On announcing I was leaving the noble profession of teaching for a career in recruitment, I was met with many a raised eyebrow and a pursed lip. I took it on the chin that my moral currency was about to take a dive, and promptly started to read books on the art of persuasion (or ‘manipulation’, as my pursed lipped friends might call it.) A few pages in, I quickly began to feel that recruitment consultants were perhaps being unfairly judged. Yes, recruitment is predominantly about sales, and to do that we need to persuade people into doing what we want, but, is effective persuasion just about being a good person?
The first section of the book was about listening. The rather jaded theory behind this is that a) people like to talk about themselves, and happy people are easier to sell to; and b) you can use information people give you in order to manipulate your presentation of a deal to fit someone’s needs. To be completely honest, bosses, friends and a string of ex boyfriends will tell you that listening is an area I struggle in. Listening for me was synonymous with ‘waiting for my turn to talk.’ However, in the interest of making a fat bonus, I took the book’s advice and started to really listen to what people had to say. And the strangest thing started to happen – really listening to people made me understand their thoughts in feelings in a way I never really had before. And with that understanding came not just the ability to help solve people’s problems, but also the desire to. I felt connected to these people, and by forcibly taking the spotlight off myself, I was cultivating a mentality that put others first.
Next in the book came the importance of a good memory. Again, a section where I draw a blank (probably because I don’t listen). The ‘sales’ justification of this is that by remembering what people have said and done, you can refer to it again in later conversations, making people feel valued, flattering their ego and making them want to deal with you again. After a while of adopting memory techniques (repetition, likening people’s names to animals etc), I found that this kept the other person at the forefront of my mind, long after the phone had gone down, or the meeting had ended. Making connections between what a client and a candidate wanted suddenly became a lot easier as connections started springing up in unlikely places that previously I would have overlooked.
Finally – negotiation. Until reading this book, my negotiation skills swung from the door mat I’ll-pay-you-£10-for-a-Tunisian-piece-of-rock-negotiation; to hardcore, bullish, I’ll pay you less-than-a-grand-for-a-new-bathroom negotiation. Neither of these ever felt good. The idea that successful negotiation is when both parties feel they have won out feels like a great idea in theory, but is it possible in practice? Yes, it would seem! Instead of using the knowledge of your ‘opponent’s’ needs to drive a hard bargain in your favour, the key is to respect each other enough to ensure that, as far as possible, you can give a service that is within your remit to give and very valuable to the other side. If you aren’t willing, or don’t have anything of value to give, and vice versa, then you really shouldn’t be negotiating in the first place.
To conclude, listening to others, remembering their likes and dislikes, and good negotiation (also known in other walks of life as “compromising”) do all work wonders in helping you land a deal; but a deal in which everyone is a winner, and no one has been manipulated. You cannot and should not make someone do something they don’t want to do, especially when it is something as important as changing jobs. It’s about finding out what they do want, and then giving it to them. Easy.