“The Phone Rang…” Recruiting the Candidate

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Sep 16, 2011

This time the phone rang after hours. Lucky for me I was working late and answered the call. It was from one of my favorite students. She was having problems navigating this sluggish economy. She complained that she hardly ever wrote a ‘recruitable’ Job Order anymore and that her main problem was once she had a great JO, she was unable to recruit anyone for it. She was stuck!

We talked about recruiting for a while and it was obvious to me that she had a knowledge deficiency that was leading to an execution deficiency. Yes, she was indeed stuck. The bottom-line was that she had forgotten how to do the “recruiting” part of our business. And so, I began at the beginning…

It Starts With the Job Order (JO)

Robocruiter used to always say that the biggest problem we have in recruiting, other than planning and organization, is working “Can’t Help” JOs as search assignment quality JOs. The ‘qualification’ part of the jigsaw puzzle was missing.

Those of you who read my columns in TFL know that I am a big proponent of qualifying the JO before we start to recruit on it. Just look at the article I wrote for last month’s TFL, and also the 2006 TFL article I wrote with Kevin Franks where we discussed our job order matrix at length (for more information see, TFL, July 2006, “The Job Order Matrix [with Kevin Franks]”, pp. 1-4.). The problem is that in this economy, we compound our weak marketing efforts by selecting sub-standard JOs on which to recruit. Then we can’t put the thing together and we complain about the rotten economy when we were merely conducting our business in a rotten way.

Use the Recruitment Column Information

When you are taking The Qualifier JO, and you get to the recruitment column blanks, ask these questions one at a time and in this order*:

1. “Who do you want?”

This question will separate you from all of your competition. I am still amazed at how few recruiters ask it. But if the HM missed that you were a recruiter at the beginning of your conversation, he will now realize that you are a headhunter because you have asked for a head to hunt. Usually the HM will pause while pondering the answer to a question no recruiter has asked them before. But the HM will realize that this is an important question and may want to think about it before he responds. It is normal for them to call you back with many possible leads. “Who do you want?” is a Big Biller question.

2. “Which companies, or which of your competitors, do you respect and want someone from?”

Don’t ask, “Who are your competitors?” First of all, if you are an expert in your niche, you should already know this. Second, they may not want someone from a competitor. And third, they may want someone from a company not in their field of specialization. Now don’t let them try to put you in a corner by replying that you should know the answer, because, you see, you can never know whom they RESPECT and WANT SOMEONE FROM. Only they can know the answer to that question.

3. “Which industry do you want someone from?”

If we get to this question, our JO is going down the drain. It probably means that this HM has not put sufficient thought into his hiring process and this opening.

(*Note: More on this technique is available in my article from last week on How to Qualify the Job Order.)

F-A-B the JO, But Change the “A”

You need to FAB the JO, much like you FAB the candidate, so that you can make a scintillating presentation. Here is where you remind the HM that you are going to attempt to attract potential candidates who are happy, well-appreciated, making good money, and currently working, and you are going to entice them to move for a better opportunity, i.e., the HM’s opening. Thus you need something to sell and that is why you need the company information to build a Feature-Advantage-Benefit presentation. What would cause my candidate to leave their job and come to work with your company? What is unique about your company? You must do this in order to place the client company in the most positive light. Remember, your candidate base has to be motivated to consider new career opportunities. The recruiter must constantly be prepared to answer the prospect’s often non-verbalized question, “What’s in it for me?” — also known by the acronym WIIFM.

Indirect First, Then Direct

I have found over the years that most big billers prefer to begin with the indirect approach (“Who do you know…?”) and then transition to the direct approach (“How about you…? What would interest you in making a move…?”). But you know what? Both approaches work. Use one or the other or both, depending on your comfort level. It really doesn’t matter. Only the results matter.

When you ask whom the prospect might know who is qualified, they will invariably answer that they don’t know anyone who would be interested in making a move. They simply change your operative word from ‘qualified’ to ‘interested’—that change in words you can’t allow and must correct. Tell them that you appreciate them thinking about people who might be interested in making a move, but that you want to speak with those who are qualified. Then you will determine who are the best matches for your JO. Your job is like unwinding a giant ball of string. You will eventually reach the end. You will eventually find the right candidate.

Next, especially if they are interested, they will ask you three questions:

  1. “What is the name of the client company?”
  2. “Where is it located, geographically speaking?”
  3. “What is the salary range?”

These are all ‘editing out’ questions and you must avoid answering them. Don’t let the prospect make these ‘editing out’ decisions. You will do that. Here are your answers to those three questions:

  1. “This is a confidential search and I can’t give out that information right now. Just trust that it is one of the leading corporations in their niche.”
  2. “Actually we have various locations. One is (where the position it located), but we have various locations around the US.”
  3. “I am so glad you asked me that question. My client wants me to help them determine the range. Based on what I have told you so far, what do you, as one of your niche’s experts, feel the range should be?” Then, whatever the prospect answers, you agree with and then ask again, who they know who is qualified and who you can speak to.

And finally the last question—and it’s a biggie:

“Who told you to call me?” Or, “Where did you get my name/number, etc.?”

Here is your answer. It is a two-parter:

“You know, I make so many calls on a daily basis that I frankly don’t remember although I keep everything confidential anyway.

“But I can tell you two things. First of all, it was very complimentary about you or I wouldn’t have tried to reach you. And second, it was no one from your company because I have never called your company before.”

They can now breathe realizing that they are not being ‘out-placed’ and that you are not the harbinger of that fate. They will now talk to you.

Bottom-line of the two approaches—Indirect and Direct:

  • Indirect positives: You get better cooperation and you get referrals.
  • Indirect negatives: It is longer and you can be seen to be “beating around the bush”.
  • Direct positives: It is short and you are saying what you mean.
  • Direct negatives: The potential recruit will edit out people to recommend to you who might compete with them for the position down the road and you can create egomaniacs by making the potential recruit feel too special.


Keeping WIIFM in mind, most big billers find that candidates will move for one (or more) of five major motivators. These can be remembered by using a second acronym, “CLAMS.” And, interestingly enough, they seem to be important in this ranking order with Challenge being the most important, then Location, etc. (Note that Money is the fourth reason why people will move—not the first.)

I.    Challenge of the new position

  • Ask, “What challenges you in your current position?”
  • Ask, “Professionally speaking, what would you rather be doing?”
  • Ask, “Define for me your “perfect” position description.”
  • Ask, “What would you like to do in your new position?”

II.  Location of the position

  • Ask, “Where did you grow up?”
  • Ask, “Where does most of your family live?”
  • Ask, “Where would you and your family prefer to live?”
  • Ask, “What are your hobbies?”

III. Advancement potential

  • Ask, “What is your next step up the ladder?”
  • Ask, “What position would you like to have next year at this time?”
  • Ask, “What will be the last position you will attain with this company?”
  • Ask, “How have you moved up the company in relation to your peers?”

IV. Money

  • Ask, “What is your current salary?”
  • Ask, “Is your current salary where you think it should be?”
  • Ask, “What salary would it take to move you to another company?”
  • Ask, “When was your last raise?”

V.  Stability of the company

  • Ask, “How stable is your current company?”
  • Ask, “Have you had many lay-offs or reductions-in-force?”
  • Ask, “Have your reviews and/or raises been put on hold?”
  • Ask, “Have your company’s plans for the future be altered?”

A Big Biller (BB) “Three Call” Direct Technique

The Initial Call:

  • 60 seconds in length.
  • “I would like to call you sometime this week—some evening—what time would be best? I would like to discuss some alternative job opportunities with you and I’ll need about 30 minutes.”
  • BB refuses to talk to the potential recruit on this initial call.
  • BB wants the potential recruit thinking about talking to a recruiter.
  • You don’t need a JO to do this.
  • Never miss the call back time—it illustrates your punctuality.

The Second Call:

  • Ask first, “If you were to make a change, what position would that be for?”
  • Ask second, “What are your geographical limitations?”
  • Don’t talk specifics—take a Recruit Data Sheet (RDS) — explain the FAB.
  • Say at the end of the call, “I don’t know enough about you now. I’ll review all of my searches and if there are any matches, I’ll call you back. I do promise, at this stage, not to mention your name or your company’s name.”
  • Then hang up.
  • The key to this is developing relationships — establishing rapport.

The Third Call:

  • Now is the time to present a position.
  • If the recruit doesn’t have the right parameters, BB tells them, “My companies won’t consider people without __________.”
  • If the recruit does match, this is when BB arranges the first client-candidate meeting.

Be Persistent

Regardless of your recruiting effort results, always call back after 2-3 days with a new piece of information and a condensed re-presentation of your FAB’ed JO. You need to give these folks time to think about what you have asked them. Leads will come to them with time, but don’t expect them to initiate the call to you with this information. You must call them back. You must ask again. When you do this, don’t be surprised if your hit rate improves dramatically.

Challenge Yourself to Be the Best You Can Be

In closing, I would like to quote President John Kennedy who spoke one summer day in 1962 about why we were accepting the challenge of going to the moon. This is what he said:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I too have a challenge. I want to challenge you recruiters, you TFL readers of my columns, to do these parts of our business correctly—not because they are easy, but because they are hard. And, as President Kennedy promises, the attainment of our goals will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. And, at the end of the day, this is how we can evaluate ourselves on the scales of success.

Next week, “The Phone Rang…” series will cover Goal Setting. Until then, go recruit someone!

“The Phone Rang…” by Bob Marshall is a series that defines what we, as recruiters, do for a living. This article series ran in The Fordyce Letter over the past year and we are proud to bring you the series online. To subscribe to the print edition of The Fordyce Letter, click here.

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