Yes, and...

Whenever someone finds out I do improv they immediately say, “I could never do that. Stand on stage and be funny! How do you do it?” I usually follow-up with, “Easy. Technically you’re improvising right now.” Then they look at me strangely and ask me to tell them a joke.  

When you think of improv you probably think of stand-up. Stand-up is an amazing art and an incredibly difficult kind of art. It IS incredibly hard to stand on stage and try to make people laugh. Improv isn’t about being funny. Improv is about walking on stage, living in the moment, supporting your teammates and creating something together. All things you do every day. 

Let’s focus on the fundamentals of improv. The “rules” of improv can relate to just about anything from your job to your relationships and yes, even recruiting. For this blog let’s start with the most basic rule of thumb: Yes, and… 

What does that mean? Literally this…

Person A: I have a ball.
Person B: Yes, and it’s blue. 

Person A made a statement. Person B agreed that Person A in fact has a ball AND added more detail about the ball. Very simple. Very basic. 

As a recruiter we talk to people all the time. No matter if we move forward with them in the process or not, we’re responsible for someone’s first frame of reference for the company. There’s a saying that some smart someone, somewhere said at some point, “People won’t remember what you said but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”

Let’s take our earlier conversation and flip it. 

Person A: I have a ball.
Person B: No you don’t.  

Sick burn, bro. If you were on stage, this reaction might get a quick laugh from an audience but Person A feels terrible. They set something up and Person B totally denied them. Denying someone makes them feel low. Lower than low, even. 

Yeah ok, but how does this relate? When a candidate brings you a piece of information your response is the most important. Are you going to literally say “Yes, and…?” No. But you can accept and acknowledge what they’ve said and build upon it. 

If 90% of our job is building rapport, you have to be a great conversation builder. A wall isn’t built by placing a brick and then kicking it. You build it brick by brick. Conversations aren’t built off denial, they’re built of off agreement. In high level terms, “Yes, and…” is a super basic concept: being in the moment, listening and reacting. 

There are a list of questions you need to get through; a slew of information you need from a candidate. It’s incredibly easy to concentrate only on that especially since you’re most likely furiously typing while they are talking. If you’re looking at a list and checking off boxes you’ll miss an opportunity to make a real connection. For example:

Candidate: I love sales because I love the hunt. 
Recruiter: Are there monthly or quarterly goals you had to hit?
Candidate: Yes. 75 new leads a month. 

You got the information you needed and the candidate got…nothing. No connections was made and the conversation has become a transaction. If you do move forward with them, they may not be inclined because there wasn’t a true back and forth. Let’s tweak it a bit:

Candidate: I love sales because I love the hunt. 
Recruiter: What is it you love about the hunt? 
Candidate: Our product is still fairly unknown so new prospects can be hesitant. I love showing them how much it will improve their day-to-day and watching that light bulb goes off. It’s addictive for me. We have to hit 75 new leads a month and last month I easily hit 85 new leads in my territory…I actually earned an additional bonus for blowing out my target. 

Boom. That candidate gave you the information you needed without you having to directly ask for it and you’ve gained some valuable insight into their sales philosophy and work ethic. All this from simply being in the moment, listening and reacting. 

So what’s the lesson? Don’t be a robot. Be a true conversation builder. You may not use the words “Yes, and…” but by truly listening, letting those words effect you and reacting accordingly you’ve gained trust and maybe eventually a hire. 

Molly Anderson