On the surface, recruiters and customer service professionals don’t seem to have much in common. Recruiters are professional matchmakers: connecting companies and candidates to make successful hires. Customer service pros help out people who have problems with their company’s product or service. They sound nothing alike, right?
Surprisingly, recruiters and customer service pros have more in common than you might think. Customer service professionals make meaningful connections with current & potential customers on behalf of the companies they represent. Similarly, recruiters make high value, career-changing connections for a living.
Because they both make connections every day, there are many parallels between mastering the art of customer service and successfully matching a candidate with a job opening.
Here are the lessons I've learned about customer service from working with some of the top recruiters in the world.
1. It’s a very small world
The best recruiters build relationships with every single person they touch. It doesn't matter if they’re talking to a receptionist, a CEO, or a low-level IT candidate; they’re friendly and try to establish a relationship that can last into the future. When I asked our top recruiter about this, she said, “The low-level IT candidate today will be the CIO tomorrow. I’ll win her business years from now if she had a relationship with me from way back when. It’s a very small world.”
Customer service reps also live in this very small world. Anyone they deal with on the phone - no matter the level - has the potential to influence their future and your company’s future. If they build great relationships, they’ll find that they’ll win in the future.
2. People don’t ask for what they really want upfront
When I asked a few recruiters what their biggest challenge is in working with clients, they all replied with the same thing - what clients ask for in a candidate isn’t what they actually want. Skilled recruiters won’t go looking for candidates until they take a little time to dig into what their client really wants.
Good customer service works the same way. I often hear our client success team ask, “What are you trying to do?” when they’re helping a client. Like skilled recruiters, skilled customer service pros won’t answer questions until they take a little time to dig into what their customer really wants.
3. Deliver what they need
One of our Bay Area recruiters told me the story of one of his recent client successes. He had figured out what his client wanted, but candidates were all getting stalled in the process, with no one making it through to an offer. He was almost ready to give up and walk away, and then asked to talk to a couple of the interviewers as a last-ditch effort. After talking with them, he discovered that no one was getting an offer because they were looking for two completely different candidate profiles. He talked them into splitting the role into two and they made two great hires in the next few weeks.
Truly great customer service reps will do exactly what this recruiter did: they’ll go above and beyond to deliver a lasting solution to their customer.
In the world of recruiting, there’s no such thing as over-communication - with either clients or candidates. Both are anxious about the hiring process and want to know the moment there is any update. Or in the absence of an update, that there hasn’t been any change. Good recruiters communicate on a schedule whether there has been any change or not.
Whenever they have an open support ticket, good customer service reps communicate regularly about the status - unchanged or not.
5. Always close the loop
One of our cofounders was a recruiter for 20 years. One piece of advice he gives to hiring companies and other recruiters is to get back to candidates ASAP, regardless of the decision. Too many companies just let candidates fade away rather than doing them the courtesy of turning them down.
Likewise, when they resolve a support ticket, customer service pros let the customer know, even if it’s not the outcome they were hoping for.
6. Personalities matter
In recruiting, customer service, and life in general, there will be people who simply don’t get along with each other. This is OK. Sometimes recruiters have to pass candidates or even clients off to a different recruiter. Clients will pass on a perfect candidate due to personality difference. Customer service reps need to transfer a call to another colleague. In each case, the parties involved have to swallow their egos (and sometimes their tempers) and do the right thing in order to save the business and continue to succeed in this very small world.
In order to play matchmaker, recruiters must understand good customer service. And, to some extent, customer service professionals matchmake customers with solutions (or is that reaching too far?). It’s not so surprising that lessons from recruiters apply to customer service after all.