Creating Compelling Presentation

When I started in this business, I thought that recruiting meant calling prospective candidates and reading them a job description. As you would imagine, this approach really only attracted the unemployed or active candidate. The real talent, the passive candidate, was never going to be dislodged by such an approach. I never really had an answer to their response of “That sounds a lot like what I am doing now. Why should I leave my present employer?”

As I progressed as a Recruiter, I learned to craft my presentation in such a manner that would pique the interest of prospective candidates. What I found, as well, was that my best presentations never involved hard-selling a job opportunity, but instead telling the candidate a short story. After a while, it became clear that my stories all shared the same structure. What made them different were the specific details which fit the client and the position.

I have found that the key to telling a compelling story is knowledge knowledge of both the candidate and the client. A great story is useless if the end is not relevant to the candidate. Get to know the person on the other end of the phone before you start talking about how your client is going to change their lives for the better. The biggest candidate complaint I hear about recruiters is that recruiters will call candidates and tell them “I have a great opportunity for you” with no knowledge of what they want to do with their career.

Secondly, get to know the client company, the department you are working for, the individual you are working for, and the people who have been in this position before. Ask your client lots of questions to flesh out the position description. Get a sense of what the candidate will accomplish and what the department (and client as a whole) is trying to accomplish. Get specific details, as well, of what people who have filled this role before have gone on to do.

Once you have accomplished this, you can craft your presentation. Since we all work in different industries and speak different languages, I will use a nearly universal language (baseball) to illustrate my points.

Assume that the prospective candidate is a middle reliever who hopes to someday be a closer.

Step #1: Set the stage

Give the candidate a sense of what the client is, what they do, and what they do well. Show them as a winning organization with a good plan for future success. Show how their need for this particular individual is a developmental area.

“My client is a very successful American League team that won eighty-seven games last year. They hit very well and as a team batted .287. Their starting pitching was among the best in the league with a 4.13 ERA. They have a veteran all-star closer who notched forty-six saves last year. Unfortunately, they lost the lead seventeen times in the seventh and eighth innings last year and missed the wildcard by six games.”

Step #2: Describe the role and the opportunity for contribution

This is where you tell the candidate what they will actually do for the company. Speak in broad strokes, but do know your details so that you can answer questions. Give a brief sense for the qualifications they seek as well as what they will do to develop their people.

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“They have asked for my help in bringing in someone to work out of their bullpen. The reliever they bring in will primarily be asked to pitch the eighth inning, but will pitch during the seventh inning in close games. What they really need is someone who will get them to the ninth inning with the lead intact. Ideally, they are looking for someone with major league experience, but will look at a Triple-A pitcher with great potential. They do have a highly-respected pitching coach with a track record of developing great relievers. They feel that by bringing in an effective reliever to act as their set-up man, they will win games next year that they would have lost last year.”

Step #: Describe a bright future

This is where you tie everything together and show them how they can develop professionally while helping the organization achieve its goals. This is the most important part of the story.

“Their hope is that by winning additional games they will get into the playoffs this year. Once in the playoffs, they hope to continue to win and compete for the World Series. The reliever that we bring in should, if all goes according to plan, have the opportunity to gain experience pitching in the post season. As their current closer is nearing retirement, this position could very well lead to the closer role. Additionally, the experience gained will be very valuable to other teams who are looking for a playoff-tested reliever to step into their closer role. In fact, two of the last three people in this role are now closers in the major leagues.”

By following this framework, you can pull together a very effective presentation that only takes a couple of minutes to deliver to candidates. You will find, as well, that this presentation structure can be used to breathe life into junior, mid-level and senior-level positions.

Lastly, make sure you have your pitch in mind when you are speaking with the client so that you can ask the questions which will give the information you need to tell a compelling story.

Improving the manner in which you present an opportunity is a simple way to attract more desirable candidates. As the talent war heats back up, this will become a tremendous competitive advantage.

Matt McMahon is a Principal in McMahon Partners LLC, a three partner national retained executive search firm. Before forming McMahon Partners, he led a specialty practice for a northeast regional firm. Prior to entering the search industry, Matt served as a corpsman for a Marine Corps infantry platoon, both on active duty and as a reservist in college. A nationally-recognized expert in employment market issues, Matt has been quoted in publications such as MSN Careers and


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