The Value of the Dinner Conversation

Apr 14, 2003

Whether the talent market grows or shrinks, it is still going to be harder for companies to find key quality talent. We can expect to see more targeted hiring soon due to a pent-up demand by workers to make career moves and from companies who can’t put off hiring additional talent resources any longer. In this environment it will become important to successfully recruit and deploy the right quality talent, in the right areas, at the right time ó all the time. Your company will face increased competition for talent; therefore, it’s important your recruitment skills are honed with a sharp edge. Here’s a suggestion that may help. Before you stop reading because you see the “dinner conversation” title as simply a cute attempt to get your attention…please read on! I’m serious. Understanding the conversations and activities around the candidate’s dinner table can make your recruiting even more successful. So consider these hints, try them out and let me know if they help. A typical dinner conversation about work: Dinner Dan: “How was your day? Did you get the transfer?” Sue: “No. Corporate wants no transfers, period. I did get a call from a recruiter…interesting opportunity and company.” Dan: “Really. Local? Who is it?” Sue: “Meteoric Corp. Their recruiter called and has a project management slot. So I applied.” Two Days Later, Dinner Dan: “Have you heard anything?” Sue: “About what?” Dan: “The recruiter. The job.” Sue: “Not yet. He said it would take a couple of days. I checked out their web site and was frankly blown away. I like what I see.” Five Days Later, Dinner With Friends Ellen: “So, Sue, how’s work?” Dan: “She’s got a new job lined up.” Ellen: “Really! When do you start?” Sue: “Not so fast…I got a call from a recruiter this week but haven’t heard anything back yet.” Eight Days Later, Dinner Sue: “I haven’t heard a word from the recruiter at meteoric. If this is the way they work, I’m not interested. Besides, I heard from my boss and they offered me the new project.” Dan: “So, you’re going to stick.” Sue: “I’m sure not moving someplace worse.” Ten Days Later, Afternoon Meteoric Recruiter: “Hey, Sue, sorry I’m so late getting back to you. I’m swamped. Hey, I’ve shared your background with the hiring authority and he is really interested. We’re trying to work out a time for a phone screen with him next week.” Sue: “Not interested.” Why Timing Is Everything As a recruiter you can bet that every discussion you have with a prospect goes back to the key influencer in that individual’s life. They can be a spouse, significant other, friend or family member; you can count on the discussion taking place. As a recruiter, you can control the timing of the interview and hiring experience. It takes responsiveness, caring, and an acute understanding of what the candidate is thinking, and when. The conversations that occur at home are typically about work, and that includes the good, the bad and the opportunity for change. After all, it’s human nature to share good fortune with those you care about. A recruiting call about a position and company of interest is good fortune. It’s Sally Fields at the Oscars: “They like me, they really like me!” The call and interest is validation and affirmation that you count, you matter, and someone cares enough to make you feel special. Anyone would want to share, and why not? Most of you reading this are really good recruiters. Recruiters who do have the ability to understand a prospect’s needs, their abilities. When it is appropriate, you can make them feel wanted. But as recruiters with that ability, you also have some responsibilities that, if followed, can make your recruiting even more successful:

  • Keep your word. Follow up when you say you will.
  • Understand the prospect’s goals and motivations. Keep track and constantly refer to them during the interview and hiring experience.
  • Help guide the dinner conversation. Give them important data before the dinner hour. Don’t let them enter into a conversation where they will be asked status by an important influencer and have no reply. If they’re good candidates they deserve better, and if you want a good reputation it’s vital you are known as someone on top of the situation. For example, let’s say you recruited a great candidate late Wednesday afternoon and did not want to speak with them until Friday because you were waiting on the outcome of an internal interview. We’ve all been there, working to keep the process flowing without losing a candidate. Friday afternoon rolls around and you can’t get feedback on the internal candidate. What do you do? The truth is most of us would make the call to keep the prospect warm. But some of you might wait until Monday because you’d feel more comfortable calling with real data. You wait, you lose.
  • Prepare the prospect for the weekend. Count on the prospect having two to four “dinner conversations” over the weekend where they will be asked specifics about the interview outcome, or at the least will be at a dinner party and will hear the typical, “So, how’s work?” The questions will serve as a reminder to the prospect that they don’t know what’s going on with the interview and will cause all sorts of dissonance. And any bad feeling will be blamed on you and the company ó more obstacles to overcome when you do want the candidate. If you are working with a prospect you are really interested in, take the time during a Friday conversation to ask them their plans for the weekend and get a feel for the situation they might be in. Prepare them for conversations with the key influencers who will ask about the job, be truthful.
  • Get feedback the next day. Don’t be afraid to ask what was discussed last evening, and with whom. Use the opening to qualify interest, concerns, and objections as well as what the other person thinks of the company and the opportunity. You should display interest in the candidate prospect and learn very important information you’ll need to direct the hiring process.

If you are a recruiter or a hiring authority who calls prospects you will most likely be discussed this evening by anyone you touch today, especially those you touch for the first time who are interested in the opportunity you have to offer. Know the dinner conversation will take place and take advantage of the opportunity to direct the recruiting experience. If you do it right, those you touch will have nice things to say. Don’t pay attention and you’ll be talked about as just another recruiter who can’t be counted on. Hope this helps. In the meantime, great recruiting! One more hint: When preparing the prospect for the weekend, always ask them to help you find that hard-to-find candidate for a difficult position you’re trying to fill. They will appreciate the trust and it can give them something of value to discuss at any weekend event.