Today, I want to let you in on a little secret, my absolute favorite question. This isn’t just any question; it’s the key to unlocking higher fees, upfront payments, and cultivating better relationships with your clients. This is a game-changer, tested and proven not only in my office but with my clients as well.

The challenge many recruiters face in securing the fees they desire, the money they need, and the terms they prefer with clients often boils down to one thing: they blend in. It’s hardly surprising since the industry has conditioned us to follow a standardized script.

Questions like “What are you looking for?” or “What’s the required background?” are standard. They’re the questions that over a hundred thousand others are asking your hiring managers. If you sound like everyone else, you are, unfortunately, putting yourself in the same bucket as the rest.

So here’s a little motivation to shift your questioning strategy. Your power lies in the quality of the questions you ask. In the initial stages, you’re not judged on your presentation because, let’s be honest, we all present ourselves similarly. What sets you apart are the insightful, consultative questions you bring to the table.

Now, let me share my favorite question with you. Suppose there’s an opening for a controller position. Instead of the usual queries about qualifications and responsibilities, I propose a scenario to the hiring manager. I ask them to imagine that it’s a year from now, and they are reflecting on the controller’s excellent performance. What, specifically, has this person accomplished in their first year to merit such praise?

The question might sound like this:

I want you to imagine Mr. / Ms. Hiring Manager that you’ve brought this controller on. It’s a year from their start date. You’re walking down the hall with them and you’re just thinking to yourself. You’ve had an outstanding year, Bob, Berry, Mr. Controller and you’re getting ready to do their review. Tell me if that’s the case. Tell me exactly what they accomplished in that first year. So again, imagine this individual’s had and outstanding first year and they met or exceeded all your expectations. Tell me what they accomplished.

The magic word here is “imagine.” This prompts the hiring manager to visualize success, which yields a far more detailed and robust story. If you start asking this question, you’ll often hear, “Wow, that’s a great question.” It sets the tone for the entire conversation and allows you to dig deep into the heart of the client’s needs.

By focusing on accomplishments rather than duties, you shift the conversation from a checklist of skills to a vision of success. This approach not only replaces the need for a laundry list of responsibilities and requirements but also clarifies the real problem the client is trying to solve.

While I wish I could delve into more strategies in this short post, I invite you to learn more about reengineering the way you take search assignments and build a successful desk at our events. For those interested in joining us, details can be found at Alternatively, you can reach out to Priscilla on our team at 860-200-7153 for more information.

Incorporate this question into your practice. Reengineer your questioning to be more consultative, and observe the shift in how clients and prospects respond to you. Higher fees and better terms are within your grasp.