Mar 19, 2009

Are we rusty as corporate recruiters? We haven’t had the amount of positions to fill as we have in the past. Volume is lower. Search assignments are scarce. I almost believe we are sharper when the volume is high. With only a few searches to work on, we may forget some of the steps we need to cover, when we haven’t been working at the capacity we once were, like it was just last year.

Our skills need to be sharp — even sharper than ever. It’s more important now that we bring in the best candidates possible, and actually get the candidate to accept the offer. No room for errors. We need to go through our recruiting process and make it perfect.

It takes all you know now, when that important search comes up and once again, you kick into high gear, ready to fill it with the best this market has to offer. What we used to do with 60 jobs on our plate at once is all different, now with only a few key positions to fill. Being in “auto pilot” is something that went away last fall. Now it’s a new game, and we need all the expertise we have to pull it off.

This is the best time to take out the book on recruiting, and don’t skip a page. (Is there really a book on recruiting? We can only wish). Every move, call, and discussion matters. We need to be at the top of our game. The stakes are high and the results need to show. We may not have a real book to turn to, but what we have is our experiences.  We need to do everything we can through the process to ensure an offer will be accepted. Which hiring manager wants to make a mistake in hiring? If they get the “go ahead” to hire, they will be very specific in what they want and how. The pressure is on the recruiter. Here is where the good recruiters stand apart from the great. Cover all the bases.

Every search has a degree of difficulty, and more often lately the difficulty is we don’t want to go all-out public with our search. Many companies have been restructuring, and “what would the public think if they found we are hiring?” We also don’t want to wave the “come and get me flag,” flooding us with calls from other recruiters who just want to help, or all candidates who are looking right now, for any opening. We want the needle, not the haystack! With all that said, we need to take the right steps and get this done.

Perfect recruiting? It means not missing a step. All along the process we must pay attention to every detail. No skipping steps. It’s by the book!

Get the Details

Take the time with the hiring manager and get a strong job description, and this includes exploring and challenging each element. How many times do our managers start off looking for one set of skills or experience, and end up with something totally different? Through strong questioning a top recruiter can sort out the “have to haves” from the “want to haves” giving a more solid game plan. Stay in tune to the manager and keep fine-tuning the job description. It will change; it always does. A great recruiter can ask the tough questions and nail down the details.

Get the Approvals

When it comes to approvals, take the time to go the distance. Get the approvals from the normal chain, and go up a level or two. But don’t stop there. If the recruiting process takes awhile, double check with the approvers that you still have a green light to hire. Our business environments change often and so does the decision to hire. Don’t wait till you are ready to make an offer to find the job was put on hold. Ask the tough questions and ask them often.

Progress Reports

Keep your managers aware of your progress and your slate of candidates. The managers need to see the effort and to anticipate the results. Throughout the process we need to keep checking, asking those questions. Each new candidate considered could bring new thought to the position. After each interview, debrief with the manager and see what’s different.

Confidential Sourcing

With sourcing: Can’t go public on a huge job board? Try strategic recruiting: sourcing just the names you really want to talk to, or those who know the people we want. Instead of broadcasting the opening to millions, find 5-50 using LinkedIn or in your candidate files, and contact directly. Here’s the step not to miss: Contact them both in writing and by phone. It takes several attempts in the market these days. An email takes the cold out of the call and the call takes the email out of the Spam. Most candidates are reluctant. Be persistent and get those calls made. I find in the most recent years, some recruiters rely too heavily on emails and seldom pick up the phone. The phone is where a relationship starts. Use it for the competitive edge you need to not only find the right person, but to get an offer accepted. The relationship starts at the very beginning. A good relationship between candidate and recruiter paves a smoother path to hire.

Candidate State of Mind

Take the time with the interview, but more than finding out everything about the candidate, dig deep with the candidate’s parameters. Why are they looking? What would make their lives better? What’s really important to them? Have they ever accepted a counteroffer before? Keep these questions in mind throughout all the steps of the process. Minds change, situations change. Stay on top of these changes. Find those cold feet, and keep them warm.


Cover the counteroffer, and cover it often. Most companies who have a hiring freeze know if a key player leaves, they may not be able to replace them. If your candidate is that key player, it’s very likely they will receive a counteroffer. Start talking about the possibility during the first interview, and don’t ever count it as a “done” conversation, until the person starts and becomes engaged in their work. I have seen candidates accept counteroffers from their current employers starting from the day they give notice, or as late as two weeks after they start the new position.

Team Effort

Employ the management team in the hiring process. The more people the candidate meets, the better likelihood they will accept an offer. We are not in a market where the managers can only practice behavioral interviewing, but we need to connect to the candidate and show the welcome mat. Do both! Developing a strong rapport could easily make the difference. A candidate must feel welcomed, engaged, and excited to accept an offer. At offer time, a follow-up call from the highest-level executive to the candidate is a great way to cement the relationship. Knowing that the candidate can talk with top management will show the company has good open communication, is accessible, and implies a strong trust. The candidate will be happy to be recognized by top management and will add more comfort in making the move.

Offers need to be made in two stages. Gone are the days where we just mail out an offer letter and cross our fingers. A two-call close uncovers possible objections and details that need to be addressed. Call first, and ask, “If we made an offer would you accept it, and at what level?” Open the conversation up and listen carefully to what the candidate is saying. Hesitance, questions, problems, concerns, or misconceptions need to be addressed, and this may take time. Take the time to close the candidate carefully. Listen to the objections; confirm the objections, isolating the real reasons for hesitation. The care taken in this step will help avoid those turn-downs. If you do get a turn-down, use the ‘lost sales close’. You may be able to bring the placement back to life if the real objection is uncovered and can be answered. It’s never over.

Consider offering an exit plan for anyone who is hesitating on coming aboard. How many times have you heard candidates say they feel safer in their current company than they would jumping to a new company, becoming the new kid on the block? It’s possible that a solid exit package will show you are investing in this person and feel confident they will become a valued contributor. This offer can make the difference.

Follow up with your candidate after the offer is accepted. Never leave them alone to work out their notice for weeks before they start. This is the time counteroffers become real. Stay in touch. Call instead of emailing. Find reasons to connect and reaffirm your new relationship and don’t ever be afraid to ask if they have been asked to stay. Have them reaffirm the reasons why they wouldn’t accept a counter offer when you do talk.

Of course, the last step not to miss: have a strong onboarding program in place. Once they join, show the love; help to get established and connected.

This hire is your doing, take good care of it from start to finish. We have more time with fewer openings. Make the most of it by following every page in your book.

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