by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Last week a veteran admissions counselor who reads this newsletter reached out to me for the first time. It quickly became clear that she was really frustrated, mainly with a handful of her undecided recruits.
“These teenagers,” she said. “They know all they want to know about us and it still takes them forever to make up their minds…Do you have a magic formula or something that will clue me in on what they’re thinking?”
My reply to this counselor: “Tell me what kinds of questions you’ve been asking these students lately.”
“I’m just trying to see if there’s anything else they need, and when they think, they will make a decision.”
Are you facing a similar situation? You’re asking questions of your undecided students, and all they’re giving you is one-word or short answers or maybe even not getting back to you at all anymore.
Not a fun scenario, right?
The good news is, after you read this article you will have a strategy to use, and you won’t have to wonder about it anymore. In fact, there is a magic formula, of sorts, that you can use at any time during the recruitment process that will help erase all the mystery when it comes to what your recruits are thinking.
It’s called a follow-up question.
That’s it? You got it.
When we want to get a read on someone we ask that person a question. They proceed to respond, and typically many of us just accept their answer and move onto another topic.
Now, how many times after the fact have you thought to yourself that those responses to your questions actually revealed very little, and when it comes down to it, you learned nothing new about the other person?
The key to getting a true understanding of people and their thought process lies in asking a good follow-up question. Why then don’t more admissions counselors do that? In my experience, many counselors aren’t actually paying close enough attention to ask a detailed follow-up question. Maybe you’re on your sixth call of the night with a bunch more to go, and you’re trying to keep things moving along (I’ve actually been told this exact thing before by multiple admissions counselors). It’s really hard to ask a good follow-up question if you’re not truly “locked in” to how your recruit (or maybe their parents) responds to your initial question.
Another possibility is the “I don’t want to be pushy” justification. Often newer counselors tell me that they’re hesitant to probe further because they don’t want to seem pushy or have the recruit feel nagged.
Let’s go ahead then and put our plan into action. Here’s how a typical conversation right now with an undecided student could go. Start by asking them:
“How will you make your final decision?”
Cut to the chase and ask the student upfront how they will be making their decision on which college to attend.
After the student answers, here’s the next question I want you to ask:
“And then what?”
They’ll tell you more. And then you ask, “And then what?” again. And they’ll tell you more. And on and on until you finally get to the real source of their decision – the financial aid package, their parents’ input, or maybe a school’s location or size. The bottom line is, you’ll know what their decision rests on.
This strategy will also work at other key junctures of the recruitment process (not just the end).
Here are a couple of other effective follow-up questions that we’ve recommended to our clients:
- “What does that mean?”
- “Can you help me understand that a little better?”
- “Why is that important to you?”
I can’t stress how important asking a follow-up question is. It’s an essential tool for any business professional to use when they seek to understand how a sales decision is going to be made, or when you’re wondering what a recruit is thinking or where your school ranks versus your competition.
Try it. I’m confident you’ll like the results.
By the way, if you have a particular question, problem or recruiting issue that you want addressed and answered, don’t hesitate to email me just like that veteran counselor did last week. I’ll get right back to you.