Candidate Control Revisited

Nov 1, 2007

Many articles in TFL address the common problems we have in this business. Such recent articles as “Reference Check Boomerangs,” “Gotcha!” and others I find very informational and useful, but rarely do I see the real solution to almost all of these problems: candidate control.

Today, there is this prevailing notion that candidate control is a “myth.” That’s a real shame because there is only one real “trump card” we have to almost all employer-caused problems: the strength of the relationship we have with our candidates. I learned back in the early 1980s that no matter how much a company enjoys doing business with you, or how strong a “client” relationship we have with a company, today’s “4.0 client” is tomorrow’s fee avoider.

Now, with technology as it is today, information is available on anyone at any time, so candidate control is more important than ever, and that goes for both applicants as well as passive recruits. All the problems with “we found him in our database” or “we know that guy already” or “our HR guy was already onto him” or “hey, that guy’s available?” (reference check boomerangs) or “I’m the new HR sheriff in town and your fee is now 20%” or “there’s no signed contract, and we are a state where you need one to get paid” means zero if you inoculate yourself against these problems and do the most important thing of all in this business: CONTROL YOUR CANDIDATES!

Call me a dinosaur, but where I come from, candidate control is a cornerstone of our business. Today, the vogue thing in our industry is for trainers to teach that candidate control is a “myth” because “human beings cannot be controlled – they are going to do what’s in their best interest, not yours.” The second half of that statement is true; the first half is absolutely false. A human being in our business can (must?) be controlled; you just need to know how to do it!

I don’t care whether or not a company knows about my candidate (in fact, I assume they already know about him). I don’t worry about whether or not I have a signed agreement. I don’t fret over how much the company says it will pay after the fact. My bottom line is my relationship with my candidates.

Before I work with anyone, they must agree to do exactly as I say, when I say it, or I am not presenting them to any company, anywhere. Of course, I state such in a much more diplomatic way, especially with recruits, but any candidate I work with had better follow my instructions the same way he follows his attorney’s or doctor’s or he can find some other headhunter and waste his time. Here’s my rule: “From this hour forward, any interview you go on with any company must be arranged through me as your representative. I am your agent, just as if you were a sports star or actor and I am your representative. Nothing related to your job hunt (job change) occurs without my involvement. I don’t care if your uncle calls you with a dream job – you need to give him my phone number and tell him I am your agent.”

With that commitment, I have fended off one problem after another. In the past six months alone, I sent a $100K manager to an interview and afterwards, the company’s HR executive called me saying that people within their company already knew my candidate, “and also knew he was looking, so we are not going to pay your 30K fee.”

I calmly informed the HR executive that perhaps with other recruiters he was correct, but not with me. I told him to call the candidate and ask him who is “representing” him to the company. This HR person was expecting the usual “throw the recruiter under the bus” candidate amnesia, but when he called my candidate, my candidate did what he had agreed to do in my first meeting with him: he informed this HR manager that “Neil is my recruiter, and if you hire me, you will need to pay him.” This HR manager was flabbergasted to see a candidate who was actually loyal. That’s because most recruiters lack that level of candidate control. Some recruiters would say I was just “lucky” to have ethical candidates. I see it more as my candidates are afraid of me!

Why is candidate control considered a “myth”? I believe it’s because most recruiters don’t see themselves as an equal professional with an attorney or physician. Rarely do people give their lawyer or physician a hard time, or disobey his/her advice. That’s mostly because they see their doctor or lawyer as being so professional they are afraid of upsetting him/her! You need to gain that kind of respect (and obedience) from your candidates. The way to do it is to BE as professional as a lawyer or doctor.

Neil McNulty is president of McNulty Management Group, a recruiting and placement firm that licenses placement firms to use the “30/30 Placement Programâ„¢” for placing transitioning military personnel within 30 miles of any point on the map in the USA, and doing so within just 30 days. He can be reached at

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