Listen First, Talk Second

I’ve often described recruitment as lots of talking—talking on the phones, “talking” over emails and texts, etc. This is fundamentally true, but one would be short sighted to accept talking as the only key ingredient. I’ve also found that listening to be just as important, and in some scenarios, it’s more. The goal of recruiting, especially accountants, is to place them in roles that fit. Emphasis on fit.

Very little good comes from placing candidates who will leave within a year. It puts the relationship with the client in jeopardy, lowers the value of the recruiting agency to the candidate, and causes much undue stress on Account Managers. Thus, we must find the roles that fit, and listening to candidates is paramount to this goal.

I’ve had plenty of interactions with candidates that don’t know what they want; they will say things just to say things sometimes. If you’re listening, you can identify this. But if you’re asking them questions like a survey or just trying to tick off boxes rather than listen, you won’t notice this. You will copy down their answers like a machine. If x variable is satisfied, then Y job is a fit. This ultimately wastes time. I’ve really learned that it’s essential to listen to the statements candidates make. Why did they just say that? Do they really mean it? Perhaps they are frustrated, biased, or otherwise not thinking clearly. Ask questions that reinforce their answers. Ask why. Suggest other possibilities.

When you’re on a first date, it’s doubtful the best strategy is to only talk. You have to listen and understand who they are as a person. This is no different for a candidate and a recruiter. The recruiter must know who their candidate is. Not to mention, these candidates do not want to feel like they’re being called to answer a survey, especially when they’re in the middle of work.

If you say “gotcha” or “that makes sense” to every response they have, why are you even saying it? It’s a habit to avoid “awkward silences”, but sometimes a long pause is the best way to show you’re thinking about their response, which is listening. I argue one can show more listening skills with a well-timed “hmm” than a repeat phrase like “awesome” “gotcha” or “sounds good”.

Listen first. Talk last. Now, literally speaking that may not be sound advice. Yes, you must be quick with words to sell here and there. Yes, you must be witty and sharp. But there will come a time during every candidate’s recruiting process where you must listen first, and talk last. Silence is awkward, but ponderance is understanding.


Edward Welles

Edward is a Recruiter at Aureus Group. He’s been with the company since 2021, helping talented people achieve their career goals and aspirations in finance and accounting.

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