20 August 2008

Are you a passive or assertive recruiter?

This article originally appeared in Issue 46 of InSight
Published 20th August 2008


I was a very average recruiter for about 3 years when I first started in the industry. One of the reasons was that I was more passive than assertive in my approach to candidates and clients. As someone in my early 20’s nearly all my clients and candidates were older than me and, having been brought up by my parents to be respectful of my elders, this respect translated into the workplace as a lack of assertiveness.

The turning point was one day when one of my candidates stuffed me around about whether to start or not start a job I had put him up for. He was to undertake a small but important temp assignment with Bankers Trust, a fledging client of mine at the time.

I was very keen to make a positive impression with every placement at BT and this particular temp (English Chartered Accountant traveller) basically humiliated me as I went back and forth to the client to confirm and then withdraw the candidate (twice). I remember being so distraught by the sequence of events, I went into one of the interview rooms and sat alone for about 20 minutes as I digested what a complete idiot I had made of myself.

In that 20 minute period of self-reflection, I made a commitment to myself that I would not let that situation ever happen to me again. I walked out of that room with a new resolve to assert myself in an authorative, yet respectful way.

As a result of my experience on that day, my effectiveness and results started a significant upward climb.

Consider the following when making an assessment of where you are on the journey from passive to assertive.

Passive recruiter (to candidate): “What time can you make it for an interview?”

Assertive recruiter: “I can meet with you at 8.00am or 12.30pm tomorrow - which suits you best?”

Client: “I am going to register this vacancy with two other agencies so I can get the best market coverage for good candidates.”

Passive recruiter: “I would appreciate you giving me an opportunity to work on this role exclusively.”

Assertive recruiter: “I understand why you might think that would be a good idea but let me explain to you why multi-listing a job has a greater chance of delivering a lesser calibre candidate and the process taking longer than you
expect.”

Client: “I don’t want to interview the candidate. Please forward over some other resumes.”

Passive recruiter: “okay”

Assertive recruiter: “There’s no point in sending over other candidates until I understand why and where you believe this candidate is lacking. Please let me know specifically which of the candidate’s technical skills, behavioural competencies or other areas you believe is not matched to your vacancy.”

Client (for temp vacancy): “Send over the candidate’s resume and I will come back to you with a decision about an interview.”

Passive recruiter (to client): “okay”

Assertive recruiter: “I am very concerned that if I do that, this candidate will take another temp role in the interim. To prevent that happening, I am prepared to extend our normal guarantee from one day to 5 days if you accept my recommendation now. This offer demonstrates how confident I am that the
candidate will be an excellent match for your temp job.”

Client: “and don’t send me any candidates with funny names, my customers get annoyed with people who can’t speak proper English.”

Passive recruiter: “er, okay”

Assertive recruiter: “you can be assured that I will only send you candidates who have the required level of verbal communication skill, regardless of their name.

Temp/contractor (asking for a rate increase): “I want another $5 per hour.”

Passive recruiter: “Okay, I will talk to my boss to see if we can afford it.”

Asssertive recruiter: “Before I consider any increase in your pay I need to know on what basis you are making this request as you are still within your original contract period and as far as I am aware your job hasn’t changed.”

Candidate: “I’ve decided to accept the counter offer from my current employer.”

Passive (aggressive) recruiter: “I think you will really regret that decision as research shows that most people who accept counter offers leave within 6 months.”

Assertive recruiter: “Let’s put the money aside for a moment and go back to what you told me in our original interview about why you were looking to leave, because you should be making your decision based on that reason.”

An assertive recruiter knows both their candidate and client target market so well that they know when to respectfully challenge a client or candidate when an ill-considered or short-sighted decision, that is not in their best long term interest, is about to be made.

A passive recruiter doesn’t challenge because they are afraid of having a robust conversation, hurting other people’s feelings, or as coming across as ‘pushy’.

An assertive recruiter doesn’t hear ‘no’ as final, they hear ‘no’ as ‘not yet’ - an indication they need to make a different approach to be successful in gaining a ‘yes’.

A passive recruiter hears ‘no’ as final, and they regard themselves as a failure.

An assertive recruiter makes things happen.

A passive recruiter watches things happen.

Which one are you?

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