Coach ‘Em Up: Putting Your Candidates In Position To Succeed with Hakimu Davidson

In today’s episode of Sourcing School, Hakimu Davidson takes Ryan Leary and Brian Fink for a heavy-duty workout: Coach ’em up! This is all about putting your candidates in a position to succeed.

Hakimu is a senior contract recruiter for IQTalent Partners. He is a recruiting leader with a background in corporate finance and skills in financial modeling, pricing, marketing, full life-cycle recruiting and coaching and leadership.

In Today’s Podcast

We discuss how to prepare your candidates and put them in the best position to succeed. As recruiters, it’s certainly an option, but on some level a responsibility to give them the information and the tools they need to walk into an interview and walk out with a job offer.

A few tips we’ll cover:

  1. How to create trust with the candidate
  2. Ensuring that you understand the hiring manager’s expectations
  3. Effectively and kindly communicating company fit with the candidate, especially when they don’t fit

There’s a whole lot more! Too much to list here, so please listen in and leave your thoughts in the comments!

GEM Recruiting AI

Listening Time: 24 minutes

Enjoy the Podcast?

Check out episodes you might have missed right here on RecruitingDaily.

More Hakimu Coming Up.

He’ll be with us again in September for #HRTX Virtual: Hardcore Sourcing to take us in-depth on Coach ‘Em Up: Putting Your Candidates in a Position to Succeed.

Hakimu Davidson
Senior Contract Recruiter IQTalent Solutions

Recruiting Leader with a background in Corporate Finance and skills in Financial Modeling, Pricing, Marketing Full Life-cycle Recruiting, Coaching & Leadership.

Specialties: Strategic Problem Solving, Organization Building, Leadership, Project Management, Financial Modeling, Branding & Marketing, Strategic Decision Making, Presentations, and Internal Consulting.

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Brian:  00:33
(singing). Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Sourcing School with your host, Brian Fink and Ryan Leary-

Ryan:  00:50
What up.

Brian:  00:50
… and we’re joined by Neil Diamond. No I’m kidding. Neil Diamond is not on the podcast with us today.

Ryan:  00:56
He’s got nothing on this guy.

Hakimu:  00:58
How did you know I was Neil Diamond? How did you know I was [crosstalk 00:01:01].

Ryan:  01:03
Well, let’s hear it. What have you got for us? Let’s hear something.

Hakimu:  01:05
I lost my voice.

Brian:  01:05
Let’s introduce our guest.

Ryan:  01:09
So today’s guest is Hakimu Davidson.

Brian:  01:13

Ryan:  01:13
Did I say that right?

Hakimu:  01:16
You did say that right, that was perfect.

Ryan:  01:18
Good. I said it right. Every time I go to say a name I’m like, “I’m going to mispronounce it. I’m going to-”

Hakimu:  01:22
You can’t imagine how many different ways I’ve heard my name said, but I do appreciate that was perfect. Thank you.

Ryan:  01:28
Oh, we’re good. So we got a lot going on today, man. We’re talking, what are we talking about?

Hakimu:  01:34
We are talking about preparing your candidates to put them in the best position to succeed. And how as recruiters it’s certainly an option, but on some level responsibility to make sure that we are… Give them the information and the tools they need to walk into an interview and walk out with a job offer.

Brian:  01:54
Now you talk about preparing for a job offer and what have you, how do you… I’m going to jump right in and I’m going to ask, how do you create that level of trust that a candidate is going to trust you to understand what the hiring manager is looking for? Or maybe trust isn’t the killer app, I think it is, but how does that work?

Hakimu:  02:14
It’s definitely trust. I think that is what it is. One of the things that I do just naturally. So I came into recruiting, maybe a little bit of a context helps. I came into recruiting later in my career. I’ve been recruiting for about 12 years before that I was a finance professional, doing corporate finance for Shell, Hewlett-Packard, Deloitte companies like that.

So I have a lot of experience on the other end of the phone. And so when I switched over to recruiting, I tried to bring over the things that I thought were good from the recruiters I worked with or just what would I do in this situation, or what information would I want to get? I’ve had recruiters who would just send me the list of who I’m talking to and the time and they’re going to call you at this time, this is this person and then that’s it and it’s up to you to take it from there and run with it.

Hakimu:  03:04
And I’ve had recruiters who’ve overloaded me with information. And so for me as a recruiter and a sourcer, I think it’s very important to establish some type of connection with the candidate. You can’t but one of the easiest ways I get trust is I make sure that person knows that I care about them as an individual, as opposed to just a number or somebody I’m trying to hire.

A lot of my candidates have heard me say, “Hey, if this does not work or if you have another opportunity that’s better for you. You do not have to feel any kind of way about telling me, I’m totally fine with that.” We’re all human beings here. We’re all have families to support.

Hakimu:  03:40
We’re all trying to get somewhere in our careers. It doesn’t make sense to try to hold somebody up just because I need to feel something right. And so when they understand that I want to present them with this opportunity. And if this is the best opportunity for you I want you to take it and if it’s not I want you not to take it. And they can tell that I mean that, that’s goes a long way. Because at the end of the day, if this role is not for you, it’s not a 100% altruistic because if this role is not for you and you take it and you leave in three months, I have to go back and fill this job again.

Hakimu:  04:07
So I don’t want to have to fill this job again in three or six months, I want to have somebody in this role for whatever the time period they need, 15, 18, 24 months. And then have you continue to advance your career from there, I don’t want this to be a bad stop for you. So just making sure that they understand that and they understand that I am also looking to see, is this the right environment for you on my end as well? I think that goes a long way and that helps establish some of that trust.

Brian:  04:35
You talk about going out of your way to make sure this is the right opportunity for a candidate when it’s not the right opportunity for a candidate, we’re so eager to get the person on the phone and to get them in the process. How do you treat them differently? Because I think that that’s… what you’re proposing is really unique, to be so candidate centric. My question again is if it’s not the right opportunity, how do you break it to them if it’s not the right opportunity to keep them engaged with you and to continue that level of trust?

Hakimu:  05:14
Just being direct or letting them know maybe, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing,” and referring to what they told me. So one of the things that when you’re trying to get somebody to buy something, to get somebody to join an organization or a club or something, you might ask them, “Hey, what are you looking for?”

We do that when we recruit as well, we ask them, “What are you looking for in the next step of your career?” If they tell me that they’re looking for X, Y, and Z, and those things are not available in this position or in this specific opportunity, then I’m going to present what A, B and C is available, ask them how they feel about it and then say what about X, Y and Z do you still want to focus on those things?

Hakimu:  06:01
That could be salary, that could be flexibility, that could be location, that could be the growth of… it could be anything involving the organization, the job, whatever. And so then it’s up to them to make that decision. So I’ll present them with the information and if they say they still want to pursue it, cool. If they say, “No, I think you’re right. This may not be the right fit.”

I will go back once again over what I think the benefits are and if they definitely still feel that way, then we’ll move on and we’ll stay in touch about opportunities that makes sense for you down the road. Because again, it does not make sense to force a hire or force a situation.

Hakimu:  06:40
Likely that person’s going to end up withdrawing from the process at some point when they figure it out on their own anyway, or again, the worst case scenario, get the job and then leave way too early. So it’s really about if you’re taking a true long-term perspective, it’s not only about this hire, it’s about all the hires, it’s about your relationship with the hiring team in that organization, it really does end up working out in the long run, you just have to be able to see it and actually care to be looking for it.

Ryan:  07:09
So I think that’s a really interesting take. Hakimu I think one of the things that come to my mind is a lot of recruiters that we’re talking to both here on the show and just in general always seem to have an issue converting a conversation into… Converting a candidate I should say or a prospect I should say into an interested candidate for the job or an interested applicant for the job. So what do you do when the candidate can’t see the advantage of actually taking the job?

Hakimu:  07:43
That’s a very good question. What do I do? Well, I have some-

Ryan:  07:46
Just some sound effects here.

Hakimu:  07:50
… Jedi mind trick powers. I have some Jedi mind trick powers that I can just say this is the job for you and then they’re, “Oh yeah, I can see it now.” I wish it was that simple. I think a lot of times it’s timing or it’s something else, sometimes those situations, those candidates come back to you later, it may be too late for that particular job. It may be too late at all for that company or whatever, but it’s really just, “Hey, this is the information, this is what the shop is.” Maybe I’m not going to tell them how much it pays per se, but I can tell them if it’s in their range that they’re looking for.

Hakimu:  08:23
Or I can tell them, this is the environment that you’d be walking into, this is what this job requires, this is what they want and, “I think it’s was a good fit for you.” But if they’re still giving me resistance, it’s almost always because there’s something they’re not telling me. Either they can’t do five days in the office, but they don’t want to say that because they feel like it’s going to get them reduced opportunities sent their way.

Ryan:  08:47
It’s going to out them on the naughty list. So Fink you probably… I’m sure you experienced this too, because you’re in a high growth area, that’s high pressured and you are reaching out to hundreds of people each week. Let me ask you that question, what do you do when a candidate can’t see the advantage of taking that job?

Hakimu:  09:06
[crosstalk 00:09:06] Go ahead Brian.

Brian:  09:08
No, go for it. Go for it.

Hakimu:  09:09
I just usually I present it one more time and tell them what I think about it and give them what I think the pros and cons are and they have to marinate on it for a while. It’s their decision to pursue the opportunity. If I feel like it’s a slam dunk and they can’t see it, I might spend a little more energy trying to convince them or just maybe asking more questions about what their resistance is. Like I mentioned, if they do give you resistance sometimes they’re not telling you something.

So maybe I’ll spend some more time trying to uncover what it is that they’re not telling me. If I have that relationship established with that person, it’s a lot easier. For example, this may not be a great direct example, I had a candidate who was giving me a lot of resistance on the offer package for a particular role. And I was like, “Well, you told me you want to X amount of money. The total comp is this.” And they sent me a counter proposal.

Ryan:  10:06

Hakimu:  10:08
The base salary was 40 K more and all this stuff. And I was looking at it and I asked some of senior recruiters that was on that at that company, what they thought and they were like, “Cut him loose, cut them loose.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I don’t know something’s off here.” And so I called him and so I said, “What’s going on?” He was like, “Oh, well I just feel like we could do this differently.” And as we were talking, I looked back at his email and I looked at the numbers and I noticed that he didn’t raise the total comp. He just moved the money out of equity into base salary.

Hakimu:  10:41
And when I said, “Well, what is that about?” And he said, “Well, I don’t know anything about 401k. I’ve never had equity. I’ve never had a brokerage account before so I don’t know what that is, I don’t know anything about it so I’d just rather have it as base.” We didn’t have the ability to put any more money in base. We didn’t have any ability to do that.

So I literally spent 30 minutes with them going over how the brokerage account works, how the vesting schedule works. Vest, you can sell it if you want to and this particular company had an amazing growth track and their shares were doing really well, so I was explaining how you really going to end up making more in both the short and the term.

Hakimu:  11:24
But I had to take that pause and figure out, well, what’s actually going on here because I knew how much they wanted to work there, they were very clear about that. Quick responses when I reached out to them indicated that, I just had to figure out what was going on. And so it turned out, he just didn’t know anything about shares and I spent it was really more like 45 minutes breaking down how it works.

Brian:  11:45
I was going to say.

Hakimu:  11:46
It wasn’t a short combo. It wasn’t a short combo. But I went ahead and did that and he took the job and he’s still there and he’s really happy. But if you just take that first piece of resistance and you take this counteroffer as some type of personal attack, I told them we didn’t have any ability to do anything else in base, how dare he want 40,000 more than what we talked about. It ended up working out. It took a moment to really want to dive further into that person’s personal experience to do that.

So if you have that level of patience, if you have a little bit of empathy, if you can tell the difference between somebody who’s trying to stick you up for more money or somebody who just, maybe they just don’t know what’s going on, you might be able to save some of your situations. Because there’s always going to be something with recruiting, you dealing with people, something’s going to come up at some point in the process.

Brian:  12:39

Hakimu:  12:40
You want to make sure you’re not overreacting and that situation may not be an exact example we were talking about, but it was something similar where it took some more time on my part, but that was not an easy job to fill and I was motivated to get that hire and this person was a very good fit for that role. So it was worth it to me to spend that 45 minutes, to not have to spend another 20, 30, 40 hours trying to find somebody else to fill that job.

Brian:  13:08
Let me ask a different question. You talk about spending the extra time with the candidate. Right now, we are in such a candidate driven market, that candidates are either getting multiple offers simultaneously. Or they’re saying, “I’ve got an offer from-” I’ll say it, they’ve got an offer from Facebook, they’re interviewing with Google, they want to wait four to six weeks before they make a decision. Hakimu, how do you pressure them? Is that the right word, Ryan? Is that the word I’m looking for? How do you-

Hakimu:  13:42

Brian:  13:43
How do you motivate? That’s the word I’m looking for? How do you motivate that candidate?

Hakimu:  13:55
I think the best way to motivate somebody is to be honest with them. If I’m at a company that’s not Facebook and they wanted to work at Facebook, then I’ll tell them to go ahead and take it. I’m not going to sit here and wait four to six weeks for you to come back to me.

My hiring team is not in a position to wait four to six weeks for any candidate, so if that’s kind of what you want to do then we’re going to keep looking for other people, which means we might pick somebody else. That can be motivating to them, I could be honest about what type of salary we’re able to offer, what kind of benefits we have. Once they start coming with the pre-Madonna routine… It’s nice to be recruited, it’s nice to have people that want to work with you.

Hakimu:  14:41
But they know better than to really try to hold up our process because of something else. So once they start doing that, then maybe I’m a little bit less interested and so it’s just going to be kind of, we need to settle this right now. Are you going to interview with my process or not? And if it’s no, cool, we can talk later. There’ll be other jobs we can talk about down the road, it doesn’t have to be right now. But I need to know what I’m doing with my time, so if my time is not going to be spent here then we’ll move on.

Hakimu:  15:07
And that does seem to work a lot of times because when we think about candidates, they talk to us, they tell us what they tell us but they don’t… When you’re in demand or you’ve never been in demand before, or if you’ve been in a company for 10 years and you haven’t interviewed in a long time. You might have some ideas about how you negotiate and maybe one of those ideas is you try to position this company again to this company and you try to make yourself seem like I’ve got all these offers. Right now a lot of people do have a lot of offers, but some people oversell that a little bit.

Hakimu:  15:42
And so when you tell them, “Well, we’re not going to play this game with you,” then they can pull back a little bit from what they thought their negotiation tactic was going to be. And if you’ve already pre closed them and already had a legitimate conversation about finances, you really shouldn’t be in that situation in the first place. They should know what’s going on and once you start hearing they want to take all this extra time, they’re really telling you a soft no. So if they tell you a soft, no, I don’t want to motivate them. I’ll let them go.

Ryan:  16:11
Hakimu I’ve got a question for you, so you brought up a point around kind of being patient with a candidate, who’s trying to negotiate and playing hardball. I think it’d be interesting to hear your take on how do you not cross the line of making it personal. So you use the example of if I could spend 45 minutes with this guy, go through his personal thing and figure this out or I can spend 24 hours, another 40 hours finding another candidate and get them back into the process and so you just made that decision to spend time with them.

What would you recommend to maybe a more junior recruiter who’s in this situation today because it is a candidate driven market. How do you keep your cool, how do you not cross that line and keep control of that conversation?

Brian:  16:58
That is a very, very good question. I think the answer really depends on the individual recruiter’s personality and ability to compartmentalize.

Hakimu:  17:09
One of the ways this is going to be a super weird answer, one of the ways that I’ve learned to not take things like that personally is by being a poker player, it’s a big hobby for me. When you are playing a game that involves money, percentages, odds, personalities, you can’t take anything at the table personally because everybody’s competing.

And so if people are competing, they’re going to compete the way they think they need to. They’re going to compete the way that they want to. And that means that they try to come take your chips, you’re trying to take theirs too. So if you are always sitting there, “Oh, this guy is always-” You can’t do that.

Hakimu:  17:46
And so playing competitive sports and other things, you have to have a short memory on certain things. And so if you are a recruiter and a candidate blows you off or an interview stands you up or wants to play games or in a process, it is a candidate driven market right now but there are other people that are qualified for this job.

So if you spend that energy being upset about this one candidate’s behavior, you’re spending that energy that you could be using to find the next candidate, to maybe convince the hiring team that the silver medalist in your search is actually good enough to get the hire. So it’s okay to be really doing something foul or extremely misleading, but how long do you want to be upset about it?

Hakimu:  18:37
Do you want to be upset for a couple of days and it takes over your nights and your weekends. I got into recruiting because I don’t have to think about it when I’m out recruiting. I didn’t get into this so I could be stressed out. So for me, it’s just more about, well this person made a decision and that’s their decision and I guess my decision to keep looking for something else. And also if I had backup candidates-

Ryan:  19:01
You said you didn’t get into it to get stressed out.

Hakimu:  19:03
Oh, no, I did not. Which is hilarious, somebody should have told me 12 years ago, “What did you think was going to happen?” I guess there’s different types of stress, there’s stress from your hiring managers, I used to be in corporate finance and there’s stress of having to get month-end closed and you got to stay in the office until two in the morning, three nights a month, there’s different ways. HR stress is definitely different.

At the end of the day recruiting is you get to help people along the way. You get to meet a lot of good people and you get to make connections with folks and you can help people achieve… I like to tell people this a lot, we are recruiters, we think about job opportunities as being really important for the candidate. This is maybe a promotion for them, more money for them, a better situation for them, but it’s a big deal for the hiring manager too.

Hakimu:  19:54
If I’m a hiring manager and I have openings on my team, that means I can’t do my work and so my career is on the line. And a bad hire, oh boy, you could have the best reputation and you bring in some weirdo into the organization, everybody thinks it’s your weirdo. And you stop getting invited to the whatever it is you wanted to get invited to.

There’s a lot on the line for everybody. So when you think about it that way you’re helping more than one person at a time, you’re helping both sides. So it’s still beneficial, but it’s stressful. My naive self didn’t think it was going to be like that, but it’s still a fun job.

Brian:  20:32
Actually, maybe that’s a good way to close this is that what advice would you give to a junior recruiter or somebody who was getting into recruiting their first 30, 60, 90 days? What advice would you give them that would, I don’t know, paraphrase or make their life easier and take the knowledge that you have of 12 years of recruiting and really help them bond with the… Well, I view our career choices, an endless game, an infinite game, but what advice would you give to a junior recruiter to help them along in their career?

Hakimu:  21:13
To learn how to listen and learn how to read people, that would be the most important aspect to it. We think about getting a job order, for example, and then the first thing we want to do is when I ask these questions about, well, what do we need? What’s the experience this person needs? What’s are the key words I need to be doing in my Boolean search? And all that is super important, but what’s really important is what the hiring manager doesn’t put on the job description.

It’s what you have to draw out of them from conversation to get more insight into, “Well, why did the last person leave? What was the last person really good at, that you don’t have on your team now? Or even stuff like, what are the day-to-day activities this person’s going to be doing in the job. And maybe that allows you to challenge the requirements they gave you.

Hakimu:  22:09
So if they gave you a set of requirements and then you talk about them, “Well, do they really need this or they don’t have that.” And they can be like, “Oh, we can hit that off the job description.” You can really make your job easier by knowing what to listen for, knowing what to hear and asking for the pain points and then having an appropriate reaction to that.

And then how to read people like I was talking about earlier, the fact that that guy was giving me $40,000 more on base salary did not line up with the fact that I knew he really wanted to work there and he really wanted that job. So if I felt like that energy was different and I had been getting this, “Oh, I don’t really care. I don’t really need you guys.” If I had been getting that kind of vibe from that person, I would not have spent any time on the phone with them to try to teach them about brokerage accounts, which I’m not even sure I know anything about.

Hakimu:  23:01
So if you’re able to listen, if you’re able to understand people and their motivations, if you’re able to understand when something’s not being said that maybe you need to find out more about, you will be able to get an ask for information that can really help you along the way. Everything from how to get the job description to a better point to how to figure out if this manager is really happy with the candidate that you’re giving them or they’re just taking them because… There’s a lot that you can learn by being able to pay attention to people and I think that would definitely be my advice for a recruiter starting out.

Brian:  23:38
Awesome. I think that’s great advice. I think that’s solid. I appreciate you coming on and hanging out with Ryan and I today.

Hakimu:  23:46

Brian:  23:48
And I look forward to seeing you in action in a couple of weeks.

Hakimu:  23:53

Oh man, it’s going to be fun. It definitely took me a while to come up with a topic that I thought would be worthy of HRTX. And I appreciate you guys for the invitation to both this and that and I look forward to look forward to it, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Ryan:  24:09
Oh, man, that means it’s over.

Sourcing School Podcast

Brian Fink

As a Talent Acquisition Partner at McAfee, Brian Fink enjoys bringing people together to solve complex problems, build great products, and get things done. In his recent book, Talk Tech to Me, Fink takes on the stress and strain of complex technology concepts and simplifies them for the modern recruiter to help you find, engage, and partner with professionals.

Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.


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