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The 10 Most Important Minutes of a Recruiter’s Life

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There are about 20 critical steps involved in attracting, contacting, recruiting and closing top candidates. But of this 20, there is only one that can make or break the career of a recruiter. This is the “Recruiter’s Point of No Return.”

A top candidate in this case is defined as someone who doesn’t have an economic need to take your job. This could be because the person is fully-employed and not looking, or if looking, has multiple opportunities to choose from.



The graphic here is a simple representation of the recruiting process. The active path on the left bypasses the heavy lifting required for passive candidate recruiting, shown on the right. WithLinkedIn Recruiter finding the names of top people is relatively easy. This is the top section of the funnel. Getting the names of high-quality referrals who will call you back is more difficult, requiring tenacity and strong networking skills. The hardest part of this whole process, however, is converting these leads and referrals into prospects. This is the “Recruiter’s Point of No Return.” Getting through it takes about 10 minutes and extraordinary recruiting skills.

It’s important to recognize that a prospect is not a candidate. A prospect is a perfectly qualified person who is willing to have an exploratory discussion with a hiring manager. Converting a warm referral or lead into a prospect is no easy matter. Getting a hiring manager to agree to talk with a prospect is no easy matter, either, but it’s also an essential aspect of finding and hiring passive candidates. However, before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss the steps involved in converting a warm lead into a prospect. Here are the big ones:

1. Contact returns your call, target 80% of the time.

As part of our recruiter workshop we walk through the five networking steps involved in obtaining a pre-qualified and warm referral. Using this process, 80% of the candidates will call you back.

2. Ask the universal “yes” question.

You need to ask a variant of “Would you be open to explore a career opportunity, if it were clearly superior to what you’re doing today?” Asked properly, over 90% of all passive candidates will agree to the discussion.

3. Stay the Buyer.

Maintain your leverage. By answering “yes” the person has agreed to a short 3-4 minute career discussion. The person is now the seller and the recruiter is the buyer. Too many recruiters lose this conditional leverage by overselling. Don’t. Ask questions instead.

4. Get the candidate to talk first.

Don’t tell the candidate about the job just yet. If necessary, you can give a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s important that the recruiter finds something out about the candidate, before describing the job.

5. Control the money talk.

Deflect conversations about compensation until the end of the 10 minute call. If the person asks, suggest that if the job doesn’t represent a career move, the compensation doesn’t matter. If it is a career move, we’ll then see if the compensation works or if we can make it work.

6. Sell the next step, not the job.

Don’t take any shortcuts. The first step is a discussion to see if the job represents a career move. The second step is a more detailed conversation with the recruiter or the hiring manager. If you go too fast the candidate will opt out.

7. Review the person’s LinkedIn profile.

Before describing the job, spend five minutes going through the person’s work history looking for fit and the Achiever Pattern. This indicates the person is in the top quartile of his/her peer group.

8. Create the career opportunity.

During the work history review you’re looking for 4-5 things that indicate your job could be a worthy career move for the candidate. This includes things like faster growth, bigger job, more impact, greater visibility and handling more responsibility and bigger projects.

9. Get the candidate to sell you.

By suggesting that the person might be a bit light to handle this “bigger job,” stronger candidates will begin to tell you why they’re qualified.

10. Gain a concession for going forward.

Explain that while you’ll try to arrange an exploratory call with the hiring manager, you’d want to know if the person would be open to a modest increase in compensation, assuming the career move is significant. It’s best to negotiate the offer in small steps like this.

While this is just the beginning of the passive candidate recruiting process, it’s an essential beginning. Recognize that it takes hours of time spread over days and weeks for a top passive candidate with multiple opportunities to recognize the career potential of any new job. So don’t rush it, or take shortcuts. Getting to yes involves handling a lot of no’s. For a recruiter, converting a lead into a true prospect represents the Point of No Return.