Are You Just Hiring Volunteers? Overcoming Key Objections, Part 2

“We don’t have a volunteer army; we have a recruited army.” ?????? U.S. Army Staff Sergeant I don’t know specifically who said this, but I heard it on some talk show recently. The point being that our soldiers didn’t volunteer to join the U.S. Army?? some recruiter had to convince them that this was their best option. The concept is profound, especially if you’re a corporate recruiter or managing a recruiting department. It translates in corporate-speak to: “You need good recruiters to hire good people. There just aren’t enough volunteers (a.k.a. active candidates) to go around.” While a great employer brand and a weaker economy make hiring the best a bit easier, they don’t obviate the need for strong recruiters as a core competency. In this multi-part article, we’ll explore what it takes to convince the best candidates to join your company. In a previous article, we showed how to establish initial interest for different classes of candidate. For simplicity’s sake, consider that there are three broad candidate pools you’ll be targeting:

  1. Active candidates. These are candidates who are actively searching for another position. They are the true volunteers. They will go to job boards and do whatever it takes to apply for a position. Every now and then you’ll find a top person in this group. The key to sourcing active candidates (see my articles on sourcing strategies) is technology to bring the best to the top quickly, and then put them in immediate contact with a recruiter. The best of the active pool will be hired within days, and you have to design your processes to take this into account.
  2. Partially active candidates. These are the candidates who are employed, but are looking now and then. They’re dissatisfied with their current position, but will only look at job opportunities that appear compelling. The key to attracting this type of candidate hinges on attention-getting advertising and compelling job descriptions that are easy to find and require minimal hassles to apply for. Of course, recruiters must be first-rate to convince these candidates that the opportunity is worthy of their continuing interest.
  3. Passive candidates. These are the candidates who might be open to exploring a great opportunity if it’s handed to them, but they won’t do anything to seek these jobs on their own. Recruiters are the primary movers here. They must identify these candidates, contact them, and offer a compelling opportunity?? and then recruit them at every stage in the process.

It’s obvious that there are differences in candidate motivation between each pool, and there are substantive differences between good candidates and the not-so-good candidates within each pool. Good recruiters know how to use this information to convince the best candidates in each pool to move forward every step of the way. In this article, I’ll focus on overcoming a few early and mid-stage objections from these candidates. Active Candidates In the active pool, the best candidates will have multiple opportunities, so they can afford to be more discriminating. While they want to get back on the payroll quickly, they will choose the job that best meets their short-term needs (compensation, job scope, supervisor, company, location), with some consideration given to the long-term (opportunity, chance to learn). They’ll seek the advice of others, but there will be very little agonizing going on. These people need another job, and they’ll make the decision reasonably quickly (within days). Recruiters need to work closely with the hiring manager to speed up the process, and to present a convincing case that this is the best job among the competing alternatives. Partially Active Candidates Partially active candidates are much more discriminating. They are currently employed, and as a result have more bargaining power. They’ll take longer to decide, and they’ll want more information to make the decision. The long-term career aspects will be more in balance with the short-term issues. They’ll discuss all of the issues with their friends and family, and these advisors will be part of the decision. Recruiters need to be actively involved in the process for hand-holding and convincing once a candidate is identified as partially active. These people do want another job, and as long as the current opportunity is better than what they have now they’ll make the jump. This is called a “going-away” strategy, since their prime motivator is dissatisfaction with their current job. Recruiters must be able to recognize this, and then logically and persuasively present the comparison. Passive Candidates Passive candidates are a different breed all together. They already have a good job, so the new job opportunity must offer significant stretch and growth in order to make it appealing. Finding and convincing these passive candidates to talk is a critical part of the recruiter’s role. Much of what is said both at the early stages and throughout the hiring process involves positioning the job as a long-term career move. While the short-term criteria are important and must be reasonably generous, the real decision making will involve what the future holds in store. The decision-making criteria for a top passive candidate is termed a “going-towards” strategy, since the new job must offer substantially more than the current one in order for the candidate to make the jump. This is where strong recruiting skills are essential. Handling the “I Won’t Relocate Objection” Knowing the candidate’s prime motivators, let’s briefly address two classic objections: the reluctance of candidates to consider relocation, and the reluctance of candidates to come in for a first interview, even when there is no relocation involved. These are not insignificant objections, since if you can get over these hurdles you’ve just about closed the whole deal. The primary reason people don’t want to relocate is because the job you’re offering isn’t worth uprooting the family. Generally speaking, people will only relocate when all of the positives aspects of a new job more than offset the negative aspects of a move. This bar is obviously lower for active candidates than passive ones, but it’s still a hurdle. A relocation is a strategic decision for a candidate. It has long-term implications from a lifestyle perspective, and profoundly impacts the candidate’s family?? especially if the spouse is working and if there are children. A person can’t make a strategic decision like this quickly, so you must slow down every phase of the process and use strategic, not tactical, information to persuade the candidate. As a first step, remove the question “Would you be open to relocation?” from all of your job filters. You might want to consider a better question, like, “For a great career opportunity, would you be open be exploring the possibility of a relocation? Even if not, please apply anyway; we might have something in your area soon.” This is pretty much what you need to tell a candidate who says they don’t want to relocate. The key strategy here is to recognize that the candidate will not make this decision quickly, or alone. At best, it will take a series of phone calls by a recruiter slowly presenting more and more compelling evidence why the person should just explore the opportunity. This is key. Once you know a relocation is involved, your initial objective is to convince the candidate to just explore the job. To do this you’ll need to present convincing information as to why the job is so great that the pain of relocation is far less than the cost of not relocating. It will take at least three calls to pull this off. Following is the list of things you’ll need to address in each of these calls. (I’ll be presenting more of the details behind this at ERE’s ER Expo West 2003 in San Diego, so this is just a starter. But I think you’ll see that this is the kind of thing that good recruiters must be able to do for every reluctant candidate.) Issues to Address to Overcome Relocation Objections

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  1. Accept the objection as fact, but still engage the candidate (see part 1 of this series on how to do this).
  2. Network with the candidate. This allows the candidate to learn about the job openly, without feeling like you’re trying to sell him or her to consider it.
  3. Obtain the candidate’s career profile. Suggest you’d like this for future local opportunities. Obtain it piecemeal during other conversations.
  4. Describe the compelling nature of the job; imply that the job might be even bigger for the right person.
  5. Call later and mention that your hiring manager indicated that job could be expanded for the right candidate. Aggressively network again with the candidate (see my networking articles). Develop a better understanding of the candidate’s personal career needs while networking.
  6. Call later and mention that the hiring manager would like to “just talk” about how this job is critical to the company’s long term growth plans.
  7. Ask the candidate if he or she would consider a job if it was local. Sell this chance, even if remote. This is another way to obtain the candidate’s profile.
  8. Send compelling job information to use for networking, but later state that you’d really like the person to consider the job for him or herself. This information must be so compelling that the candidate will share it with his or her advisors.
  9. Use outside resources to help position the job as a super career opportunity. This is where the company’s career site comes in handy. You might want to arrange a very exploratory phone interview with the hiring manager. During this meeting, the hiring manager should explain the importance of the job to the company’s overall strategy. The hiring manager needs to obtain some profile background, and then invite the candidate to spend a day at the company.

If you can get the candidate to come to the facility for the interview, you’re done. The candidate will accept a fair offer if the job really has as much stretch as presented. Here’s why this is true: The candidate has mentally accepted that the strategic opportunities of the job make a first evaluation imperative. He or she has convinced his or her closest advisors and family that it’s “at least worth a look,” but most likely nothing will come of it. The family is now considering the reality of a relocation. As long as the job opportunity is as good as promised, everything else is just tactics (comp, relo package, benefits, etc.). Hold something really good back until this first meeting. This will be your trump card when the candidate returns home, and will be needed when buyer’s remorse sets in. On a less intense level, this is exactly what you must do to get highly qualified but very discriminating candidates to come in for a first interview. If you’re a third-party recruiter, you can sell the opportunity to meet you as added rationale to come in for a interview. If you’re a corporate recruiter, getting top candidates to personally take the time off to visit your facility is the hardest part of your job. This is all about presenting the strategic aspects of the job as a compelling career opportunity. It is not easy, and it takes a number of calls, but don’t give up. This is the difference maker for recruiters. How well you do here will represent the difference between hiring volunteers or hiring top performers. (Note: As many of you know, I host two monthly online discussion groups where we explore topics like this in greater depth. One of the discussion groups is exclusively for those in corporate recruiting management where we focus on metrics for recruitment management. The other group is exclusively for third-party recruiting management. Here we discuss everything about managing a recruiting practice. Both groups are sponsored by POWER Hiring,, and ERE. If you’re on the corporate management side you can join by sending me an email at, and for third-party recruiting management the email is I’ll be presenting much of this information at ERE’s ER Expo 2003 West in San Diego in March, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet there. This is an event you won’t wan to miss if you want to be on the leading edge of recruitment management. Also, if you’d like a white paper prepared by Fisher & Phillips on why using POWER Hiring’s performance profiles is the best way to both minimize your legal exposure and maximize your hiring effectiveness send an email to

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).