Elevate Recruiting Skill with Conscious Curiosity 

by Jeremy Eskenazi

It’s amazing how connecting dots makes the work of HR and recruiting teams so much easier. Knowing what the business does, how it makes money, and what’s happening in that industry is important. So is knowing what hiring managers are looking for – and how to interact with the right candidates. And yet, many recruitment professionals are not doing these things. 

The best HR pros have learned that the only way to be successful is to be consciously curious — meaning they are self-motivated to learn more deeply about how their and other businesses work and thrive.

Corporate training cannot fill a gap when employees are not curious — it may result in their retaining even less and, ultimately, it means they’re operating at a status quo. For consultative HR or talent acquisition professionals, ignoring the opportunity to gain more insight to improve their role a is a lost opportunity. Being curious is important because it helps the HR professional:

  • Gain credibility;
  • Improve ability to assess candidates;
  • Create a better candidate experience by better explaining the company’s strategy and how the role adds value;
  • Become an expert in the commercial language of the organization and its industry; and
  • Build and manage relationships with all key stakeholders: hiring managers, candidates, employees and leaders.

The “process” of recruiting isn’t hard — but it does take capabilities and competencies that are rarely taught. Setting and managing expectations tops the list, but what differentiates good from great recruiters is the skill of conscious curiosity, and it requires focus. Corporate workplaces haven’t evolved to teach this yet; training rarely leaves us feeling more informed or energized. Conscious curiosity is also not a step that can be built into best practice recruiting processes. Nobody will tell a recruiter to be more curious nor can it be measured, so how might someone approach working their curiosity muscle? 

Five Key Tips to Practice Conscious Curiosity

Note that there is work in building this skill. These tips may provide some extra help in developing this new cerebral muscle. 

Recruiters should do their own research about the business or industry and actually use the answers to inform their next few steps. This can be through industry newsletters or podcasts, following influencers on social media, or even online courses. The point is to go beyond the usual sources for information; even if it’s hard or it seems there’s already an answer — it’s important to keep digging!

Recruiters should share their intention and take advantage of the discussion by asking questions. When we tell people we’re interested and want to learn, they’re often more willing to share with us. So, it’s important to build on answers they give and ask for their personal perspective on a matter. We all invest more time when people show active listening, feel that their perspectives are valued, and the person asking is actually trying to understand what they are sharing. 

Recruiters should ask questions in a way that demonstrates they care about the answers and demonstrates some comprehension on their end. And they should repeat the response back to the applicant in their own words and ask if that information is correct. Then they should reply to the applicant with their thoughts on why they find the applicant’s response interesting or ask for clarifying questions about a particular aspect of the discussion. Most important: The recruiter should thank the applicant for sharing.

Recruiters should admit they are not “the expert” and should ask the applicant if there is anything else they should have asked to gain more knowledge of a particular area. They should invite the applicant to share info with them, even without specific questions. There is an opportunity to further connect with others when we admit we don’t know something and want their help to learn. Vulnerability is a strength when connecting with others and can often deepen the conversation to a more personal level, which gives the recruiter new insights but is also a very human way to connect and build relationships.

It’s important that recruiters show they care! It’s all about human interaction, so recruiters should keep in mind how we feel when someone is interested in us as individuals, what we care about, how we are doing, and what’s new in our world. Those who practice curiosity will seem like more caring people as well. Caring people attract positive energy and make it easier to ask more questions or have people trust them with more information. Recruiting is all about relationships, which are extremely hard to build when people can sense the recruiter doesn’t care and is not interested in what they have to say. 

At its most tactical application, conscious curiosity can help recruiters better understand roles in more business units faster, which can make them more versatile. This can also lead to improving their ability to screen candidates, on one hand, and, on the other hand, ask more probing questions to hiring managers to hit the mark on what they are looking for the first time. 

Now is the time to take the opportunity to be a cut above and turn on the conscious curiosity engine: Understand how the company makes money, have chats with different departments and probe deeper. Remember, being curious means listening twice as much as speaking. Top recruiters are capable of bringing in top talent because they truly understand, and they care!  

Jeremy Eskenazi, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CMC, is the founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique talent acquisition optimization consulting firm. Riviera Advisors does not headhunt; it specializes in recruitment training and strategy consulting, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent. From best practice recruiting, to improving speed to hire, to candidate experience, Riviera Advisors is a go-to place for strategic talent advisors.

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