Recruiters Are Born to Be Lobbyists

Even before “Legally Blonde 2,” I just knew I was born to be a lobbyist. After all, I have the heart of a debater and the dogged belief that I can think my way through anything. Then again, there are strong parallels between lobbyists and headhunters. The best ones are the most persuasive, informed, well-connected, and thick-skinned people on the planet. Sound like a great recruiter? Well that’s because lobbyists are ó they’re recruiting for their cause, and in their company’s best interest, just like us. How do you lobby a manager to consider your passive candidate? Consider the following:

  • Political strength and level of commitment of leading sponsors and supporters. Before you present your candidate to your manager, line up your supporters for them. Who do does the candidate know internally who can vouch for their skills? Do they share an alma mater or have a common network, such as a previous employer? Besides your testimony, can you elicit a connection with the manager that goes beyond a verbal pitch? Consider the political ramifications of the referral. Is the employee referrer well-connected, or can you find someone better who can perform that function? Get it up front instead of trying to turn the tide in favor of the candidate after the interview.
  • Level of understanding of the scope and nature of the position. If you understand the underlying nature of the issue, you can effectively present a candidate against it. Have you ever pushed back on a manager’s requirements — for example, in a situation where they require twelve years of HL7 experience when the technology has been around eight years? When you’re pitching a passive candidate to a manager, help the manager understand why you see a fit, such as “I realize that he has five years of HL7 data architecture, but prior to HIPAA, he created EDI security measures for Blue Cross/Blue Shield that are comparable to some of the security measures that HIPAA requires, giving him a foundation to build on.” By truly understanding the scope and nature of the position, you can sell the manager on a candidate’s qualifications without challenging the requirement directly.
  • Nature and strength of the opposition. A lobbyist always knows what they’re up against. Who will oppose them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Unfortunately, we all know that placing high-level people isn’t always about the most qualified person getting the position. Some people will oppose your candidate and some will not. Make sure that you know your competition. Know who else is interviewing both internally and otherwise. Know who was passed over for the role. Know whose budget is going to be affected.
  • Presentation (lobbying) strategy. Are you going to present the candidate’s bio or a resume? Introduce them over lunch? Have them meet at an industry event? Send on an article that the candidate published first, or their patent history? Surely you have a bigger plan than throwing a resume over the fence and praying for a reply. How will you handle it if you don’t have a resume? My vote, hands down, is that the best way to present a candidate is as a referral without a resume. Why? Because resumes are not people. Yep, without a resume, a manager actually has to talk to them and ask questions.

The Other Side of the Aisle: Working Your Candidates

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This is a nightmare that makes me sweat: you find out the name of a great candidate, you reach out to them, and they express a lukewarm interest. You call the manager and tell the manager about the conversation, but he or she retorts, “Well, if he isn’t excited about us, then I can’t be bothered to talk to him.” Next time, hang up and call your manager and tell them what the candidate is excited about. Accentuate the positive about a candidate’s interest level.

Two tips when lobbying candidates:
  • Let them know there are other Yankees fans in the firm. How are you going to sell your candidate on the team he or she will work with? Do you know the culture of the group that the position is in? Do you know where the person that they will be meeting with came from, where they went to school, what their management style is, what their personal professional goals are, and so on? Knowing this information allows you to match the candidate’s personal goals with the department’s needs in a tangible way.
  • Make it about them, not you. I like to think of introducing people as a way of broadening everyone’s horizons. Frame a request for a meeting like this: “How will you make an informed decision without actually dealing in facts?” I think any reasonable person realizes that they must have career options if they are to have any assurance at all that their career will progress ó and that includes CEOs.

There are other useful lobbying tactics. You can say things like, “I heard that XC Electronics is going through a rough patch. Maybe it makes sense to do a little networking as a safety net?” Or, give them a little compliment: “It’s not often that we get to meet an industry expert like you. Do you think you would be open to meeting the team?” If all else fails, do a light sell. Say to the candidate, “Did you know that we were recently featured in a piece by the Gartner Group? I have a PDF. Would you like to see it?” In the traditional sense, lobbying is “the practice of private advocacy with the goal of influencing a governing body by promoting a point of view that is conducive to an individual’s or organization’s goals.” That sums up recruiting, too.

Allison Boyce is a senior recruiter/global field services at Cloudera. She is a former  international sourcer/recruiter at Guidewire Software.

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