Sunday Night Blues and How to Listen


As an agency recruiter, I've had the following conversation about a million times with candidates.   

Me: "Why are you looking for new opportunities?"

Candidate: "I'm not really looking for a new opportunity. I'm really happy where I am right now..."

Me: "What would a new opportunity have to provide for you to consider it?"

Candidate: "More money, higher title, more challenge, more responsibility, more everything.  They should provide me a company car and also the role should be located within three blocks of my home.  And a puppy." 

The answer to question number two makes me rethink the answer to question number one.  I read people for a living.  I read people so much that sometimes I want to offer psychic readings, no joke. 

You see, it seems to me that your so called "I'm super happy, not looking at all" answer  is belied by the "here's a quick and non-exclusive laundry list of all of the ways my current role falls short"  answer.

So, as a person whose livelihood depends upon getting the real and actual answer to this question, I've had to get a little creative with how I determine if a candidate is happy in their current role.

I ask the following question: "Will you tell me about a typical week for you starting with Sunday Night?"

Whoa.... Did this just get personal?  Sunday Night?

But have you ever had a job you absolutely hated? Did you have that ONE job that was useful to you because it taught you exactly what you didn't want to do for a living or exactly how you don't want to feel at your place of work-- You've had a job like that, right?

And-think back- when you were in a job that you absolutely couldn't wait to get out of,  when did that sinking feeling settle into your stomach about the week ahead?  Yup.  Sunday night.  

So the point of the Sunday night question really isn't because I have strange curiosities and I want to know what you do during your personal time.  I'm smart enough to know that you aren't going to tell the truth about what you do on Sunday nights, anyway.  I mean, if a recruiter called me and asked me that question, I wouldn't say, "I eat two quest bars at approximately 5pm and then play lacrosse with a bunch of dudes and then I go to bed."  I would say something that made me sound less like a 15 year old boy. I think. 

No, the content of the answer isn't really the point of the question at all.  It's the tone.  90% of communication isn't what you say, it's how you say it.  And once you mention Sunday night, you will hear whether or not this person has a dread-filled Sunday night or one filled with excitement about the week ahead just by listening to their hesitation and their tone.  

I believe candidates should be honest with themselves about their level of satisfaction with work and career.  Taking a gut check on Sunday night is really a good way to see if you are truly happy.  

And, as a recruiter, learning how to ask the same question three ways and listen to the layers of the answers is really the art of this business. 

How do you read between the lines when you interview a candidate? Leave it in the comments below!