4 Steps That Will Get the Candidate to Say "Yes"

August 22, 2013

There's nothing more fulfilling in our function as recruiters as the acceptance of an offer. When everyone involved wins, you not only have had a positive impact on the business, but helped enable the success of your new employee’s career goals.

On the flipside, as one of my long-time recruiting colleagues Gary Worrell says, "Recruiting is much like the rocket launch business, in that 1% failure is 100% failure"  -- you have to get the candidates to accept the offer, otherwise the entire process has been a failure.

It's difficult to summarize in a short blog post how to find the right talent and get to yes, but there are major components of the recruiting process which if followed will, in my opinion, increase your odds. Why take my word?I’ve worked as an agency retained recruiter and in-house executive recruiter for more than 16 years. I share from personal experience, and freely admit there are many paths to yes, but these work for me.


Step #1:  It's about the Mission, Vision & Values

If you cannot tell your neighbor, grandmother, uncle, dog, friends or any stranger what your organization does and why it exists -- just stop recruiting.

Your company solves a problem, fulfills a need, provides a service and you have to not only be able to talk about it, but you have to believe in it. In my opinion, great recruiters are great because they believe in what they're selling. Prospects will see through and intuit falsehoods.

Read your organization's annual report. Know your organization's long-term strategy. Understand the big picture. Our role is to fulfill long-term staffing strategies and if you are not plugged into your business' objectives, you will be less effective.

Step #2:  Know why the job exists

Put aside the recipe list of qualifications. You are not a prospect vending machine.

"Insert $0.50 and pop open candidate with 15 years experience and a Ph.D." This doesn’t work.

You have to be able to articulate the problems that need to be solved and what your prospect needs to accomplish in order to be successful. Everything in your intake session with your clients' needs to be action-centric. The more you can describe to prospects the problems which need to be solved, the more you'll be able to not only sell to a role, but also to evaluate whether or not someone is capable of fulfilling the job.

Example: We need a thought leader in radiation detection instrumentation who can help us build and design prototype detection systems to better identify proliferation material. Can your prospect solve that problem? Do they want to? If yes, you move away from a prospect space to candidate space.

Step #3:  Pick up the phone

LinkedIn is my preferred resource to build a prospect call list. If I am recruiting for a position with thousands of possible matched I send out an InMail campaign. And if the position is too niche with few search results and few qualified applicants — I pick up the phone. The phone is the single best method to turn a prospect into a candidate. It’s time consuming, but it works.

Noted LinkedIn influencer & recruiter Lou Adler has shown that a phone call can work 95% of the time, when accompanied by this question:

Q:  Would you be open to explore a situation if it were clearly superior to what you're doing today?

I've used Adler's question in various forms for years, and I'd have to agree on the success rate.

When the prospect answers “yes” to Lou’s question, set up a follow up call to discuss the role. I prefer to include my client in these conversations, but many recruiters will do this alone. This scheduled conversation is all about describing the mission, vision and values of your organization, the problems that need to be solved, and whether they can then solve those problems. Prior and during this call, they are prospects. If you’re successful, they become candidates and want to apply.

Step #4:  Do not deliver an offer unless you know your candidate will accept

Throughout my career I have averaged a 90%+ offer acceptance rate, but only because I follow a sales process and build rapport with candidates.

Before I fly a candidate out for an interview, I know their total compensation, their W-2 and salary expectations. But it's more than that.

kid playing hockey

We discuss whatever is important to them. I had a candidate once who was concerned about the lack of available Kosher food in my community. I went out to local grocery stories, photographing various Kosher products and e-mailed it to that family.

Does your candidate have children in school? Do they like to play ice hockey? Does their spouse or partner need to find a job?

You need to know your candidate's personal situation before ever even considering delivering an offer.

When I meet with candidates during the interview day I again discuss salary expectations and interest in the role. Before we officially deliver a written offer, we pre-close candidates. You test your offer and test it again. Never, ever, never, did I say never, deliver a written offer unless you have a verbal acceptance over the phone.

"So you're telling me you'll accept an offer today if we offer you X amount?"  If you do not have a 100% yes, pull the thread and uncover the issues. I've had deals fall through because the family pet would have to stay in quarantine for 6 months -1 year in a move to Hong Kong. But I identified that early enough to find other prospects and we never delivered a written offer.

That's it. That's most of my secret sauce. Of course there is nuance, but if you follow the above steps, not only will you be a valued member of your client's leadership team, but you'll fill almost all your positions. You'll never be replaced by technology because technology cannot talk to people, understand their situation or close deals. LinkedIn is the go to resource for finding great people, but it takes a recruiter to get to yes.

Rob Dromgoole is the Recruiting Team, Lead National Security Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Want to learn more about how to find great candidates? Download: 12 Tips for a Stunning Talent Pipeline.



* image by  @Doug88888 and  Kris Krug