Convincing Reluctant Candidates on the Right Day, Part 2

As you may have figured from Part 1 of this series, there many categories of “right days.” Identifying them requires just six basic approaches. Much of this falls under customer relationship management or business intelligence, which unfortunately, most corporate recruiters know little about. However, if you’re unsure of the process or how to do it, just talk to any of your top salesperson or any external executive search professional who routinely does these things as part of their professional life. The six basic approaches required:

  1. Read business papers and magazines. The purpose is to identify when newsworthy companies have positive, negative, or dramatic business events
  2. Watch the weather. Watch the weather channel and read the weather section of the newspaper to identify geographic areas where people are likely to want to “flee” because of recent horrible weather.
  3. Use CRM systems. Customer relationship management systems can be used to track birthdays, performance appraisal days, bonus periods, graduation dates from college, etc., and send out customized communications relative to each.
  4. Leverage your network. Emails and telephone calls to a target candidate’s colleagues and friends asking them about positive and negative events in a target candidate’s life can reveal occurrences that lead to frustration and anxiety. Identifying and staying in touch with “super knowers” (they just seem to know everyone and everything that’s going on) is an excellent approach. Attending professional meetings is a great way to pick up on potential happy and unhappy times for your target candidate as well.
  5. Search the Internet. Many corporate websites release information about promotions and major business events in their PR section. Personal websites,, sales leads from credit reports, or even Google searches on the person’s name can come up with an amazing amount of information which indicate “right and wrong days.”
  6. Practice common sense. Common sense and experience will tell you that there are certain days where people reconsider their life, independent of the work year or family events. Those days include birthdays, New Year’s Eve, the last day of school (if they have children), and the worst weather days.

Ask Them at the Right Time of Day

If you get into the science (yes it is a science, not an art), you soon realize that in addition to the day, the time of day and the location where you make the request are also critical. Any salesperson or fisherman will tell you that there are certain “right times” during the day that are optimal to reel in your catch. Some of those might include:

  • Late in the day, at which time many professionals have been exposed to more opportunities that tire and frustrate them.
  • At the very beginning of the day, before they began, when they realize they are facing an insurmountable pile of work.
  • Any day you can catch them working after hours at the office.

Ask Them at the Right Place

Do your homework and find out which location makes them most likely to say yes. You might start by asking them or their friends what location they were at when they said yes to their current job.

  • Lunch, breakfast, or dinner conversations often have a greater impact.
  • Have a drink. People tend to think differently after a little alcohol.
  • Talk to them in person. Some people can easily turn down someone on the phone but can’t do it face-to-face.
  • Talk to them at a conference, where most people have their guard down.
  • Talk to them at your firm’s office, where they might “feel the love” from other employees that would like to see them come onboard.
  • Give them a call at home right after dinner, where, for instance, the spouse might ask “what was that about” after you call. That conversation with a spouse might get you a return call that never would have occurred if you called while they were at the office.

You can also increase your odds of getting a reluctant candidate to say yes if you:

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  • Involve the family in helping you sell.
  • Sell their references on how great your company is.
  • Influence the public by building your company’s external employment brand so that friends and acquaintances “talk up” your firm.

But What Would Denny Crane or Miss Manners Say?

Now for those that say that what recruiters are doing here is taking advantage of someone’s misery or that they are violating some fairy-tale ethical code, my answer is “Yes, we are.” But these approaches also offer candidates an opportunity to get out of that misery. Great recruiters identify when candidates are vulnerable and use that time period to get them to say yes, just like most potential fiancees, salespeople, and smart children who ask for an advance on their allowance! Great recruiters take advantage of opportunities and openings, while other recruiters get 100 percent of their information from candidate resumes and later scratch their heads and complain because, inexplicably, “the best candidates always turn us down.” Also, for those HR pseudo-lawyers without law degrees, using someone’s birthday or personal event to recruit is perfectly fine because you are using the information in order to proactively offer them an opportunity. Discrimination occurs when you do not offer someone a position because of their age or other personal information. Privacy can be an issue, but generally people don’t complain when you use personal information to offer them a great job that pays them more money. Most privacy issues relate to individuals using your personal data to take the money you already have, not to offers to give you more money and better opportunities — which, incidentally, you can turn down at any time.


It’s important to realize upfront that asking a candidate to apply for job or accept an offer requires precise timing. It’s just a fact that the same offer given to a candidate on one day will get a no while making the same offer at the appropriate time or place will get a resounding yes. If this “new approach” makes you nervous, go talk to your salespeople and the retained search firms that you use and see if they don’t already use a similar approach. Don’t be surprised if you encounter resistance to this approach, because outside-the-box approaches make people resistant to change nervous. “Nervous nellies” who see a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t use this, or any new approach, are the same ones who hire third-party recruiters to do exactly the same thing for them. But just because someone else does it out of sight, it is somehow okay. Hunt on the right day yourself and you will have good hunting!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



6 Comments on “Convincing Reluctant Candidates on the Right Day, Part 2

  1. Dr Sullivan
    I would like to address your comment ‘Also, for those HR pseudo-lawyers without law degrees’

    In this industry it is neither Relevant Nor Mandated to have a law degree or be a Lawyer to be aware of the 25 federal and state laws and hundreds of regulations that apply to workplace relationships ? Including the Recruiting aspect of our job.

    Discussing these laws and regulations is neither an infraction or illegal ? in fact if there seems to be a misunderstanding it is our responsibility to educate those who may not recognize these issues that affect us day to day. If it were illegal or an infraction then even H.R would be in trouble every day as this should be a part of their employment discussions and training on a regular basis.

    It is also our duty and obligation to protect the welfare of the individuals that we represent every single day.

    My last comment on this topic, and this is Verbatim from the EEO and the Civil Rights Division of the American Government (yes I called them to ask ) ? Asking or having any personal information regarding a prospective Employee/Candidate that does not relate to their professional and Business abilities, Skills or experience has the propensity of opening up a legal can of worms.

    Personal Life Data has Nothing to do with determining the capability of the Candidate on the job. Yes some of this information is important in regards to relocation and such like, but to put more than is necessary in a candidate file predilection for causing problems in a later date.

    As the Civil Rights Division Told me – Yes it is True you can Ask Whatever You want ? Really you can ? You can ask the age, race, nationality of Anyone ? there is really anything written in the Books against asking, that is the beauty of America, it is a free country ? The question the EEO will Ask You is Why? Why do You think it is necessary to ask, record or need this information to determine whether or not the job candidate has the ability to perform the job. The EEOC has determined these areas are personal and irrelevant. It is to your best interest that questions However innocuous they may seem at the time, not jeopardize what you’ve created for yourself.

    Yes it is true that You may be using this information for inclusion, but unfortunately someone else (maybe at your office, maybe a client) may not use it on an inclusive basis, or may not think that you are. There is also a possibility for a candidate to feel that they may have felt discriminated during the process, even if it was not your intent.
    Unfortunately that could start an investigation, which not only is time consuming, it can become expensive and a royal pain to defend yourself, which by the way now has you and your company on a radar.

    Though this information can tend to be boring, one may find it to be crucial to stay up to par on the EEO rulings especially if we consider that employment lawsuits make up the largest number litigations filed in Courts..(as of 2003) –
    According to USA today 450 employment Related Lawsuits are filed Every DAY. (that also does include TPR?s)
    There has been a 2000% increase since 1974 – and lawsuits filed doubled since 1992, average case load for EEOC investigators tripled since 1992 –
    According to SHRM 3 out of 5 Employers are sued by former employees every year
    Your chances of winning are about 50/50 on an average.

    It is a good idea for every recruiter, (internal or TPR) or H.R manager to either speak to a lawyer, or call the EEOC on this matter should they have questions. Get Professional counsel. As I said, I am not a lawyer but I do have an obvious personal vested interest in this topic.
    Karen M.

  2. I would like to clarify a statement I made – ‘You can ask the age, race, nationality of Anyone ? there is really anything written in the Books against asking, that is the beauty of America, it is a free country’ ? This statement is a general statement pertaining to the federal aspect of the EEO regulations (and it does not pertain to the ADA federal act)

    Some States actually have in their State Acts that one Cannot Ask at anytime, in any shape, way or form. I think that 19 do allow it, but then again that changes so frequently so don?t quote me please.

    Also it is important to remember that the State that you are calling into, placing in, or calling from with the more stringent regs will also apply.. (it can also make it Federal) ? so confusing isn?t it.

    Yesterday one of our friends made an interesting statement to me yesterday that I found interesting ? they said that knowing too much information can prevent a person from recruiting well.. Make one paranoid per se..

    Well I found that interesting ? do many people think that? I feel the opposite, knowing this stuff is like driving ? one knows the rules and regulations of the road, yet you are still able to shift gears, know when to be defensive, offensive, be aware of the traffic around you, turn on the indicator, brake and accelerate. You know when to obey the traffic signs, and of course follow the obvious..

    Knowing the laws of the road does not make you a bad driver, it makes you a better defensive driver, and helps you avoid accidents. Isn?t then knowing this information the same?

    Anyways it is always best to talk to Your State DOL, EEOC, or a legal counsel to get advice on these topics. I only know general information, but I do try to stay informed as I don?t want to become a statistic. I personally know how easy it is to happen to a us in this industry?

  3. I swore I?d stay out of this, because I?m, thankfully, for now, swamped. But I have not yet achieved self-mastery, it seems.

    Every player on this field plays the game his or her way, and he or she gets to succeed or tank accordingly (some days both in the same morning, no?).

    So I speak for myself only when I say that, if I invested this many neurons in parsing the risks of what I do every day (check the laws and regs of each state you call into before starting to recruit?), I’d be curled up in the corner of my office, absently petting my dog and mumbling to myself.

    Since my dog is large and easily annoyed, I guess I’ll just put my head between my knees and brace for impact the next time I ask (at the right time, of course), ‘Ann, my client believes when it?s dealing with an A-player that it has to recruit the whole family. That’s where this question comes from. If you accepted this job and relocated to LA, what, if anything, would I and my client need to do for the people you move through life with to make sure they were taken care of?’

    Ann thought a minute (?Can I trust this guy? Yes, I think so.?) and replied, ‘Nobody’s ever asked me that in quite that way before. Thank you. I have a mildly autistic 6 year-old and my husband’s a teacher. I’m the breadwinner in the family. My husband and I have discussed a move like this, and he’s all for it, because he thinks his principal is a jerk. He can take care of himself. What I need to know from you is what resources there are near where I’d be working that could replace the fabulous tutor my daughter’s working with here in Minneapolis? My husband can figure that out, but if you or your client think they can help, we’d welcome any suggestions’.

    Or, last month, after an hour-long interview and a few conversations, ‘Ted, it’s time you know I’m openly gay and that my partner is very ill. The reason I’m telling you this is my employer and the city I live in recognize us as domestic partners. You’re asking me to consider a move to a small town near Parkersburg, West Virginia and a new job with a family-owned company. Can you tell me we’ll be in the same position once we get there?’ Of course I could not, and that was that, by his choice.

    Or, finally, last fall, ‘Hi Ted, Heather here. Listen, I just found out I’m pregnant. I know you’re not supposed to know about stuff like this, but let’s get real. How is it going to help you or me or your client if I get over there and then take a month or two off next spring, right in the middle of their busy season? We’ll both look like idiots. Keep me in mind, though, because in about a year, I’ll be ready to make a move. And the next kid is at least 5 years away.’

    They have all gone like this, at least so far, at least for me. And my lawyer’s still waiting for his first phone call.

  4. Karen –

    Always enjoy your postings, that, in many cases, deserve article status.

    On age, 80% of the resumes give it up (one I saw recently, ‘BSCE, 1948!’ – placing him would be a great feather in my cap – my being old), yet some resumes of late go back only 7-10 years, the guy shows up to the interview & he is in his 50s! (I always ask for an entire career rundown as 99% of my clients respect more experience.) And of course the ‘GE way’ – hire someone who accomplished in 5 years that usually takes 10-15, and another client (rural TN!)who insisted on an ACT score of 26+.

    On race, immigration status is important, plus, can they understand, ‘Shut off the machine!’-?

    My questions for you (a great series of articles only you could write?), what exactly can recruiters ask that employers cannot in other than the 19 states (list them)? And if relocation is involved are any of the rules eased?

    Thanks always for your input.


  5. Ted, LOVE your post. Candidates don’t live to work, they work to live, and thus they make decisions based upon how an opportunity will affect their LIVES, not just their JOB. And as effective recruiters, we must engage the candidate thusly and appropriately.

    And, I want to ask those who have their radar up on this, the following question:

    What happens when your candidate, completely in sync with the mindset described above, spews out some personal facts that you did not ask, such as ‘Well, I just turned 47 and my last child just started college, and I’m recently divorced and ready to take on a new challenge.?’ What do you do, clamp your hands over your ears and yell, ‘Stop telling me this!’??? Of course not.

  6. Jonathon
    Thanks for your response and compliment ? There are great observations made by all here ? and as a recruiter who does place Senior Management to mid level management ? does not depend on job boards for my placements (headhunter) ? and who also deals with issues of relocation I will share my personal experiences at how I remain successful but within the EEO guidelines.

    As Ted pointed out there are effective ways to gain information regarding relocation ? Now generally as an Employer this is usually to be defined at offer and acceptance (please don?t kill the messenger ? this is just what the eeo Says ok) ?

    But since we do need to know if this could be a problem a simple statement of this job needs to be filled immediately, is there going to be issues that could delay a rapid relo. Now the candidate will mention his certain issues? Home to sell, wife needs a new job, kids.. Well shucks, seems that is a general statement and concerns, and my clients are prepared for these issues..
    So since they don?t have any bearing on his qualifications or ability to do the job I will make Very few and simple notes on this – – My statement will be ?Usual Relo concerns. Could delay movement by a couple of mths? ? Yes the clients know what that means, again they have been down this route before.. There has been kids in the past, houses to sell and such like.. If they want the candidate, if the candidate wants the job, this will be worked out. If a wife is sick and such like, the candidates will let you know that this isn?t a good time, call back in a few mths.. Again, simple comments in my notes, “personal issues, call back in a few mths.”

    No, I won?t maintain a full blown record on their family history. Why? well that is because this candidate may not get THIS job, this information may be irrelevant next week, mth or year when I may have an opt for him in his backyard, or situations change. I don?t want to not blow a candidate out because too much information and data could cause that possibility.

    Regarding resumes with Age, photos and Personal information ? I send them back, will ask the candidate to remove, let them know I am unable to submit this information with that data on it, nor keep it in my database .. No problem, they understand and actually appreciate this information and Yes will remove the information and resubmit. (100 percent success rate on it)

    Jonathon, I have placed people in their 60?s when the company had mentioned to me at first that they preferred ?younger people? ? I let the client know that I am an equal opt recruiter, cannot discriminate, and continued to send in qualified candidates regardless of Age, race and such like.. They ended up hiring the 63 Year old individual. And Yes, they are still my Client 4 Years later. What a concept Huh? F.Y.I, my client has opened their eyes as well. Also placed an H1 Visa too with a client who didn?t do H1 because of the expense, So I offered to take the fees out of my Fee, I knew the candidate was that Good.. 3k from a 20+K fee.. not bad for day?s work don?t you think.. (okay it was a couple of weeks)

    I have Made placements that many competitors did not because they wanted to ?please? the client.. They lost an opportunity on a Bad business call. When My client says they want XYZ skills, I focus on XYZ skill sets, that Is ALL I hear, that is All I listen to ? That is my job, that is what I am paid to do. Not to analyze a candidate?s personal life history. That has NO bearing on the ability or qualifications of the applicant.

    When they give too much information I DO tell them to stop – No I don?t want it.. I don?t want them to have the possibility to turn on me. And Yes, this Did happen to me ? No lawyer called me, the DOL Did, but it was handled in One day. I did help the guy, I did the right things, and had the data to prove it. My files were in order, and due to my training they was Nothing to perpetuate the investigation. I had only owned my company less than 3 mths, and this guy wanted my blood and my money.

    Ted, I do work effectively as a recruiter in spite of my knowledge – (admittedly a little burned out this past year but it comes with the territory, have been doing this for over 10 years non stop and mainly from a home office).

    EEO information and other issues concerning My industry is e-mailed to me daily ? It does not adversely Affect the way I recruit in a negative manner at all. In fact I think it makes me more productive and effective. The candidates and Clients appreciate my professional work ethics and it allows for more business referalls.

    Our job is to find Good Qualified Talent, not ?weed? out the ?disposables? based upon ?illegal? criteria. Qualified Talent is based upon the Job Description, Personalities, the skills and the abilities of the Human Beings we are representing and Presenting. Nothing Else.

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