When I was in high school, I applied for a summer job in sales. After scanning my application, the hiring manager looked up at me and frowned. “Sorry,” he said. “You don’t have what it takes to do this job. Next!”
Stung by the rejection, I fought back. “You don’t even know me,” I said. “Just give me a chance and I’ll prove you wrong.” And so I did.
Obviously, I was too naïve to recognize the use of negative selling as a qualifying technique. Or that every applicant, no matter how qualified on paper, got the same treatment. But it was a lesson learned, especially when I applied it years later to recruiting.
The Curse of Wishful Thinking
In our relentless push to get a “yes,” we often lose sight of why people nod their heads up and down. Have we successfully transferred our enthusiasm? Or, did we simply pressure them to agree, despite their misgivings?
If it’s the former, we’ve done our job. If it’s the latter, we’re in big trouble. More often than not, a “yes” morphs into a “no” not because new information comes to light, but because the answer was “no” all along and we didn’t want to hear it. The only thing that changed was the way “no” was communicated.
I’ve found that behind every accepted counteroffer or aborted relocation is a “no” cloaked in a half-hearted “yes.” And that’s why negative selling—also known as reverse psychology—is such a valuable tool. By forcing a candidate or employer to fight for something that might be taken away, you’ll gauge their true intentions.
Here are three takeaway scripts you can use to screen, qualify or pre-close a candidate:
“Mr. Candidate, my company is very picky about who they hire. In fact, most people are rejected after the first interview. Are you feeling up to this level of scrutiny?”
(or) “Ms. Candidate, based on what you’ve told me, your current job seems pretty good. Honestly, I can’t see why you’d want to risk making a change. Would you like me to put this opportunity on hold until I can find something more appropriate?”
(or) “Mr. Candidate, I’m glad you’re open to relocating to Seattle. But before you start packing your bags, I think it would be a good idea to have a family meeting. Why don’t you sit down with the people who’d be impacted by your move, and call me in a couple of days? I’d be interested in learning how they feel.”
And here are a couple of scripts for the employer:
“Mr. Employer, my candidate is a top-producer who’s creative and works well with minimal supervision. Quite frankly, I’m not sure your company could keep him interested over the long term. Would you be willing to risk losing him after two or three years of outstanding performance?”
(or) “Mr. Employer, originally, my candidate thought he would need $85,000 for a position of this type. But now that he’s aware of the full range of responsibilities, the amount of travel required and the fact that his benefit package will be reduced, he’s adjusted his salary needs up to $90,000. Should I tell him not to expect a more competitive offer?”
Finally, here’s a script that applies to employers who are considering using my recruiting services:
“Mr. Employer, I work with companies that put a priority on performance, a quick time line and a high quality of work. If you’ve got other considerations—such as pricing or following a process—then maybe we’re not the best fit for each other.”
I’ve found that whenever you’re trying to make a sale, the other party has to want it at least as much, if not more, than you do. And if they let you take it away without putting up a fight, they probably didn’t want it in the first place. Remember the old saying: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
- Bill Radin
Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and Splits.org.