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6 Tips for Conquering Your Phone Demons as a Recruiter

I hate calling up people I don’t know.

If there’s a way to communicate with people that doesn’t involve picking up a phone and speaking to an actual person, I’ll use it. I’ll email, I’ll text, I’ll tweet, I’ll Facebook, anything just to avoid picking up an actual phone and actually calling an actual person.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to ring my friends everyday after school and spend a lengthy period discussing the day we had just spent together side by side. It was fun, I looked forward to it. If I needed something, I’d ring whoever and ask.

Nowadays, for whatever reason, I shy away from impromptu telephone conversations. If I need to contact a someone for something I’ll opt to send them an email. A call these days is reserved for emergency situations only. The phone is avoided like the plague.

And yet, when I need something – if I have a problem with a product or want to order something, I desperately want to speak to a real person within a business. I hate automated “Dial 1 for…” services. There and then, I want a real life human to help me. Imagine how candidates feel! In fact, at Social Talent we get more phone calls to our office from people looking for LinkedIn’s phone number than I care to mention! This tells me two things: 1) Recruiters somehow think that we’ll know it, and 2) People are sick of just emailing a helpdesk.

Phone DemonsIt would appear that I’m not alone when it comes to my phobia of the ‘dog and bone’, many of you recruiters out there have also given up dialing numbers too. It may be true that we’ve never before been able to communicate with other people in so many different ways, but regardless about our personal lives, our refusal to pick up the receiver is hurting our sourcing efforts. Our phones may be surgically attached to us but we’re using them for anything and everything other than their primary function: to speak to people.

So, here are some tips for conquering your phone demons:

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare.

If you’re anything like me, the reason why you often fail this crucial step in the recruiting process in favour of emails or tweets is because of the fear associated with having a spontaneous conversation with a candidate versus a controlled message sent via email. With an email or a tweet, we don’t get caught off guard. We don’t have to use our brains to think quickly and answer any unplanned questions a candidate might have. With an email, we can take our time to mould our pitch perfectly.

If you are planning to call a candidate (or a client, or anyone else for your business goals), prepare your conversation. Map out in a general way what you want to ask, with some wriggle room for more probing or slightly left of topic questions.

2) Don’t ask a question in which the person can say no.

This is a critical error that can stump a conversation and leave you without a leg to stand on.

“Do you have experience in X?”
“No.”
“Oh…”

Instead, rephrase this as an open question: “Tell me about your experience with X” – this allows the person on the end of the phone to elaborate on their own terms, which may open up even more opportunity areas for you to grasp, or write them off (in a nice way) to the opportunity at hand.

3) Don’t spill out everything at once.

Ask the person some questions to clarify if they are in fact right for the job. Remember, you’re not actually offering them a job right here and now – you’re just having a conversation.

4) If other people talking in your office distracts you from your sales call, leave the room

Sometimes this step can be impractical, but most of the time an important call calls for a quiet room with no distractions. Think urgent de-brief with best friend circa 1996 and you finally have a cordless phone. You took the privacy option over chatting away in the kitchen with your mam listening every time!

5) What if they’re not “The One”?

If the person you’re calling turns out to not be “the one” you are looking for for this particular role, turn the call into a networking opportunity. You never know when that person is ideal for a role in the future. When you need to call them again for the role where you know they are perfect, you’ve already started the relationship and they will take your call. There’s no such thing as a bad contact in our business!

6) All you are looking for is a time to talk.

As we said above, you’re not offering them a job right here and now – just a time to talk things through more thoroughly. Suggest meeting for a quick coffee before work if phone calls really aren’t your (or their) thing.

Obama on the phone

Here’s the thing that both you and I need to learn: attention is a prized commodity. Nothing can replace picking up the phone and actually talking to a real person (or one step further: creating “serendipity moments” by meeting them in person). We have a motto here at Social Talent when it comes to your online sourcing methods: “Get in, get out, get on the phone”. In other words, educate yourself to effectively and efficiently source candidates through social means then get off the internet and on to the phone. By speaking to a potential candidate in real-time, you strengthen the recruiter-candidate relationship, you promote confidence in each other about one another, you cease to be a faceless email contact, they’ve heard your voice so they know you’re real, they’ve connected with you and you can gauge their opinion and their attitude by the tone of their voice.

Unfortunately, the temptation for many recruiters is to contact candidates via the same medium on which you found them, and that’s usually LinkedIn. We use platforms that we as recruiters are comfortable with, not the medium that the potential candidate uses (they may have a LinkedIn profile, but they don’t hang out on LinkedIn!). As recruiters, our primary objective is to get a candidate’s attention and make them want the job we’re offering. Some suggested reading: this eye-opening case study by Elaine Wherry, The Recruiter Honeypot on Recruiter’s exclusive reliance on LinkedIn.

Consider these stats released at the last year’s Mobile Recruiting Conference: the average response time to an email is 72hrs, to a tweet is 3 minutes but a phone call – well, a phone call is instant.

Our advice? Do what others don’t. One metric often used to measure the effectiveness of a Recruiting (or a sales) team is the noise in the room – is it full of voices on the phone or keyboard clacking? I hope it turns into the former.

Happy dialing!

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