Turn Idle Chatter into Legal Tender

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 candidate.

It sounds okay, says Emily. But the position is a bit too low-level for me.

Id have to agree, you say. Is there anyone you know who might be interested?

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 department.

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 business.

You might ask:

Whats the new persons name? (He might be a referral source of candidates)
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 sources)
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 sources)
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.

By Bill Radin
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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