Apply Your Recruiting Game

I have an old college friend that I get to see about once a year. Back in school, “Joe” was a happy-go-lucky guy with above-average looks. He’s in excellent physical shape, and he always applied the appropriate amount of attention to his wardrobe. His personal hygiene is impeccable.

However, he had one problem. He could never get a date, nor could he approach women in public settings. We used to marvel at how a guy who appeared to have all the necessary attributes would strike out every time he stepped up to the plate.

What’s even funnier is that women would ask me, “Who’s your friend?” In answering, I would silently muse that perhaps this was going to be the time when all the cards were dealt and Joe would come up with a Royal Flush, simply by chance, but no luck.

Even when the stars were aligned, Joe would manage to do something, albeit incredibly subtle, that would broadcast a message that announced he was not desirable. Poor Joe.

Fast-forward a few years, and Joe has now become something of a dating guru. In Casanovian circles, the once dual-left-footed klutz of dating is now collecting more numbers than a Lotto machine at your local quickie-mart.

I can’t even get him to answer the phone; lacking the right equipment, I no longer make the cut of a same-day call back. Good for him! What a turn-around.

He was in town not too long ago. At dinner, I noticed that he was looking beyond my shoulder at someone else. It was then that I realized that I was not in the presence of the same person. Just behind me, two tables away, were two attractive women.

One of the women briefly left the table, and in the blink of an eye, Joe was then sitting at that table having a glass of wine (from their bottle) and laughing it up with the other woman. When the other woman returned to the table, she too jumped right in to the laughter; it was as though the three of them had gone to war together and were having something of a reunion.

I had to investigate the rage. I walked over and Joe introduced me to his two new friends. He hadn’t met either of them before that moment, but it appeared that the three had a lifetime’s worth of stories to share. What the heck was going on, I wondered?

The Smooth Moves

That night I witnessed one of the smoothest bachelor moves ever pulled off. Joe got both of their phone numbers at the same time! He asked the one, wrote it down, and then asked the other, and on the same napkin, wrote it down as well.

A few minor details worth sharing: Joe told both of them that he lived about 1,800 miles away and was only in town for two nights. Joe said that although it might have been fun to see them the following night, he already had plans and could not. He also told them it was unlikely that he would return any time soon. Yet, the women were not at all dismayed. One even said she had always wanted to visit the city where he lived.

It took about 10 minutes for me to clean the dirt off my jaw, as it had been stuck to the floor for the duration of the entire episode. I just could not comprehend what was going on.

This guy was for so long incompetent at meeting women. Then, right before my very eyes, it was as though he had hypnotized them and they were clinging to his every syllable.

Now, I know that up until this moment, this account might seem more appropriate for a publication of a different sort. But there is a recruiting lesson to be learned here, and I am about to share it.

Four Recruiting Moves

Later that night, Joe taught me something that has forever changed my recruiting talk-track. He said he got some “game” after starting a mission of diagnosing and curing his loneliness problem. He spoke with psychologists, read books, joined singles clubs, and studied the habits of successful people.

Article Continues Below

Essentially, Joe had become a recruiter. He wasn’t recruiting to fill jobs like most of us; instead, he was recruiting people to enjoy his company, plain and simple.

Here is his strategy:

  1. He had memorized and internalized 20 different “openers,” simple, non-threatening stories or questions that demand thought and response.
  2. He had memorized about five different transition questions, or positive topics that move away from the opener and stir up something positive in the other person.
  3. He would retreat and transition back slightly, acting as though he may or may not be interested in continuing the conversation.
  4. He developed a limitless supply of stories to tell, as with a good story, anyone will remain captivated.

As recruiters, apply these “boot camp” basics to shift your initial habits. For example, I charted out my initial approach. First, I wrote down what transpires in my first 60 seconds with a candidate. For quality assurance purposes, I even considered recording my calls to analyze them. Second, I wrote out my openers, although I would prefer to call them introductory rapport statements.

Third, I wrote out numerous transitional statements/questions, and figured out how to apply the retreat, without closing the door, so to speak. I wrote all the possible statements I could make in response to the myriad statements made by the candidate.

Finally, I created a hook-setting script that would almost compel the person to make time for me, but by their own choosing. I got out my tape recorder and rehearsed these lines over and over, until at a moment’s notice, I could rattle them off and make it sound like this was the one and only time that these words, in this order, would ever pass my lips.

You know what? About 10% of the people I call hang up on me right after I hear them say something such as, “Sorry, not interested.” When that happens, it never feels good. But that is better than my previous 25% rejection rate.

Simple Lessons for Successful Recruiting

Every time you approach a new potential candidate, there is an exchange of dialog. The person who is on the receiving end has not formally practiced his game. He really doesn’t need to.

At a moment’s notice, he can push the conversation ejection button and put you on the receiving end of the click dial tone. Learn, script, and practice your techniques to remain nimble, because at any moment, someone may throw you off balance.

I liken it to Tiger Woods hitting in to the rough, behind some big oak tree. He didn’t expect to do it, but when it happened, he had practiced it enough to know how to fix it.

I’ve found that by taking Joe’s charm and applying it to recruiting, it’s far less often that I head back to the dugout without seeing my shoes set foot on first base. And that is how you start your journey to closing the deal.

Todd Rogers is the sole partner with The Alva Bradley Company, LLC, a professional services firm in Fishers, Indiana. Prior to founding ABC, LLC, Todd worked in sales for He has a total of eight years experience in the recruiting industry, which by his own account feels more like 80 years. He also served five years in the U.S. Marines, and has a B.A. in philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio.


14 Comments on “Apply Your Recruiting Game

  1. You are getting hung up on?? Time to go back to Sales 101. Could it be the person on the other end (likely a woman) knows they are getting played?

  2. In the last hour, three people have e-mailed me politely asking for me to share some of my material – openers, stories, transitional statement, etc…

    I’m sorry to say it but two things stop me from doing this. First, it’s unlikely to pose a serious threat, but I don’t want to feed my competition AND I want to sound original. Second, and more importantly, you folks need to come up with your own material – it’s got to be yours or when you deliver it, you’ll not be as effective. Analyze what you’re saying now. Record yourself role-playing. You’ll feel a little funny at first, I assure you. Fix what you’re saying. Then, when you get on the phone, you’ll be so confident that you’ll be ready for anything.

    Thanks for reading and writing!

    Have a good weekend.

  3. I am a corporate recruiter who has a counseling background. Recruiting-actually let’s start on a more simple platform-communicating with someone is so much about the listening piece. Being prepared to have the conversation is a huge part of the battle. I appreciated the author’s comments about preparing yourself for the conversation.

    People naturally want to be heard, and once you get them talking you’ve got them. Communication is an art-as is recruiting. Understanding the psyche of the individual can help tremendously. Good stuff!

  4. The story at the beginning is something most guys can certainly relate to, making it attention grabbing and that’s merely the point of the entire story..


  5. I enjoy reading different techniques used by recruiters and many are definitely good for a laugh or two. Having been taught by the master years ago — Tony Burns — I learned from the beginning to ‘stop telling nutty stories.’ When I recruit, I cut right to the chase and just say ‘I need your help.’ Then I tell him or her exactly who I’m looking for and the person is either interested for themselves or will refer me to someone else. The only time this call fails to yield a result is when the individual is in the middle of a project and pushed for time. I will then get his or her email address and immediately send a follow up, to which I always get a response — 100% of the time. People love to be needed and that alone has given me the privilege of making 80% of my business through referrals. Also, I leave my voicemail messages short and sweet — I leave my name and number after I say ‘I need your help’ or ‘I could use your help with a project I’m working on’, which is of course the job order that I’m recruiting for. Sheer curiosity will get your call returned! Happy hunting!

  6. First of all, I want to say that most of the previous ERE articles that I have read have been highly informative and enlightening. I look forward to reading them each week and often learn new and valuable information.
    I’m a pretty laid-back individual and very rarely am I offended, but this article really bothered me on a few levels. As a woman, it riles me to hear someone paint a positive picture of using a ‘game’ to scam and then use women. As a Recruiter, it really gets me up in arms to hear someone compare that behavior to my very own profession. I would like to think that, were I a male, I would still be a bit unhappy at the fact that this article also supports a stereotype of males being users and if, they aren’t adept at the ‘game’, well then they’re just losers.
    Look, I’m sure Todd is a talented professional with a lot of valuable knowledge to share. I’m also sure that this is just one article and it’s not the end of the world, but I wanted to throw in my two cents and let it be known that I think comparing the profession that I happen to participate in and enjoy a great deal to the objectifying and using of women is not the best choice.

  7. Nicole,

    When I read your post, I simply had to respond. I don’t want to start a firestorm on a forum that is supposed to be, and continually deviates from, recruiting; I simply feel that my own response to the article is a wonderful juxtaposition to your response.

    As a woman, and due to your response, I have to assume that you do not understand the discomfort many men go through as they try to learn to relate to women. Every man that talks to a woman has, in one way or another, at some point in his life or currently, had to address his own insecurities in order to make that contact. Though you may not identify with this analogy, I found it very fitting and poignant. Just as it is a part of every man’s life to learn to relate to women comfortably, it is a part of every recruiter’s career to learn to relate to candidates and clients comfortably.

    I respect that, as a woman, you do not identify with the message of the article in the way that I do. But, I think if one is willing to look at the point, not the analogy, it is a very fitting message for us as recruiters. Overcome yourself; learn to be comfortable with the task at hand and with some rejection, plan some ‘scripts’ ahead of time, and see if as you grow more comfortable that success does not come knocking on your door.

  8. Darren,

    While I still feel as I originally did about this article, I found your response to be interesting and it did make me think quite a bit. I always appreciate hearing a different perspective than my own and I completely agree that the basic points of the article are valid and could be helpful in the recruiting process. Thanks for your response.

  9. Darren,

    Very well said and totally on point… I took away all of this from the article in question… I’m glad someone spoke up to recognize that a lot of sales positions, recruiting in this instance, has certain techniques that help us to be successful, and those can be translated into a lot of different life scenerios.


  10. Now it is me that is shocked! Such civility! It’s about as often as I breathe that people respond with such disdain for the author. Without question, the scales have tipped in my favor on the positive feedback versus the ‘not positive.’ But these last few thread-responses have, to my pleasure, captured the essence of my attempts at relating interpersonal courtship with recruiting.

    Thank you all for the continued mature and thoughtful discussion.

  11. As a relative ‘newbie’ to recruiting, I appreciate the article and it’s message. Sometimes trying to get a job order from a cold call is fairly reminiscent of being an awkward adolescent guy trying to learn how in the world to not feel so clumsy in talking to the girls in my homeroom class! And now, just like then, anything I can read or hear that will help me along and feel more comfortable with what I’m doing is appreciated!

  12. This actually was a good article Todd..

    Yes, it is snowing in California.. but the concept really is very good..


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *