You’ve likely heard the old joke applied when our elders remind us how easy we (or rather you) now have it and how difficult it was way back then. The joke goes something like this – I used to walk 5 miles to school in the snow uphill both ways. It’s easy for me to picture that, even if walking uphill both ways doesn’t make sense, because I’m now an elder. Yep, way back when I started as a recruiter 30 years ago we made 200+ dials a day with a rotary phone. At least that’s my updated version of the old joke. In case you don’t know what, a rotary phone is just Google it. In all seriousness, way back when most of my colleagues were not yet born, things were indeed different as a recruiter. In many ways however they are remarkably similar.
As I began my career in the fall of ’89 – that’s 1989 – there were no computers on the desks, there were no ATS or CRM or database and cell phones were about the size of a game console and required a shoulder strap to carry them around. The internet was still under development by DARPA and had not yet been introduced to the world. Email, text messaging and mobile apps were stuff of science fiction. Yet, us old timers or as I prefer “seasoned” recruiters somehow managed to successfully recruit.
Gradually, over the next several years, a PC showed up on my desk, we had a database with mass email capability and I have owned a dozen or more cell phones that fit in my pocket all except my first cell phone: the now famous Motorola Brick. In summary, there have been numerous technological advances that have made recruiting more effective in sourcing candidates and communicating with candidates and clients alike.
What hasn’t changed: however, is the importance of verbal and written communication or what are sometimes referred to as “soft-skills.”
It doesn’t matter how much technology you have at your fingertips and how proficient you are with deploying these tools, if your verbal and written communication skills are deficient you will struggle to reach your full potential as a successful recruiter.
The ability to actively listen and empathize with a prospect, whether in recruiting or really any sales role, is crucial to your success. You will convey a greater degree of professionalism by simply listening to what your candidate/prospect has to say than by weighing in on something in which you may not have true expertise. Through thoughtful listening to the answers of relevant probing open-ended questions you “earn” the opportunity to consult, guide, and influence your prospect.
Asking open-ended questions and using what I refer to as “commands” like “Tell me more about that.” rewards the recruiter with more detail, as opposed to the converse litany of “do you, will you, have you, are you, can you’s.” These closed ended questions are like the kids game Battleship. You ask B12 in a blind attempt to hit the Battleship and your opponent declares “Miss!” The ability to ask the right open-ended questions, use critical thinking skills, steer the discussion, and recommend solutions to either clients or candidates based on their needs is as essential as a computer or smart phone. Open-ended, probing questions get past the default position many recruiters find themselves in – taking an order as they listen to a series of preferences from a prospect. Preferences do not equal need. A true professional recruiter whether a 30 year veteran or a “newbie” with 30 days of experience must be comfortable identifying the true need(s) and selling to these needs guiding the candidate/prospect towards a solution that works for them.
Finally, I conduct many interviews for internal hires and I am frequently asked “What skills do you believe are required to be successful?” After 30 year as a recruiter the answer hasn’t changed a bit. To be successful as a recruiter still requires what I call “The 4 D’s – Desire, Drive, Determination and Discipline. Happy hunting.