Don’t Blow The First Call!


Recruiting is a lot like dating. When you meet someone for the first time and you are interested in getting to know them better – it takes a little time before you can expect anything back. If “do you fancy coming back to my place” is your opening gambit – it’s probably going to be a long night before you find a taker. However, if you open with a witty self-deprecating remark, follow up with a sly complement then turn to the barman and loudly announce “A bottle of your finest cognac. And fresh horses for the men!”  – you’re in with a shot! (Well, it worked for me in some of London’s most splendid watering holes) Your approach may vary, but you get the point. If you start something innocently – the results may come later.

As nuanced and critical a component of Recruiting as The First Call (to a candidate) is, it is frequently executed with an alarming lack of clarity, preparation and respect required to yield a positive outcome. A finely crafted and sensitive approach is required; an approach that maximizes the chances of a successful outcome and eliminates the possibility of compromising or ambushing the candidate and yielding a reflexive “NO”.

“Hi, this is Mark from Top Shelf Staffing – I wanted to see if you would be interested in hearing about a web developer position at an amazing start-up in Palo Alto”. The most likely result is an instant, reflexive “No!”  This approach may suffice for an active candidate but won’t endear you to passive candidates at all.

Let’s be clear about the possibilities that result from your first interaction with a potential candidate or The First Call. There a few likely outcomes:

1.    Candidate is very receptive to your approach and is interested in having a further conversation
2.   Candidate is receptive to your call but explains that he/she is very happy and is not looking for a new position right now.
3.   Candidate listens to your intro and hangs up without an explanation or a mumbled “I’m too busy”. (Get used to it as a Recruiter)

Obviously, we want our calls to yield as many (1)’s as possible.

But, fabulous LinkedIn profile notwithstanding, what are the chances that the candidate:

(a) has exactly the right skill set? (b) is in a position at work where he can talk freely about changing jobs? (c) is actually interested in looking at new opportunities? (d) Doesn’t feel ambushed by your smash and grab approach?

Slim to None. Which means you are going to have to make an awfully large number of calls before you get lucky and the stars align for you. Let’s call this “Direct Hit Recruiting”. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall and it will likely drive you insane due to it’s highly transactional nature and propensity to yield rejection after rejection.

What to do?  Well, if you want to start stacking the odds in your favor – then first you have to ask yourself “Why?”.

“Why am I  going to call this candidate?”  If your answer is “To see if he is interested in my Web Developer position”  then you’d better call Domino’s – because it’s going to be a long night. And fruitless most likely.

Now, let’s reset the “Why?”

“Why am I going to call this candidate?”  Answer: “To introduce myself as an SME (subject matter expert) in the field of Web Development recruitment in Silicon Valley and initiate a mutually beneficial relationship which may yield introductions to his network of software development friends and co-workers and begin to position myself as their go-to Recruiter. Without mentioning a job-order.” Bingo. Collect $200 when you pass GO.

Instead of aiming to share our precious Client requirement with our target candidate “to see if he interested”, we don’t even mention the job. We are no longer looking to pluck a potentially unripe singular apple off a tree, we are aiming to harvest the whole tree down the road, when the apples are ripe. This is “referral recruiting”. This non-confrontational approach is absolutely critical in the candidate-driven markets that many recruiters work in, where skilled-developers and software engineers receive as many as 20 bloody Inmails a week (good luck with that approach..) and at least half as many calls to their desk.

The point is this: don’t ask for something you haven’t earned–and, going back to my dating analogy, stop taking yourself so seriously!

So, now that we’ve sorted out the “Why?”  – why don’t you have a crack at sorting out the “How?”  It’s as easy as walking into a bar and buying someone a drink…

Or you can hire me to come into your office and train you!

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