What Recruiters Can Learn from Top Salespeople

February 12, 2014

recruiters learning from the best sales people

Some recruiters envision recruiting as a screening process—powering through a daunting stack of resumes from eager applicants. However, the best candidates may not be looking for a job so they're not even in that stack.

Recruiting at the highest level is perhaps better envisioned as a selling process. Just as a top salesperson identifies, cultivates and closes a big-money deal, a top recruiter identifies, cultivates and hires the best candidate.

Here are the "success rules" that top salespeople use when pursuing big-money deals and how they apply to job recruiting:

1. Tell the customer's story.

Average salespeople give sales pitches full of features and functions, hoping that one of them will appeal to the customer. Top salespeople tell the customer's story with the customer as the hero and the salesperson's offering as the thing that makes the customer even more successful.

Translated to the world of recruiting, this rule means thinking of a job description in terms of a narrative rather than in terms of a position. It should describe how working for your company will change the candidate's life in a positive way, rather than a dry-as-dust list of roles and responsibilities.

2. Go for the big deals.

Average salespeople look to close multiple small deals in order to make quota.  By contrast, top salespeople know that making ten $100,000 deals is more than twice as hard as making a single million dollar deal.

In recruiting, the equivalent of "going big" is pursuing dream candidates -- the people who are already successful and have skills beyond what's needed to do the tasks at hand. This means putting aside the notion that a job listing will attract the right candidates and instead actively contact (and find connections to) already-employed individuals whose profiles far exceed your expectations.

3. Create long-term loyalty.

Average salespeople concentrate on getting to a signature on the bottom line.  Top salespeople, however, concentrate on building lifetime relationships. They know that it’s how well and deeply you connect with people that builds long-term success.

The equivalent in recruiting would be making certain that you keep in contact with people you've interviewed, whether you've hired them or not. It also means taking a personal interest in new hires long after they've settled in.  Consider: by recruiting that person, you've changed his or her life.  That's a strong basis for a long-term business relationship.

4. Build a deep pipeline.

Average salespeople prospect for new customers when they've run out of opportunities.  Top salespeople, however, set aside time every week to locate potential customers, even when they're busy closing their current deals.

In recruiting, this rule suggests that you should not wait until you've got a job opening to start looking for the best candidate. Instead, anticipate your firm's future needs and identify possible new hires, well before you've got a position for them.  Ideally, you should have several candidates in mind the moment an important position opens up.

5. Get referrals, not contacts.

When they close a deal, average salespeople ask "is there anyone else who might need my services?" and end up (if they're lucky) with a phone number or email address.  Top salespeople wait until a customer is delighted and then ask that customer to recommend the salesperson to the customer's personal friends and colleagues.

In recruiting, this rule suggests two things. First, that you should actively create a work environment that employees enjoy and appreciate. Second, and only after you've done that, should you ask employees to recruit the friends and colleagues that they truly respect.

Author bio: Geoffrey James is an award-winning columnist for Inc.com and the author of Business Without The Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need To Know.