Why Open Ended Questions Will Improve Your Sourcing Efforts


Give a person a dead-end question and you’ll usually hit a dead end. That is unless you’re lucky enough to find someone who enjoys talking and wants to share. As a recruiter, you encounter lead sources nearly every day. If you approach them with the opportunity to share what they know, they just might cooperate.

The best way to learn is to get people talking. And the worst way to do that is by asking “yes” or “no” questions. Open-ended questions give the people you’re talking with the chance to expand, and that can lead to more candidates.

Socrates Got it Right

The art of getting people to think and talk is sometimes called the Socratic Method. Law schools are famous for it as a method of teaching. Although it’s widely used as a critical thinking technique, the Socratic method is designed to glean information that a person might not otherwise have thought to share.

As a recruiter, your role is that of the Socratic questioner. And according to the Critical Thinking Community, part of your job is to keep the conversation on track and ask probing questions. And for every question answered, there’s an opportunity for you to pose yet another.

Listening is one of the greatest skills you can hone.

Strategies for Open-Ended Questions

When you pick up the phone to speak with a potential source, you need a game plan. ERE Media explains that when you call a gatekeeper, who might be a receptionist, you wouldn’t open the conversation by asking the name and extension of every person in a certain department. But you might get that information by encouraging her to give it to you.

From a sales standpoint, which is part of a recruiter’s job, avoiding dead-end questions is vital. Sales professional, Scott Sambucci, explains at Quora that he uses a 4:1 ratio to get people talking. For every four questions asked, he intentionally asks one that gives the person on the other end of the conversation a chance to ask her own question or to make a statement. That way, the questions don’t feel like an interrogation. Using the Socratic method, which ERE Media also calls “investigative sourcing,” you can guide the gatekeeper through giving you information by asking questions such as the name of the company’s CFO, quickly following that up by asking the name and extension of her administrative assistant and then letting the gatekeeper talk.

Recruiters have a broad skill set, and Socratic questioning or investigative sourcing could be one of yours. As the questioner, you help guide your source through giving over the information that you need. The way to do that is by asking the right questions at the right time, giving him or her the chance to talk, and using each new bit of information to expand your questions even more.

There are so many different avenues for finding candidate leads.

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