Employees Excel at Selling Candidates – The Warriors’ ‘Hampton 5 Story’

When it comes to closing top candidates, your own employees are the best salespeople.

Top recruiting leaders already know the tremendous value that a firm receives when it lands even a single superstar recruit. In addition to outstanding performance and innovation, this “magnet hire” will signal to other outside stars that your firm deserves a second look. Acquiring this superstar can also improve employee retention if it convinces your top people who were considering leaving to stay in order to work alongside this star.

Top candidates now get multiple offers because today’s competition is so intense, and as a result, your firm is unlikely to land even 50 percent of its top candidates unless it has an exceptionally compelling candidate selling approach. However, having a great message alone won’t be enough, unless the source of your information is also judged by your candidates as being completely authentic and believable.

So, if you want to as much as double your offer acceptance rate, involve your current employees in your candidate selling process.

Messages Must Be Delivered in a Credible Manner

Take note: your recruiting messages and stories will much more likely be listened to and believed if they are delivered by your most credible source … your employees who are currently working in the team with the job opening. Employees are more believable because they literally know more (both positive and negative) about the actual job, so they can provide more detailed answers to questions. In addition, because they “live the job,” they have many more examples and stories of why it’s a great place to work. And finally, most candidates view employees (as opposed to recruiters or hiring managers) as being much less likely to exaggerate.

If You Missed It — the Most Powerful Example of Employees Selling a Superstar

Whether you like sports analogies or not. There is literally no better example covering how your employees can close the deal on a top candidate than the Golden State Warriors’ case of the The Hampton 5. In this instance, even though the team had prepared a standard corporate recruiting pitch, the top current Warrior players literally took over the recruiting pitch to superstar Kevin Durant that was being held in the Hamptons. The current employees were able to sell KD because they were the only ones who could credibly answer his three primary concerns. These were whether he would be considered as an interloper who would break up the existing chemistry; whether he would fit the team’s culture; and if he make a difference in winning championships?

The net result of this employee-driven recruiting intervention is now evident due to the extremely rare back-to-back NBA championships achieved by this team. Fortunately, in the corporate world, there are also multiple opportunities where employees can help to “sell” top candidates.

The Top Six Recruiting Areas Where Employees Can Help Sell

Employees can help sell top prospects and candidates with a number of the recruiting steps. Those areas where employees should be asked to help sell are listed below, with the highest-selling impact areas listed first.

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  1. Closing the finalist candidate with a follow-up employee contact — In the Hamptons 5 case, the star player, Curry, directly texted with their recruiting target and that follow-up contact closed the deal. In the corporate world, once an offer has been made, it is perfectly acceptable to encourage top employees to contact the candidate directly. The direct follow-up contact can be incredibly impactful. The mere fact that one or more top employees are willing to take time out away from their job to make this follow-up contact says a lot just by itself. Top candidates are less concerned about compensation and benefits than they are the work environment and the impact that they will likely have. So, this follow up is extraordinarily compelling because employees on the team have proven to be the most successful at overcoming the most common critical candidate work environment concern, which is that they won’t be a great fit. Future teammates can also best overcome the second-most common candidate work environment concern, which is whether they would likely be successful and have a significant impact if they joined the team. Finally, their knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the team allows future teammates to answer more in-depth technical job-related questions during this follow-up contact. Managers and recruiters are often less successful salespeople because individuals in these positions are less likely to be aware of the many work-environment related nuances that may make a candidate reluctant to say yes. Rather than waiting for this follow-up contact to come naturally, proactively encourage one or two top employees to take the lead.
  2. Offering a peer interview — (where the manager is not present) is almost always the most effective mechanism for both assessing and selling a top candidate. Peer interviews provide an opportunity for teammates to reinforce and validate what the candidate has already heard about the team’s culture, work environment, and management style. Since most top candidates want to be part of a successful effort, teammates can best convince them that they are joining a team that will have a significant impact. The answers and information provided by the team’s employees during the peer interview are likely to be viewed by the candidate to be more authentic, honest, and genuine because the manager is not there to repress any negatives.
  3. Provide the candidate with profiles of the team members — All top candidates want to know that they are joining a team populated with many other exceptional individuals. So, consider a Google practice of providing candidates (prior to the interview) a single document that contains the team’s aspirations as well as brief profiles of key team members. Consider including excerpts from team members’ LinkedIn profiles to help convince a candidate that they will be able to learn a lot from powerful teammates and their manager.
  4. Selling during the standard interview process — Employees can also help sell the candidate during standard interviews. To begin with, the mere fact that multiple employees show up for the interview will likely be seen by a candidate as an indication that the team cares about this position. Their positive and enthusiastic reactions to candidate answers can also help build the candidate’s confidence (which makes them more likely to accept).
  5. Convincing prospects to apply during referrals — If you have an effective referral program, the percentage of all hires coming from referrals should be near 50 percent. A vital component of any effective referral process should be encouraging employees to sell the candidate to the point where if it is offered, they will accept an interview. Begin by educating your employees about their responsibility to sell. Also provide a categorized story inventory that employees can choose from in order to demonstrate to the candidate through stories that this is a great place to work. Providing employees with a “side-by-side company sell sheet” which compares the compelling attraction factors that your company offers with those of your competitors can also help employees quickly sell potential referrals.
  6. Reinforce the sale during their first week — Any great sales process “reinforces the sale” even after a yes is received. The hiring manager should encourage all team employees (and especially recent hires) to approach the new hire during their first week to highlight the many positive reasons why they were chosen. They should also offer to mentor them and help them build their internal network of contacts. These combined actions will improve retention and initial performance, but they may also encourage the new hire to make referrals from their previous firm.

Final Thoughts

I’ve written extensively on the value of hiring a few superstars in order to build a “superteam” which can allow a firm to dominate its industry. Unfortunately, in this highly competitive talent marketplace, few organizations have yet to shift their focus toward a more scientific and data-driven selling approach, which is required to land top candidates. One of the key components of this updated sales approach needs to be involving your employees in your selling and closing effort. in the case of Kevin Durant, it’s now clear, without hearing the needed information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” that he would’ve never joined the team and become the MVP during the finals.

 

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.