Stay the Buyer: The Principle of Overcoming Objections

Recently we established this gold standard of recruiting excellence:

  1. Never send out more than three candidates for any assignment.
  2. Send out all strong candidates.
  3. Complete the assignment within 10 days.
  4. Do it at the lowest possible cost.

Everything must be done right to achieve this standard. You can’t automate this. Great recruiters are required to make it happen. For one thing, you can’t ever afford to lose a top person. They’re just too hard to find. Smoothly handling candidates is how you keep them in the selection pool until the hiring decision is made. Unfortunately, when we meet a top candidate, most people do exactly the wrong thing. Hiring managers and recruiters unconsciously, typically and immediately go into “sales mode.” They uncontrollably tell the candidate how good he or she is. In this sales mode, we over-talk, under-listen, and never learn another thing more about the candidate. Just about everyone is guilty of this transgression. The fundamental law of good recruiting has just been broken: “Always stay the buyer. Make the candidate earn the job. It has more value this way. Never give the job away.” The best candidates don’t want to be sold ó they want to be stretched. Top candidates will opt out of the interviewing process once they sense the job has less to offer than they initially hoped. As we all know, hiring managers frequently exclude good candidates for faulty reasons. Candidates can do the same when evaluating a career opportunity. It is the responsibility of the recruiter to make sure that these strong performers don’t pull themselves out of contention for the wrong reasons. Understanding candidate reticence and keeping candidates interested in moving forward is the prime role of recruiters. It’s the only way you’ll achieve the gold standard. Here’s a quick summary of how top candidates go about considering different job opportunities and ultimately accept an offer. This information will be helpful as you counsel candidates and move them step by step through the interviewing and closing process:

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  1. Top candidates don’t take great pride in doing the same thing over again. So if you’re offering the same job (ads that describe requirements rather than opportunities), you won’t find many worthy takers.
  2. The money is not unimportant, but it’s less important than what they’ll be learning, doing, and becoming. Generally, when you oversell, the candidate thinks you’re desperate. This weakens your negotiating posture and cheapens the job. Instead, create job stretch to counterbalance the money issue and keep the candidate interested. Overselling is the worst possible way to do this, but many recruiters believe they can charm or sell the candidate into taking the job. This is a short-term ploy that will backfire when buyer’s remorse sets in. Don’t listen to anyone who uses the word “sell” when describing their recruiting process.
  3. The professionalism of the company counts. This includes the recruiter, the members of the interviewing team, and, most important of all, the hiring manager. Asking tough, challenging questions indicates that you have high standards. Candidates then sell you, since they have a need to prove themselves. This role reversal makes the job more valuable. (Read this point again ó it’s a key tactic.)
  4. The best candidates are more discriminating and have more opportunities, so you need to position your opening as superior to every other opportunity. To do this, describe your challenges and then ask the candidate to describe what they’ve done that’s most comparable. Question everything about what they’ve done: their true role, the environment, and the recognition they’ve received. Be inquisitive. This is the key to assessing competency, and to establishing your standards of performance.
  5. The best candidates take longer to decide: they consider more variables, and they share this information with other people as they decide. To address this, make sure you describe some of the big challenges in the job and how they impact the company. Slightly push the candidate away by expressing concern that some of the candidate’s accomplishments might not be as significant as you’d hoped. This forces the candidate to give you more information; it also establishes the important “job stretch.” This stretch is what the candidate will be evaluating when comparing your opportunity to all others. For more information on this, see my article on creating an opportunity gap. Don’t push the candidate to make a quick decision. This will backfire, since top people need more time to digest this information.
  6. Top candidates always have objections. You can find out what these are and then test their validity by asking the candidate how they would rank your job on a 1-to-10 scale, with a 9 or 10 being ready to accept an offer and a 6 or 7 interested, but with some concerns. Then ask the person what’s the one single thing they would need to know in order to move the job to at least an 8 or 9. This will uncover the primary objection (others, too). Then ask the candidate, if you could solve this problem, would they be ready to move forward? This technique is called “closing upon an objection.” For example, say the person is reluctant to go back in for another interview because the job title doesn’t seem big enough. You can ask the person, if you could get the title improved, or if the job level was really a higher grade, would they then come in for an interview? If they say yes, it’s a legitimate objection. If no, there’s something else holding the candidate back. You can then use the “close upon objection” technique to all remaining objections. For each concern, just say, “If I can address that issue satisfactorily, will you…(do something, like take the med exam, interview again)?” Then, of course, you must address the issue.
  7. The best candidates consider a new job as the beginning of a new career, not as the end of a job search. Therefore, you must provide tangible, specific information when overcoming objections. For example, you might want to tell the person that the company has allocated $3 million for marketing the new product the person will be designing. This goes a long way to demonstrate the importance of a job. Generalities are not believed, and come across as a con.

These are just some of the recruiting techniques you need to keep top candidates interested and involved. It is my opinion that if a company is not an employer of choice, top recruiters are essential to hiring top people. Achieving the gold standard of recruiting excellence requires strong processes, involved hiring managers, and exceptional recruiters. Dealing with objections is the best way to make sure you don’t inadvertently let a top person get away. They’re too hard to find. Overcome your natural urge to sell. The key is to stay the buyer throughout the hiring process. Make the candidate earn the job. It has more value this way.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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