5 Keys to Building a Referral Network

Hey Recruiters – are you spending your days just checking in with candidates to see if they are “available” or “interested” in a role you are looking to fill?

Stop it! You are wasting a huge opportunity!

Let’s be generous and say that 20% of the people you call are actually “on the job market” for either a perm or contract role. (Dept. of Labor reports that less than 20% of workforce are “actively looking” on average)

That means you are automatically teeing yourself up for an immediate “NO!” on 80% of your calls.

If you make 60 calls in a day – and connect with, say 20 candidates, that’s 16 wasted calls… 16 great candidates who won’t remember you from Adam! (or any other Recruiter who happens to call that day)

So, now you are left with 4 potential candidates who happen to be available. What are your chances of finding a stellar candidate with those odds?

“But I always ask for referrals” I hear you say.

Really? And how’s that working out for you? Let me guess…

“Do you have any referrals?”

“Referrals? Sure, I don’t know you or your Firm – but, I’d love to give you the names and numbers of a few talented friends of mine who are currently looking for a new role – do you have a pen ready?”

In your dreams.

You have to earn referrals. You have to give something of yourself, your Firm, before you can ever expect to get anything back.

So what’s the alternative? How do Recruiters stop wasting time and get the most out of every connected call with a candidate?

Well, before we tackle the ‘How?’ – let’s tackle the ‘Why?’

In order to become a Master Recruiter in today’s “Referral Economy”, you’ll need to rethink your value proposition in order to drive the change in behavior that I am proposing:

– Transition from “Commission-Hunter” to “Career Consultant”. Position yourself as a Recruiter who is interested in resolving your candidate’s professional needs first – and filling jobs second. This approach will distinguish you as a true problem solver/career consultant – and likely resolve the need to “catch ‘em the day they start looking”. (They’ll call you!)

– Stop Cold Calling Candidates and Start Developing a Loyal Talent Pool. Build a pipeline of candidates who are always happy to hear from you and whom willingly refer other great candidates. This is a far superior strategy than “hoping to reach a candidate on the exact day they are looking for a new gig/role”.

– Cast The Net Wider and Access the Passive Talent Marketplace. Willingly engage and embrace “passive candidates” (not looking/not interested) with the same enthusiasm and investment as you would their “active candidate” counterparts.

(The value of a candidate as a potential source of market intelligence and referrals alone – significantly outweighs their value as singular submission!)

Now, if you want to sentence yourself to a life of “pot-luck” recruiting – and continue to live in the hope that your next call will yield the perfect candidate, please stop reading now and get back on the phone right away! Because you are going to need to make a lot more than 60 calls a day to find a few candidates that are available, qualified, interested and not submitted to half dozen of your competitor’s job orders.

Still with me? Great. Let’s get into the “How?”

Here Are The 5 Rules To Help You Build A Robust Candidate Referral Network:

1. Make friends with your candidates first.
“What? You mean act like a normal, caring, decent human being – when I’m supposed to be submitting candidates? I don’t have time for that…..!”
Well, yes you do. Because the work you put into developing the right candidate relationships today will pay huge dividends tomorrow.

2. Stop discriminating against [passive] candidates who are NOT available/interested in making a move right away.
Everyone’s got their claws into the “available/job board” crowd. Not to be ignored, of course – but the real nuggets of gold are the candidates who may become available tomorrow or thereafter – and decide to call you first!

3. Don’t lead with the job order! Take a moment to understand your candidate’s current situation – and the circumstances under which they would consider a move or a new role.
Once you’ve established your candidate’s professional goals and motivators (their “Buyer’s Gap”), you are in a position to influence, and reconcile any relevant opportunities that you have, with your candidate’s stated needs.

4. Don’t ask for referrals until you’ve earned the right.
Nobody is going to stick their neck out for you and put their reputation on the line (with their network), until they trust you and fully embrace your value proposition. You’ve got to cross the bridge from unknown recruiter (commission hunter) to trusted advisor (friend), in order to comfortably earn access to your candidate’s network and yield the referrals and introductions that you need to win big!

5. Build your network carefully – and then feed and water it regularly!
A network is not a group of individuals who will perform endless favors for you without some “non-transactional” love and TLC! Don’t just reach out to them when YOU need something – take the time to drive real value into your network by communicating regularly and sharing useful information, articles and even introductions – in order to build your brand and achieve “go-to-recruiter” status within your group.

That’s it. Now get out there and make some friends and have fun doing it!

(Need to know more? I’ve got checklists, guides, templates and training to help you become a better recruiter marcus@marcusedwardes.com)


Are you Uber-ready to succeed in YOUR market?


It doesn’t matter what you are selling – Staffing or Taxi Rides, if you can clearly articulate your “Value Proposition” and definitively solve at least one key problem in your marketplace – then you’ve got a clear pathway to success.

First, let’s look at the definition of “Value Proposition”:

‘an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers’

Boiled down even further – it’s the reason people engage with, or buy from you.

Now, I’ve recently discovered – and become a huge fan of UBER – the car service/mobile app.

Their value proposition is so powerful that it blows the traditional Taxi model out of the water!

And it got me thinking about the actual PROBLEMS that Uber’s Value Proposition solves…

1. Tap the app, car arrives. (you can even watch it arriving on your UBER screen – cool!)

SOLVES biggest problem of all: availability. “You can never get a taxi when you need one”. (Umbrella , anyone?)

2. No cash/credit card or tip required! 

SOLVES next big problem – payment. Who carries cash anymore? Not me! Added to which, taxi drivers are useless and painfully (deliberately?) slow at credit card processing. And tipping? Why?

With UBER – you enter you credit card details ONCE ONLY when you download the app  – and you are UBER ready to go!

You can even catch an UBER car when you lose your wallet! (Just hold on to your phone!)

3. Clean car – GPS – Courteous drivers. 

SOLVES 3 pet peeves: 

  1. Let’s face it – taxi-cabs are not celebrated for their cleanliness. In fact, sometimes you wish you’d worn a Hazmat suit! Well, UBER drivers have lovely, clean, new cars – twice now, I’ve been in an UBER car that was less than a week old! Love that new car smell!
  2. Taxi drivers never know where they are going!  (Unless you are in a London Cab- best in world). With UBER, you enter your destination into the app before your UBER car even arrives, and voila!, there it is (your destination) on your Driver’s GPS when you jump in. Marvellous – “home James and step on it!”
  3. Taxi drivers aren’t always the happiest, customer-centric individuals. UBER drivers, however, are some of the coolest, cheerful and helpful people you could ever hope to meet!

Finally, as if to add insult to injury, UBER cars are (in my experience) much cheaper than Taxis!  Unbelievable!

It’s the ultimate no-brainer. Wave goodbye to the taxi-cab industry…

Uber’s success (18bn valuation) comes as a direct result of their ability to squarely address and solve most, if not all, of the user problems and annoyances associated with the taxi-cab experience.

 And exactly how does this relate to the Staffing Industry?

In your Permanent Placement or Consulting Practice, are you clear about the PROBLEMS that YOUR value proposition solves? Can you position your product or service to your prospects as a “No-Brainer”?

We need to addend the definition of Value Proposition from  ‘an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers’ to:

‘an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers which definitively solves the key problems widely experienced by the majority of targeted users.

The Staffing and Recruiting industry is at an all time competitive high right now. There is an ocean of “recruiters” out there and a serious shortage of available talent!

Therefore it’s incumbent upon you to clearly identify your target customer’s talent acquisition needs and challenges – and weave the solution to those problems right into your Value Proposition – if you want to turbo-charge your business development and resourcing efforts and separate yourself from the legions of other Recruiters out there!

Or, you could just carry on making tons of cold calls – and hope for the best…



Ten Top Tips To Help Your Candidate “Ace The Interview”.


The Agency Recruiting equation is simple. The more interviews we arrange – the more placements we make.

In fact, everything we do as Recruiters is part of the ongoing effort towards earning another interview request!

And the better our interview-to-close ratio: the more money we make…

But, guess what? Most Recruiters are leaving a ton of money on the table by failing to fully prepare their candidate prior to their sendout/interview!

Let’s use golf as an analogy. Getting an interview request is akin to landing the ball on the green – and closing the deal is like making the putt.

Here’s the problem: most Recruiters aren’t very good putters. Sure, they tell the candidate where to go for the interview and at what time, but then they just cross their fingers and hope for the best!

That’s like putting blindfolded.

Let’s take a few steps back for a moment…

You are a Recruiter.

You understand the key concepts in selling your staffing services because you do it very day.

When you visit a potential Client for the first time – you don’t just sit down in the office, start drumming your fingers and wait for the first question..

No way! You are fully prepared when you walk into your Client’s office to make a killer presentation!

-You’ve researched your Client’s Linkedin profile to understand their background and look for potential icebreakers and connections.

-You’ve studied your Client’s website and understand the market they serve, their products and services, their history and the name of their CEO.

-You’ve checked out Glassdoor.com to see how their employees perceive them.

-You’ve looked online to review their most recent job openings and have two or three sample resumes ready to share.

-You’ve begun to build out an org. chart of your prospect, which you are looking to validate and expand upon during your meeting.

-You have a list of questions prepared to help you uncover your prospect’s hiring history, process and problems.

-You know that probing, listening intently and solving problems is key- and you are ready to customize your staffing solutions on the spot, to directly meet your prospect’s hiring needs and challenges.

In other words: You know how to make a great sales call!

OK. Newsflash: a job interview is also a sales call!

The candidate is presenting him/herself to a Client – and looking to walk away with a job offer.

But the interview will not go very well, if the candidate just sits there passively, hoping to get asked all the right questions…

How does all of this relate back to my golfing analogy?

Well, making putts is like making placements.

There are a multiple factors to take into consideration when you need to make an important putt. The distance to the hole, the slope of the green, the speed of the grass all need to be factored in. You don’t just go up and whack it.

It’s the same for preparing candidates for job interviews or “send outs”

Letting them show up without a plan is a mug’s game! You need to prepare your candidate to make a proactive presentation to the hiring manager, by matching his/her skills, experience and achievements directly to the specific requirements of the role for which he/she is interviewing!

Or in golfing parlance – you need to “line up the putt”!

Help your candidate turn the tables with a sales-style presentation to the hiring manager, focusing on his/her skills, experience and achievements that leave the interviewer with only one option: to extend the offer!

Share the following Top Ten Tips with your candidate:

1. Research the hiring manager’s Linkedin profile to understand his/her profile and background. Look for potential icebreakers and connections.

2. Study the company’s website and understand the market they serve, their products and/or services, their history and the name of their CEO.

3. Break the ice and then demonstrate your knowledge and interest by asking specific questions related to the job, the company and the hiring manager him/herself. (“What was it that attracted you to the firm?”)

4. Confirm the essential requirements for the position with the hiring manager, to set the table for your presentation. Flush out any additional areas of interest that you may be able to speak to.

5. Connect the dots and relate your skills, experience and achievements directly to the essential job requirements (as confirmed with the hiring manager) as well as the “nice to haves”. Don’t be afraid to highlight additional non-essential areas of expertise, with examples, that tie back in to the role in question.

6. Ask questions around current and future projects and initiatives – and confirm the hiring managers expectations around performance and execution for the position. Look for “hot buttons” or areas of extreme focus and speak directly to your expertise and commitment in those areas.

7. Share a couple of professional success stories and achievements that highlight the skills that the hiring manager has confirmed he is looking for.

8. Show personal strength by sharing some of your ideals and values that make you successful in the execution of your duties at work.

9. Don’t be afraid to share a couple of tidbits from outside your professional life – to show personality and openness. A little self-deprecating humor can also go a long way!

10. Confirm your interest again in the role and summarize the benefits of bringing you on board. Ask the Client if there are any areas that require further clarification and request some feedback on your interview!

And there you have it. Ka-ching! Done deal!

Proper preparation followed by solid execution of this methodology will help your candidates “ace the interview” every time – by leaving nothing to chance and showcasing all their relevant skills, experience and achievements right up front.

So come on then, let’s make some putts!

Million Dollar Desk? Bring It On!

A while ago, I was retained as a Consultant/Mentor to a team of 35 IT Recruiters and I’ve been trying to figure out the activities that separate the top performers from their less successful colleagues.

And I think I’ve cracked it.

Funnily enough, it came to me in a Spinning Class (Indoor cycling). I am a Spinning Instructor in my spare time and teach three classes a week at Almaden Valley Athletic Club in San Jose.

Now, anyone can sit on a Spin bike (or at a desk) and look like they are working hard…

But to truly experience the magical powers of indoor cycling – you need to get outside of your comfort zone and really pick up the pace.

The payoff is huge: lower blood pressure, cardiovascular supremacy, rapid weight loss, improved strength and endurance, high self esteem, improved appearance to name a few.

And you learn to love it because you love the results.

But what could this possibly have to do with recruiting?

Everything. Because “Uncomfortable is where the rewards are”.

Because all of the Big Billers ($500k billings per yr minimum) that I know are highly proactive and I am sure they spend a good portion of the time working “outside of their comfort zone.”

Sounds a bit esoteric – right? So let’s define the term “outside your comfort zone”,

“Activities that stretch your communication and networking skills PLUS your powers of persuasion to their absolute limit. These are the activities that can potentially result in multiple rejections (which is, consciously or subconsciously, what most recruiters are trying to avoid) and that spur you on until you achieve the results you were aiming for”.

You see, the nectar of our profession, the truly worthwhile Clients and Candidates, can only really be accessed when we go outside of our comfort zone.

You’ve got to Run The Gauntlet with every Recruiter/Salesperson’s nemesis – Potential Rejection. Engage fully – and do it every day!

Here are some ideas to help you dust away the cobwebs and increase traction with your intended audience:-

– Get Busy. Don’t let the day run you – in fact do the opposite. Plan and execute your day to hit your targets. (Important vs Urgent –you must read David Allen’s GTD ) Spend a few minutes every morning creating a game plan for your day – customized to your current workload. Write it down. Stick to it and set some tough activity and production goals for yourself. Show it your boss if you have one.

– Get Organized. How about scheduling fifty outbound client/candidate calls over two 90 minute Call Blocks – every day!  You’ll need to source a strong list of 25 names and numbers prior to each block and make sure those Call Blocks are set for optimum results (between 8-10, 11-1 and/or 5.30-7.30) Call Blocks are incredibly powerful and can literally double your “connects” and halve the time you actually spend calling.

– Get Uncomfortable. Instead of just sitting back and counting the (diminishing) responses from your most recent Linkedin In-Mail blast – pick up the phone and introduce yourself to the potential clients/candidates who didn’t respond. Don’t expect an instant result – but tell them that you are an SME recruiter in their space and that you’d love to pick their brains sometime. Tell them you’ll be sending over a Linked In invitation and follow up a week later for a chat. It works with Clients and Candidates.

– Engage with passive candidates and try my patented “I’m not headhunting you” technique. Identify a candidate (or group of candidates) that fit your spec. Call them at work and try this: “Hi John, It’s Mike from TopTal, I am so glad I caught you (never ask “is this a good time?”) I’m not actually headhunting you as I can see you’ve been at Research in Motion for 5 years and I am sure you are incredibly happy. But, I do happen to recruit in your space a lot, and thought it would be great connect for the future. I could be a very useful ally for you. How’s life over at RIM – what are you working on?”.  Move the conversation towards his/her career goals – and what the next career move would look like…!

– Are you attending regular Networking events in your chosen niche and looking for ways that you can contribute rather than sell? Introduce yourself to ten people and ask them “what can I do to help you?” (Instead of trying to recruit them). This way you will build your referral network by investing in your potential candidate community rather than just coming off as another money-hungry recruiter.

– How about scheduling activities that do not have a direct or immediate payoff – like regularly keeping in touch with candidates you recently submitted (or placed) or checking in with consultants that you placed in the last year. The more love you give your referral network – the more referrals you will receive.

– What about Social Media? Sharing some useful information on your Linked In news feed to remind your network of your position and value. Contributing to discussions in your Linked In Groups or starting your own thread is another way to raise your profile. Other sites like Stack Overflow and Github are a goldmine of candidates, if you engage in a non-transactional fashion. The biggest sin that Recruiters make on Social Media is putting their own goals ahead of the goals of their potential candidates.

These are a few ideas that might take you outside your comfort zone and pay off in a big way when you stay consistent and committed.

Remember – “Uncomfortable is where the rewards are!”

Oh, and get yourself down to a Spinning Class.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Cold calling giving you a headache? 10 ideas to establish yourself in a niche.


I would argue that we’ve reached a point in the Staffing Industry where the rulebook needs rewriting. With so many talented niche market players – generic job order hunting just doesn’t pay the dividends that it used to.

‘Hi, It’s John over at TipTop Talent, we are one of the biggest staffing firms in the USA – I’d love to sit down with you to understand your recruitment process and forthcoming initiatives blah blah…’ just ain’t paying the bills anymore.

It’s time to get specific about what your are offering whilst ensuring that you can deliver on your promise. How?

By driving engagement through strategic market positioning, talent pool development and solid lead generation. When you invest time and effort into creating  an intelligence and referral network around your specific niche, market data and opportunities will begin to flow naturally in your direction and you will start to build market share and establish credibility accordingly. Never has the phrase “we reap what we sow” been more pertinent.

Furthermore, once this investment starts to pay off and you find yourself talking with a potential client – position yourself as a strategic business partner (as opposed to a salesperson) by focusing on solving problems first and submitting resumes second. Stop selling and start consulting. Remind the Client that you have a solid candidate pipeline (Candidate Marketing) but take time to understand the business problem first and resist the urge to ask if they “have any reqs..”.  The more you learn about your client, the easier it will be to tailor a solution to fit the problem perfectly.

Here’s 10 ideas for those of you who’ve banging their heads against the same brick wall for a while.

1. Stop calling Clients and start calling Candidates.

2. Develop a technical/domain driven niche and set yourself up as an SME. (LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest etc..)

3. Network furiously with candidates in that space. Position yourself as ‘The GoTo Guy’ and let everyone know “it’s all you do”.

4. Remove the Job Order (if you have one) from the first conversation with a candidate and find some common ground instead. Adding a candidate to your network (hence, opening the door to their network) is infinitely more powerful than getting a “No, I’m not interested right now” .

5. Drive value into your space by sharing information, articles and even clients with your talent community. Get to grips with Twitter and LinkedIn.

6. Get good at Lead Generation. Build a target list of clients based on your Lead Gen intelligence. Understand your client before you ever approach them. Tech stack, hiring history, org chart, annual report, number of contractors, business initiatives. The more you know – the easier it is going to be to position yourself. Once you know you are looking at the profile of an ideal client  – you can begin to situate yourself to earn market share. It’s going to take time and conviction. Stay at it. With this kind of approach, they need you.

7. Go to User Group meetings, Meetups, conferences and shake hands. Engage everyone through your problem solving approach (“How can I help you?”) Offer up your advice, your network, your time. Find ways to help people outside of fee generation activities.

8. Treat candidates with respect and don’t look upon them as a deal waiting to happen. Take the time to understand your candidate’s buyers gap (The difference between their current job and their ideal position). Offer counseling and advice first. Don’t force the issue or the relationship will die on the vine. Remember – bring the candidate (and hence their network) into your network first and foremost. Develop the relationship properly before trying to leverage them.

9. Candidate Marketing. Your pipeline is growing, you know your target market, you are an SME in your niche. Start telling the market. Always have a solid candidate (plus references) to present. Use reference checking as an opportunity to establish new Client relationships.

10. Know your talent, Know your target, No excuses.

Once you’ve accomplished all of this – the clients will reveal themselves and the market will open up to you. I promise:)


Are you converting Mobile Candidates?


I’m sure you’ve noticed – the world has gone mobile crazy! The smartphone has really impacted the way we lead our lives – as evidenced in the photo comparison above of at St. Peters Square.
Since the iPhone was launched in 2007, Smartphones have become ubiquitous. We are literally lost without our daily dose of photos, videos, email, news, apps galore, Twitter and of course LinkedIn.

As Recruiters – we know that the next wave of top talent is more than likely to respond to us via their mobile device, because frankly, the best candidates are too busy at work to spend time trolling for the interpipes for their next gig.
So, if you are serious about competing in the war for talent, you need to “skate to where the puck is going to be”. In other words, to intercept that valuable Mobile Talent traffic you’ll need a new set of tools and a definitive strategy that truly embraces the explosive growth in Mobile Talent Engagement.

Sure, most Agencies already have “responsive websites” that shrink to fit mobile devices – but that still doesn’t help potential candidates when it comes time to hit “APPLY”.
The UI was designed specifically for the desktop, so, on your smartphone you need a microscope to find the right buttons and concert pianist fingers to fill out all the requisite forms.

You’re catching the fish but there’s a big hole in your net. So who’s got the time and the expertise to execute properly in this emerging paradigm?

Fortunately for the recruiting industry, two solid solutions have already emerged. Momentous and Jibe are two (competing) companies who have successfully addressed this problem with some pretty slick offerings. They both provide a dedicated platform engineered solely for the purpose of engaging and delivering the Mobile Talent that you are working so hard to reach. Whether it’s a career posting on your website or an aggregated job-ad on Indeed, your precious candidate will click on the position and glide smoothly to your hosted custom Mobile Talent site hosted by your provider of choice. There, they will be met with fabulous big button UI and an A.D.D.-Proof “Apply” process that will convert even the most impatient of smartphone users into a real live applicant. And the best part – it seamlessly integrates with your ATS.

The ROI on these services is high – the platform can literally pay for itself with one additional placement per annum. And since you should be converting as many as five times (5X) your visitors into real applicants, it’s hard to argue against investigating these services right away. Furthermore, both companies consult on strategy for outreach and advertising to ensure you are reaching the maximum number of potential candidates with your advertising dollars.

So if you are serious about converting your mobile talent traffic into bona-fide applicants, I recommend that you check out these platforms right away; you could be up and running within a matter of weeks, with your brand new custom Mobile Talent Engagement solution.
A great place to start is this very digestible Mobile Talent Strategy White Paper by iMomentous

Full disclosure: I recommend/partner with iMomentous. Contact me on 310 558 1000 to arrange a quick online demo.

Prepping Your Candidate


Good news. All the hard work you have done developing the client and recruiting the best candidate boils down to this moment. An interview request. Yes! Now, just call the candidate, set the interview and Bob’s your Uncle, right? Wrong. There’s work to be done! Recruitment is all about stacking the odds in your favor. An unprepared candidate could be a disaster waiting to happen. You job is to do everything in your power to prepare your candidate for success.

The best analogy I can think of is landing a plane. As a Private Pilot – I know that landing the plane is not only the most critical phase of the flight – it is also the busiest (and most stressful) time in the cockpit. After all, we’ve come this far – it would be a shame not to get on the ground safely!

Firstly, take care of the logistics. You have to ensure that interview actually happens, on time! You’d be amazed how many recruiters fall at the first fence.

All Interviews:
1. Make sure you understand your Client’s interview process. In addition to where and what time, how long and with whom? Ask your Client if they have any suggestions or preparation tips for your candidate. Check Dress code. Share information with candidate. (More on Prep later)
2. Make sure that the interview is confirmed, in writing, and acknowledged by BOTH parties (your client and candidate) at least one day prior.

Face to Face Checklist:
3. Call your candidate the night before to fully prep them. Help them plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the interview. (map, traffic etc.)
4. Ask the candidate to text you upon arrival at the client. Call your Client and confirm that your candidate is in the lobby.
5. Wherever possible (I have even flown in for this) – meet your candidate 30 minutes before the interview in the lobby so that you can prepare and motivate them. Stick around and introduce the candidate to the Client. This will do wonders for your relationship with the Candidate and the Client and give your interview:offer ratio a solid boost.

Phone Screen Checklist:
6. Call your candidate the night before the phone screen to fully prepare them. Tell them that you will be calling half an hour prior to the interview.
7. Call your candidate half an hour before the interview to ensure that he/she is ready to roll and has a meeting alarm set for 5 mins before the interview.
8. Land lines are preferable. If not – make sure the candidate has scoped out a private area with great cell reception – 5 bars!
9. Call the Client 15 minutes before the phone screen to confirm that your Candidate is ready for the phone screen
10. Text your candidate 5 minutes before the phone screen to wish them the best!

Follow these instructions to the letter to mitigate the #1 reason that interviews don’t happen: no shows!

An interview should not be a reactive-only environment – but, rather an opportunity for the candidate to present their achievements and skills in the context of the job at hand. Make sure that your candidate has a proper understanding of the position and it’s requirements. (ie. what business problem is your client looking to solve – as opposed to what software skills do they need in a candidate). In my next article – I will be sharing my Checklist for the Prep Call that you make the night before the interview. Thrilling stuff!

Click HERE to ask me a question!

10 Questions To Ask Every Candidate

We’ve all been tempted to “shoe-in” a candidate when our gut tells that he/she may is not the right fit or job. “After all, it’s a numbers game, right?” Wrong. Ask the tough questions up front and represent your candidates with brutal honesty. Your Clients and your Candidates will thank you when you save them the time and the trouble of entering into a lengthy interview process only to discover that there is no match.
For some Recruiters – where KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators such as # of interviews per week) are the yardstick by which their activity is measured, this is a tough call to make.
This list of questions is in addition to the skills match/technical screening that you need to conduct.

[Read more…]

30 Key Questions to Qualify the Job Order

Just like a golfer tees up the ball to optimize their drive for distance and accuracy – a Recruiter needs to prepare thoroughly before embarking on a candidate Search, to maximize the chances for a successful outcome.

Proper qualification of a new requirement or job order is both a critical part of the recruiting process and great opportunity to further cement the relationship with your Client.
Too many Recruiters scurry off at the sniff of a requirement from a new Client and start blasting away without having much of a clue as to the nature of the requirement or their chances of success.

The questions that you ask at the outset of each assignment are instrumental in the successful execution of the Search/Contract placement. Therefore, it is critical to schedule a meeting or conference call for every new position with your Client as part of your Recruiting Process.

Personally, once I have scheduled the meeting or call, I will also invite any associates who will be involved in the Search, including Sourcers, Recruiters, Account Managers and sometimes even a friendly Techy.

Executed correctly, you will not only save yourself a great deal of time and effort – but you will also set yourself apart from the competition by the demonstration of your comprehensive and professional approach.

The first order of the day is to determine to level of urgency attached to filling the position. This line of questions will allow you to assess the real opportunity for you/your Agency and prioritize resources and efforts accordingly. Don’t be tempted to skip ahead. ( Frankly, if the Client has been looking for 6 months, interviewed 30 candidates from 9 different agencies and “can afford to wait for the right candidate” – my level of interest is going to plummet and I’ll wrap things up quickly from here.) With this information – you should be in a good position to measure the opportunity for a deal/placement and continue your questioning accordingly.

  1. How long have you been looking to fill this position?
  2. How many people have you interviewed for this position?
  3. What are the consequences of this position remaining unfilled? (This is a killer question for determining level of urgency!)
  4. If I found you the perfect candidate today, could you interview him tomorrow and have him start on Monday? If not – what are your timescales?
  5. How many companies are currently submitting resumes for this position?” What is your pipeline looking like right now?

Let’s continue and pursue a line of questioning to examine the type of candidate we are looking for from a skills and experience perspective:

  1. What is driving the need for the hiring of this individual (ie: project, replacement, deadline etc.)
  2. Please tell me about the project or projects he would be working on?
  3. Can you elaborate on the business initiatives/problems that the successful candidate would be involved in solving?
  4. What are the “deliverables” for this position over the course of the first year/ duration of the contract?
  5. Please can you give me an overview of the technical skills you are looking for in suitable candidates? What are the “Must Haves” as opposed to the “Nice to Haves”?
  6. Are you seeking candidates with specific domain knowledge? (Healthcare/ Finance/ Technology etc)
  7. Are there any other special skills you are looking for (soft skills, communication/writing etc) Maybe you can tell a little bit about one of your employees who is currently successful in this position? (Continue to probe and look for “hot buttons”)

Now it’s time to add some color to the picture by looking at his work environment:

  1. What size is the team he would be joining?
  2. Would he be reporting directly to you?
  3. What size is the company, (revenue or employees) how many locations etc.?
  4. Can you tell me a little about the culture of the company – and any differentiators that may help us in attracting high quality candidates when we are headhunting? (In other words – how does the Client “sell the opportunity” when he identifies a candidate that he wants to hire?)
  5. What attracted you to the firm?
  6. Are there any opportunities for a flexible work schedule or work from home days?

OK, now let’s get some facts and figures:

  1. What is the ceiling on the compensation for this position? (Client says 90k) …”So Mr Client – if I found the perfect candidate for 100k – would you still be interested in seeing him?
  2. I understand this a Perm/Contract position – correct? (if contract – ask rate and duration) Would you consider contract to hire? (sell the benefits).
  3. Are you open to candidates who need an H1b transfer? Do you sponsor Green Cards?
  4. Do you have a job spec? “Great – what’s your email address – I’ll drop you a line right away so you can send it over”

Now it’s time to determine the hiring process and set expectations:

  1. What kind of turnaround can I expect for feedback on Resumes? (push for same day. Any more than 24 hrs is not good. Great candidates are scarce and will be snapped up).
  2. What is your process for interviewing/hiring? (telescreen/skype/face to face etc).
  3. How many interviews is standard (and with whom)?
  4. Shall I submit resumes to you?
  5. What are the best days/time of day to schedule interviews with you?
  6. Would you consider hiring over Skype (for out of state candidates- means you can broaden the Search)
  7. Confirm your Client’s contact info, job title, address and email. Ask him for his Mobile number “in case I need to get hold of you in a hurry”.
  8. Thank your Client for his/her time!

At this point – confirm with the Client that you have a good understanding of the position and repeat back to him (briefly) the salient points of the conversation so far. Explain briefly YOUR process to the Client and set his expectations on submission of resumes.
If you are SUPREMELY CONFIDENT or have a solid pipeline of candidates in mind already – Ask for some time in his diary next week to set up interviews! (Contingent upon qualified submissions)


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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