I am sure that you have been there. You have a candidate you’ve been working with for a few weeks and you have built a solid relationship.
The candidate has been on a couple interviews with the hiring manager. Things are going well as the candidate and the client are each delighted with the thought of going forward.
There is the distinct aroma of an offer in the air, great things are going to happen, and you are one happy recruiter.
Now comes the bad part (honestly, you knew this was coming, so follow the unhappy bullets):
- You get into the office one morning, call the candidate, and leave a message. Three hours go by and no returned call. This is interesting. You normally get a return call within about an hour or so.
- You send an email; no response. The candidate is Blackberry-enabled and emails are normally returned almost instantly; very strange.
- The day is over and you make a call to the candidate’s home, but the spouse says the candidate is out and will not be back until late tonight.
- The morning has arrived and you are thinking about the candidate as you drive to work. Something is not right; you know it because you have been doing this for too long to not feel it. You try to deny the feeling but another call to the candidate is not returned until later that night. You are no longer the happy recruiter, as the candidate starts the conversation with my least favorite words; “You know, I’ve been thinking?”
The bottom line relating to this bit of misery is that somewhere along the merry road of the hiring process something changed in the candidate’s life and you did not know about it. It could have been personal, professional, or anything in between, but to quote the title of Joseph Heller’s great second novel, “something happened.”
Unfortunately, whatever happened acted as a catalyst to alter the value proposition you were counting on to close the deal. As a result, the candidate’s interest is greatly diminished.
To make matters worse, not only do you not know what has changed, you are still not even aware that something has changed in the first place. As a result, you have been blind-sided and now you scramble to save the deal. Perhaps you will and perhaps you won’t, but either way, this is not a fun way to start the day. Let’s see how we can do better in the future.
What Has Changed in Your Life?
Good recruiters ask a ton of questions during the initial interview, and this is of course a basic necessity if you wish to be successful. (See 10 Things Recruiters Should Know About Every Candidate They Interview.) On the other hand, many recruiters fail to recognize that the world changes day to day and changing circumstances can impact the candidate’s life during the hiring process.
The objective is to not just get to know that candidate from a static-interview perspective as the process starts, but to carry on the dialogue as the interviewing process continues to its endpoint because ignorance is not bliss, and what you don’t know can certainly hurt you.
As a result of this insight regarding the nature of changing circumstances, it is imperative to ask the candidate, often and with great consistency, the following question:
What has changed in your life since last we spoke?
Life is not the notes we take during an interview. It is an ever-changing series of events that transform and shift candidate needs, priorities, and requirements on a regular basis. If we do not know what is going on in the candidate’s life that can affect the deal (agency-speak) or hire (corporate-speak), we will not have the information necessary to maximize the possibility of closure.
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Maximizing the possibility of closure is one of the things that separate great recruiters from those who are mediocre. (By the way, do not even think that the candidate will simply volunteer what has changed without you asking the question, because that is high-risk. Why gamble if you can just ask?)
Here are just five things that have changed with candidates I have worked with, causing me to either lose the deal or go half-crazy trying to close it:
- The candidate’s spouse was laid off. The candidate can’t change jobs, as stability is key right now.
- The candidate has been given the project of a lifetime. It makes no sense to change jobs now, as that was the main reason he was looking in the first place.
- The candidate was given a raise and a promotion. There’s no sense changing jobs at the moment, maybe next year.
- The candidate’s boss, whom he hated, was transferred. Life is good, so why change jobs?
- The candidate stopped into a Saab dealership and fell in love with a 900s convertible; now the long commute is fun. (Who could make this up?)
As you can see, the number of things that can change in a candidate’s life are infinite, and if you do not know what they are to the best of your ability, you will not be armed with the information you need to develop a new game plan and a new capture strategy.
Strangely enough, asking the question, “What has changed in your life since last we spoke?” is not the invitation to bad news that it can seem to be on the surface. It is not looking for trouble. It is a way of checking the solidity of your deal by trying to see if any new information or circumstances have arisen.
Asking this question can help to close more deals because even if the news appears to be bad, at least you now know what you are up against. As a result, you can go to your client or hiring manager and tell them of the change and work together to develop a new and creative plan to land the candidate.
Let’s look at four examples:
- The candidate’s wife was laid off? Perhaps there is a position at the client’s company.
- The candidate has a new and exciting project? Perhaps you can give them an even better one.
- The candidate was given a raise and a promotion? Let’s look at compensation structure and titles to see what can be worked out to create a situation that is better than the one the candidate currently has.
- The candidate bought a new car and now loves to drive endlessly? (You tell me; I lost this one. But you get the picture.)
Will this work all of the time? Of course not. Will the candidate level with you every time you ask that question? Of course not, but it will never work if you do not know what possible changes you are up against since the initial interview.
I can almost guarantee you that if you employ this question on a regular basis with every candidate who is moving toward an offer, you will close more deals. Closing more deals is what great recruiters focus on doing.