Do you know the correlation between recruiting and sales? Hint: they sell things.

Salespeople sell services or products.
Recruiters sell opportunities.

A great salesperson is spot-on when making that initial connection with a prospect; they’re skilled at building rapport and trust, and great recruiters should be, too. Now, I’m not saying recruiters need to be experts at closing sales—just that they should at the very least master building relationships.

And they can do it by perfecting their listening skills.

The difference between listening and hearing

First things first. There are 2 types of listening: active and passive.

Active listening requires you to get inside the mind of the prospect. It’s a conscious effort to absorb prospects’ words and to understand them from their perspective. Active listeners always remember what the speaker says.

Just think of yourself as a recording device.

Passive listeners don’t make an attempt to understand the meaning. Sure, they’re physically present and they hear the speaker, but they disconnect from the conversation. Think of it like those times you get home from work and hardly remember the drive. You know the end-goal, but you’re on autopilot.

People who listen passively are one step ahead of the speaker—except they don’t know where they’re going to land.

You can’t recruit for a role if you don’t know how to sell it

Questions prompt answers. So before a recruiter can begin recruiting, she has to understand the role. She has to know where the position fits within a team, the clients’ culture, and the most pressing requirements—not a laundry list.

The only way she can do this is by having a conversation. Ask clients pointed questions, and listen for the whole picture, not just a snippet, and use what you learned to recruit the perfect candidate. 

…And you can’t sell a role if you don’t know how to listen

All sounds great, right? But, how can you recruit the perfect candidate if you don’t know the candidate?

Spoiler: you don’t. The only way to sell a role is to learn what matters most to the candidates. Recruiters who don’t listen to others fail to understand candidate drivers, goals, values, and personal and professional needs and wants.

That’s some pretty important stuff in recruitment.

Unsurprisingly, recruiters who are active listeners identify more reliable placements, improve candidate experiences, and build genuine relationships.

The pitch and the flop

As a recruiter, I’m sure you’ve been approached before by another recruiter. I bet someone’s told you he had the perfect opportunity for you before you two even spoke. Somehow, a peruse through your LinkedIn profile determined every single thing he needs to know to match you with your dream job, right?


Recruiters like that have no idea what constitutes a great opportunity in someone else’s mind. They don’t know how to pitch the role; they don’t know how to share relevant selling points to fulfill candidate needs and wants. And just think about how rotten it’d be if the great opportunity really is great, but the candidate overlooked it. It’s a lose-lose for the recruiter, the client, and the candidate.

It’s totally possible that despite having the first-hand experience of that example, you didn’t quite realize what type of recruiter you were. And that’s fine. All good. However, to truly excel at your role as a recruiter, it takes going the extra mile, asking clients and candidates meaningful, thoughtful, and targeted questions, and while you’re at it, listening earnestly, attentively, and actively.