We customarily think of experience as a real asset. And it is, in most respects. When it counts, we want professionals who aren’t practically winging it. We want seasoned financial planners, realtors, pilots. But the trouble with experience in recruiters is that it can lead us to make poor decisions predicated on false judgments of candidates.
Nancy Parks, founder of training and consulting firm HRPartnersplus, has worked extensively with recruiters over the years and frequently sees them – particularly those with more experience under their belts – make this one mistake: allowing experience to serve as a substitute for listening skills.
A couple of suggestions she offers to stymie this tendency:
Don’t assume. You know that maxim about assumptions? The idea is that they’re often unjustified or incorrect. The experienced recruiter has conducted countless interviews over the years, so the temptation to tune out seemingly rote responses can be great. But just going through the motions with a candidate can mean missed opportunities to probe and clarify.
Try not to split your focus. Speaking with a candidate by phone versus in person isn’t license to check email or make grocery lists. Be sure to give each candidate your full attention.
Wait your turn. Really strive not to interrupt a candidate in his or her answers. Chuck your preconceived notions about where the response is going and give your candidates ample time to express themselves and fully reply to your questions. This may well mean tamping down excitement over a hot candidate until the most appropriate time to sell or close.
Slow down. Experienced recruiters are accustomed to driving the conversation forward, sometimes at the expense of what can be critical moments of pause. Parks asserts that brief moments of silence are especially important when working with introverted prospects, who might need more time to formulate replies or would perhaps add more to a response if they could get a word in edge-wise.
Have a slice of humble pie. Spouting off quick responses to every question can make hiring managers appear to be know-it-alls, damaging rapport and giving the impression of a lack of curiosity in what the candidate is saying. Really listen to what is being asked and “follow up with powerful questions,” Parks writes, “especially questions that help others gain valuable insight.”