Four Recruiter Communication Skills That are Crucial to Success
Recruiter Communication Skill: Prefacing (your questions)
As a recruiting professional, it is our job to ask lots of questions of our candidates. The challenge of course is not only getting our questions answered, but getting open, honest and unfiltered responses to our questions. This is where most recruiters struggle. Most recruiters lack the proper recruiter training and subsequent communication skills and as a result, they fail to uncover key data points (counter-offers, other opportunities, current situation, decision making process, etc.) about their candidates which lead to lost deals.
With that said, here are four recruiter communication skills that are crucial to success.
Recruiter Communication Skill Prefacing: Prefacing is a key communication skill and another way to disarm your candidate. Prefacing refers to the sentence or statement you make that leads into your question. Think of prefacing as the “set up statement” you make before asking your question. Your prefacing statement explains your rationale for the question you are about to ask before you ask it. Prefacing is a great way to put candidates at ease because you’re explaining to your candidate what information you need and why, before you actually ask the question. By prefacing your question, your candidate sees that you don’t have an ulterior motive. This builds good will and trust with your candidate. Prefacing can also prevent objections because now the candidate knows why you’re asking certain questions and trying to obtain certain information is important. Here is an example: Recruiter Says: “I would like to transition our conversation to gain an understanding of your salary expectations and how they align with the budgeted salary for this role. By understanding your salary requirements I will be able to properly manage our client’s expectations and also only present you with relevant opportunities to avoid wasting your time. Would it be OK for me to ask you a few questions regarding your salary expectations?
Now, imagine you're the candidate and your recruiter has just asked you "what kind of money are you looking to make?" Of the two approaches, which approach do you think is the most effective for creating a safe environment in which the candidate feels comfortable providing an open and honest response?
Recruiter Communication Skill: Checking (for agreement/understanding)
Checking is the process of the recruiter asking the candidate for feedback on something they have said or something the recruiter has said. It is how you ensure that you understand what it is that the candidate has said. It is also how you ensure that your candidate understands what it is you have said. For example, a recruiter might say “Mr. candidate, to prevent any misunderstandings, can you please share with me what your understanding is of the pay rate you and I just agreed on?” This is an example of the recruiter checking to make sure the candidate understands what they have just agreed to regarding pay rate.
Checking allows recruiters test for understanding and their agreement of that understanding with candidates. For example, a candidate may say “I’m only looking for positions between $45 and $50K and within 50 miles of Omaha within the manufacturing industry.” To check for understanding and agreement the recruiter might say “Mr. candidate, let me repeat back what I just heard you say to make sure I understand you correctly. You’re only looking for positions between $45 and $50K and within 50 miles of Omaha within the manufacturing industry. Do I understand you correctly?”
By saying “do I understand you correctly?” is the recruiter’s way of checking to ensure the recruiter understands their candidate and that they have no misunderstandings. This is a key skill, especially as you get deeper into the interview and hiring process and information becomes more complex.
Checking with the candidate also keeps the candidate involved and engaged in the conversation. After all, a productive candidate-recruiter conversation should be a two-way flow of information sharing. You don’t want your conversations to be one-sided where you do all the talking or explaining. And you certainly don’t want it to turn into a situation where the candidate feels like they’re being interrogated.
Checking also lets you gauge the candidate’s reaction to the conversation. With the information you gain you can change or adjust your position and strategy throughout the conversation. Checking in this context increases your chances of closing because you have verified with the candidate their position regarding what you have discussed.
The funny thing is, most recruiters don’t like to check because it doesn’t feel comfortable to them. Why? They’re afraid of what they might hear. The recruiter is afraid they may look dumb or silly if they misunderstood or didn’t understand what the candidate had just said. This often happens because the recruiter wasn’t actively listening.
Finally, it is possible to check too much or too frequently. If you check too often it will come across as condescending and insincere and the conversation just won’t flow properly.
Recruiter Communication Skill: Flipping (the conversation)
When engaged in dialogue with a candidate you will find that they will ask you questions. Candidates in particular will ask you questions such as “what does the job pay?” or “tell me about the opportunity?” and “what makes this opportunity unique?”
Additionally, you will also find that candidates will make comments like “how can you help me,” and “I’m not actively looking to make a move” and “just send me the job description.” They also like to say (on the initial call) "what does the job pay?"
Before answering these questions or responding to these comments however, it is important that the recruiter first understand why the candidate is asking the question and what information they’re really after and the candidate's motivation behind the question.
When recruiters answer or respond to these questions without first understanding why the candidate is asking the question they put themselves at risk for being pigeon holed into something they’re not or something that they can’t do or deliver for the candidate. Or they simply lose control of the conversation and prolong the recruitment cycle. Instead of answering the question, recruiters can flip the conversation by answering the question with a question.
By answering the question with a question or flipping the conversation, recruiters accomplish four objectives:
- Recruiters regain control of the conversation because now they’re the ones asking the questions-but the candidate still feels like they’re in charge of the conversation
- Recruiters avoid getting “pigeonholed” by the candidate
- Recruiters build rapport because the recruiter is now asking the candidate to share with them the “why” behind their question. This gets the candidate talking about themselves and what is important to them
- Recruiters uncover what is important to the candidate and why, which allows them to align their messaging and opportunity with what is most important to the candidate
For example, imagine your candidate says “what does the job pay?” You reply by saying “that is a great question, it sounds like salary must be important to you, but why is that the first question you ask?” The candidate responds by saying “I want to make sure you understand my market value and that you don’t consider me for opportunities that are going to be a waste of my time.”
If the recruiter had never flipped the conversation by asking the question “why do you ask,” they would have never learned that important piece of information. Instead they would have just blurted out a number and hoped it was what the candidate was hoping to hear.
Word of Caution (Regarding Flipping)
Recruiters need to be careful to not apply flipping excessively or in high frequency. Like checking, if you apply flipping it too frequently it can come across as manipulative and condescending. However, if you are driving the conversation towards a destination such as understanding the candidate’s true motivation for considering a career change or the reasons why they want to leave their current employer, then the flipping process plays a genuine role in dialogue.
Recruiter Communication Skill: Tonality
93% of communication is not what you say, but how you say it. Let’s think about this in the context of a recruiter pitching a candidate to their account manager or hiring manager. Your account manager or hiring manager listens to the words that come out of your mouth but what they hear is your tonality in which you deliver the message. Your tonality conveys how much or how little confidence, conviction and enthusiasm you have in your voice supporting your idea or your candidate pitch.
If your message fails to convey a certain level of excitement, confidence and conviction in your candidate, then your account manager or hiring manager will also lack the confidence and conviction they need in order to feel comfortable in moving forward with submitting or interviewing your candidate. Those who you work with and communicate with pick up on your tonality including your lack of confidence, excitement and enthusiasm. Therefore, when you communicate, and specifically when trying to sell an idea or pitch a candidate, you need to always convey confidence and conviction in your voice.
Recruiter communication skills are the most undervalued and under utilized weapon in a recruiter's arsenal yet they're the most important. Mastering these crucial communication skills are key to executing the candidate interview and improving recruiter effectiveness.
About Dan Fisher
I’m Dan Fisher, founder of Menemsha Group. Over 400 IT staffing firms including thousands of sales reps and recruiters apply my sales methodology including my scripts, playbooks, job aids, tools and templates, all of which is consumed from our SaaS based sales enablement platform and our mobile application. I’ve coached and mentored hundreds of sales leaders, business owners and CEO’s, and I have spoken at a variety of industry events including Staffing World, Bullhorn Engage, TechServe Alliance, Bullhorn Live, Massachusetts Staffing Association, and National Association of Personnel Services. Since 2008 I've helped IT staffing organizations quickly ramp up new hires, slash the time it takes to get new reps to open new accounts and meet quota, get more high-quality meetings with key decision makers and help leaders build a scalable sales organization. My training and coaching programs are engaging and highly interactive and are known to challenge sellers to rethink how they approach selling. Ultimately, I help sellers increase productivity, accelerate the buying process & win more deals.