The HR Juggler

The Art of Conversation

Posted on: March 14, 2011

In general I work well with recruitment consultants; I am very picky with who I work with and over the years have perfected the art of deflecting unwanted cold calls in a very short space of time, politely and firmly without being drawn into unnecessary dialogue about the whys and wherefores. Harsh? I don’t think so – I’m busy and reserve the right to work with those that are proven, capable professionals. I know plenty of talented, skilled recruiters who I value highly….and I tend to ignore the slightly irritating ones who are on the periphery, always trying to find a way in.

Just sometimes though, I receive a call that just amazes and astounds me and temporarily makes me feel very cross.  This morning was one of those times.

I picked up the phone when it rang and greeted the caller, only to be met with a silence and loud music blaring in the background…so loud that I can tell you exactly which Girls Aloud song it was…and believe me, I’m no expert.  After at least 5 seconds of ‘blare’, and just before I was about to put the phone, the conversation finally started and proceeded along the following lines:

Me: Hello?

RC: Oh….hello!….is that Alison?

Me: Yes

RC: Oh great, I’m Susie* from RecruitYouLike*….blah blah blah sales pitch…I’ve just joined the team and I’m phoning you to introduce myself

Me: You’ve already rung me to introduce yourself – we spoke last week

RC: No, no I’ve just joined the team, previously you dealt with Jason* I’m just phoning to introduce myself

Me: I spoke to you last week, you have already introduced yourself

RC: Oh…I sent an email…

Me: Yes and you also rang and we had this conversation

RC: Well, I sent the email and I wanted to check it had arrived, because….

Me: It did. Goodbye.

So, I don’t mean to be overly harsh, but this type of conversation is just so damaging to the reputation of recruitment agents in general and their relationship with clients. I am busy and am really not interested. I wasn’t really interested the first time she called, although I was polite and finished the conversation quickly. But the same conversation twice in a week? Please! The irony is that this company have been on our preferred suppliers list. It speaks volumes for the lack of authenticity, training, standards and general competence to be making such a mistake. And had she admitted her mistake and apologised straight off, I would have been far less irritated.

The art of conversation is not difficult…it starts with knowing who you are speaking to, having a bit of empathy and being authentic.  Is that so much to ask??!

* not their real names!

15 Responses to "The Art of Conversation"

Hi A
You should name and shame or at least send them a link to your blog – so that they can see how utterly unprofessional it is. I am sure I am not the first and wont be the last to agree with you.

Go on get them to face up to what they are doing

Hi Beth

I worry slightly that this will lead to the person concerned being sacked or harshly disciplined, rather than the company as a whole changing their approach.

Thank you for commenting – I will remember not ot mess with you or James on this one!! 😉

I’m afraid I was a little more aggressive last time I had one of those…

As my nan said with the advent of TV, conversation is a dying art. Still, it’s not dead yet… maybe there’s a Twitter campaign in the offing? #ironic 😉

The lesson here is own up to your mistake, I made two hashed calls this afternoon because my notes were wrong (within the space of 2 minutes- due to the notes).

Realised my mistake, apologised, had a laugh with the people concerned and moved on.

One of the best bits of advice I ever had was “If you screw up, own up” Clients and colleagues will respect you much more.

So whilst this was very annoying for you, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the person who called- not excusing it but I know how it can be done. Hopefully this person has learnt their lesson and will move forward and not make the same mistake.

I agree – had she accepted her mistake it would have been much better. Its also not entirely her fault – the company undoubtdly must put huge pressure on their probably very junior and not well paid staff about the number of calls they should make.

This is just another sorry example of what happens when you run a recruitment firm with KPI’s. This poor sap probably hasn’t got a clue who she rang or when. Obviously, it also helps to have some sense of professionalism which also seems to be lacking here, but the key is the drivers to the behaviour.

As long as it makes money, they just keep on trotting out the same old ways of doing things. Wonder what they will do when the market for what they do gets so small that they dont make any money?

Name and shame!!! Gwaaaan!

Happy to tell you (or anyone else!) by DM, just feel a bt uncomfortable with public naming and shaming….!

You’re right in what you say though

I’m very glad you wrote this Alison, it shows very clearly what recruitment agencies & many business to business sales agents are doing, and they’re doing it very wrong!

The power of branding is very important in growing a business, but how does a brand develop? Through the experiences one has with the brand.

I tweeted earlier today the fact that every employee is a brand ambassador, of course I was inferring when people were outside of work. To have someone officially representing a company, and not even remembering the conversation they’d had with a prospective/actual client. Really does not leave a positive impression of the brand.

The “make a hundred calls you might get one sale” approach is flawed, deeply. It creates many experiences just like the one you describe. These type of experiences given to potential customers by the brand do not produce business results. Or rather they do- the results it produces are: mistrust, dislike and a lack of respect. These are qualities that are going to be talked about.

While I respect your decision not to publicly name this particular recruitment agency, I do whole heartedly agree with your first commenter- send their manager a link to this blog post. This is positive feedback, an essential element of “engagement” which I discussed on Gary’s blog the last few days.

By expressing what is not palatable, what is not useful, it will encourage & stimulate discussion in the industry, and who knows, even eventually might result in real change that would both benefit the recruitment agencies & the companies that would like to use their services.

In summary, by writing this blog post, you’re doing them a favour, IF they’re paying attention.

I look forward to seeing how the recruitment industry evolves over the next few years, I am talking to some innovative people at the moment about their vision for new methods of recruitment, and it’s exciting!

Thanks for commenting Claire – really appreciate it

Having read the comments since mine, I’m inclined to ask what methods would you prefer?

There is no doubt that, the ‘throw enough mud and eventually some will stick’ method is not always a long term sustainable method on its own- but when you’re in a sales environment, fresh in or as a new business how else do you get your name known?

As for KPI’s in the right hands they are effective- the question is what KPI’s are they beating their consultants around the head with? If its how many calls you made then that would explain this situation. There are other more effective KPI’s that can be used to measure and provide more effective results.

Admittedly, there appears to be a lack of training in this example and commercial nouce on behalf of the consultant.

Cold Calls, knocking on doors will never go away, we don’t all like it but it clearly works otherwise it couldn’t exist as a process.

With this example and the one James wrote about in his blog, I wouldn’t blame the method of contact but the distinct lack of training or attention to detail by the consultants.

I have been thinking about the what method I would prefer question. What I actually find quite hard to dismiss out-of-hand is the person who rings up, has clearly done their research and seen what vacancies are posted on our internet, taken some time to think about what we need and identified some potential candidates.

These roles were telesales roles, so in that scenario, if a company had done all of the above (and particularly that they were already on our PSL, so it should have been an easy sell) I would have probably pointed them in the direction of the recruiting manager or relevant HR Manager.

Research is key, although I am sure recruiters are rarely allowed the time for this. I am very rarely the “right” person to contact for a vacancy, and just by checking out my job title on LinkedIn or similar, people would be able to see that. There is an obsession with going to the most senior person available, but they would usually get a much better and more helpful response from going directly to one of my team, who is actively involved in the recruiting process for that role.

And keeping in touch just or the sake of it? Never works for me.

Anyway, thats my two-penneth, for what its worth. Thanks for both comments, you got me thinking 🙂

It’s a good point, contact for contact sense, no I don’t agree with it either.

Contact to build relationships and develop a connection is essential but it doesn’t always need to be a phone call & it must be timed well.

As for you not being the appropriate person to call, that comes down to experience and again training.
the challenge from my side of the fence (and the guys calling you) is to get past the gate-keeper. Quite often its a 50/50 call but having the ability to ask a common sense question like- are you the right person to speak to about this – can be a good start.

Interestingly, how many people when they call you ask if its a convenient time to talk?

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