7 Ways to Develop a Consultancy Relationship with Candidates

December 9, 2014

In the old days of recruiting, prior to the advent of social media, a candidate had to get past a recruiter in order to interview for a job. “Recruiters acted as gatekeepers,” explains Neil Peek, a recruiter for Brocade, who’s been acquiring talent at companies like Nortel, Ericsson, Lucent Technologies and Cisco Systems for 17 years. “They let the ‘right’ candidates go forward, while dismissing others who weren’t qualified for that particular job.”

But all that has changed with the Internet, he explains, because today’s candidates have access to so many different avenues in order to obtain a job. In order to capitalize on the changing dynamics of recruiting, Peek says, recruiters have to do away with the gate keeping mentality once and for all.

Rather than gatekeepers, he says, we need to start thinking of ourselves as portals for candidates, who work with individuals to help them land the right job. “This style of recruiting is more about developing a consultancy practice,” he says, where recruiters and candidates become partners for the long haul.

Here are several ways, Peek says, you can go about cultivating a consultancy practice:

1. Make yourself easily found

“I think it’s tremendously important for recruiters to make themselves available and easily found online,” says Peek, “so that they can create a pipeline of candidates by virtue of their presence on LinkedIn, and by the content that they add to blogs or online profiles. You can’t create a pipeline of talent, if you’re not easily found.”

2. Develop ongoing relationships with candidates

When a candidate is not a good fit for a particular position, it’s important to keep the relationship going, so that when opportunities arise in the future there is already a relationship in place. Peek does this by taking the time to actually get to know a candidate from the start, and offering to find a way for them to stay in touch on a regular basis.

During your initial phone call you can set a routine for how to keep communications going, he suggests. Peek had one candidate who agreed to call him every other Monday for four months, until Peek got to know him so well, it was easy to place him in a job. “I encourage candidates to call me every once in a while or to shoot me an email just to remind me that they’re there.”

3. Take the “unknown” calls

A lot of recruiters say they are too busy to answer their phone, especially when a number comes up that they don’t recognize, but Peek stresses, “every recruiter, whenever possible, should take all of their calls. You never know when that diamond in the rough is going to pop up.”

4. Make non-requisition calls

Peek also thinks it’s important for recruiters to make calls or reach out to people who don’t meet their requisition needs at the present moment. “When you run across a candidate’s profile that interests you, or you hear about a candidate, take the time and make that phone call or reach out,” he says. “Pop them a quick email and say, ‘We don’t have a current requisition right now, but I’d like to introduce myself to you, so I can get to know you a little bit more. Would there be a good time to chat in the near future?”

5. Ask a lot of questions

When you do end up speaking with candidates, don’t always focus on the hard or technical skills, Peek stresses. “Make it a point to get to know someone by asking a lot of questions, and even some personal ones. ‘Why are you looking for a job?’ ‘What are your aspirations?’ ‘What do you really want to accomplish?’” he says.

“Sometimes candidates will ask, ‘Why do you need to know all this right now, you don’t even have a job opening?’” He tells them, “I’m asking you every question from A to Z, because it’s helping me understand where I should classify you, and it’s helping me build your brand.”

6. Cultivate an environment of transparency

In order to develop a consultancy practice, Peek feels that you have to create transparency with your clients. “I always tell candidates, ‘Listen, I've got the best job in the world. I get to be a representative to the company; I hire the most talented people, but at the same time I need to be able to represent you appropriately, and in order for me to represent you, I need to know everything about you.”

He admits he does get pushback from time to time, because he requires candidate to tell him about salary expectations, as well as anything that might affect their success, such as travel, or their need to work remotely. “Sometimes candidates are taken aback,” he says, “because I go into such detail with them over the telephone. But, they’ve got to be able to trust me in order for me to represent them.”

7. Support and engage throughout the process

Finally, Peek says, it’s critical to thoroughly explain the process to your candidates, and hold their hand through every step. “I tell candidates from the first moment they begin formal interviews, ‘I’m available for you at any time. If you have questions, or if something comes up, give me a call and I'll walk you through this entire process.’”

Peek says he goes out of his way to create an atmosphere where candidates feel he’s a safe person to talk to about anything. “As recruiters, we represent someone’s first experience with the company, and that should be always be a good impression,” says Peek. “If you come into this company and you have surprises, you’re not going to be successful, and you’re going to end up leaving, and then I’ll have to go through this all over again.”

* image by Camille Rose

6 steps to a better personal recruiter brand