How to Overcome Early-stage Recruiting Objections
After finding some interested candidates, transactional recruiters send in a stack of resumes to the hiring manager hoping one will fit. This isn't recruiting. This is roulette.
The best recruiters use a very sophisticated sales technique called solution selling during the sourcing process based on deep job matching. This starts by working with the hiring managers to clarify job needs, define the performance objectives, and develop an employee value proposition. From this, targeted sourcing approaches are developed that involve convincing the best people why they should consider your opportunity. Done properly far fewer candidates are presented to the client, all are seen, and one of them is hired based on an offer package emphasizing opportunity rather than compensation.
While this process is comparable to career counseling, recruiters need to push the process forward in every encounter with the candidate. This is a called an advance. The discussions involve suggesting to the candidate to use the next step (e.g., another interview) to gain more information. There is a logical sequence involved in moving the candidate smoothly forward this way until an offer is extended and accepted. The ability to overcome objections is part of this process.
Unless a person is desperate, or you're working on a "dream job," the candidate always has objections and concerns. And the better the candidate, the more objections the person has. So if you can't smoothly and professionally handle objections you won't be placing many top performers. Here are some ideas on how to deal with some common objections. (At my Recruiter Boot Camp we discuss them in more detail.) The theme behind them all is to reveal very little information about your assignment until you have a complete understanding of the candidate's background. By withholding information you'll gain candidate interest. This is the key to applicant control. By having the candidate talk first, the recruiter is in a position to first qualify the candidate, and if the person is not appropriate for the job, get referrals. Leveraging each call this way is how recruiter productivity is dramatically increased.
Handling Common Early-stage Objections
- What's the compensation? When someone asks this question, don't answer it. Instead, say something like this: "Before I tell you that, I'd like you to think about the best jobs you've ever held, those that gave you the most personal satisfaction. Were the reasons they were the best due to the amount of money you were making or due to the work you were doing?" Pause and wait for an answer. "Now, if the job I'm representing offered you a chance to maximize your personal satisfaction, plus offered competitive compensation, wouldn't it make sense to at least discuss it for 5-10 minutes?" Most people will say yes.
- Who told you my name? Say this if you don't want to tell the person: "I make it my business to know the best people in your field. You're name was given to me on a confidential basis as someone I should connect with for a current search. If the opportunity I'm representing isn't a clear positive career move, I'm going to ask you if there are others you'd recommend I call. As part of this, if you desire, I'll leave your name confidential as well." Maintaining confidentiality is an important part of networking. It also adds a bit of mystique to what you're doing, increasing interest as a result.
- First, tell me about the job. You must never tell the person about the job, not even the actual title, until you have conducted a quick work history review. Start the conversation by asking your prospect if she'd be open to discuss an opportunity if it were clearly superior to what she's doing now. Most people will say yes. Then immediately say to her, "Great. Could you please give me a quick overview of your background, and I'll then give you a quick overview of the job. If it seems mutually interesting we can schedule some time to talk in-depth." You have applicant control when the person says yes. You lose it if you're job is less appealing than the one the person has now. By having the candidate talk first, you can look for potential areas where you're job is bigger. If not, you'll have developed a relationship with the candidate that will allow you to ask for referrals.
- I'm not interested. If anyone says this, you've violated a fundamental law of recruiting - the candidate must tell you about their background before you tell them about the job (see Point 3, above). You can recover from this faux pas, though, by saying, "That's exactly why you should consider this job" when the person first says, "I'm not interested." Just the fact that it's illogical helps gain the person's attention. Follow up by asking, "Are you aware that you just made a major career decision using minor information?" Then go on to describe a few strategic nuggets about your job that make it worthy of a short discussion. Something like, "Our company has just invested in a start-up to exploit this new market opportunity, so growth should skyrocket over the next few years" would be a good example of how to get someone to talk for a few minutes.
- The job isn't big enough. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but if you've withheld some vital information at the beginning of your conversation this is an easy concern to address. Anticipating a concern and handling it before it's brought up is much better than handling it afterwards. But if you gave too much away up-front and the candidate believes it to be true, one recourse you have is to ask the candidate, "If it turns out the job is bigger than imagined, or if it can be made bigger, would you at least be open to discuss it further?" If possible, ask something like this to get the candidate to give you a little more information about his background: "Is is okay if I ask you a few questions about your background to better understand the scope, span of control, and complexity of the jobs you've held?" Then go on to look for possible gaps in the candidate's background such as team size, job impact made, challenges faced, etc., to see if the job you're representing is actually bigger than what the candidate believes. If not, talk to your hiring manager to see if it can be made bigger.
- I don't like the company. If your company is struggling, or has received some bad press, you'll need to conduct some preventative PR to offset the recruiting damage. One way is to describe the impact the person could have in restoring the company's image. It's also possible the company reputation is based on old information, and a turn-around has begun. In this case, make sure you have some real evidence you can use to offset the negative beliefs. As you begin these damage control efforts, make sure you understand the candidate's concern and then ask, "If we can demonstrate that your concerns, while true in the past, have been rectified, would you be open to explore an opportunity with our company?" Of course, then you have to prove your case, but at least you're moving the process forward. (FYI: this is an example of the classic "close upon a concern" close.)
- I don't have time to talk. Calmly say, "Let me rephrase my question then. If the job opportunity I'm representing is clearly superior to what you're doing today, would you have some time later today to discuss it on a very exploratory basis?" This is another example of the "close upon a concern" technique. If the person says no to your suggestion, something else is really the issue, not lack of time. It could be you gave away too much information when you initially described your reason for calling.
- I'm happy where I am. When confronted with a happy camper, say something like, "That's great. You're the first person I've spoken with this week who actually said that to me. You've either just started a major project or have some type of golden handcuffs." Then dialogue with the person a bit to understand if she is really happy, or if it was just a brush-off. Then ask, "Under the possibility that the situation I'm representing is clearly superior to your current job on (causes of happiness), would you at least be open to explore it for 5-10 minutes." Then conduct a mini-work history review.
As a recruiter you can't afford to accept these negative responses without a formal rebuttal. This is the only way you'll be able to find enough candidates to fill your requirements. All good candidates have concerns. It's the recruiter's job to ferret them out and address them properly. While you won't overcome them all, you'll probably recover at least 50% of the candidates you would have lost. And if the techniques are done properly you'll probably wind up with some great candidates for future assignments and plenty of referrals for the current one.