by Bill Rosenthal

Year-end career checkup, Part 1: If you listen, they will call

Dec 22, 2015

Or call you back (recruiters, that is)

recruit interview
Credit: Thinkstock

With the holiday season and strains of Auld Lang Syne approaching, it is a great time to review and recharge your career’s progress.

Over the next few installments of this blog, we’ll explore some underappreciated career do’s and don’ts and how to stay ahead of the competition.

January kicks off one of the year’s busiest hiring sessions, and recruiters everywhere are making their lists and checking them twice deciding to whom they’ll offer these enticing possibilities.

Knowing exactly how to respond is nothing less than a career milestone.

Prepare by imagining a call (or text message) from a noted recruiter with news that turns all the sacrifices demanded by your occupation into one of your smartest investments. You’re eligible for a position that promises more authority, more money and more prestige.

To win out over the other qualified, expert and determined candidates on the recruiter’s list, turn a hidden key to communication success: listening.

A job interview is, at its core, a business presentation in dialogue form. The recruiter or potential employer is your audience, and your goal is to convince this decision-maker to choose you!

If you can insert what you communicate into the context of what really matters to this audience, you’ll become uniquely persuasive.

Language’s purpose often lost in translation

Imagine you are giving a presentation, and you have a toolbox to help you. Open that toolbox and words pop out, followed by sentence structure, paragraphs, outlines, etc. Language’s origins remain unclear, but it has immense benefits: when the listener or reader grasps the full, precise meaning of what others say or write.

We’ve all seen plenty of comedy — or tragedy — result when two people who don’t speak the same language attempt to converse. Even when they do, misinterpretations and misperceptions abound, and our workplaces prove it.

Job interviews and talks with recruiters are even more susceptible to these roadblocks, since they occur between people who probably don’t know each other and don’t have similar pasts (professional or personal), and when one party (you) is in the especially tense situation of seeking new employment.

A review of best practices in recruiting and interviewing reveals that listening, defined as a means to this end, has finally earned a spot in the curriculum on how to ace this critical skill.

Start by being careful. Instruction on listening typically centers on the ability to reflect feeling or paraphrase feedback. These are significant attributes, but remember, you must also develop and transmit your message entirely from the audience’s point of view.

A solution within reach, thanks to IT

Any reader of this blog can accomplish this task. The Internet and information technology itself ensure there are few, if any, cases in which you address a group whose hopes, stresses and interests you don’t know or can’t uncover through research and analysis.

Consider what you readily observe or can easily track down, such as how many people you’ll face during the entire process, who they are and what tests they’ll have in store for you. Besides the recruiter, you may encounter the recruiter’s director before moving on to various managers at the hiring organization. 

Map out characteristics that are less apparent but no less relevant to the relationship you aim to have with this audience. This usually requires extensive fact-finding, such as their day-to-day functions, their rank, their ages, genders and cultural backgrounds (which can include their primary language).

Investigate the environment in which they operate, from a company’s competitors, its reputation, its industry’s reputation and its recent history (good and bad), to its role in the global economy. Is there a threat to its main revenue source on the horizon? What does the press or Wall Street think of its leadership?

Connect the dots, then fill them in

Once you have this basic profile, you can begin informed speculation about your audience that will establish the genuine sympathy you want to experience before your very first contact. This is a good time to compare you own work life to theirs and resolve what they have in common with you. How are they likely to feel about the points you bring up?

Finally, you have the material to build a trusted, welcoming bridge to them, your strongest advantage in the interview “games.” This is the phase of your analysis when you complete your portrait of the recruiter and by extension the recruiter’s client, which is the only way to learn how to interact with both effectively.

  • What do they want?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What are their fears?

If you can meet their needs, place their dreams into view and allay their fears or show them how to neutralize these fears, there’s very little room for misunderstanding.

The one thing people always understand is their own needs. Some wise listening and this fundamental awareness will help you make the most of every recruiter’s call and interview.

Watch this space again soon for tips on navigating office celebrations, with an eye on your professional objectives.