Converting Industry Experience Into Recruiting – The “Credibility” Factor

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Jul 21, 2011

Everyone knows that the recruiting business is a phone business. Without that basic communication tool, we wouldn’t be able to interface with as many people as we do. Our business is also a “sales” business. We’re constantly selling our value to our client. Crucial to the “sales process” is that we must first establish our credibility with our client. Really for all of us, the sales process begins by identifying a client with a need. That is in knowing your market or being attuned to what is going on.

Knowing Your Niche

Selling your value proposition begins with the marketing call, and once you have your prospect’s attention, then you can work on establishing credibility. That is, in this field, that you know the market and that you have credible candidates that can perform the job. For most recruiters, that generally comes from market knowledge or market research. It comes from becoming a Market Master — knowing your niche. It includes knowing which companies you want to work with and which ones you want to stay away from. It also means that you know where to find the right candidates.

Many firms start their recruiters out making bountiful phone calls into the marketplace. They are well mentored by a good trainer to recruit talented candidates for the opportunities that more senior recruiters have developed. At Ag 1 Source, we took a slightly different path in seeking out our recruiting talent. We chose to focus on prospects who were experienced sales professionals in their industry niche and who have direct market knowledge. We then chose to develop a training program focused on channeling that talent into highly effective recruiting skills. Why did we do that, and how is that working?

“It was refreshing to work with someone that knows what they are talking about related to my business,” an Ag 1 client said. “Understanding the market, the lingo, and coming from the industry is really key to the success of how Ag 1 Source has built their market. The recruiters come from the industry, are experienced in sales or related areas, know the market, the regions, the key market strengths, and where the business is being done. That, for us, is known as an expert in the field.”

One thing that we at Ag 1 Source knew early on is that agriculture is a marketplace where the bulk of the clients demand integrity in a working relationship. That’s a trait that is not easy to earn and is certainly hard to keep. Those who don’t put the time in to work at it find themselves working the scrap deals. If you want to work the choice deals, the credibility has to be demonstrated. We all, especially our clients, tend to have a high ability to sniff out a salesperson in the first twenty seconds of a call.

Knowing the Lingo

What is market knowledge? In agriculture, our recruiters know what “diesel fever” means. They know what the smell of acetylene is on a crisp spring morning. For those not indoctrinated, diesel fever refers to the first farmer to be tilling his fields early in the spring and the smell of acetylene means that someone had to get up early to repair the boom on the spray rig that hit the power pole the night before. That’s what is known as market knowledge or lingo. It’s the ability to relate to the farm center manager that got only four hours of sleep last night during the “spring rush.” It’s also the advantage that a recruiter has when working on establishing that all-important credibility with the client that’s being won over. It’s the ability of a recruiter to understand when he/she needs to cut to the chase and ask the right question, or in the absence of the knowledge, get lumped into the class of “salesmen” that keep calling at the wrong time and “bugging” the manager. It is also equally important to have that same credibility when recruiting candidates. We have to understand what will really make the difference in the right position fit for both sides, the client and the candidate.

The old adage is that it takes an average of six sales calls to make a sale, right? What if you could trim that average down to four, or even three? What would that mean? Could you make the same amount of calls and earn another third or even twice as many clients? How important is that? Making the time expended count is huge. Being able to devote more time to ask the right questions and listen in on what the client really needs is critical. The ability to direct more of your time to really listening in, versus the required time to first establish the credibility, results in more time that can be spent on closing the deal.

Hiring for Your Business

So, what are we looking for in the “Right Stuff” for a recruiting consultant prospect?

  1. Accomplished sales skills – a sales closer
  2. Integrity and honesty as core values
  3. The credibility factor – a large book of contacts and working knowledge of the targeted market segment
  4. A driven style, a conation, and passion for success
  5. A strong ability to read people – comes equipped with a BS meter and connectivity – you like the person instantly
  6. Strong communication skills – a great “questioner”
  7. Controlled time management skills
  8. The capability to understand the need – prior interviewing, hiring, or management experience
  9. Consciousness – Aware of their surroundings, having strong follow-through, and realizing what’s really important
  10. Courage – to step into the unknown,  try the impossible, do the difficult tasks first and not put off until tomorrow what can be done today
  11. Confidence – The ability to get up when knocked down
  12. Entrepreneurship – Someone that has built something from scratch, someone that wants to contribute to the bottom line, both to the client and the agency

When it comes to what skills we seek, there are more details we will look at, but the above twelve are must-haves. The above factors are likely quite similar to and are based on models created by several other organizations with one key difference for us: how we look at the credibility factor.

Trying to train industry or market knowledge can take considerable time in our world. The training to adapt a sales approach to our system takes much less time. It is what works for our industry, and it is what works for the design of our training program. Naturally, we as recruiters generally come across as salesmen initially, but with credibility quickly established, the bond is made: “You’re one of us” in a client’s or a candidate’s eyes.

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