Published: February 18, 2016 | Updated: February 6, 2018
One of the biggest differentiators between being a good recruiter and a great one is the ability to listen. In talent acquisition, we are handed detailed job descriptions that paint a pretty good picture of the daily tasks the new employee will be expected to perform, the purpose of their position, and the minimum qualifications they must possess in order to be successful or even considered. If we venture out onto the job boards and social media sites, we can normally find many individuals possessing similar experience and deem them as “qualified.” They are then submitted to the hiring manager and the interview process begins. There are times when we get lucky and that submitted candidate is considered, liked, and eventually offered the position. Then there are the times when we hear back from the hiring manager that our candidate was not a good fit for the role for one reason or another and we normally take this news as a blow to our ego and check it off as a defeat, but what went wrong? Where do we, as recruiters, need to take responsibility of the fact that we did not listen to the additional prerequisites behind the job description from the hiring managers or the information divulged as we screened the candidate?
This is where the difference between listening and hearing comes into play. The first step to truly understanding the position is to have a detailed conversation with the hiring manager. This is where you can listen to the additional qualifications not listed on the job description. What communication style works in this position? What is the culture within the department or area where this individual will be working? What sort of background are you looking for in this role to ensure success? The answers to these questions and others will truly paint a clearer picture of what sort of candidate you should be looking for and the questions you will need to ask them to determine whether or not they are the right “fit.” You are the sketch artist in this painting and the more questions you ask, the more accurate your final product will be.
The next step is to listen to the candidate. The answers they give to the questions you come up with will not only tell you about their professional experience, ability to handle tasks, and soft skills, but will also reveal what they are looking for. Conversation is key. If you are simply getting answers to a list of questions, you are limiting your ability to actually listen for what the candidate is looking for and what they are capable of. You could actually just email them a list of questions and have them email you back the answers and achieve very similar results. This is not an interview. An interview should be a dialogue between you and your candidate. Through this exchange, they will likely reveal how different work environments affected their successes, what management styles work best for them, and in which direction they would like to see their career go. It is then your job to determine if this job is in fact the right fit for them. You can develop the right follow-up questions to answer any and all concerns you might have and move on from there.
As a recruiter, when we describe our job to others it seems so simple. We search through resumes, talk to candidates about their experience and move them through the process in which one final candidate will be selected and ultimately, hired. However, our job can be much more than that. We have the responsibility to not only direct the organization we are working for to make the best hire based on the information we have collected and the duty to ensure we are giving the candidates the most accurate and real depiction of what the job will look like should they accept it. This can all be done through listening. So the next time you are speaking with a candidate or HM, ask yourself, “Am I just hearing or truly listening?” When you decide to listen, you will see a dramatic difference in the quality of your candidates and an increase in confidence from your HM, making YOU the great recruiter you know you can be.
By Amanda Cunningham | People Science Talent Advisor