Interpersonal Skills (and tips) from a Recruiter (Audio available)

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*If you are on the go, go listen to the audio version of this post on anchor / spotify here: *


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What a lot of people don’t know about my profession is that we Recruiters are Salespeople. We “sell” candidates to clients, we “sell” jobs, organizations, and the opportunities that go with it. Selling requires a lot of social interactions. Those that master this skill reap the rewards. This was and still is my problem. You see, I’m not only an introvert, I am also shy and socially anxious. I have a steep learning curve, I must say. One of the best things that my job made me do is that it made me learn the nuances and tools for social interaction if only to survive the requirements of my job. I studied Psychology at the university and despite not being a full-fledged Psychologist, I was able to make sense of the theories I studied through my day-to-day interactions with my colleagues, bosses, candidates, and clients from diverse walks of life. Let me share with you the interpersonal skills and tips I’ve gathered and learned (from baptism by fire) as a Recruiter. 

Listen  – As a reserved, non-spontaneous speaker, I always end up as the listener in the conversations I have with people. This serves me well in my job, I think. The saying “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” is so applicable in my job. Why? Because I learned that by letting people have more air time than me, they will feel that they are heard and they will be comfortable to talk, and eventually, they will naturally give the answers I am looking for without forcing them into it. 

Get curious (and you will find the answers) – As a passive person, I admit some of my conversations end without me getting the answers I want because I don’t ask enough questions. I would be scared that If I ask the question, the person might be offended or would not want to answer. But more recently, I learned that nobody ever really got what they were looking for if they don’t ask for it. You just have to throw the question out there. However, delivery is the key. You will be surprised (pleasantly or unpleasantly) at what you uncover.

Photo by Amy Hirschi via Unsplash
  1. What is not answered is what the answer is – Continuation from the earlier tip if you asked the right questions yet you are hearing something else other than the answer you are looking for, most likely, the person is telling you (consciously or unconsciously) that their answer is “no” or “I don’t know”. Of course, people don’t want to be caught red-handed not knowing or giving wrong answers, hence there is a tendency to fill this void with too many words. The key is to keep probing (respectfully) until the answer comes out naturally.

Be careful when communicating via email – Emails and text messages have become a lifeline for me as it helps ease my anxiety over phone calls. However, in my early days as a Recruiter, emails burned me badly. It cost me to lose a precious account over my tactlessness in responding to an email from a client. It’s so important to remember that emails cannot convey our tone, body language, intentions. What they convey are words, sentences, paragraphs. If we are not careful how we write our emails, it is free for interpretation by the reader, and if the email is not written well, the recipient might feel offended. My best bet when it comes to emails has always been either: to be overly respectful and courteous or make the delivery simpler. 

Call – I’ve mentioned this is a past blog. Just picking up a call to discuss with someone saves a lot of time dealing with the endless back and forth via email or text. Also, this is helpful for people who are not savvy in written communication. I know many people (candidates and clients) who send short replies in emails and text messages, but when I pick up the phone and call them, they are so comfortable and they tell me much more. And finally, the phone call is a good way to “ambush” certain people who do not answer my emails or texts. 

Photo by Christina-WOCinTech via Unsplash

Follow-up – No deal was ever closed after a single call, email, or text message. No one was ever convinced after one meeting. For us salespeople, it is essential to follow up on the initial conversation. It can be by creating a call to action, consciously setting reminders to do the follow-up, intentionally following-up contact, having a reason to make the contact, and most importantly is persisting. True enough, most of the deals I’ve done, especially in closing deals with clients, were done so after repeated attempts in a span of weeks, months, and some even years. 

Put a face to the name – This is one of the most used phrases in the recruitment industry. If you have no other reason to meet a client or candidate, you can say this, get away with it and successfully book a meeting. This reason does make sense, that’s why we use it repeatedly. We are more likely to build rapport and trust people whom we have seen in person. As Recruiter, we can understand clients and candidates better when we see their facial expression, body language, feel that “room temperature”, and therefore we’ll be able to adjust our approach in real-time to respond to what they say. 

Read the room – “Reading the room” means understanding the non-verbal cues, opinions, attitudes, and reactions of people you are within a conversation or in a meeting. This is another skill that I had to consciously learn. For context, in Asian culture, we tend to be overly polite that we end up not saying what we mean, in order not to start a confrontation, or to keep the room “temperate”, or to show “respect”. So I have to research and sense what my clients and candidates are thinking first before I speak. In practical terms, we need to keep our senses keen to deliver the message we want to send across that is palatable according to the “room temperature”, or if not, what not to say to not change the room temperature from extremely cold to extremely hot. 

Don’t take it personally – Sometimes, despite doing everything that needs to be done, from initiating the call, following up, seeing the person face to face, asking the right questions, reading the room, my efforts do not bear the fruit that I want. Having dealt with countless people over the years, I learned not to take rejections and non-responses personally. Likewise, If they did not respond to you or rejected your offer, it’s not because they hate you or there is something wrong with you; not everything is about you. Perhaps, you don’t have what they need right now, or they may be going through something personal or problematic and can’t deal with you for now. Accept it graciously, learn from it and move on. 

Photo by Tiendat Nguyen via Unsplash

To be honest, I still find the above tips a challenge for me because of my personality. However, the learning experience overrides the challenges. I hope the above advice help you in working and communicating with people you work with, or just people in your life in general. It’s truly enriching to interact and communicate with people because through it, you learn not just about them but about yourself too. 

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