I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. I just left the third message for the candidate without a getting a single call back. He had a great background and the first time I talked with him two weeks ago he said there were some pretty important issues motivating him to consider other things. Just last week he seemed interested in my client’s opportunity, but I feared that the fear of change had taken him out of play. Finally, with my timing just right and the planets in proper alignment, I made one last call and caught him at his desk as he was on his way out the door.
I told him that my client wanted to meet with him for an interview. He responded by saying the three words that every recruiter fears to hear: “I’ve been thinking…” Anytime I hear a candidate say they’ve been thinking, it usually means that they want to withdraw their candidacy. Then they usually end this sentence saying “thank you,” the same way I thank a cop for giving me a speeding ticket.
But I did it. I was able to turn him around. This is what I said:
“Bob, I’m not the kind of recruiter that pushes people to do things that aren’t in their own best interests. I hope I don’t come across as being pushy, but I really need to share something with you. You really need to meet with my client. You told me things about your situation that were keeping you from being fulfilled and I think you deserve better. I would hate to see you settle for something that doesn’t fulfill you, just because you are facing the normal fear of change. Let me make a small suggestion. I’d recommend that you talk with my client, meet with them for just an hour, and then you’ll know whether or not it is something that you want to go forward with. Either way, you’ll never wonder about it. I think you deserve the chance to look at something that can not only solve those issues you told me about the week when we first spoke, but something that can give you a better fun quotient at work. I’ve placed four people with this company who were just like you, and all of them met with my client and all of them told me the same thing: they all thanked me for getting them to meet with my client.”
It worked and I think this is why: he trusted me. The rapport was strong enough for me to give him some “tough love” and gently nudge him to meet with my client. At the end of the call he thanked me – and this time he meant it.
I think there were five key ingredients of this call that made it work. If you make sure your next call with a fence-sitter has all of these, then you can put the odds in your favor:
1. The candidate trusted me. If the candidate thinks you are just another pushy recruiter then forget about even trying. I used powerful and emotional phrases like “you deserve better” and “would hate to see you settle.” The candidate must feel that you are trying to help him or her.
2. I was believable. I was believable because I really believed in what I was telling him. Every word was true and I meant it, so I could confidently nudge him off the fence because I really knew that his situation wasn’t as good as my client’s opportunity. He was working for a generic company at a below-average salary level with a commute that was three times as long as my client’s. I felt confident that he would be much happier at my client’s position so I was able to let my natural enthusiasm come out, and I think that’s what got him excited enough to change his mind. Your enthusiasm will naturally spill out when you believe in what you are telling your candidate and that can make all the difference.
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3. I liked the guy. He was someone that I would want to have a beer with. The rapport was strong enough for me to talk to him candidly as if he was a friend. If you don’t have rapport with the candidate then it’s harder to give them the ?tough love’ and nudge them. If they like you and you like them, then you have earned the right to nudge.
4. I made the commitment seem like no big deal. It’s just an hour of his life to check out something important.
5. I used the principle of social proof. By telling him a story of what others had said to me, then it became real and not just my opinion. Your opinion as a recruiter is forever going to be in question, but when you share the opinions of others who have made the move that you want this candidate to make, then it has more authority because now it’s a fact. People generally make decisions that others have made, so share with the candidate how others just like him made the decision to talk with your client.
Remember that when you deal with people, the formula for influence is never a guarantee, but it does give you better odds of gaining a commitment and compliance from someone else. And at the end of the deal when the candidate makes the move to your client, he’ll be the one thanking you for getting him there.