Recruiting Job Candidates by Mastering the Pre-Close Technique

Let’s face it: a certain percentage of job candidates have been flaky since the beginning of time. (Or since there were jobs, at the very least.) Consequently, recruiting job candidates, especially passive candidates, can prove to be a tremendous pain in the body part of your choosing.

And contrary to popular belief, the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed that. Yes, a great many people have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. And we’re no longer in what you would call a candidates’ market overall. However, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind in regards to all of this:

  1. The best candidates in the marketplace are still the best candidates. The vast majority of them are still employed and highly valued by their employers.
  2. Some of these candidates are even less likely to consider and explore other employment opportunities than they were before the pandemic. Why? Because of the pandemic. Now they think they should “hunker down” and wait for things to “blow over.” (So many similes. Or are these metaphors? No, wait . . . they’re idioms!)

Anyway, my eighth-grade grammar studies aside, the bottom line is that it is still incredibly difficult to recruit and hire the best candidates in the marketplace. Recruiting passive job candidates has never been easy. If it was, then employers would not need to hire you, dear agency recruiter or executive search consultant. In fact, the argument can be made that the pandemic has made successfully recruiting job candidates even more difficult.

Recruiting passive job candidates who are “hunkering down”

The reason for this is the aforementioned “hunker down” mentality that some job candidates are adopting. As a result, even if they agree to consider and even explore a new opportunity, they may drop out of the process at any point. In fact, they might drop out all the way up to right before they were going to receive an offer and you could almost taste the placement check. (They taste like cinnamon and maple brown sugar, by the way.)

In light of all this, even when you think you’ve closed a candidate, you haven’t. They stubbornly pop open again. And again. And yet again. As a result, recruiting job candidates and trying to close them is very much like a broken refrigerator door that won’t stay closed. You have to close it multiple times before you can be SURE that it will stay closed. It’s the same with some job candidates in the COVID-19 employment marketplace.

So what is a recruiter to do? Well, recruiting job candidates and then trying to close them at the end of the process is not enough. More is needed. Specifically, you need to implement the pre-close technique for recruitment. So how can you accomplish this? By asking pre-closing questions through the entire placement process. Legendary recruiting and staffing industry trainer Barb Bruno recommends a certain pre-closing technique. Just remember this order of events:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Receive an answer.
  3. Ask a follow-up question that will pre-close the candidate based on their answer to your first question.

I have an example of this technique in action. This particular example involves an exchange between a job candidate and an agency recruiter or executive search consultant.

Question: “What is most important to you in your job search?”

Answer: “The chance for advancement.”

Pre-Close Question: “So what you’re asking me to do is find you an opportunity you can grow into vs. grow out of?”

The simplicity of this approach is genius, namely because of three key facts:

  1. By asking the pre-close question, you’re confirming and re-affirming the conditions under which the job candidate would make a move for another opportunity. Basically, you’re clearly setting expectations.
  2. You’re proving your ability to listen and showing that you understand what is most important to the job candidate.
  3. If, at some point during the process, the job candidate becomes difficult to close, even though their expectations—which you have clearly set—have been met, you can refer to your previous conversation and ask them what has changed since then.

When should you pre-close? All the time, as often as you can, all the way through the recruiting and hiring process. (Although, of course, you don’t want become annoying about it.) Just remember the three parts of the pre-close:

Question/Answer/Pre-Close Question

The simplicity and the genius of this pre-close technique is that it is rooted firmly in what is most important to the job candidate. This the heart of WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me.” Candidates want to know what’s in it for them.

The key to finding the right candidate for the job

Actually, in this case, it’s YOU who wants to know what’s in it for them. That’s because when you know the WIIFM, you can keep pre-closing on it all the way through the process. That’s why it’s also important to ask this question every time you speak to a passive job candidate exploring one of your client’s open positons:

“Has anything changed since the last time we talked?”

The reason you’re asking this question is because they’re not just going to come out and TELL you if something has changed. The majority of candidates are not going to offer that information up, right out of the gate. Most of them don’t want to deliver bad news, God love ‘em. But unless you get the information—which is basically an objection—you can’t overcome the objection.

So when you ask this question, and a passive job candidate says they’re having second thoughts or they’re dropping out of the process, you can pre-close. And the way in which you do that is by referring back to the answer to your first question: “What is most important to you in your job search?” You can overcome their objection by saying, “But what about [insert the thing that is most important to them in their job search here]?”

You’re accomplishing a couple of things with the pre-closing technique for recruitment:

  1. You’re reminding the job candidate of what is most important them in their job search. That’s because, hey, they have forgotten in their haste to change their mind in the face of challenging world circumstances.
  2. You’re holding them accountable to what they said at the beginning of the process. What they said was basically two-fold. First, they’ve decided to embark upon a job search, or at the very least, explore other employment opportunities. Second, they also know what is most important to them in their job search, and they’ve shared that piece of information with you.

Be the accountability partner for passive candidates

Basically, you’ve become this candidate’s accountability partner. When they agree to embark on a job search with you, it’s the equivalent of somebody who wants to quit a habit. When people want to stop eating sweets or watching too much TV or spending too much time on their tablet or whatever else people do these days, they often enlist the help of an accountability partner. That way, they won’t “fall off the wagon.”

In this case, the job candidate is on a wagon to a better job, specifically a high-paying gig with one of your clients. Your job is to make sure they don’t “fall off the wagon” due to fear and the ever-constant desire to “hunker down” and maintain the illusory security of the status quo. You’re providing a service for passive job candidates when you hold them accountability and pre-close them continually throughout the interviewing and hiring process.

So the next time you go to the refrigerator for a snack, be sure to slam the door hard enough to close it. And remind yourself that you should always be pre-closing.

My thanks to Barb Bruno, who contributed to this article. I didn’t exaggerate earlier. Barb IS a legend. And if you’re looking for more of her wisdom, check out the videos that she has in our extensive library of free recruitment and selection training courses. These courses are recorded versions of Top Echelon’s Expert Recruiter Coaching Series of live webinars, which we offer every month.

These webinars touch upon a variety of recruiting-related topics dealing with both candidates and clients. As always, our goal with these webinars (and corresponding videos) is to help agency recruiters and executive search consultants make more placements.

Recruiting job candidates with agency software

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