Im not a big fan of chit chat. Whether Im on the phone, in a meeting or
writing an email, I like to get down to business, say what needs to be
said, and move on to whatevers next on my schedule.
However, there are certain times when a conversation dramatically
increases in value the longer it lasts. For example, take the end point
of a typical recruiting call, in which youve described a job youre
trying to fill.
Is this job something youd be interested in? you ask Emily, the
It sounds okay, says Emily. But the position is a bit too low-level for
Id have to agree, you say. Is there anyone you know who might be
Not at this point. But if I think of someone, Ill let you know.
And thats where the conversation usually stops. Maybe you're afraid of
being pushy or overly talkative. But no matter; you got the information
you needed: Emilys not interested in the job.
Here is where recruiting skill has an opportunity to make more out of
this call and possibly build some rapport
But is the call really over? Not if you get really focused and unleash
your inner detective.
Tell me something, you say to Emily. Are there any companies locally who
employ the types of people Im looking for? And if so, which of them
would you describe as being top tier?
Well, Alpha Technologies comes to mind, she replies.
Really, you say. Have you ever met, worked with or heard about any of
the people there?
Well, my company just hired someone from Alpha who works in my
Now, isnt this a juicy bit of news? Think of all the directions you can
take the conversation, all the questions you can ask, and all the
potential discoveries that might lead to new candidates and new
You might ask:
Whats the new persons name? (He might be a referral source of
Did you meet any other candidates who interviewed, but didnt get the job
at your company? (Add them to your list of candidates and referral
So your company is hiring? (Maybe there's a job order you can write)
I wonder if they've filled his old position at Alpha? (The company
probably needs to back-fill the position, creating a business
opportunity for you)
Is Alpha a company youd like to work for? (Emily might be your first
sendout if you write a job order at Alpha)
Aside from Alpha, are there any other companies you've interviewed with
or would consider working for? (Probe for job leads and referral
Are changes in your industry shuffling the deck in the job market?
(Identify companies that might be hiring or laying off)
Sometimes just idle chit chat can help break down some walls. Still 5
feet of snow here how is Boston weather? These are just a few of the
pathways to explore if you're not afraid to ask questions or connect
dots that might appear beyond the visible horizon. In fact, if you apply
the 80/20 rule to the telephone, you'll see that 80 percent of the value
can be found in the last 20 percent of an extended conversation.
It's true that vast resources are available online. But assuming the
other party has something to say, nothing beats the scopeand relevancyof
information gathered from a thoughtful conversation. And on the flip
side, nothing burns the bridges of opportunity faster than a reluctance
to engage or a failure of imagination.