Importance of talk-listen ratio in corporate hiring

By on July 22, 2013

In the present age of growing attrition, hiring the right candidates is probably one of the most crucial challenges faced by the Human Resource (HR) managers. Experts say that the hiring practices of an organization have an impact on the productivity and that effectively hired employees are a competitive advantage for the firm (Kennedy-Luczak and Thompson, 2004). On the other hand, wrong hiring choices add costs to the organization and often lead to chaos and friction in the organization. Effective hiring starts with a clear definition of the vacant job and the characteristics required to fill that job (Harvard Business School, 2008). Organizations often follow rigorous selection procedures to evaluate the skills and competencies of applicants. But still they make a wrong choice; why? Can Talk-Listen Ratio (TLR) affect the organization’s hiring decision? Do the HR managers need to calculate TLR during hiring?

Hiring process

Most of the time, hiring in companies is based upon assessing the applicants’ confidence and ability of self-expression i.e. how well one can present his/her ideas before the board of interviewers. This approach definitely helps to get best speakers on board, but a good speaker may not always be a good listener too (Tjan, 2013). The applicants’ power of listening cannot be undermined during hiring. Giving space to others for expressing themselves and listening to them patiently is an important and desirable corporate norm. The growing emphasis on listening in the corporate world has transformed the traditional work patterns. In recent times, the organizations have understood the need to listen to employees for their feedback and grievances, and to the customers for understanding the dynamism of their demands. But as far as hiring is concerned, the importance of listening is still overlooked by firms in large numbers.

Assessing employees

Companies usually do not assess the listening capabilities of prospective employees and this frequently leads to making a wrong hiring decision. As an attempt to justify this negligence, the recruiters often appoint these individuals for different roles in sales and marketing or front desk jobs; which infact is an even bigger mistake on part of recruiters. Mostly, the positions requiring direct interaction with customers are filled by good speakers in the companies. But such employees generally lack patience to listen and understand customers’ needs; ending up with forced sales (Springman, 2011). Such people hardly notice any changes in the customers’ demand and spend most time convincing the customer to buy whatever they have to offer for sale. It is therefore doubtful if such employees prove effective in building relationships with customers and retaining them.

Talk Listen Ratio

An article in Harvard Business Review brought into focus that a bad listener may also be a bad learner. As such, a bad listener would never meet organizational expectations irrespective of a well-planned and executed induction program. However, being partial towards listening and ignoring the speakership in an individual would also not be correct for hiring. Although it may sound a bit strange to many, it is important to look at the applicant’s ‘Talk Listen Ratio’ at the time of hiring (Tjan, 2013). The Talk Listen Ratio (TLR) compares the time one spends in talking and in listening while in a conversation. A person who maintains proper balance between talking and listening can prove to be a good choice for organization. However, there is no consensus among experts till date on an ideal TLR. A few believe the nature’s way and suggest that humans have one mouth and two ears, so TLR should be 1:2 i.e. one should listen twice of what he/she speaks; while others believe in ‘lisTEN’ i.e. listening should be 10 times of talking (Springman, 2011). However, the ideal TLR may vary between firm to firm and industry to industry.

Group discussions (GDs) offer a fair opportunity to recruiters to analyze talk listen ratio of the applicants during selection process. But group discussions cannot be conducted in all cases including the case of walk-ins. It is therefore need of the hour to develop such assessment tools which can calculate TLR of individuals at the time of hiring.