Naked Babies

Silence is golden; speech is silver. ~ American Proverb

My brother-in-law visited the past week from New York City. He comes, usually, every August to stay a week or so with us here in part of the heartland of America, southwestern Ohio. That’s when the corn starts coming in and the tomatoes are ripe on the vine and he times his visits (I suspect) so he can eat like a king at our harvest table. We grow both.

I call it the Midwest; he argues that we’re not far enough west to be called mid-anything. Be that as it may, he is living in that peaceful twilight between the years your kids are grown and out of the nest and the beginning of the tsunami when they have grandchildren and those grandchildren become yours to keep a portion of some of your days. Or all of your days. Or every other day, whatever it may be.

Entering the room and gingerly turning over a naked doll-baby discarded and laying face-down on the floor with the big toe of his right foot, he sardonically declared, “Dead.”

I laughed just as the thing started babbling, googling, and burping, and leaving out sounds that normally are reserved for the nether regions of the body, all thanks to two D batteries in its back that are not yet dead.

“What did that thing cost?” he asked, warily eyeing the lifeless form on the floor that refused to stop emitting sound once prodded.

“Oh that’s a 50-cent Goodwill baby. If you go on Sundays, everything is half off if you’re over 50,” I answered.

Nodding at another smaller doll-baby sitting quietly in a chair across the room, he asked, “And that one?”

“Oh, that one cost about 10 bucks on sale at Kohl’s. That’s a store-bought baby. It doesn’t talk.”

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“Doesn’t talk?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’s why it cost more,” I answered with a wink.

And it occurred to me that this might be a good lesson for sourcing and recruiting.

How many of us think we have to talk our prey to death to get results? There are still a good number of people out there who think a good salesperson is a good “talker.” A good salesperson, like a good recruiter or sourcer, is a good listener and worth many times their weight in gold over a babbling fool.

Do you feel you have to do a lot of talking when you’re sourcing or recruiting? Why?

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


22 Comments on “Naked Babies

  1. Maureen-

    Hope you don’t mind if I post that last paragraph to my white board across from my desk (with credit to you). The last quotation that lived in that space was “SHUT-UP, AND LISTEN.”

    Thanks for the fresh spin on that wisdom. Someone needs to start a 12 Step Program for all us “talkers” out there.

  2. Maureen, you are bang on. Recruiting is about listening and asking relevant questions to draw out information in order to evaluate the quality of the candidate. How can a recruiter achieve that in a 45 minute meeting if they do not allow the candidate to talk at leas 80% of the time? Our Interview methods is very simple we. We ask 4 simple questions and allow the information to flow. 1. What where you hired to do? 2. What accomplishments are you proudest off? 3. What were some of the low points? 4. Why did you leave that job? Then listen, observe the body language, verbal skills, intensity, passion etc… Simple job when we can control the need to express the noise in our head.

  3. Grat feedback and spot on!! Boris, you ask 4 I am lucky to get four qeuestions in. Everyone is right..if I may be so bold…to restate the stated…”Shut up and listen”. Listen to what are the 5 opportunities- location, culture-fit, responsibilities, goals and money. I look for the sixth as well, what hasn’t worked and why. If a candidate can’t recall a bad outcome or negative experience. I have to make a “double look”…I recently had a candidate tell me that in over 20 years in Management he never had a bad hire or had to fire someone…hmmmm….Listen, listen, listen….not only to the candidates but the hiring managers…don’t forget about them…great article..
    Steven Davis
    “The Recruit4U Guy”

  4. Great point and yet so simple.

    1)If you are not listening, you cannot identify your clients needs

    2)If you are not listening, you may be speaking about topics that are of no interest to your client.

    3)If you are not listening, you may just talk yourself right out of a purchase.

    4)Listen, learn and deliver what the client needs, not what you think they need.

    5)You have two ears and one mouth therefore you should listen twice as much as you speak.

    Peter Lo Bello
    Director Client Strategy

  5. Maureen:

    I believe that listening is “golden” in this profession. Typically, when I interview a candidate, I’ll provide my “sales pitch” in the beginning and then afterwards, I listen carefully to EVERYTHING. I’ll evaluate the individual based upon what the HM is looking for (for example I may listen for confidence or strength in their voice). If the HM is searching for someone who communicates effectively I’ll pay attention to how they articulate their thoughts. The goal is to make a sound recommendation based upon the facts and you can’t gather the facts if you are not listening.

  6. Steven, Peter great comments. Maureen, great topic. So if we all agree, then where have we gone so wrong as an industry? A Recruiter with superb listening skills is a rarity. Are we hiring wrong? Are we lousy trainers? Are we too focused on the placement today and are forgetting to instill a wholesome methodology? What do you think?

  7. Boris,
    Well for me, I came from the other side of the fence and customer service was essentially brow beaten into me over me career ( which is not a bad thing!)..It is the essence of this or any other industry. Those that provide top quality customer have that unique skill of listening to what the customer wants and needs!..I am only speaking for myself, but it is about the total relationship. Too often that simple but overwhelming thought process is overshadowed but the desire to “make a buck in a heartbeat”.. for example our business is down partly due to the economy, but on the flip side, I will not reduce my fees and be like the other sharks just to get a buck. We are in it for the long haul and with that comes higher quality, better customer service boiled down to…better more effective listening. Just my two cents worth on a hot steamy day here in the Northeast!
    Steven aka….”The Recruit4U Guy”

  8. Boris,

    I have been in business consulting at various levels for nearly 25 years.

    I have always been a firm believer in having an empty seat as opposed to the wrong person in the seat. Once the right person is hired professional training, on going training and oversight is necessary.

    If any of the above is not followed, it is a plan for failure and one will not be successful in their position. This rule applies to any and all positions within a company.

    Peter Lo Bello
    Director of Client Strategy

  9. Great insight and comments. I can only add, listen to HOW the questions are being answered. Recently, when I asked a candidate about the background/credit check, he responded with a vague, “a few lates on my credit”. The credit check did come back with the late payments but his crimial history was almost scary. When I called to ask about it, he just said that he hoped that we would want him so much that we would over look the drug use.

  10. Sometimes I think people confuse listening with waiting to talk. If you’re quietly waiting for a person to finish talking so that you can say what you want to say, desperately trying not to interrupt them, you’re not listening. If you’re interested in learning what the other person has to say, and actually hearing the words leave their mouth, that’s listening. A corollary: it’s hard to listen to someone if you’re IMing and Tweeting at the same time you’re “listening.”

  11. What great comments from everyone. If all of us agree, why is it so rare to find a good listener.

    I interviewed a candidate for an AE position last month. During the interview, I asked him to “sell me a pen”. He pulled a nice ballpoint out of his pocket, and proceeded to tell me every feature and benefit of that particular pen, then asked me if I could think of any reason not to buy it. I replied, “Yes, I can…what I need is a felt pen”. We both laughed, and had a good follow-on conversation about the difference between selling and presenting. If you don’t find out what the customer wants are, how do you know if you have what they need?

  12. Great comment Jim. Sounds like you have been to Peter Leffkowitz seminar. If every one in our industry went through his training we would not be having this cool discussion.

  13. Maureen, your article about the baby dolls was great – especially your transfer from a silent doll to a silent sourcer/recruiter. Brilliant logic!

    On first glance at the ERE web page, I went past your article without reading it. The title did not interest me! Subsequently, your referral to the article in another web post caused me to read it. Glad I did.

    Here is a true testimonial to your wisdom!.

    I have a 50 year old friend who is a great engineering manager and was laid off. He is the most extreme case of over communicating that I have ever met. I have counseled him about this habit for years – but to no effect. For the past 2 months, I helped him find several opportunities and he talked himself out of several top engineering job offers. Some of his interviews lasted 3 hours! I tried to be his coach – not his recruiter.

    Last Tuesday, August 11,, he went for an interview for a sales job (he has never been in sales). He applied because he was desperate. He called me after the first meeting and told me that he may get the job because he made a lengthy presentation to the President about how he could do the sales job. My friend said the President never said a word. On Friday, the President called him back for a second meeting.

    The President spoke to my friend continuously and uninterrupted for a total of one hour and thirty minutes. At the end, the President said, “ I am offering you the job because you listened and did not interrupt me – as you did in our first meeting. If you had interrupted me today, I would have walked you out of the office. Your second chance meeting convinced me that you CAN listen and that you will be a good salesman”.

    On Monday, August 17, my friend called and thanked me for my years of pleading him to shut up. Then, I sent him your article and gave you credit for my advice to him!

  14. A good sign of somebody really listening is that they pause, after the other person has finished talking, before they respond.

    The pause is a test to see whether the other person has actually finished. You frequently find out the really valuable stuff from the other person after their initial ‘download’.

  15. @Todd
    WRT: … it’s hard to listen to someone if you’re IMing and Tweeting at the same time you’re “listening.”

    Unless you are my age (33) or younger.


  16. Jeremy: The research I’ve seen about about driving shows that sending a text distracts people of all ages. Maybe driving is different than listening, but I’m not 100% convinced.

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