How One Conversation Can Change Your Career

We’ve all been there: at work, in the middle of a busy day, stuck on a phone call we really don’t have time for.

You know which call I’m talking about, right? The sales call you didn’t mean to pick up. Or maybe this conversation is taking place in person with a loquacious coworker. The point is, you’re stuck in a dialogue with a person who is consuming time you don’t have to spare. And you’re getting nothing in return.

Or are you?

Early in my career, I had the good fortune of learning a very important lesson. Which was, treat everyone with respect, because you never know who you’re talking to. The following is a true story.

It was my second day as Junior Finance Recruiter. Young, eager, and scrambling to make an impact, I took a call that nobody else wanted to take. It was from a talkative marketing graduate seeking some general career advice – hardly the passport to untold riches!

What many people don’t realize about recruiters is that we don’t get paid for our services unless we actually place candidates in open jobs. Therefore, time spent talking to ‘non-placeable’ job seekers (which in this case I was doing) is time not spent on the activities that result in booking deals and receiving commission checks. Hence the lack of competition for this particular call.

But in my recruiting naiveté, I listened, gave some general advice that I hoped would benefit the candidate, explained politely that I would not be able to help directly because her area of specialization was outside of mine, and casually – if unconvincingly – invited her to call me if she ever needed any other career guidance. I neither asked for nor solicited any referrals or leads from her (for which I was scolded by my boss after the call had concluded).

The next day, I took a call from the CFO of a publicly quoted, ‘blue chip,’ multi-national company in the consumer goods industry. To my great surprise he had asked for me by name.

He then proceeded to provide me with the details of three top-notch Job Openings for which his company was hiring. Nervously, I transmitted the information from my brain to my hand to our New Leads book in a nearly-illegible scrawl.

It was my third day on the job, and I was bringing in a major fish. I was too stunned to question my good fortune.

As was so often the case in those early days, I was eager to end the call (for fear that I might screw up) and would have done so had one of my more senior colleagues not reminded me that I needed to find out why this Gentleman had called in and asked for me specifically.

So I asked him, and the lessons implicit in his response have remained with me to this day:

“Because you gave my daughter some great career advice yesterday when so many other so-called recruiters wouldn’t give her the time of day.”

The time of day. That was all it took. For years to come, both Father and Daughter provided me with multiple recommendations, leads and referrals that fast-tracked my budding career.

Which just goes to show – you never know who you’re talking to. A little respect clearly goes a long way even if the benefits might not be so immediately discernible.

The old adage, ‘what goes around comes around,’ is as true today (if not more so) as it was back then. Never think that time spent talking to other professionals, whether neatly aligned with your specialty or not, is wasted. One way or the other, it never is.

Every conversation is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on somebody’s stream of consciousness. Treat them better than others would do in the same circumstances, and they’ll remember the interaction and communicate their feelings to others.

Of course, the reverse is also true. Treat people – especially customers – with a lack of respect, and at best they’ll forget you ever existed. Today it’s more likely you (and your firm) will receive a stinging rebuke on Yelp for all the world to see. Not to mention Twitter, Facebook and the rest.

In business, credibility is gained by the inch and lost by the yard. Good luck in your recovery!  Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.

For those of us in recruiting, we constantly walk this fine balance. On one side we serve ‘client’ customers who pay the bill when a placement is made. On the other we serve ‘candidate’ customers whose engagement is critical to the consummation of the placement being made.

However, many of those ‘candidate customers’ with whom we interface will never be placed.

How those non-placed candidates are treated significantly defines recruiting firms and creates the kind of karma upon which our brands and enduring success in a very competitive marketplace are based.

The second part of Proven Recruiting’s mission statement specifically refers to all candidate customers regardless of whether or not they are placed.  …”to present our candidates with career choices that positively impact their lives.”  Implicitly, there is the recognition that we cannot place every candidate we come into contact with (nobody can) but we can provide every candidate with whom we come into contact with the benefit of our market expertise, career guidance and direction and, perhaps most importantly, the time of day.

Give me a call if you’d like to discuss: 858 412 1133 (my direct line).

About the author:

Ingram Losner_0325_v1cIngram Losner
Co-Founder, Proven Recruiting

Contact Ingram > 

Ingram is a founding member of Proven Recruiting, and his staffing industry experience spans 23 years and 2 continents. He ran his own recruiting business in London between 1988 and 1996, and prior to founding Proven Recruiting, Ingram was a Group President for one of the largest professional staffing companies in the world. Renowned for building great teams and developing some of the highest preforming associates in the business, his teams won 6 major awards in 6 years for overall performance and customer service. Ingram graduated from London University with a degree in Economics and spent 4 years as an Accountant with a large UK firm of Chartered Accountants. Ingram is active in the community and is involved with several local charities and non-profit groups.