14 February 2011

Beat your client to their objection and win more interviews

One of the great frustrations of being a new recruitment consultant, without a solid base of loyal clients, is when a client rejects a well matched referred candidate, based solely on the resume.

You know the candidate is a good match for the job but the client takes one look at the resume, or hears one thing about the candidate's background and says ‘no, I'm not interested'.

This frustrating rejection can occur for any number of reasons. Here's a few of the most common you will hear from the client, accompanied by the likely real reason for the client's decision, which they may or may not admit to:

‘I want someone smart' (they're not a graduate)
‘I want a really good communicator' (they have a non-Anglo name)
‘I want a stable person' (they've been in too many jobs recently)
‘I want a more assertive person' (I want a man)
‘I want a really committed person' (I suspect this woman will soon be pregnant)
‘I want a go-getter' (nobody over 40)
‘I want more experience' (too young or requires too much training)

The recruiter (being an optimist), is focused on all the reasons why the candidate is a good match for the job while the client (being a pessimist or burnt by past experiences) is focused on the one reason why the candidate is not a good match for the job.

Once the client has said ‘no' the chances of you changing the client's mind are very slim. It is critical to maximise your chances of the client saying ‘yes' as early as possible in a candidate-referral conversation.

In my lead article (The Marketing Power of Evidence) in InSight #29, published on 23 April 2008, I detailed how to use evidence to win more interviews for your candidates.

There is a further step that I recommend which will greatly assist you win more interviews for candidates whose resume, for whatever reason, you know or suspect won't win the client over.

That step is - bring up the client's predictable objection first. Beat them to it.

To do this effectively, there are two things you need to know:

  1. What your client is likely to object to (eg no degree)
  2. The resulting competency or motivation the client believes is automatically missing (eg therefore not smart enough to pick things up quickly).
Good candidates being rejected for bad reasons happens because, based on their personal experiences or prejudices, the client generalises about competencies or motivation. My earlier seven examples are common client generalisations, but there are plenty more. (For more reading on this topic, see my blog  from 26 March 2008 Hiring Mistakes Part 1: The Fallacy of Previous Experience)

Let's assume, using the above example, that the client wants a candidate with a degree because the generalisation the client has about a candidates with a degree is that ‘they are smarter and pick things up faster'.

Scripted, it works like this:

‘Mr Client, as you will notice David does not have a degree. When I first reviewed the resume, that was an initial concern. However having interviewed David and undertaken a reference check (quote referee comments on how quickly David picks things up), I now have no concerns about David because of all the candidates I interviewed for this job, David clearly demonstrated the highest capability in terms of picking things up quickly'.

The conversation with the client has these four steps:

Step #1: Draw the client's attention to the ‘objectionable' aspect of the resume
Step #2: State that this ‘objectionable' aspect was also initially a concern of yours.
Step #3: Detail the steps you took to eliminate your concern and satisfy yourself  that the candidate does possess the competency or motivation the client is seeking.
Step #4: State where and how the candidate rates with respect to that competency or motivation compared to the other candidates you have interviewed and/or referred.

This technique works on the basic rapport building level of, ‘I was thinking like you, Mr Client. I too was initially sceptical about ... (fill in the likely client objection)'.

Using this approach, you are demonstrating to the client that you have;

a) listened to them
b) empathised with them
c) completed your candidate assessment thoroughly
d) recommended the most well-matched candidate/s for the job

One final point (obvious, I hope):
Only use this technique when the candidate is genuinely well-matched for the job. You are definitely not doing your job as a professional recruiter if you use this technique as a manipulative tool to get your interview stats up.

When you are proactive with, rather than reactive to, a known or expected client objection, then you have a much better chance of the client agreeing to interview the candidate.

Arranging more interviews for well-matched candidates is the best way to improve your results.

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