It’s More Than The Words

Apr 1, 2008

Why is it that Recruiters working in the same office, putting in the same effort, calling on the same type of prospects and/or recruits and using relatively the same scripts/words often achieve such different results? What is the primary variable? Here’s a hint. It’s more than the words.

While words are the cornerstone of all verbal communication, the manner in which they are used is critical in determining the message that is ultimately conveyed to the listener.

Several years ago, Canadian Bell Telephone Company conducted a study on the primary factors involved in face-to-face communication and their impact on the message. Their findings were validated by subsequent studies conducted in the U.S. The studies validated the following:

In Face-To-Face Communication

55% of the message was conveyed through visual cues. Most important among these were body language and facial expression.

37% of the message was conveyed through the manner in which the words were communicated. The manner was most influenced by the speed at which the person spoke and the tone of their voice.

8% of the message was conveyed through the actual words.

In our business, most of our communication is conducted on the telephone therefore eliminating 55% of the factors that are present in face-to-face communication. The remaining 45% now constitutes 100% of the factors that determine the impact of our communication. Using simple mathematical deduction, we can quickly isolate the primary factor that determines the impact of our message.

Communicating On The Phone

82.2% of our message is determined by how we say what we say while only 17.8% of the message is determined by the actual words we use.

That’s the variable. How we say what we say has more to do with the impact of our message than the actual words we use. That explains why two Recruiters using the exact same script many times produce such different results.

Although calling without a script(s) is tantamount to going hunting without ammunition, relying totally on the script(s) without regard for how you present them, is by far the greater error.

In conducting telephone role-plays with thousands of Recruiters over the years, positive results in the short-term are always possible through improved scripting. However, both short-term and long-term improvements are most dramatic when we work on improving their presentation skills.

The most important tool to use in order to improve your presentation skills is the tape recorder. Whether you’re role-playing (which should always be done on the phone) or taping actual calls (in states where this practice is legal), the tape-recorded calls will provide you with clear, objective feedback on not only what you said but also on how you said it.

Reviewing taped calls within a small group where everyone participates is ideal as you can learn from the experiences of others. However, you will always be your own best critic. Consequently, even if you are the only one reviewing the taped calls, much will be learned from your own critiques.

Through a consistent and on-going program of taping your calls/role plays and reviewing them either in a group setting or by yourself, you will significantly improve in the following areas:

1. Learning how to appropriately vary the speed at which you speak and the tone of your voice in order to insure the message is being heard and understood.

2. Develop many alternative approaches, scripts and transitional phrases so that you are better prepared to effectively respond to what you encounter on each call.

3. Learning to become a better listener, particularly by “staying in the now” and “listening for the period.”

4. Improve your skill sets as a communicator, grow your competencies as a Recruiter, while becoming more confident in your ability to effectively build a long-term career in this business.

The objective feedback received through the review of your taped calls remains the best approach, bar none, to developing yourself as a professional in this business (See TFL – 11/99 – “How Bad Do You Want To Be Good?). You will learn the words but, more importantly, you will learn that it’s more than just the words.

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and e-mails are most welcome.

Recipient of the 2006 “Harold B. Nelson Award,” Terry Petra is one of our industry’s leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including “PETRA ON CALL,” and “BUSINESS VALUATION,” visit his web site at: Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or e-mail him at:

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