Asking for the referral

The mark of a true headhunter is the ability to get referrals and with these develop a network of quality people who cannot be found with a classified ad.  Referrals can be asked for at a number of points in the applicant development process.  Ask for referrals if the applicant is not interested.  If the applicant is interested, you may wait until you receive a resume or after an interview -- the timing is a judgment call.  First, let's describe the absolutely wrong way to get a referral.

Do you know of anyone that could fill this position or is looking?   This will get you a “NO” 99.99% of the time. What you must do first is to narrow the frame of reference so you can be more specific when you ask for the referral.  Here is how to narrow down the frame of reference:

      “How many different groups, projects are there at the company?”

      “What is the turnover rate?”

      “Where did you work before?”

      “Do you have anyone whom you look up to or can learn from?”

After these questions, ask for specific names.  If you get an objection, here are some suggestions:

      “I can understand that it would be wrong to give a name to a headhunter if the headhunter could never be of service to that person.  What you may not know is the special service we provide.  We don't use pressure tactics as you can see.  We just want to build a rapport that will start a parallel process to be there when that individual is ready to make a move or when he/she knows someone else who is.” (This is an example of factual denial; when they have misinformation.)

      “I see, so what you're really asking is, how do I know the people you give me won't be upset?  Don't you agree that our approach is very professional, and it would be nice to have access to a good headhunter when you really need one? Good headhunters are hard to find.  And when you get a good one, your peers would probably like to know, wouldn't they?”  (Rephrase the question and let them answer it.)

      “Yes, giving an associate's name to a headhunter is not good when the recruiter annoys and badgers the individual.  I am very aware of that problem and here is what I do....”

      “As you can see I am very professional and courteous to everyone.”

      “I won't push if they are not interested.”

      “I will definitely create a positive impression.”  At this point introduce information that overrules the objection such as;  “Yes, unsolicited calls from headhunters can be annoying and can be very profitable (finder's fees)”,  or Yes and get to thicker ice, for example.  “Well, you're absolutely right.  Headhunters are not always the best way to go.”

      “When thinking about a career change there are alternatives, and since I see you have given it some thought, you are probably aware of those special circumstances when it would be to one's advantage to have a headhunter in their corner.” Compliment and move on.

      “I understand how you feel.  Many of our applicants felt the way you do.  What they found is that some recruiters are very helpful with information even if they never use the services directly.”

      “I see, so what you're saying is how can I give you someone's name to be bothered by a recruiter when they are probably very happy where they are?  Don't you agree, knowledge is power? and knowledge is what we want to provide to begin an ongoing relationship like the one we have started with you.”

      “I see, so what you're asking is, what if the person gets upset with me? You're not annoyed with me are you?”

      “I think you will agree that you and any of your peers have everything to gain for a small investment of 5 minutes twice a year from our free service:  We explain the current market value for their skills and the quality and activity of other companies.”

      “I think you will agree that recruiters need to improve their image and level of service? It would sure help me do that, if you could tell me why.”

      “Very few people retire from companies they are currently working with, don't you agree?  When the time comes to move on it's good to have a person whom you have dealt with over the years who is an expert in his/her field just like you are in your field, isn't it?”

      “I see, you're right.  People just starting a new position have their hands full don't they?  It's also a perfect time to begin a new relationship with someone they can be candid with.”

      “I think you will agree that there is a right position for everyone?  Let me take down the names of those unqualified people and start them on the road of a more rewarding career.”

      “People unqualified for their present position are usually very unhappy because of the mismatch.  Don't you agree? Lets get them started on a road to a more productive career.”