July 17, 2018

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The Myth of Candidate Control

So the candidate told you that he is happy where he is in his career but also just admitted to you that there may be something better out there.

What next? How do you handle this critical conversation where the candidate seems to be on the fence so early in the process?

Remember, the moment they give you an objection, your job isn’t to overcome it. It’s to build enough of an emotional bank account with them so that you now have the right to make a withdrawal from that relationship. And your withdrawal is the rebuttal itself and how you bring them along to a decision that they perceive will ultimately benefit them. Your primary job as a recruiter is to build a relationship of authenticity with this person, a complete stranger, so that they trust you at the beginning of the process and all the way through to its end when you are telling them not to take that counteroffer that their boss, friend, and mentor will eventually give them to keep them on their team.

Most recruiters make the mistake of giving a rebuttal immediately after the candidate displays some sort of concern or says that he is happy where he is at. They go right into how great the opportunity is, how fantastic the advancement potential is, without having enough of an emotional bank account from which to withdraw.

Here’s a phrase you can use to get them to agree to open up to you, to share their concerns with you, and to tell you what would motivate them to go forward, and to do it in a way that isn’t duplicitous and manipulative, but genuine:

Just say this:

“Joe, what I’d like to do is find out more about you. I’d like to find out about where you have come from in the past in your career, what you are doing currently, and where you would like to go in the future. And if the direction you want to pursue is a place that my client can take you, then I’ll tell you everything about this opportunity and you can decide for yourself what you’d like to do. Whatever you want to do or pursue is fine with me.”

This soft-sell approach relieves tension from the relationship by giving control back to the candidate. In my experience, the more I push someone, the more they will either push back or run away (like not returning my calls, telling me they are going to send me a resume and never do it, or just fall off the end of the earth). So instead of pushing them, I lead them. I let their internal desire lead the whole process and I am just a facilitator of helping them get to a place that they want to go, but might not even know what that place is just yet.

What is the primary focus of this conversation? The candidate’s motivation. It’s all about the candidate. It’s not about the strength of your client’s opportunity or their potential. It’s about giving the candidate control of his or her career. People want to be in control of their own careers, and the myth of candidate control has pushed many candidates into the abyss of ‘I don’t trust recruiters’. Many recruiters mistakenly think that ‘candidate control’ is all about manipulating someone to do something that will culminate in a fee. Instead, your job is to find out where they want to go, and show them how your client’s opportunity will get them what they really want. Use the candidate’s intrinsic motivation as the energy which guides the whole process. If you do that, you’ll minimize fall-offs, decrease counteroffers, and develop candidates into active and willing participants all the way through.

- Scott Love

Copyrigt © 2007 Scott Love

Scott Love is a recruiter who has created a big billing model of success that anyone can duplicate. His website has over 150 free articles, tools and downloads that can help you bill more. Visit it at