Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of delivering a presentation at the American Staffing Association’s Annual Staffing World Expo in Washington, D.C. I gave a talk entitled, “Going Old School – The Art & Science of Making Every Call A Great Call.”

The basic premise of my program was that recruiting has always been a communications vocation and that while email, texting, and social media are fantastic technologies, there’s no substitute for being able to pick up the telephone and communicate in a thoughtful and articulate manner, especially in a candidate-driven marketplace.

Dale Carnegie, one of the preeminent thinkers on human relations, once said, “There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”  For recruiters charged with making introductory or “Cold Calls” to passive candidate prospects, Carnegie’s observation about “what we say” and “how we say it” rings especially true.

When initiating contact with passive candidate prospects, a recruiter’s communications style as well as the content of what is being conveyed, have a tremendous bearing on how he or she will be received by the call recipient.  That individuals subconsciously formulate an array of judgments upon first meeting another person, has been well documented.

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By extension, we all rely on these same intuitive skills to assess the person behind the voice on the other end of a phone line.  And, this is why the notion of, “what we say and how we say it,” are so significant to a recruiter hoping to make effective cold calls.  Recruiters can take several courses of action to enhance the likelihood of achieving success in their initial communications with candidate prospects, especially passive prospects.  First and foremost, however, it is important to define what actually constitutes a successful call.

Too often, recruiters define a successful cold call exclusively as one in which they are able to immediately convert a passive candidate prospect into an active candidate.  In other words, success is defined entirely by the immediate outcome of the call, and “successful” calls occur only when a prospect acknowledges that he or she is open to considering new situations. While some passive candidate prospects may elect to consider the marketplace upon receiving a recruiter’s call, many will not for a spectrum of very valid reasons.

Here’s the truth: Regardless of whether a candidate prospect is open to the possibility of entertaining new employment opportunities, there is still great value to be derived by engaging these individuals in dialogue, learning about them, and striving to nurture the basis of a long-term relationship.  If engaged correctly, many of these individuals may become very viable candidates at some future time.  In the interim, however, they can serve as a tremendous source of market intelligence or on-target referrals.

Aside from redefining what constitutes a successful introductory call, recruiters can take several other steps to more effectively engage passive candidate prospects.  Slowing down one’s rate of speech helps to ensure that the content of the message being communicated is received, while also reducing the likelihood of sounding, “sales-y.”  Speeding through an introductory or cold call presentation to a prospect is far less likely to yield the desired result.

You see, all of us are equipped with a mental Rolodex of experiences that we subconsciously tap into when engaging other people.  We know when we are being “sold.” We typically respond by putting up our guard or by terminating the call altogether.  By controlling the rate at which you speak, there is a much greater opportunity to actually get your message across and engage the other individual in a meaningful dialogue.

Recruiters also can benefit by upgrading the actual language that they use when communicating with a prospect for the first time.  As was discovered by the renowned GE researched and psychometrician, Johnson O’Connor in the 1930s, an individual’s vocabulary level is the best single means of predicting occupational success in any career or profession.  O’Connor determined that vocabulary is not a fixed asset and can be expanded by anyone.  This is not to say that a sales presentation should be overly verbose or employ language that complicates selling messages.  But I would submit that using language to clearly and eloquently convey selling messages can absolutely make a difference in how a recruiter is received.

Recruiters who project poise, confidence and a solid appreciation for the market sector they serve are also more likely to present themselves in a highly professional manner, one that resonates with prospective candidates.  Also, there’s no substitute for being able to effectively articulate your company’s, or client company’s, compelling story. It is also important for recruiters to listen more than they talk.  By making the call about a candidate prospects aspirations and needs, a recruiter can build rapport while also understanding what might truly motivate a prospect to entertain the possibility of making a career change.

Finally, it is important that recruiters practice the delivery of their introductory calls.  A recruiter who possesses a thoughtful, effective and fluid delivery style is much more likely to find a receptive prospect on the other end of the phone.  And, a choppy or convoluted delivery style will dramatically diminish the quality of a recruiter’s initial presentation.

Executing a truly effective introductory call is something that takes time to master, but being cognizant of Dale Carnegie’s observation regarding, “what you say, and how you say it” will not only help to distinguish today’s recruiter in the eyes of prospective candidates, but will also favorably impact the results that a recruiter is able to achieve.

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