Most Recruiters Fail to Attract Top Talent in the First 30 Seconds

Article main image
Sep 13, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

The majority of recruiters typically start off convincing prospects to join their company by conveying their benefits, company accolades, and employer brand status right off the bat.

But these benefits and attributes are irrelevant, at least until the first 30 seconds are up.

If you waste those 30 seconds, prospects look at you like other employers who have the same run-of-the-mill approach, therefore decreasing the probability of having a competitive advantage regardless of how much you might think your perks or brand is a differentiator.

The VP of People Operations at Google, Lazlo Bock, said that 99.4 percent of time is spent on confirmation bias, based on the first 10 seconds of the first impression. The first few seconds for candidates are equally as important for recruiters. Prospects will also generate biases of you (the recruiter) and the company, and are likely to spend the remaining of their time confirming their hypotheses.

The solution for the best first impression to attract high-performing prospects: a personalized 30-second pitch. The word “pitch” has somewhat of a negative connotation because it may come off as a script, or unauthentic to some people. It shouldn’t be. On the contrary, it should be a message directly personal to its recipient with the intention of discovering their values and figuring out if they correspond to the values of the job and the company as a whole.

The 30-second Personalized Story 

Lazlo Bock claimed the best recruiter in at Google was former senior VP of engineering Allen Eustace. The reason behind this is because one thing that Allen did extremely well was his ability to learn what people valued most, and connect their values to their work.

Some critical factors that can aid recruiters to do the same in the first 30 seconds of meeting a talented prospect for hire:


Pre-Research — you’ve studied the prospect through social networks, and searched the web to see if there is any information that can be gathered to learn more about them. But instead of making the assumption that the information gathered is the best representation of who they are, during the actual meeting over phone or in person, the recruiter can ask questions to confirm the accuracy of the assessment. How you go about confirming will be an important task and can be the determinant of whether the person decides to take the job or not.

Study your company programs and communities it supports  You know what the company has previously done, is currently doing, and plans on doing. Have an inventory list on an electronic document of the stories and anecdotes about the company, so you can have them at your ready. Connect the stories to the candidate’s values and desires.

If the prospect is nowhere to be found online in preparation for the 30-second personalized story  Send a simple email or schedule a meeting in person and ask questions to learn their values.

Some examples of questions to learn their values include:

  1. What drives you to work and do the best work in your life?
  2. In a perfect day, what activities do you see yourself doing outside of work and why?

Have a Categorized Inventory of 30-second Stories

Here’s an example, from SoundCloud, I’ve embedded here.

Consequences of Not Having a “Personalized 30 Second Story”

The prospect may lose interest and you may lose a potential high-performing candidate  The worst thing that can happen is to have a prospect who could have been convinced to join the candidate pool lose interest because they felt like the recruiter was unauthentic due to their first impression. The risks of losing a potential high-level candidate are too high for recruiters not to take into consideration of having a 30-second personalized story in their repertoire.

You may not have a competitive advantage if you use the same process of advertising a job like your competitors — having a competitive advantage against your competitors by limiting yourself to the same process they use to gain the attention of “passive talent” is risky.

You may lose them because of the inability to hook in the first 30 seconds. As stated before, not creating a personal story based on the prospect’s value early on in the first 30 seconds of interaction can be a red flag warning for “this recruiter is like the rest syndrome.”

Setting Up the Transition

The 30-second pitch allows you to transition into talking about the technical aspects of the job. The recruiter can do two things after the first 30 seconds are up: One, continue to discuss how their work will impact them in a way that allows them to do their best work while loving what they do, and two, recruiters can discuss the technical aspects of the job because they have already captivated the prospect’s interests early on.

The purpose of the 30-second personalized story is to have the recipient say “tell me more,” and have them transfer from the passive to the active candidate pool. The first 30 seconds is only half of the battle; once a recruiter learns to master telling their story based on the prospect’s values, the recruiter must be consistent with making sure that they are actually doing just that once hired. Most importantly, recruiters should consult with hiring managers before offering a prospect a job that will provide them the opportunities that were promised unless 100% certain they will be provided. A simple follow up can assure you that they are indeed doing the best work in their life.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!