One of the most significant qualities all top recruiters have in common is that they’re fantastic listeners. The salesman stereotype would have us believe that good sales is all about talking. About pithy rhetoric and bombastic arguments. That couldn’t be further from the truth though, although I suppose you do see it frequently among some recruiters.
Recruitment has a traditionally low barrier to entry, so it’s little surprise that the industry is flooded with “grads” trying on their best Jordan Belfort persona. Nonetheless, there’s a reason the industry still has such high turnover and it’s because few of these recruiters will ever make it.
Simply talking the talk isn’t enough to cut it in recruitment. You have to be able to walk the walk, and to do that you need to listen.
So how do you know if your listening skills need some work? And how to do you go about becoming a better listener? Read on for 7 signs you’re a bad listener, plus a go-to guide of 4 pro verbal techniques you can use to demonstrate active listening (the idea of actually listening, versus just hearing). If you’re searching for the best online recruitment system, why not try Recruiteze? It’s free and there’s no obligation or credit card required. Recruit easier with Recruiteze!
Recruiters! 7 Signs You’re A Bad Listener
You Get Impatient
We’ve all had conversations with someone who talks so slowly it’s like watching paint dry and you end up constantly second-guessing what they’re going to say next.
You might be fidgeting with impatience before they finish their first sentence but as a recruiter your job is to really listen to what your candidates and clients are saying. If you’re frustrated and fidgety you’re not listening. No excuses.
The only way to really defeat impatience, if you’re wondering, is to work on yourself. This isn’t the speaker’s fault: it’s yours. Work on being more present, mindful and engaged – you might find it comes slowly, but it will come.
You Jump in With Solutions
This might not sound like a bad thing, but it can mean you’re a bad listener. Sure, if someone has proactively asked for your advice, there is a time to proffer solutions immediately – and your readiness to do so will earn you brownie points. But if the person you’re speaking to is just looking to offload, constantly stepping in with suggestions isn’t going to be welcome.
Obviously in recruitment, much of your job is going to be about solving people’s problems – but you can do it in a more thoughtful, weighted way. Listen to everything someone has to say and then carve out your solution to meet those needs. People won’t buy into your solution if they don’t believe you’ve truly understood the problem – and they won’t do that if they think you’ve jumped straight in with a cookie cutter solution.
Good salesmanship doesn’t come in the form of jumping about and waving your solution in someone’s face. Speaking of solutions, if you need a free online recruitment system – we’ve got the best. Click here and start using Recruiteze today.
Your Body Language Is Off
There are two things going on here. Recruiters need to actually be a good listener, so you can truly meet your candidates and clients needs. Also though, recruiters need to be seen to be good listeners. As with interrupting, nothing says ‘I don’t value your time’ like looking like you’re not listening, and that brings it’s own set of problems.
One of the biggest indicators that you’re a bad listener is body language. If you’re closed off, with your arms crossed and leaning back, you’re sending a clear message. If you’re not making eye contact, the same. So too if you’re distracted, fiddling with your watch or phone or nails or hair.
If you want to come across as a good listener, you need to look engaged and interested. That means leaning forward, making eye contact, nodding at the appropriate places and so on. If you can’t actually be a good listener, you can at least pretend to be.
This is the cardinal sin bad listeners make. There’s really no excuse to cut people off when they’re speaking. Interrupting means you’re not listening to what the speaker is saying – because you’re not giving them a chance to say it. Plus it’s rude.
Interrupting someone sends a clear message that you don’t think what they’re saying is as valuable as what you have to say is. That’s no way to build rapport and trust, and if you don’t have those, you certainly won’t build a successful recruitment career.
You Plot Your Responses
I was guilty of this when I was a recruiter. If you have an important call it can be tempting to work it all out in your head first, so you feel like you’re more in control.
The problem is, conversation is by nature reactive. If you go onto the call with a script in mind, you’re going to be pre-planning your responses in line with this script – instead of actually listening to what they say. You end up responding to what you wanted them to say rather than what they did say… and crossed wires do not placements make.
As Greg Savage writes, “listen to understand, not to formulate an answer”.
You’re Not Listening Holistically
True listening is about more than just the words someone says. Even over the phone, you should be able to pick up on cues such as volume, tone of voice, extended pauses, excessive nervousness, lack of commitment and so on.
These cues can help you understand what’s being meant as opposed to what’s being said, allowing you to build a greater understanding of that candidate or client.
You’re Not Giving Verbal Cues
Staying completely silent is almost as bad as interrupting. Stony silence communicates that you’re not paying attention or interested, and it makes the speaker feel like an idiot for talking to you in the first place.
There are several verbal cues you can use to demonstrate you’re listening…
Active Listening – 4 Verbal Techniques
Show you’re engaged by adding appropriate noises or small comments. This acts as positive reinforcement to reassure the speaker that you’re listening and interested in what they have to say, and want them to continue.
A word of warning though – this is a fine line. Try this one without actually listening and it’ll be immediate obvious that you’re playing a game (“oh yes, uh huh, uh huh, yeah, right, mmmm, uh huh?” isn’t a good look). Mix it up with other verbal cues as appropriate.
“Well, to be honest I’ve not been happy there for a while. It’s a culture thing, I guess…”
A skill with two-pronged benefits, questioning allows you to further clarify what the speaker is saying and demonstrates your listening credentials. If you’re truly listening, asking probing and relevant questions shouldn’t be difficult, and the more information you can get now the more likely you are to be successful working with that candidate/client.
“I’m looking for someone with at least 3 years’ experience in mechanical engineering, preferably working in the same industry”
“Why’s it important they have three years’ experience, specifically?”
As it sounds, repetition simply means repeating what the speaker said in words very close to their own. Not only is this a fantastic way to demonstrate engagement, but it gets the speaker into a ‘yes’ frame of mind. By mirroring their language you’re subtly reinforcing the impression that you’re completely on their side and they’re more likely to feel positive about you.
As we’ve written before, the higher you can build your ‘yes’ pyramid, the more positivity you’re creating and the more likely your final sell will get a positive response.
“They keep setting management meetings on Monday morning, but I’ve told them three times that I can’t make Mondays and they knew that when they hired me.”
“Seriously? You’ve told them three times that you can’t make Mondays, and they keep setting meetings on Monday mornings?!”
This is a classic active listening technique and one all recruiters should use. It simply means that you repeat back or summarize the main points of what the speaker said. It works particularly well towards the end of a conversion, or one ‘theme’ in a conversation, to sum up and signal closure.
It’s another technique to use when you’re building your yes pyramid, and it also allows you to check that you’re on the same page when it comes to important information, so you can ensure you never get your wires crossed. Summarisation is the gift that keeps on giving for recruiters.
“I get on really well with the team but it’s a really hands-off environment. I guess I’m just looking for something much more creative and collaborative”
“You mentioned salary earlier too. So you’re looking for at least $60K, and you really want to join a tight-knit and creative team, right?”
If you really want to accelerate your recruitment career, you need to start by being able to truly listen to your candidates and clients. If you’re a bad listener, you’ll be less able to sell back to the relevant needs, and you’ll struggle to build rapport and trust with your client-base. That’s a sure-fire way not to make placements… so stop talking and start listening, recruiters!
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