Sometimes recruiters obsess so much over the science of
recruiting-the "where to look"-that we tend to ignore the true art of
the business, the "how to ask." These days, it seems we've all turned
into info-junkies, addicted to databases, directories and Internet
Which is fine. Candidates don't fall out of the sky, they have to be
found. And given the Internet's exotic allure of an unlimited supply of
highly skilled candidates, what recruiter wouldn't be tempted to compile
a list of 100 names before even having to pick up the phone?
Unfortunately, the mountain of evidence approach to recruiting threatens
to become an end unto itself, as we increasingly rely on raw data,
rather than strong relationships as the best source of qualified
candidates. Today's recruiter frequently squanders resources already
available by failing to leverage relationships into referrals.
Go Right to the Source
To find qualified candidates, I've found that it's far more efficient to
daisy-chain through a series of recommendations than it is to cold-call
a widely scattered collection of prospects. Or, to use a football
analogy, you're more likely to score a touchdown from a sustained drive
than to run a post pattern on every play.
For example, many candidates can be found simply by taking the time to
ask the employer for referrals. By deposing the decision maker before
the search begins, you can eliminate many hours of unnecessary research
and data collection. Here are some simple questions to ask as you write
your next search assignment:
Mr. Employer, is there anyone you've interviewed in the past that might
develop into a candidate for this job or into a source of referrals?
Have you met anyone in the last year or so (at a trade show, industry
meeting, etc.) that might be able to help me in the search?
Can you tell me where the people on your staff worked prior to coming to
work for you?
With your permission, may I speak with them, to see if they have any
contacts at their old companies that I might call?It's also advisable to
ask the employer for the names of any candidates that have already been
interviewed or are known to be unsuitable. That way, you'll save time
and eliminate the risk of embarrassing yourself by presenting duplicate
or unwanted candidates.
Your Presentation is Everything
I'm often asked how to increase the number of referrals you can get from
a cold recruiting call. The answer is threefold:
1. Build credibility. Demonstrate that you understand the job market,
your capabilities and the candidate's everyday world. If you're new to
recruiting, nothing will establish your credibility more quickly than
expressing your sincere desire to learn.
2. Reciprocate. Be as helpful as you can to everyone you talk to. As an
expert in your market, you have a lot of knowledge to share in terms of
career management, salary guidelines and industry trends.
3. Strengthen your presentation. Most recruiters do such a poor job of
presenting themselves to candidates that they end up building a barrier,
instead of a bridge.
In a first-call situation, you have very little time to "connect" with
another person, so your recruiting script has to quickly stimulate
interest in order for a dialogue to develop. A classified ad script (as
in, "My client is a Fortune 500 company, looking for a degreed engineer
with three years' experience in automotive gears, knowledgeable in
CAD/CAM, blah, blah, blah. . . ") is almost guaranteed to put the
candidate to sleep, and will probably stereotype you as a mere
In contrast, by using a technique called storyboarding, you'll connect
more quickly with candidates and dramatically increase the number of
referrals you receive. Storyboarding sets the table for dialogue by
incorporating the element of drama into your presentation. Once you'd
piqued the candidate's interest, the two of you are more likely to
engage in conversation, and the candidate will more freely exchange
ideas and provide you with referrals.