Operation: Strike Sheet – utilizing candidate knowledge to find job orders and secure job offers

Feb 1, 2004

“There’s got to be an easier way to do this business,” some of us have muttered these days. There must be easier ways to find solid job orders and matching candidates, you’d think, other than cold calling, letter writing and running ads? Actually, yes, there is an easier way: OPK.

OPK: Other peoples’ knowledge. That’s it. Candidate knowledge — the one resource most new, even veteran, search professionals don’t utilize enough is the candidate’s knowledge of the market and companies for you to explore. Ahhh.

As you and I sit at our desks playing psychological hide and seek with candidates and employers we find ourselves frustrated in finding authentic job orders and qualified candidates on a regular basis. Our business is a contact sport and the only way to do our job is to make contacts – many contacts daily. So we think we’re doing our job by calling everybody, yet with limited response. The good news is you can make better use of your time and talents through effective questioning techniques, getting the candidates to do some of your homework for you and practicing a little “psychology for profit.”

We all practiced marketing a placeable candidate. Nothing new here. I do it all the time, and you probably do too. But are you being effective? Are you finding enough companies or competitors that would be interested in your prized player? Are you presenting the candidate – the right candidate – in a manner that the hiring manager has no option but to interview her or him immediately, if not sooner? Better yet, do you ask every candidate to name their competition? This is where the creative and tenacious recruiters succeed and live to tell about it. Let’s talk through the process and make you some more money in the next thirty days.

Step one: Think “Strike Sheet.” It sounds Top Gun cool, positive, easy to remember, looks good on paper and implies action pronto.

Step two: Find a superstar, or close to a superstar candidate and give them a homework assignment. They’re going to do your homework and you just watch your favorite TV show and relax tonight. The homework is to list their top 3-5 competitors, corporate locations, ranking them in order of strengths, niche markets, etc. Don’t even worry about asking them which ones they’d want to work for – you can address that later. You need data right now. Ask them about the competitor’s culture, marketing approach, and any data, including management names and phone numbers. You will encourage them to do this because it will help you market them more effectively within their industry and demonstrate to you their ability to do adequate research and preparation for an interview in such a challenging economy. This exercise weeds out tire-kicker candidates from the motivated ones that want to change, and it will tell you just how deep their abilities are to think strategically and tactically. This document now becomes your Strike Sheet. Let Operation: Strike Sheet commence.

Step three: After the data is in your hot little hands, the dialogue with your candidate will include questions such as: Who have you already contacted? Why? When? How did you find them? Who did you talk with? What happened? Remember: Candidates have been known to omit details in conversations, so protect yourself. Remind the candidate that you may be already working with a few of these companies confidentially and do not want to present an already submitted candidate. Double check to see what secrets they’ve kept.

Step four: Ask your candidate, “What do you have to offer these competitors that they desire: contacts, unique skills, no non-compete agreements to dance around, image, attitude, do you know somebody big, big, big? Any bait we can toss to them that will get them on the hook? You must secure the conviction of the candidate that the more information they give you the better you can market them both inside and outside the industry.

Step five: Create and attach a “WOW Sheet” to the Strike Sheet provided by your candidate. List all the neat stuff – WOW stuff – stuff they just told you they have to offer the companies you’re going to target. List details that may not be on their resume such as access to databases, product mix and details on customer profiles, customers and who they can call on, sales volume and rate of growth and new business ratios, special skills or knowledge, special college degrees or prominent schools, non-compete agreement status, territory coverage. This WOW Sheet will be enough for you to take to the Strike Sheet contacts and market your candidate effectively. Now the fun starts.

Rehearse your presentation and prepare to call as high up in the organization you can (HR, doesn’t count. Do not call HR. I repeat: do not call HR.). Secure your candidate’s permission to contact these companies with the understanding you’ll not disclose his or her name until the client shows interest and the candidate approves their name being divulged. Get ready to play.

Step six: Make the call to the hiring manager. For the sake of role-playing, let’s call Steve, a regional manager of sorts. Stay with me here because it gets fast and devilishly amusing, but very effective to weed out the decision makers from the business pawns dressed in business casual. The phone is ringing……….

Russ: Hello, Steve. My name is Russ Riendeau and I’m an executive recruiter with The East Wing Search Group. I am representing a candidate that is currently one of the top sales professionals with one of your competitors. We’ve created a short list of companies that would benefit from my candidate’s talent that are proactive, have strong management teams, and appear to have a strategic growth plan. You and I may get to park in the ‘Hero of the Month’ parking spot with the details I’d like to share with you. Would you like to hear more? (They will say yes. If they say no, hang up, call their boss and start the dialogue over.)

My candidate is preparing to leave his organization to join a more dynamic organization that can use his skills, contacts and knowledge. I know him very well and would rather he sell for me than against me. He is one of the top players in your market and has documentation to prove it. When can we arrange for a confidential meeting with the two of you? What is a good day this week?

Hiring manager potential rebuttals

HM: We don’t have any openings.

Russ: I’m sorry, I thought you said you didn’t have any openings.

HM: Yes, I did say that.

Russ: Great, we don’t have to worry about dancing around a replacement issue. This candidate is an addition to your team. A proactive, revenue-producing superstar with documentation. If for no other reason, you should meet him to see what the competition is doing. Nothing to lose. What day this week works?

Rebuttal rebound

HM: We don’t pay fees.

Russ: I’m presenting you a candidate that will earn you more bonus, more profit for the owner and more dividends for shareholders. The fee is the least of your concerns. This is an investment in growth. Are you paid to produce growth or protect what’s already in place? (Don’t be scared to raise the manager’s dander a bit. He or she can take it if they’re sharp and if they are profit-oriented. If they’re not, hang up and call their boss and start over.)

Rebuttal again, with gusto

HM: We have our own sources to find talent.

Russ: (and this response will test your resolve and guts, and the hiring manager’s creativeness to squirm out of a tough situation.) Steve, I understand you may not be authorized to make certain decisions with regard to proactive hiring. Probably best if I contact next in command and present my candidate directly to her. What’s her name and direct dial? I’ll call her today and explain your concern over interviewing a superstar competitor with no obligation. Thanks and sorry for my mistake (This one could go any which way, but whatever the response you’ll have a better insight as to who is running the show, or you may even get the interview, maybe a “click.”)

Here’s another response after the HM has thrown his best excuses your way. It’s an old family favorite and a lot of fun.

Russ: Steve, let me see if I understand your predicament. You have no openings, company policy says “no” to paying fees and you have neither time nor interest in peeking into your competition’s keyhole by meeting with a person wanting to leave, because it won’t do you any good. It sounds like corporate policy is pretty firm. Your hands are tied, eh?

HM: Yep, Russ. Not much I can do about it.

Russ: Well, only one thing to do . . .send me YOUR resume immediately.

HM: What? First you call to present a candidate and then turnaround and try to recruit me?

Russ: Yes, I am. Here’s why, Steve. You’ve told me you can’t pay fees, you have no motivation or curiosity to meet with a competitor to gain insight, your company is not proactive in their growth, thus you’ll never be a client of mine. This means you will forever be forced to hire picked over, second grade talent. You’ve got no power to make decisions that affect your income, management tells you what to do yet handcuffs you when it comes to building a world team and won’t pay fees – even for superstars. You, my friend, are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. I can help you find a company that respects your talent and abilities and is proactive.

Now, tell me who you’d like to go to work for? And let’s talk about creating a Strike Sheet. I have a bit of homework for you tonight, by the way.

Repeat as needed with each company on your candidate’s list.

Sound fun, scary, gutsy? You bet. Will you find the decision makers in a hurry? You bet. Will your interview counts go up? You bet. Will HMs respect your approach? You bet. If they don’t they aren’t strong leaders and won’t be around too long anyway.

Notice the various psychological approaches to creating logical, emotional, challenging and defending attitudes for the hiring manager. By approaching him or her from many different motivation angles: personal income, respect, association with cheapskates, forced to hire marginal workers, no power or no perceived power, the manager has to consider your logic. Surrounded by your rationales of why he is no longer a potential client gives him reason to consider your offer to send his resume. The end result can also be – and this happens all the time – the hiring manager sends you his resume and still finds a way to pay you a fee to hire a candidate just to prove he can do his job! Your logic helps him sell you to his top brass and make a placement or two in the process. The relationship grows stronger and maybe HM leaves, maybe not. You’ve done everybody a service by educating on the benefits of using a professional.

The beauty of using this approach every time is the fact that managers respect the approach and logic. It eliminates tap dancing around sensitive issues, sorts out the timewasters and wannabes, and creates candidate flow of future managers for you to place. Decision makers pay fees. Decision makers like to make decisions, so give them decisions to make. Yes or no. Meet or why not? What have you got to lose? Have fiercely candid conversations. Don’t let a manager wiggle out of a flimsy excuse. Be firm, be confused – dumb like a fox (I don’t understand. Can you repeat that? What you just said sounds odd to me. Are you really comfortable saying that.).

Final details to Operation: Strike Sheet:

Make sure your candidate is committed to leave and is really a superstar. Check references and be sure the Strike Sheet is for real.

Act swiftly with all the companies on the list. Get a frenzied bid going and keep the candidate moving towards change. Cover the counteroffer from day one.

Get as much detail in the Strike Sheet as possible. Have the candidate do most of the digging for numbers and names. Verification takes less time than you digging up the names and numbers.

Keep good notes on the client and candidate motivation to leave.

Spend time presenting candidates and sourcing companies as much as possible and keep the script in front of you. Don’t deviate. If the dialogue becomes circular and you find yourself selling too hard to the client, it’s a dead end. Send a card, call their boss to start over, then, move on.

Be professional, be respectful, but be firm. Don’t be right – be fair and logical.

Have every candidate create a Strike Sheet to gain knowledge of their marketplace. Ask them which jobs they secured through a recruiter and call those companies right away. You now have the template – the candidate’s resume – of what the company has hired in the past.

Oh boy, is this business easy.

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