How to Turn Recruitment Calls into High-Level Conversations

Making recruitment calls to top candidates isn’t exactly a lot of fun these days. You thought passive candidates were full of objections before? Well, now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, they’re practically reading from their list of prepared rejections as soon as they answer the phone.

“It’s not a good time to make a move right now.”

“I’m going to wait until the pandemic has blown over before I explore other opportunities.”

“I’m waiting for them to distribute a vaccine.”

Now, we’ve addressed in a previous blog post that both candidate and client objections are really requests for more information. But in today’s COVID-crazy environment, candidates have become very good at disguising the fact they want more information. In fact, they’ve disguised it so well that even they don’t know they want more information.

Recruitment calls for opening a dialogue with top talent

In this environment, you just can’t call up a candidate and “pitch a job.” Heck, that didn’t work very well with top candidates before the pandemic started, so it certainly has almost no chance of working now. As an agency recruiter or search consultant, you have to engage the candidate, and you have to do so quickly.

Top candidates don’t want to be “sold” on a job right out of the gate. That’s the quickest way to hear a click and a dial tone.

But since we’ve already established that they don’t know what they want, what should you do?

According to industry trainer Gary Stauble, the answer is to open a dialogue with your recruitment calls. When you “pitch a job,” you’re trying to start a low-level conversation. Low-level conversations rarely lead to resumes and send-outs.

And if you start the conversation by pitching a job, get shot down by the candidate, and move directly to asking for a referral, that also qualifies as a low-level conversation. Not only are you probably not going to get said referral, but the candidate is also more likely to view you as a telemarketer rather than as a career consultant.

(And really, nothing against telemarketers . . . but nobody wants to receive a phone call from a telemarketer.)

“These conversations tend to be very transactional and do NOT build rapport as quickly as other approaches,” said Stauble.

Emphasize what’s in it for THEM

Instead, opening a dialogue based on what the candidate wants, specifically their aspirations and career goals, is the right way to start a high-level conversation. That’s because, of course, you’re talking about “WIIFM,” or “What’s In It For Me.” And when I say “Me,” I mean the candidate . . . not you. (Not everything is about you, you know.)

According to Stauble, there is a question that will get you a “Yes” the vast majority of the time and put you in a more consultative position during your recruitment calls. That question is as follows:

“Would you be open to exploring a new career opportunity if it was clearly a stronger fit for you?”

Right off the bat, you’re not talking about a specific job. You’re talking about the candidate’s career, a career opportunity for them. Because it’s about what’s in it for them. Clearly, it’s more difficult to blurt out a “No!” to this question than it would be if you simply started to pitch a job.

And what if they answer, “Yes” to your question?

According to Stauble, don’t tell them about the job just yet. Instead, stay focused on them. That will keep them engaged for a longer period of time and help to sustain the high-level conversation that you were successful in initiating. Rather than tell them about the specifics of the job, say this:

“Great! Why don’t you give me a two-minute overview of what you do and what you’re looking for, and then I can give you a quick overview of the job. If it makes sense, we can go into more detail.”

And yes, there is an additional benefit to approaching the conversation this way even if the job is not for them and they do not want to explore it further. If they view you as a trusted professional instead of as a telemarketer, then it will be easier to secure a referral from them.

After all, who would give the name of somebody they know to a telemarketer . . . on purpose? During a worldwide pandemic, no less?

My thanks to Gary Stauble for his help with this article. Gary is the principal consultant for The Recruiting Lab, a coaching company that assists firm owners and solo recruiters in generating more profit in less time.

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And since you’re making recruitment calls, you might as well track those calls, don’t you think? Of course you think! And you could use a robust and powerful recruitment software to help you. And, wait for it . . . Top Echelon offers such a software to agency recruiters and executive search consultants!

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