As a teenager one summer, I had the good fortune to work in a ladies' shoe store.
The hours were long, the pay was bad and the job was hard. But I learned more about sales—and people—from selling shoes than from any job since.
For example, I learned that customers liked to try on several different styles before they made a buying decision. Years later, I found that hiring managers do the same thing. They want to interview three or four candidates (that is, try them on for size) before they make a decision.
At the store, if my customers couldn't choose between two pairs of shoes, I learned there was no harm in suggesting they buy them both. That way, they'd go home double-happy instead of half-disappointed. Which is exactly what I tell hiring managers if they like two candidates and can't decide which one to hire.
Dressing a Window
My store manager took great pride in setting up the window display. He'd spend hours painstakingly arranging and rearranging the shoes, paying close attention to their colors, shapes and sizes. But his real talent was predicting—and then prominently featuring—the styles he thought most people would want to buy.
After he finished dressing a window, he'd gather up all the sales clerks, and we'd watch with great intensity as people walked by the store.
"Bang!" he would yell, as a likely prospect's head would take a sharp turn toward the window. "Did you see that? She almost got whiplash when she saw that shoe!"
Sure enough, five seconds later the customer was parked in our show room, trying on the shoes.
Years later, I used the window dressing concept to sell my recruiting services. I took my hottest candidate—the one I figured most employers would want to hire—and pitched the person until someone got whiplash. Like my store manager, I found that if you can figure out exactly what a customer is looking for—and you make a strong presentation—the greater your odds of success.
Voting with Their Feet
A hot candidate can grab a hiring manager's attention. But it still takes selling skills to clear a fee, set up an interview, generate an offer and make the placement. And if your first candidate doesn't quite measure up, you keep looking for alternative candidates until the right person is found.
Whenever you post a job online or advertise an open position, you're dressing a window. The more powerful your display, the more heads you'll turn.
However, once the candidates are in your store, you'd better be able to satisfy their needs and make a compelling case for why they should choose your job over the next company's. Otherwise, they'll quickly turn on their heels; or worse, sample everything in sight before they walk out the door.
Here are few more shoe store strategies that apply to recruiting:
People are generally forgiving—but only if you tell the truth. Whenever you're faced with a problem or a question you can't answer, it's better to admit it than to try to bluff or take a guess. Whether your product is shoes or recruiting services, honesty will always be your greatest asset.
- Bill Radin
President, Innovative Consulting, Inc., Books, Tapes & Training for Recruiters Phone: (513) 624-7501 - Fax: (513) 624-7502; E-mail: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or www.billradin.com