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Guest Blog: Six Ways to Improve Candidate Recruiting by Steve Finkel

While candidate recruiting is an extensive subject, Steve Finkel has gathered several keys that should be implemented on a daily basis.

Success is taking advantage of opportunity. And for our industry, now is the time!  

Historically, the best times in our industry come in the immediate aftermath of a recession. This happens for two reasons. First, a resurgent market yields a greatly increased demand for products and services. This increased business requires new hires.  Further, we have the hard fact that many recruiters leave our industry in a market downturn.  Thus, in today's economy, the most understaffed industry is… us!

Obviously, we need to focus on obtaining new clients. But it is easier to do so now than previously. To maximize production, we must also focus on providing the best product. We must identify and recruit highly qualified candidates that the prospective client can obtain in no other way. Many in our industry, however, have drifted away from or never learned the complex skills needed to achieve this in today's increasingly candidate-short market. Doing so, however, will increase your billings exponentially.

While this is an extensive subject, the following are keys that should be implemented on a daily basis.

Selecting the Search Properly

It may make a recruiter feel good to have a substantial number of searches that are currently open. Yet the reality is you can work only one at a time. Working on the wrong assignment inevitably leads to far fewer qualified candidates. Further, it results in an unwillingness on the part of the candidate to proceed to a second interview or to accept the offer. And that's a good way to lose a client.

This problem is particularly acute when we are working with an existing client. It is easy to assume that a person who has hired from us previously is a better choice, but that's not necessarily the case. Each individual search should be rigorously evaluated to determine whether it is in fact a highly desirable opportunity that would best enable our recruiting efforts to yield results.

Identifying the Candidate

Recruiters whose candidates come mainly from sources to which all others have easy access– job boards, ads, or the internet, for example– will always lose a significant percentage of the revenues they might have had.

When competitors and clients all have complete access to identical candidates, how can this not result in a low percentage of genuinely high-quality candidates who receive an offer? Turndowns and an unwillingness to proceed to a first interview are additional results of this flawed methodology.

A balanced approach of adding and perfecting non-social media identification techniques will result in many more in-demand candidates who are simply not available to your clients' HR departments or to your web-focused competitors.

The “easy way” is frequently the hardest.

Obtaining In-Depth Candidate Concerns

Recruiting the best candidates today is very different from dealing with the same people your clients could also find.

The improved quality by doing so has been addressed. However, a clear change of techniques to obtain candidate concerns is also necessary. What does this person not like about his present position? To work on a search with a high likelihood of success, you must understand that the candidate must not only be moving TO something; he must be moving FROM something! Without this information, the chances of things progressing smoothly to an eventual fee are not high.

A recruiting call is inadequate if “softeners” are not utilized to thoroughly elicit in-depth and comprehensive concerns. “Softeners” may be defined as specific scripts that reduce hesitation about disclosing concerns.

A Thoughtful Introduction

Elmer Wheeler, one of the great foundational sales trainers, rightly observed that “Your first 10 words are more important than your next 10,000. In fact, if your first 10 words aren't the right words, you won't have a chance to use the next 10,000.”

To recruit the best candidates, we need to act upon this truth. But how many in our industry do? Have you written out your initial opener and evaluated it on a word-for-word basis to achieve maximum impact?  Have you recorded your own introduction to see how it sounds? This includes such things as pacing, pauses, intonation. The identical words with too fast a pace will yield much fewer results than in a measured and thoughtful manner.

Many recruiters simply call and start to talk, using the same vocabulary and pace that they might use with their friends. This results in candidates lost who might otherwise have been obtained. An initial recruiting presentation is just that of a presentation. Serious thought and practice will be required to get the best return on investment.

Presenting the Opportunity

How much time do most recruiters spend constructing a presentation designed to maximize their successful recruiting calls? Most in our industry are entirely too casual about this critical step. They presume that based on their experience, they can just read or high-spot the information directly from the search assignment form. They are wrong, and it costs them a great deal in terms of highly desirable candidates.

Solid delivery of what the specific opportunity has to offer is structured, organized, well-phrased. While each one is different, all must answer the following question for a candidate: What will this opportunity do for my career?” 

By contrast, too many in our industry begin with the old and less effective what we're looking for is… You are in charge of determining whether he is qualified. He is in charge of determining whether he wishes to give you the information you need so you can make that judgment.

A correct, well-thought-out, and yes, written-out presentation of the opportunity is your best way to obtain that information. And you should first practice that presentation out loud and role-play with a partner to see how it sounds. Recruiting is no place for an amateur.

Dealing with “The Reluctant Recruit”

What is the difference between a successful executive search consultant/recruiter and one who is less successful? A major factor is how they deal with the candidate who does not express immediate interest in the opportunity. But is that common response true? Many times it is not. And when you learn to deal with this situation properly, the result will be a great many additional qualified candidates.

Let's put ourselves in the mind of the candidate when you contact him. Chances are he is not thinking about his career. Rather, he is working. He is thinking about a project, a meeting, a report. And it is just easier for him to say ‘I'm not interested' than to take time to focus on the many factors in his working life that could be greatly enhanced by the proper career change.

Robert Shook, one of our greatest sales authors, observed the facts are that a high percentage of sales closed by superior salesmen come after an intention not to buy has been expressed at least once. These are cases that could go either way. The conversion of these near hits to closed sales is the difference between mediocrity and success in our profession.

How well you handle this predictable objection and keep the candidate focused on the benefits of your opportunity will make a big difference in your production.  And you will be providing a service to your clients which could never be offered by a less-professional less-sales-oriented competitor.

Today's Market

The foundation of success in our business will always be to obtain enough clients and in particular, obtaining enough new clients.

But as the market strengthens, there will be a vast separation between the person who relies upon submitting the same candidates your competitors can easily find and the truly skillful professional recruiter. If you wish to take full advantage of our current market, you must do so by thoughtful analysis and continual skill improvement.

This is especially true in candidate recruiting. The difference in your production will be both dramatic and ongoing.

For comprehensive and detailed information on the above topics, see the new 2021 edition of my book Real Recruiting! Winning Search Strategies.

Steve Finkel

Steve Finkel is an acclaimed international author, speaker, and trainer, and one of the best-known names in the recruiting and search industry. His books and training programs have been distributed worldwide and continue to provide new and experienced recruiters alike with innovative, knowledgeable strategies for increasing billing and placements. His newest book, Unlimited Clients! Perfect Prospecting for Today’s Recruiter, is available for purchase or download on his website,

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