Our video series, Field Studies, covers the skills every world-class recruiter needs in areas such as productivity, relationship-building, identifying talent and looking to the future. In each episode, industry experts and our assembled panel of hiring professionals share their knowledge — and you’ll learn some interesting facts along the way.

Did you know that, just like humans, whales in pods develop unique cultures that are learned from and shared within groups? They assign leaders, work together and guide members who are struggling. And just like us, whale pods require constant communication to develop and maintain strong interpersonal relationships. 

While we may email whereas whales echolocate, what we have in common is our need for strong working teams. Successful organizations develop this backbone, and we rarely succeed in business — and recruiting — without building and maintaining strong relationships. 

In this Field Studies video, we talk with Ginger Hardage, former SVP of culture at Southwest Airlines, and our panel of recruiters to get their take on building a company culture of strong relationships. 

Successful business relationships put people first

Hardage tells us that the cofounder and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, always said the business of business is people. She builds on that, explaining that good business is “not putting your needs first; it’s putting their needs first,” and that starts a really great relationship.

Recruiters agree. Our panel of recruiter professionals feels the following are crucial components in making candidate connections:

Expand good personal relationships for greater benefits

Building strong relationships has far-reaching effects. Hardage points out that employers who do a good job building relationships “have really great retention rates and the employees are proud to work there.” In addition, that kind of cross-team building works long-term for everyone.

Team building isn’t something that just happens — beautifully functioning teams are carefully cultivated. There’s an art and strategy to finding the right balance of skill and fit, and your effectiveness in encouraging the right applicant can depend on how in sync you are with the broader hiring team and company needs.

Good relationships build bridges between recruiter, hiring manager and candidate

Are you in sync with the hiring managers you work with? Recruiting relationships span more than job seekers and recruiters. Recruiters are the bridge between candidates and employers, and building a strong relationship with hiring managers can elevate your recruiting. 

So before you begin placing candidates, interview the hiring manager to learn their work style and ensure you’re on the same page.

Learn more about working better with hiring managers by reading this article, “Build a Strong Recruiter-Hiring Manager Relationship Using These 6 Principles.”

Recruiters’ secret power — listening

Whether you’re interviewing candidates or hiring managers, Hardage believes great recruiters share a common trait: good listening skills. That’s because “they’re trying to draw out the best in that particular candidate.”

Hardage shares a story about her daughter-in-law, a recruiter, who’d placed a new graduate in a position. Over the years, they stayed in touch  — “and now she’ll be able to help this young lady go on to an even bigger job.”

Treating hiring as a long-term relationship is especially helpful with hard-to-fill jobs. For example, Mary Rigas is a food sciences recruiter — a very niche market. In this episode of our “Hard Shoes to Fill” documentary series, Rigas talks about the ways she nurtures relationships with candidates and employers: “Utilize your connections for the greater good.”

Good relationships go the distance

Hardage’s story demonstrates how empowered employees who develop strong relationships can deliver long-term for an organization. “That’s what we’re looking for,” she says. “Organizations that spend a lot of time really making sure it’s a right fit — that’s what I think is good for the employee and employer.”