If you could be like Superman and spin the world in the opposite direction and go back in time, would you have taken on that recent loser client?
I’ll never forget my worst client. He always seemed to call me with a big fat retainer check every time I needed the money. So I took the search and kept regretting it every step of the way. He was consistently a poor client. He failed to get in touch with the candidates when he should have. He failed to return phone calls in a timely manner. He failed to make offers when the candidates were ready to receive them. And he failed to stay involved in the candidate relationship after the candidate accepted the offer.
When it comes to human behavior and predicting it, consider what I call ‘The Two Cardinal Rules of Human Behavior’. First, remember that people only do what is in their own personal best interests. It’s all about them, not you. Second, remember that people are generally predictable and consistent. If they fail to follow through on one thing, they’ll probably fail to follow through on a second thing.
Use these two premises to your advantage and think five steps ahead when you deal with both candidates and clients. Use their past actions as indicators on how they are going to behave in the future. More than anything, you need to remember this: always observe their actions more than their words. That hot new candidate may say he is really interested in the opportunity. But if you have to ask three times for the resume, consider that a clue to either how he performs or his interest. That client may say they really need to fill the position. But when they don’t return your call for a week to set up the interview, it either means they’ve already filled the position or the need just does not exist.
We are the same person all the time. If someone lies at work, they probably lie at home. If they cheat on tests, they probably cheat on taxes. If they are late to one thing, they are probably late to everything. It’s our normal mortal human nature and part of the story of our existence. Us versus ourselves. We just can’t get away from our own behavior. It’s part of the challenge and the glory of the human experience. Use its predictability to your advantage to quickly size up the situation of who you are dealing with.
Ask yourself these questions the next time you are involved in a search and your instincts tell you that you might be dealing with a problem candidate or client. Use these questions to help hone your instincts so that you can anticipate the future and be ready for it:
Always give people the benefit of the doubt and leave an open door so that they can keep their dignity. For example, if someone forgot to show up for the interview, never assume they blew it off. That happened to me once and I found out that the candidate’s wife went into the hospital that morning. Glad I didn’t leave a caustic voice mail message for him giving him a lesson in personal responsibility.
Bonus tip #2:
If someone does screw up in the process, give them an open door of dignity. If the client forgot to have a colleague show up for the interview with a candidate, do not lecture. Say, "I understand you’re busy, George. How can we keep that from happening again? I’d hate for the candidate to misinterpret your company’s work ethic based on a miscommunication." But if this same scenario happens again, then you need to address it with ‘tough love’. Whenever you have this type of conversation with a candidate and client, explain to them why it is in their best interests to follow through on their end.
Copyright © 2004 Scott Love
Scott Love improves recruiter performance and expands the margins of search firms. He is the most frequently-published trainer in the industry and the only one who is a member of the National Speakers Association. To book Scott Love for your next association or franchise meeting or to have him conduct in-house training, call him at 828-225-7700 to check his availability.