The Single Most Important Recruiting Technique Since My 1-Question Interview

Aug 24, 2012

After 30 years of recruiting outstanding senior staff, mid-level managers, and company executives, I can now state unequivocally that the single most important step in the passive candidate recruiting process is the 30-minute exploratory interview. Here’s why: 

  1. You will engage with 5-10X more passive candidates. Asking people who aren’t looking if they’d like to chat for a few minutes about a potential career move is far more productive than selling lateral transfers. Of course, you have to ask the question the right way to get 93.6% of them to say yes.
  2. You will be able to convert a job into a career. When you start the phone screen, don’t tell the person much about the job. Instead suggest that the purpose of the call is to determine if the job represents a true career move to the person. For the next 5-10 minutes review the person’s LinkedIn profile and find four or five learning and opportunity gaps your job offers that the person’s current job is missing. Use these to fashion the career opportunity as you move on to the next step.
  3. You will be able to minimize the impact of compensation in the decision process. As long as your job offers a combination of less pain, a bit of short-term stretch, and some significant upside potential, you’ll be able to get the person to agree to minimize the need for a big compensation increase. Use this to gain a compensation concession to move forward into a more serious career discussion.
  4. You will be able to get two or three warm referrals of outstanding talent. If the person isn’t qualified, you’ll be able to network with them on LinkedIn and then search on their first-degree connections. This is the most powerful feature, and primary reason, why every recruiter should have LinkedIn Recruiter.
  5. You will be able to open up the search process to more top talent. Few top people are likely to jump at a chance to take a lateral transfer. But just about all of them are willing to discuss the possibility of significant career move. That’s why recruiters need to “sell” the short discussion and not the job. Most managers are willing to modify the job up or down somewhat for a high-potential person, but this will never happen if you and the candidate are both using the wrong filters.
  6. You will be able to get your hiring managers to “own” the candidate. After the recruiter conducts the first exploratory conversation, all hiring managers should then conduct a similar 30-minute exploratory discussion with the prospect. Top people are very open to these types of more serious, but still exploratory, conversations. However, the hiring manager has an important role in this second call: to first qualify and then invite the person onsite for a full interview. By taking full responsibility for this, managers now “own” the decision to meet the candidate, and as a result are more objective and responsible in their evaluation.
  7. You will be able to minimize the impact of first impressions and increase assessment accuracy. Knowing something about the person before you invite them onsite for an interview naturally minimizes the perverse impact of first impressions.
  8. You will be able to get more people open to consider the idea of relocation. Asking people if they’ll relocate on the first call is like asking someone to buy a house without seeing it. It takes times for a person to fully appreciate the idea of a relocation as part of a significant career move. The exploratory call allows for the first step in this repositioning.
  9. You will be able to get passive candidates to sell you. Recruiting passive candidates requires finesse and advanced recruiter skills. Overselling is not a part of it. The key is to make your career move so attractive the person sells you as to why they’re qualified. This is the primary purpose of the exploratory phone call — moving one step at a time.
  10. You will raise your company’s overall talent level. While you might hire a few strong people who are more interested in what a job pays than its career value, this is no way to implement a “raising-the-talent-bar” program. The exploratory call is a foundational step that should be part of every company’s hiring process. If you want to hire people who are looking for career moves, you can best demonstrate this by having the exploratory interview as the first step in your hiring process, rather than submitting an application and hoping for the best.

And the list goes on. All it takes is 30 minutes.

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