First, Your Candidate Needs Food and Water

Without question, as recruiters, we are in the sales profession. Within this profession are several subprofessions. For example, from time to time, we act as career coach, relocation assistant, interview coach, and so on. Each career has a unique set of skills that are necessary for a person to be effective. One particular skill that stands atop all others and crosses all of the aforementioned is the ability to be persuasive. In order to be successful, we must master the skill of persuading other people to do things that they might otherwise not have been open to doing.

According to many philosophers, psychologists, and effective leaders, the best way to persuade people is to ensure that whatever you’re trying to persuade them to do is properly aligned with their own interests. Many people have heard of Abraham Maslow and are familiar with some of his work. Using his theories will surely help anyone – even a novice – become far more persuasive and influential when dealing not only with candidates and customers, but with other people as well. Maslow was a social psychologist frequently noted for his Hierarchy of Human Needs.

It is, in short, a summation of his life’s work, in my opinion. It doesn’t take a reader very long to understand how an article about this fits nicely with recruiting. People have needs, and the drive to satisfy these needs is a very powerful force. For example, imagine if you were drowning and, as such, badly needed air. Wouldn’t you think that you would stop at nothing, short of death, to get some oxygen into those lungs? You need air, plain and simple. Morbid as it may be, there’s a direct parallel with the business of recruiting.

Candidates have needs, and if you figure out what needs a candidates is trying to satisfy and align your job to satisfy those needs, all that’s left is sending out the invoice…hopefully. Like it or not, candidates do not have the recruiter’s interests in mind when they move from one job to another. If things work out in favor of the recruiter – the candidate accepts your job – from the perspective of the candidate, it is best characterized as a convenient occurrence. Once he or she accepts the job and starts working, in his eyes, the candidate is free of our phone calls, emails, voicemails, probing questions, etc., and for them, that’s a relief. Unless… If as a recruiter, you do a thorough job understanding needs and interests, and you do at least a good job relaying it back to the candidate that you understand it as well as he does.

If all that happens, the candidate will always hold you and your phone calls in high regard. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy as a guide, you’ll quickly facilitate this type of allegiance. In fact, I keep it as a Word document on my desk with questions attributed to the varying levels of human need. With each “layer” of human need, an interest of a candidate can be uncovered. At the bottom of “the Maslow pyramid” is physiological need: food, water, and shelter. A candidate wants to earn the highest possible wage he can negotiate. He cashes his check, and with this he buys the goods he will need in order to simply survive: food, water, and shelter. At the top of the pyramid is actualization. It is here where one finds the unique characteristics of a person’s identity. A person can go on in life for some time without actualization. However, he can only go for a couple of days at best without water. Find out what the unique characteristics are of your candidate; that is, what makes him or her unique. Convey back to the candidate not once, but regularly, that you identified him and understand him, and your candidate will feel as though speaking with you is like speaking with an old friend. A candidate trusts an old friend.

For those of you in healthy interpersonal relationships, take a look at those relationships and try and figure out why you like the person in question or vice versa. Get yourself up to speed on the Hierarchy, and then write out questions that will help you gather information about each layer. Practice asking the questions in a non-threatening way, and then start using them. Here are a few examples of the questions I use:


Article Continues Below
  • If I asked three people you work with what makes you unique, what do you think each person would say?
  • Before you leave this earth, what one contribution would you like to make to mankind, overall?


  • Tell me about a time when you felt like you were properly respected or recognized for work you had done.
  • How do you respond at work when you feel that someone has taken credit for something you did?


  • Tell me about a position you had in which you felt like you were part of the team, and what was it like for you to be part of the team when it did well or not so well.
  • Have you ever been in a position where you felt the team just did not accept you? If so, what did you do?

Make yourself a nice desk chart that will be used as a reference later on in the screening of your candidates. Don’t overwhelm your candidate and make him feel like you’re trying to psychoanalyze him. Collect information about what’s important to him; that way, he knows you want to line him up with jobs that may satisfy these needs he has. Anyone can extract transferable skills out of a candidate. But, an experienced professional will go the extra mile and collect information about personal interests. By doing this, you can be assured that the candidate will be far more open to your call than someone who just wants to make a fast placement and collect a fee. I have candidates begging their friends to call me. I have candidates give me names of referrals and they tell me in advance what their personal needs are. This type of loyalty is a result of empathy. If you ask the right questions, the answers will foster a long-lasting relationship and plenty of referrals.

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.


3 Comments on “First, Your Candidate Needs Food and Water

  1. Jeremy, just put ‘third party’ in front of the word recruiters to keep the context of the first paragraph.

  2. Loved your article, Todd. Absolutely loved it. Probably because it really resonated with the way I feel about recruiting, or talking with people in general. I always love to establish with candidates that real and very personal connection that often comes from really understanding what they want and need from their work. And I do so out of genuine interest to know who they are as a unique person inhabiting this earth (and not just because I think doing so will have positive financial repercussions for me). I have found it terribly satisfying to work this way with candidates and do feel that a lot of my success in recruiting can be attributed to this approach (along with knowing how to manage and care for my hiring manager relationships). It appears we are kindred spirits. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I am also a Maslow fan. Thanks for writing.

Leave a Comment

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