My favorite improv game is called Mind Meld. If you want a visual, this is a pretty decent explanation. Mind Meld uses free association to teach a pretty important concept: working with others toward a common goal.

There are a few different ways you can play. My personal favorite is as a group. To start, everyone stands in a circle. Two people face each other and make eye contact. Together they count, “1..2..3…,” clap their hands, and each say a word. Any word. Literally any word. Think of a word right now. You could say that word. One person turns to the person on their right and repeats the sequence but this time, when these two people say their words, they are trying to find a commonality between the two previous words. You repeat this until two people finally say the same word. For example:

  • Person A: 1...2...3...Flames!
  • Person B: 1...2...3...Woodworking!
  • Person B: 1...2...3...Fire!
  • Person C: 1...2...3…Carpenter!
  • Person C: 1...2...3…ANTS!
  • Person D: 1...2...3...ANTS!

Voila, the third group said the same word! In reality it takes much longer than 3 rounds to get a group of people to find a common word. It can take multiple go rounds of people making guesses, almost saying the same word (think cake and cupcake), or someone completely missing what you think is the obvious word and saying something totally off-base. No matter what, at some point, there is that magic moment where two people finally come together and both shout, “ANTS!” at the top of their lungs. It’s pretty special.

Building relationships as a recruiter might be the most important thing we do and coincidentally a lot like Mind Meld, especially when it comes to with working hiring managers and/or clients. The stakeholders we work with are trusting us to be an extension of them. The front-line in bringing in a new person who they as business people want to work with for years to come. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.

When we walk into that first meeting with a stakeholder, no matter what, we’re speaking different languages and processing what’s happening in a different way. A recruiter walks in knowing how they do their job and the stakeholder walks in knowing what job they need done. The goal is to line these two things up. The recruiter holds the expertise on the candidate side and the stakeholder on the business side. It’s the job of both parties to go back and forth, to communicate what they want, what they need, and at the end know how everyone can reach that goal together.

As recruiters we live for that moment when everything comes together. The hiring manager loves the candidate we presented so much they bring them into interview. The candidate interviews, nails it, the team gets excited, we make an offer and the candidate accepts. We got a great candidate a new job and the stakeholder filled a job they desperately needed. It’s a magic moment. We can only get there by meeting each other where we’re at and getting to our shared goal together. You won’t find the perfect candidate on the first day. It takes some trial and error for everyone to figure out exactly what works, but if you listen to each other, take feedback and move forward keeping new information in mind, everyone gets what they want: shouting “ANTS!” at the top of our lungs.

Molly Anderson