By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
No, that’s not a misprint. There are actually a number of things that you can learn from Howard Stern that will make you a better recruiter and/or a better leader.
The shock jock, as he’s known to many, has amassed tens of millions of listeners on Sirius XM satellite radio and has been deemed by some the most powerful interviewer in American broadcasting. Billy Joel even called his interview with Stern “probably the most astute and insightful interview” he’d done.
I listen to the Stern show a lot when I travel, and if you’ve never heard Howard interview a guest on his show, you don’t know what you’re missing. Pick your favorite celebrity or music star and type their name along with Howard’s into Google when you have a few extra minutes. Chances are he’s interviewed them at some point. His recent interviews with James Corden and Cardi B are particularly insightful and worth the listen.
Over the years I’ve noticed a few things that Howard does consistently during his interviews, each of which I want to talk with you about today. These are techniques that I would recommend you consider implementing (if you’re not already) during your conversations with prospective students and parents.
- Eliminate any fear at the beginning. Howard starts off a lot of his interviews with small talk and a compliment for his guest. It’s low pressure and makes the other person immediately feel safe and comfortable. Similarly, when you talk with students, don’t immediately bombard them with all kinds of questions and a push to visit campus or complete your application. Worry more about putting them at ease and eliminating any fears they might have.
- It’s not an interview it’s a conversation. If you remember one thing from today’s article I hope it’s this point. Don’t approach your conversations with students (at college fairs, school visits, campus visit events, etc) like it’s an interview. The goal as I’ve stated in numerous articles before is to get and keep their attention…to make a connection and have future conversations. Many of Stern’s guests rave about how fun and memorable their interviews with him were. Many have been back multiple times over the years. Would your students say the same thing about the phone calls and contacts they have with you? You’ll discover the answer when you try and connect a second time. Make your conversation more casual, and make it about them. Do that, and you’ll gain all kinds of valuable information and insights from the student or their parent.
- Don’t interrupt. Just like it probably drives you nuts when other people don’t let you finish your thoughts and sentences, the same thing holds true for the students that you’re recruiting. I know it can be tempting to get so excited about something that you jump in and cut them off. Don’t do it. Stern always lets his guests finish telling a story or answering a question to the point where there’s often a second or two of dead air.
- Have a list of effective questions and follow-up questions. Stern has become a master at asking specific questions that get his guests to talk more openly and freely about themselves than they typically do in public. His questions don’t just lead to answers, they lead to stories. It doesn’t take him long (and it won’t take you long either) to discover what motivates the other person or why something is or isn’t important in their mind. Howard also does a great job of latching on to a guest’s answers and digging deeper with follow up questions like “What’s going on there,” or “Help me understand that.” Context matters.
- Don’t be afraid to go in a different direction midstream. Any time you ask a prospect or their parents a question that then leads to unexpected points of interest, don’t be afraid to change the direction of the conversation. At the same time be mindful of those tough subjects where digging too deep isn’t worth the risk.
- Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself (or address your school’s negatives). Howard pokes fun at himself all the time. It makes him more genuine, and it reminds his guests that he’s human and makes mistakes just like them. Don’t be afraid to share a funny story about something silly or unintelligent that you’ve done. And don’t be afraid to address your school’s negatives either, whatever they may be. Every college has something. That transparency will separate you from your competitors who only talk about the positives. This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process.
Some or all of these six bullet points may have simply been timely reminders for you today. That’s great! For everyone else, I encourage you to take one or more of them and consider how it or they can help you become a better recruiter.
Lastly, at the beginning of this article I mentioned leadership. All six of these points are applicable to you if you directly manage others in your office. Leadership isn’t just about giving direction. It’s about getting to know every single person you manage (their motivations, wants, needs, and fears) and figuring out what each of them needs from you so that they can achieve their own personal goals and the goals that you’ve set for them.
I hope you have an amazing day and week!
As always, reach out and connect with me on email, phone, or text if I can help you with something.