More than 40 years ago the #1 recruiter in the world told me that applicant control was the key to making 2-3X as many placements per month. It took me one full year to master the technique but my placement rate soared by over 3X during the next 18 months as a result. More importantly, 75% of these candidates who were subsequently placed over the next 25+ years (more than 600 people!) were either assigned to stretch projects or got promoted during the first year. Just as important, less than 10% left during the first year.
The purpose of applicant control is to prevent candidates from overvaluing the start date compensation rather than the career opportunity the job represents. For a recruiter, sourcer or hiring manager implementing applicant control starts by not taking “no” for an answer to any concern or objection raised by a candidate during the first call. But it’s what you do and say next determines if you’ll be successful or not.
Recruiters Need to Master Applicant Control If This Happens
- If too many of your direct sourced and passive candidates opt-out before they understand the career merits of your open role, applicant control will eliminate the problem.
- If you’re not getting 2-3 great referrals on every call with a top person, applicant control will eliminate the problem.
It’s perfectly okay for a candidate not to pursue an open role if it doesn’t represent a great next step on their career ladder. Most of the time, unfortunately, candidates (especially those who aren’t actively looking) opt-out if they don’t like the title, location or compensation package. The “No NOs!” recruiting rule is designed to prevent strong prospective candidates from ignoring what you have to offer without first understanding if what you have to offer is worth their time to consider.
Achieving applicant control mastery starts during the intake meeting when the recruiter asks the hiring manager to rethink the job from the perspective of a top performer. Here’s the short script on how this takes place:
- If the job description is the typical skills-infested laundry list of “must-have” skills and competencies, say something like, “This is not a job description, this is a person description!”
- Then say, “Let’s put the person description aside for a minute and tell me what the person in this role must accomplish in the first year that would indicate the person is an outstanding performer.”
- Referring to this list of 3-4 performance objectives, ask the hiring manager if he/she would be willing to have an exploratory phone screen with an outstanding person who has a strong track record of similar accomplishments even if they have a different mix of skills and experiences. FYI: these are the “Big Fish” shown in the top image.
- Then say, in order for me to attract outstanding and diverse people like this who can do this work I need to know the answer to this question: “Why would a top performer who has multiple opportunities, or who is not even looking for another job, be interested in this job for something other than a big compensation increase? We’ll use this information to create the EVP (employee value proposition) and put it at the top of our emails, voice mails and job postings to attract stronger people.”
With this information you’ll now be able to convince more top performers to talk with you as long as you ask this question when making first contact, “Would you be open to explore a situation if it represented a significant next step as part of a long term career ladder?” (Hiring Tip: one way to invoke the “No NOs!” rule is to only ask questions that can be answered with a “Yes!”)
This process of having hiring managers define the work as a series of performance objectives and making sure candidates are fully aware of the career merits of the role is called Win-Win Hiring. This means hiring for the anniversary date, not the start date. Hiring success in these cases means both the hiring manager and new hire are still happy an offer was made and accepted one year after working together. Delivering on this type of Win-Win Hiring promise starts by defining work a series of performance objective and not taking “no” for an answer when contacting direct-sourced and referred candidates. Mastering the principles of applicant control increases the likelihood good candidates won’t opt-out for short term reasons or lack of understanding of the career opportunity represented by the open role.
Most candidates often ask about the compensation before they’re willing to engage in a more serious conversation. When this happens, I tell them the compensation doesn’t matter if the job isn’t a worthy career move, so let’s figure this out first. I then tell them a career move needs to provide a minimum 30% non-monetary increase consisting of some stretch, a mix of more satisfying work and a more rapid growth and learning opportunity. Even when they don’t ask, it’s important that everyone focuses on what they’ll be doing in year one beyond, rather than making long-term career decisions based on what they get on the start date.
Mastering the Principles of Applicant Control
Our live and self-paced programs are designed to identify, source and recruit the Big Fish. But to reel them in you’ll to master the principles of applicant control. Our monthly webcasts are devoted to explaining how to properly use applicant control to maximize your direct sourcing response rates and to get more referrals of outstanding and diverse talent.