Be a Buyer, Not a Seller

Recruiting is the single most important part of the hiring process. It’s not something you do at the end of an interview: it starts the moment you begin the interviewing process. If you can’t attract the best people, everything else has been a waste of time. You know you have problems if you’re consistently paying too much or if candidates frequently say, “I have to think about it,” after receiving an offer. Problems occur because many managers stop interviewing and begin selling as soon as they find someone they like. Once you start selling, you stop learning. Recruiting is much more about buying than selling. If you oversell, over-talk and under-listen, you’ll either lose the best candidates or pay too much for them. From this point onward, you won’t learn anything new about the candidate other than what he or she wants you to know. You talk more and the candidate talks less. You lose complete control of the interview. This cheapens the job and makes the candidate more expensive. But if you create a compelling opportunity and make the candidate earn the job, candidates will sell you. Here are some tips about staying a buyer, not a seller:

  1. Create a compelling vision of the job with a carefully-written Performance Profile. If you present the job, without pressure, as a significant long-term and exciting opportunity, candidates will want to sell or convince you about their skills, instead of you having to sell them.
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  3. Don’t talk about money before the interview. It will only become a filter to exclude the best. Delay salary discussions until after the first meeting, or when inviting the candidate back for a second one. Use their acceptance of a salary range as their ticket to come back for the next interview.
  4. Don’t talk for 15 minutes about the great merits of the job. This is overselling. Some managers think they can sell or charm a candidate into taking a job. This is not recruiting: effective recruiting is indirect and subtle. While it’s true that you need to convince a candidate to take a job, you can’t accomplish this with a superficial selling pitch.
  5. Discuss the merits of the job in short, one-minute sound-bites before each interview question. The hiring manager needs to have a complete understanding of the job to be filled, as well as an awareness of the candidate’s suitability for it. Telling a candidate about the company’s plan for growth in a certain area has great appeal?if you relate it directly to the importance of the job.
  6. Create an opportunity gap. Paint a picture of what the candidate will learn by taking this job. And do it before you’ve asked too many questions.
  7. Test a candidate’s interest throughout the process by asking challenging questions. Example: “The new IS system will help us get control of our rapid overseas expansion programs. Was there a time when you had to take the lead in setting up new complex systems like this?”
  8. Remember: The more interviews you have, the more vested interest the candidate has in accepting an offer. Don’t start too soon or wait too long to talk about salary. The best time is when both parties are somewhat serious ? typically at the end of the first interview or right before scheduling the second. If the candidate agrees to come back, you know you’ve just established the conditions for a potential offer.
  9. Test all offers before making them formal. Ask, “What would you think about an offer of $___?” Prepare a preliminary offer and test every aspect before making it formal. The worst thing you can do is to extend an untested offer and then wait for a response. You’ve lost control and prevented open communications. If you hear “I have to think about it,” it means you’ve moved too fast. You want the candidate to think about it, but at a time when you’re in control, not the candidate?before the offer.
  10. Listen! Letting the candidate talk and asking fact-finding questions demonstrates interest in the candidate, and is greatly appreciated.
  11. Follow-up with the candidate every few days after an offer is accepted. There’s a natural tendency to let your guard down, but don’t. With tight employment markets, the best candidates always have multiple opportunities. Stay in touch, and get the candidate involved in her new job right away, even before she actually starts.

Do all this, and you can usually avoid the recruiter’s nightmare: buyer’s remorse.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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