Weapon: Active Listening

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If you’re on LinkedIn, I’m sure you’re familiar with this line: “I’ve got the perfect opportunity for you with one of my clients.”

If you’re like me, I’m sure your reaction to it is: “Yeah, right.”

To tell you the truth, even I don’t know what my dream job looks like. Yet I’m supposed to believe this recruiter who spent 30 minutes tops reviewing my profile knows exactly what I’m looking for in my career right now? Therein lies the problem.

Recruiters are a special brand of sales professionals. You sell candidates on experiences. Just like other sales experts, you have to learn what someone wants before they can close a deal. Otherwise, you’re just a used car salesman. Yuck.

It’s Easy to Make Assumptions. Take the Time to Learn Instead.

Look, I get it. When you work in recruiting, you know the true meaning of “hair on fire.” You probably have about a million open reqs to deal with and a manager pushing you to place more people faster than ever.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy to assume your best strategy is to move fast and connect with as many candidates as possible. Like most shortcuts, though, that doesn’t quite pay off.

Trust me: Taking the time to learn about candidates’ unique needs and wants may require more investment up front, but it is more productive in the long term. A candidate may look great on paper, but they may still turn out to be a nonstarter. Every recruiter has had that experience.

Maybe the candidate is not interested in relocating — unless there’s a huge pay bump. Maybe they value company culture or career development more than pay. Maybe they’re just not interested in pursuing their current career trajectory and want their next position to be a total change of pace.

If it’s not a good fit, you’re going to have a much harder time selling the candidate on the position. When you discover a total dealbreaker late in the process, all the time you invested ends up wasted. Ouch.

Do yourself a favor and get to know what a candidate really wants before you aggressively push the sale. You’ll save yourself time, and the candidates will appreciate it, too.

Focus on Quality Leads

Learning about your candidates isn’t just about disqualifying the ones who won’t take the role; it’s also about finding the candidates who will be easy sells. By narrowing your candidate pool, you can devote more time to the ones who show all the signs of being good fits.

If you’re lucky, a candidate will be excited about the opportunity and drive things forward themselves. More often than not, however, the best candidates are more reserved and difficult to reach.

Giving someone your time and personal attention is one of the most basic yet underrated things you can do in sales. Winning over a candidate is often as simple as promptly responding to their calls and emails and demonstrating you’ve spent time learning their skills, career goals, and preferences. That all shows you’re there to help the candidate, not just to make a quick buck. It’s simple, but it goes a long way.

Active Listening to the Rescue

Okay, I lied: On its own, listening won’t get you anywhere. In order to be a great recruiter, you have to be an active listener.

Passive listening means you’re nodding along, saying “mmhmm,” but not truly listening. You’re not reading between the lines. You’re not letting the information sink in.

Active listening, on the other hand, means you’re fully engaged. You’re asking questions and connecting dots. You’re digging deeper to gain insight into the candidate. Ultimately, you’re making sure you leave the conversation with an in-depth understanding of the candidate and their fit for the role.

The trick is doing it over and over again — with each and every candidate. Hey, I never said being a great recruiter was easy!

Steve Lowisz is a keynote speaker and CEO of Qualigence International.

By Steve Lowisz