How to Develop a Capture Strategy

Did you ever notice that, when a candidate accepts an offer, all of the people who even breathed the same air as the candidate pat themselves on the back, bathing in the glow of a job well done? But what about when the candidate rejects the offer? Things get a bit chilly at the old homestead. Those very same coworkers disappear, you are moved to a smaller cubicle in the shipping area and you begin to find death threats on your chair. (John F. Kennedy said, “Success has a million fathers, but failure is an orphan.” I think he knew a bit about recruiting.) Fortunately, I have a fix for this dilemma that will have you closing more business, being invited to all of the best parties, and even having lunch with all of those coworkers who secretly hate recruiters (until they are out of work, of course, and then become your best friend). It’s called “Developing a Capture Strategy,” and it is so good that I am surprised Adler and Sullivan did not think of it first. However, being the foremost authority on developing a capture strategy in the United States, perhaps even the world, I am pleased to use this forum as a place to lay out the rules of this simple and often unused strategic initiative that will help you demonstrate greater value by achieving greater results. (Third party recruiters, pay attention. This will help you as well!) Let’s start with a bit of logic on why a capture strategy is necessary. If you can accept the premise that anything worth doing is worth doing well, then a capture strategy should be as much a part of the recruiting process as developing a solid position profile. It is an essential part of the plan because having the candidate come in for interviews, get an offer, and not accept is a gigantic waste of time and money. The consummate sales professional in all of us would never attempt to close business without a well thought-out capture strategy, because it is too risky. If the difference between making the sale and not making the sale is praying for the desired outcome, then I would rather pray based upon the strength of my capture strategy as opposed to the goodness that arises from serendipity. Losing business for the right reasons is okay, but losing it for the wrong reasons is unforgivable. Let’s define a capture strategy. (Stick with me, this stuff is brilliant.) A capture strategy is a carefully designed plan for closing the sale that is developed as you go through the discovery process with the candidate. Discovery is nothing more than learning about the candidate by asking lots of questions that fall into two categories:

  1. Why is the candidate considering changing jobs?
  2. What is the candidate looking for in a new job?

Now, let’s look at three simple examples of why a person would be looking to change jobs, and through deductive reasoning, what they would be looking for in a new position:

  • “Not enough opportunity for professional development.”
  • “Not working on interesting projects.”
  • “Current company is going nowhere.”

As you communicate with the candidate, you should be gathering information relating to the two above-mentioned categories and mapping out a plan as to whether or not your company can provide the candidate with what is missing in his or her current work life. Generally speaking, the more you can provide that meets the candidate’s needs, the greater the chance you have of closing the candidate. Now let’s look at how to design a capture strategy. The first thing to do is to look at my Pulitzer-Prize-winning (kidding) article entitled, Make Believe They Are Coming to Your House. This article outlines the importance of the candidate interviewing process and how essential it is to ensure that this process is absolutely positive, professional, and respectful. The initial interview is your organization’s only chance to make a first impression on the candidate. If executed well, it has the candidate thinking that this is a good place to work, and candidates need to be able to envision themselves happily working at your company. If they can’t do that, they probably have no reason to go there in the first place. Who takes a job to be unhappy? By the way, there is nothing worse than an organization that does not have the collective brains or integrity to treat a candidate well (simply because it is the right thing to do) and then decides that in fact they do want to hire the candidate and backpedals with apologies and excuses in an attempt to undo a poor first interviewing experience. That is big-time dumb. The second thing to do is to gather all of the key interviewers before the last interview takes place. If hiring managers do not have time for this, they are not doing their job; hiring good people is everyone’s responsibility each and every day. This meeting should not take more than fifteen or twenty minutes and should be done in person (or if not, over the phone) with each interviewer. It should not be done through email. This meeting should take place a day or two before the candidate’s interview ó not a week before, because the interviewers will forget, and not ten minutes before, because the interviewers need time to think of what their role is and how best to execute it. When gathering the group, let them know in the simplest and most definitive terms that the hiring manager wants everyone to do all they can to close this candidate. With that information dispensed, proceed to assign each person in the room a specific point to sell. Let’s make up three names: Richard, Laura and Martin. Now let’s use the three bullet points above as sample reasons the candidate is looking to leave his current company. You will tell each interviewer exactly what they need to emphasize in their last interview. Part of the conversation might look like this:

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  • “Richard, one of the things that is important to the candidate is professional development. You came here about two years ago and we have, so far, paid for half of your MBA and have sent you to a host of professional development seminars. Please make sure that the candidate is aware of this and let them know how it has helped you in your career with us.”
  • “Laura, you are managing some of the most interesting projects in the company. Please be sure to talk about these projects and let the candidate know that they will not be stuck doing the same type of work until they are sleeping at their desks.”
  • “Martin, you are one of the people developing the technology that will take us to the next level. Tell the candidate what you are doing and why that will result in company growth and new opportunity for current employees.”

Congratulations, you have just designed, orchestrated, and executed a customized capture strategy! As an aside, there are three other components that should also be part of every capture strategy:

  1. You should wrap up with the candidate after the last interviewer is done in a relaxed way and see if there are any questions or last minute areas to be addressed.
  2. You should tell the candidate when the offer is going out and be sure that you have done all that you can to close the candidate on the offer before the candidate reads the offer letter. An offer letter should be a summation of your conversations with the candidate ó never a surprise!
  3. Whenever possible, it is a great idea to get a senior-level person in the company to help with the close. They can do this by either stopping by to shake hands and tell the candidate that they are glad to meet them or with a quick phone call in the evening. Both take five minutes and can really make a difference.

I strongly suggest that you make the capture strategy a part of your recruiting, remembering that being truthful with the candidate is always a top priority. It will make the team you support more a part of the solution and demonstrate better results through strategic thinking. Furthermore, it will help you to lose that bag you wear over your head each time the deal does not close ó because after awhile, that trick gets old.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


4 Comments on “How to Develop a Capture Strategy

  1. Brilliant! Once again, Howard shows why he’s the real deal: he’s a PRACTICE LEADER.

    Too many of the writers on the ERE have become professional journalists, and have lost their recruiting edge… Howard reflects the fact that HE’S STILL DOING IT.

    He’s in the trenches with us all, and that insight is VALUABLE and rare.

    Thanks Howard, this article kicked A&^%%$ !

    H. Martin de’Campo
    Managing Principal

  2. And although it seems simple enough, I have found that often the interview is the weakest part of the ‘sale’ to the candidate! I can’t tell you how many times I have ‘coached’ an interview committee regarding the picture they need to paint the candidate, customized to what is motivating the candidate, only to realize after the interview that nothing that needed to be communicated was in fact communicated. ‘Time got away from us,’ or ‘we got interrupted,’ are common themes I have heard post-interview. Or, even worse, someone, even a VP level person, calls in someone else to punt at the last minute on their behalf, and this person either has an agenda or sends a wrong signal, either tactily or un-intentionally because they were not properly briefed. Sigh. I suppose there is nothing more frustrating than reaching a good strategy, but then failing to execute. But that is why most of us are needed, every day. To keep orchestrating and coaching and never letting everyone forget that recruiting is a TEAM effort, and no one can slink away or take credit for either failures or successes.

  3. John Sullivan has talked on and about Capture Strategy he has been preaching this as a holistic process when he wrote his how to hire the next michael jordan. Nice article thanks for sharing. We built the toolkit John outlined and find employers are still too lazy or don’t want the truth! Happy Hunting

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