How to Set and Manage Recruiter Expectations with Top Candidates

In our previous blog post, we presented seven strategies for recruiting and hiring in a candidate-driven market. Obviously, one of the biggest recruitment challenges for search consultants and third-party agency recruiters in this current market is dealing with top candidates.

Why is that a challenge? As we discussed before, this is a candidate-driven market. As such, all candidates have more employment opportunities and options. In addition, the best candidates have the most options and the best options. In other words, these candidates have the leverage. Employers need them more than they need employers.

The vast majority of top candidates in the employment marketplace are passive candidates. These candidates are not actively looking for a new job. That’s because their current employer is keeping them relatively satisfied and extremely busy. As a result, employers must actively search these candidates out and proactively recruit the candidates if the employers want to hire them.

Or they can secure the services of a search consultant or third-party agency recruiter to do the job. And that’s exactly what employers are doing. The problem is that even search consultants and recruiters are finding it difficult to recruit top candidates away from their current employment situations.

Recruiter expectations and “ghosting”

There are plenty of figurative landmines along the path. Let’s say you’re able to persuade a candidate to consider your client’s employment opportunity. Let’s also say that you’re able to convince them to enter your client’s hiring process. If neither you nor your client engages them effectively, then they’re at risk for dropping out of the process. They just . . . disappear.

But back to our hypothetical scenario. Let’s further say that you’re able to keep the candidate engaged and they make it all the way through the hiring process. In fact, your client makes an offer of employment. You’re almost there! The candidate says they have to think about it. So you wait. And wait. You try to contact the candidate, day after day after day. You can’t. They’ve just . . . disappeared.

Why have they disappeared? Because they’ve either accepted a counter-offer from their current employer or an offer from another employer.

But back to our hypothetical scenario. Let’s say that when your client made an offer to your candidate, the candidate accepted. You’re almost there! The candidate is supposed to start work in two weeks. However, they fail to show up for their first day of work. Your client calls you, understandably concerned. You try to contact the candidate. You can’t. So you try again. No luck. The candidate has just . . . disappeared.

Why have they disappeared? Because they’ve either accepted a counter-offer from their current employer or an offer from another employer. This is yet another example of candidate “ghosting.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of recruiting and hiring in a candidate market.

Recruitment expectations and psychology

So what’s the key to success in such a market? Well, since top candidates have the leverage, the reasonable response to that question would be to focus on the candidates. As you can see by our hypothetical scenario above, they’re a handful these days. That’s why the setting of recruiter expectations are so vitally important.

This is based on very simple rules of human interaction and psychology. If you want somebody to do something, you set expectations for them. After you set the expectations, you get them to agree to the expectations. Then, when the time comes, it’s more difficult for the person to NOT do the thing you expect them to do and that they agreed to do in advance. Sure, they should still not do the thing you want them to do. But they did agree to do it, didn’t they? So if they fail to meet the expectations that they agreed to, they will know that, basically, they lied.

On the other hand, if you don’t set the expectations beforehand and they don’t agree to them, it’s easier for the person to do whatever they want and be carefree about it. They’re not going to think they lied. After all, they didn’t agree to any expectations. What is there to lie about?

So, when it comes to dealing with top candidates in this market, you must:

  • Set recruiter expectations for them at every stage of the hiring process.
  • Get them to agree to those expectations.
  • Hold them accountable for agreeing to those expectations.

It seems crazy that you have to go through all this trouble just to successfully place candidates in great new job opportunities. However, that’s the world we live in. If you want to make more placements and increase your billings, then you must become proficient at setting recruiter expectations with top candidates. At this stage of the game, there’s no other way.

Setting recruiter expectations: and endless process

To discover these strategies, we’re going to draw upon the wisdom of recruiting industry trainer Jon Bartos of Revenue Performance Management. Bartos is a premier writer, speaker, and consultant on all aspects of personal performance, human capital, and the analytics behind them.

According to Bartos, you should NOT take it for granted that once you and a candidate have set recruiter expectations, the hard work is done.

Life can change in a moment. Someone gets promoted.  A recruiter contacts your top candidate offering a dream job.  A wife finds out she’s pregnant, which is great news for the couple, but not for the recruiter.

To do our job as recruiters well, we must re-qualify the candidate every time we talk . . . because things change.  And that’s why it’s crucial to continually set expectations with top candidates.

Re-qualifying an in-process candidate is not difficult to do.  Questions like, “Last time we talked, you were at a 9 on a scale of 1-10 . . . are you still at a 9 or 10?” or “Can you see yourself working for this company in the next two weeks?” are questions you should pose.

I also find more general inquiries can be instructive: “Has anything changed since the last time we talked?” or “How is your spouse handling all this excitement?  What does your spouse think about the new opportunity?”

If you sense hesitation, it’s your job to go further.  Find out why the interest level is dropping: identify and address objections.  Be ready to take the candidate out of the process if you feel it is going in the wrong direction.

A take-away close—letting a candidate know they have been taken out of an opportunity—is one of the strongest closes in the recruiting business.  People generally want what they can’t have.  When they see something slipping away, they often regain waning interest.  That’s why this technique works well in recruiting, buying a new car, or in relationships.

If you or the hiring authority overinflates a candidate’s ego, you run the risk of relinquishing the power in the process.  Reasonable offers are refused.  The candidate is in control, and that can artificially raise commit numbers.

Good recruiters pre-close and pre-qualify.  Great recruiters go another step in continually re-qualifying.  The most important conversation you will ever have with a candidate is setting the initial expectations.

The second most important conversation is the one just prior to the final interview.  This is your chance to get a spoken commitment from the candidate, that they will take the job “if all goes well” at the agreed-upon commit number.

This conversation should be thorough and leave nothing open to interpretation.  Go over interview time/place, verify interest level, and the agreed-upon commit number (including permission to negotiate appropriate salary, bonus, vacation time, or benefits).

If at any time in this conversation you hear or feel the interest level has dropped, go in-depth.  Probe to find out what the objection is and handle it immediately.  Don’t be timid; if the candidate is wavering, consider the take-away close.

Fickle candidates are not top candidates.  If you’ve addressed every objection and a candidate won’t commit, stop.  There is a very real possibility an offer will be made, and it will be declined.  Save everyone time, money, and frustration and get rid of the candidate.

Recruiters and hiring managers are, in some sense, their brothers’ keepers.  They must be tough enough to eliminate even excellent candidates when there is a lack of commitment at any stage of the hiring process.

When we honor the commandment, “Thou shall never extend an offer unless certain it will be accepted,” we prove to our clients that we are worthy of their trust and their continued business.  You lose candidates who would have wasted your time . . . and gain candidate control, client appreciation, and more and more placements.

Top Echelon’s Training Library

Top Echelon offers a free monthly webinar as part of its Recruiter Coaching Series. After the webinars are over, we post the recorded version of the webinars in our Recruiter Training Library. These webinars touch upon a variety of recruiter-related topics. These topics deal with both candidates and clients. As always, our goal with these webinars (and corresponding videos) is to help recruiters make more placements.

Jon Bartos has multiple videos in the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Library. In addition, many of these videos deal with client-related topics. Some of these videos are listed below. Click on the title of each video for access:

In addition to training and webinars, Top Echelon offers other recruitment solutions. These solutions include the following:

For more information about Top Echelon and the products and services that it offers, visit the Top Echelon website by clicking here.

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