The Art of Connection – 10 Conversation Starters to Give You the Edge in Hiring Top Talent

By: Matt Gainsford


Putting the right person in the right seat is not just about finding the right experience but finding the right fit in terms of vision, value fit and ability.  

A-Players think differently. They are after impact, challenge, and growth. A-Players are going to be the people who take ownership of what they are doing, they don’t just perform, they invest. An A-Player is the kind of person that is obsessive about making something great and directly or indirectly inspiring those around them to do the same. A-Player’s don’t have to be seasoned professionals, they can be entry level candidates who light up the room. They could be a team member in a support role whose commitment to serving those around them changes the environment around them. 

So where are these A-Players and how to I get one (or two… or ten) to partner with what I’m building? 

Good question, we’re glad you asked. 

A typical hiring strategy might look like: 

  1. Decide what role/task you need fulfilled 
  2. Find some common ground with your current leadership team to see what they are looking for, and hopefully agree 
  3. Write up the job description 
  4. Post it on your company website, Indeed, LinkedIn etc*** 
  5. Realize you need to get proactive, so you enlist a contingent recruiting firm 
  6. Get flooded with resumes from B and C players that may not even align with the role 
  7. Schedule a few interviews 
  8. Make an offer 
  9. Lose the candidate to a counteroffer/competitor 
  10. Try again 
  11. Contact Titus (shameless plug) and feel the weight lifted and all stress melt away because you’ve found a true Partner who understands your vision and not just your need….  

****But what if before contacting Titus, what if there was a step 3a? A secret step that could radically change how you increase your chances of hiring an A-Player or connecting with someone who might be able to point you in the right direction. 

Some call it “coincidence”, others call it “serendipity”, many would call it chance. 

We’d call it being present and intentional. It is AMAZING what, or who, might be available or what you can learn from connecting with those around you. Of course, that does mean talking to strangers (or friends you haven’t met yet), which we know everyone LOVES to do.  

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes that “The more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are.” Unlike your close friends and colleagues, your acquaintances thrive in a different social universe than you do. The result is they know about jobs and networking opportunities that no one else in your inner circle does. In fact, 83 percent of people who find their jobs through a current contact do so through people they see only occasionally. 

If you want to see this in action then check out our story on how saying yes to an M&M led to us hiring an incredible candidate –  

Admittedly, talking to people you don’t know can be a little intimidating (even for the most extroverted and gregarious of salespeople) but there is an art to asking questions that can create genuine connection while also opening future opportunities. 

Depending on your situation/location you may need an opener: 

If you’re traveling and, on a plane, at the airport/station etc. then simply asking where someone is going, or where they have been a great start.  

If you’re in a coffee shop, grocery store, mechanic shop you can start with a complement or ask for a recommendation. 

Sincerity stops awkwardness. has 57 Conversation starters for multiple situations, and of those here are our top 10. 

  1. Tell me about you. This is a great one because it invites the other person to tell you something that they want to share. If they want to tell you about their job, they can. If they want to tell you about their kids, they can. And it’s a great way to know what’s at the top of someone’s mind. 
  2. Working on anything exciting lately? This is my alternative to “what do you do?” Asking if someone is working on anything exciting helps the other person talk about something good in their life, as opposed to just giving you a boring update. 
  3. When you were growing up, what was your dream job? Is any part of that still true? I love asking this one anytime someone has just mentioned something about their childhood or growing up. It also helps you talk about whether their current job is like their original dream. 
  4. Who is your role model/who inspires you and why? If you are talking about an inspiring person, a boss, an author, or even a celebrity, you might be able to ask the person about their role model. This is a great way to talk about who inspires you too! 
  5. I’m a bit nervous about the _____. Have you ever done it before? Sharing personal information to others can increase how likeable you are perceived to be and can help form new social bonds. You can use this trick to start a conversation at work with a colleague and get some good advice on whatever challenge you’re currently facing–whether it’s a new piece of software or a difficult client. 
  6. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? This will highlight what motivates something, what they value or insight into WHO they are not just what they do. 
  7. What personal passion project are you working on right now? This is one of our favorites. You never know what secret side hustle someone has. This is a great question to ask of people you already know in one context, like work, but would love to know more about them personally. It’s also great for people you don’t know and may offer insights to nonprofits they support, activities they are gearing up for or can lead to connecting them with someone who can help them turn that hobby into a jobby (ahem, vocation) 
  8. Hey – you’re a _______? That sounds interesting. What’s your favorite thing about your job? People love talking about themselves. Keep this in mind when you’re starting conversations online too. People are more likely to respond to you if you ask a question. It goes without saying but modify this conversation starter depending on their profile. 
  9. What do you do for fun/what would your perfect day be? Again, this goes beyond what someone does but why they do it, or more importantly from a hiring perspective, how can what you’re able to offer help the achieve more of this. 
  10. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read/seen/listened too lately? This question gives you a window into learning something, and showing you are open to learning. It also helps establish what’s important to the person you’re connecting with, and why they’re important. More than talking about interests this question can lead to genuine connection. 

The goal in all of this is connection. Connection is the doorway that leads to meaningful opportunity. In all these questions you build connection when you can learn and understand: 

  • What motivates this person? 
  • What is important to them? 
  • What energizes them? 
  • What do they love to talk about? 
  • What shuts them down or closes them off? 
  • What do they value? 

At Titus we love questions, but more than that we love Courageous Candor, asking the questions that dive beneath the surface to really understand the person we are connecting with. We are built on a “People First” philosophy which affects everything we do, both internally and for our partners. We believe that being present, being intentional and by putting people first we can create a radical impact on the world around us. It also means that our Partners have, in us, someone sitting on their side of the table actively pursuing the type of candidate that is going to fulfill a vision, not just meet a need. Those are A-Players are out, and where to find them might surprise you. 

More than recruiters, Titus Talent Strategies are a team of Talent Optimizers; Consultants who genuinely care about the work we do. We empower companies to put the right people in the right seats through informed, connected strategies that combine data with an empathetic understanding of what makes people tick. We recognize that our partners are investing in us and that results mean more than just people placed in a role. It’s about impact and connection; it’s about vision and growth. 

Related Insights

Talent Checkup

Want to start a journey towards building a high performing culture? We can give you a roadmap. It takes less than 10 minutes.