Most movies follow a pretty predictable plot line. In the hero’s journey, we watch the evolution of our protagonist. Usually starting from humble means and a position of ridicule, the journey transforms the character into an idealized individual. In my favorite movie, Star Wars, we watch the journey of a lost boy on the planet furthest from the bright center of the universe to the liberator and hero of that same universe.
Our path to recruiting isn’t always so linear. We dive into sales, strategy and marketing or simply fall into the roll with little to no formalized training. Unlike an engineer, persay, who goes through a litany of trainings and certifications to do their role, we’re left to learn on our own.
That leaves a lot of people in our profession with a variable amount of experience. It creates that perception that we’re little more than mercenaries, akin to used car salesmen, to valuable business partners that are a revenue center and not a cost center. That anyone can do it. The evolution of that story – where a recruiter gets to be the hero – is still a journey in progress.
Regardless of our education and training, we as recruiters by in large do three things: We find people, we interview and we extend offers. All opportunities for training, development and starting to tell our story in a way that changes perceptions.
Found Someone, You Have: Sourcing
In sourcing, we go looking for the “right” type of candidate. The first trap we can fall into is starting to look for something, not someone. Similarly, In the Return of the Jedi ,Luke goes to a place called Dagobah. He is told that there he will find who he’s looking for. His own unconscious bias kicks in and in his mind, that person will be a great warrior and Jedi Master. He pictures this strong man however, when Luke encounters the Jedi Master Yoda for the first time he doesn’t think he could possibly be the person he is looking for. The encounter is instructive for recruiters.
Yoda: I am wondering, why are you here?
Luke: I’m looking for someone.
Yoda: Looking? Found someone, you have, I would say, hmmm?
Yoda: Help you I can. Yes, mmmm.
Luke: I don’t think so. I’m looking for a great warrior.
Yoda: Ohhh. Great warrior. [laughs and shakes his head] Wars not make one great.
Luke initially misjudges Yoda based on his appearance. In recruiting we travel to our own Dagobah of Databases looking for our great talent warriors. We too can misjudge someone based solely on the appearance of a great resume. So how do we, as recruiters, avoid the mistake that Luke makes? We follow one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in my career: when in doubt, call. Have a conversation. It isn’t until Luke talks to Yoda that he realizes he was the person he was looking for all along.
Like Yoda meant after all: resumes not make one great.
The Jedi Mind Trick of Recruiting
Once we find the right talent warriors, we help them through the hiring process. Unfortunately in this galaxy not far far away, hiring managers suffer from a disease that we call FOBO (Fear Of Better Options). As recruiters many of us attempt to use jujitsu and try to turn FOBO into FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Typically the attempt goes something like this: “Well you know a candidate like this won’t last on the market very long, if you like them we should extend an offer.” All too often the reply comes, “I like them but I’d like to see a few more.” At that point you are tempted to give up and join the dark side.
Here is the secret to the recruiter mind trick. When you get feedback from your hiring managers, make sure you take note of the things they said they liked about the candidate. Pay careful attention and listen for superlatives. Then, when they seem hesitant to move forward – frame the superlatives in context of data.
The first thing to do is acknowledge their concern. Most people want validation of their point before they are willing to listen to yours. So start by saying something like, “I understand you are hesitant about moving forward and I am in agreement with you and I believe the candidate has superstar potential. Personally, I felt they were the best person for the job out of the 250 I reached out to and with unemployment in their demographic at 2.5%, I’m sure they will be getting multiple offers and most likely a counter offer. Who would want to lose that kind of talent from their team? If you like them, I will make every effort to get them on the team.” In order to make a decision, it can be helpful to hear our own words presented back to us in context.
In the movies and in real life, the Jedi mind trick doesn’t work on everyone. Jabba the Hut wasn’t persuaded by Luke’s Jedi mind trick either so don’t feel too bad if it doesn’t work every time. As a recruiter it isn’t our job to win every battle, only to be prepared for it and do our best for our client and our candidate.
Join the Dark Side: Extending Offers
The most satisfying part of recruiting is extending an offer that gets signed. However, we know many offers are extended without being signed. The most common mistake I see in recruiting is extending an offer too early. While that can work, it can also imply negative things to the candidate.
First, many times an offer is perceived by as our last and best offer – even when it isn’t. When we extend an offer, we lose power or control of the situation. We also open ourselves to counter offers and being put on hold.
What you should do is talk to the candidate before you formally extend the offer. Tell them that the offer is coming but you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. I usually lead with salary negotiations. I say, “we are getting really close to an offer but I want to make sure I get you the best offer I can.” This has the advantage of being true, for one thing.
At this point in the process, you have invested a lot of time – you want to be the hero of this story and close this role to move on to the next one – right? Here’s my closing tactic. Start with a salary a little less than you know the salary will be. For example I would say, “if got you a salary of 75K would you be able to accept now?” If they say yes then I move on to the next question.
Once I have the absolute yes salary number, I find the number that they are comfortable with. Once I have the salary information locked down I move to the next question: Is there anything that would stop you from saying yes today?
If they say they need to talk to someone or are waiting for another offer, I don’t extend mine then. I set up a check in for the next day. If in the course of the discussion I learn that the salary will be an issue, I don’t extend the offer but rather return to the hiring manager and speak with them.
I give them the yes number and the areas I think we can improve the offer in order to close the candidate. Doing this before I extend an offer saves me from counter offers and the back and forth of negotiations. At this point I’m the hero of this story. I’m better able to negotiate with the hiring manager as they don’t feel like the candidate has countered them. Plus, the candidate loves me.
Once I have the negotiation handled, I speak with the candidate. I review the last conversation. If they say they are ready to make a decision, I tell them to stay by their phone because I will be calling back in the next 15 minutes with the offer. This gives them time to think and get excited. When I call them back I start with the word congratulations and extend the offer.
Douglas Adams said, “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem.” After all, a little green alien could turn out to be the Jedi Master and Darth Vader can become a good guy. Take the time to learn your craft and you too can become a recruiting Jedi.
Until next time…
Mike Wolford has over 15 years of recruiting experience in staffing agency, RPO, and in-house corporate environments. He has worked with such companies as Allstate, Capital One, NPR and Twitter. Mike has also published 2 books titled “Becoming the Silver Bullet: Recruiting Strategies for connecting with Top Talent,” and “How to Find and Land your Dream Job: Insider tips from a Recruiter.” An active member of the recruiting community, Mike has spoken publicly at SourceCon and Recruiting Daily in an effort to help elevate the level of professional skills. Follow Mike on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.
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