James Gage looks at what can be gained by expecting the worst when approaching a client or candidate

Created 06/07/2018 12:00am Author James Gage

One of the best lessons I’ve learned over my time in recruitment is this – expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed. Better still, you’ll always be prepared.

As negative as this sounds, understand that when you are making an unsolicited business development call, you will be interrupting the client. It may be interrupting him from a meeting (which he may thank you for) or it may be interrupting him from his sandwich (which he certainly won’t) but you will be asking the client to stop doing whatever he is doing and pay attention to you.

You’d better have something worth listening to!  Imagine the client saying “WIIFM – What’s in it for me?”

Once you’ve made your tailored pitch, get ready – you’re about to have some objections sent your way. The great news is twofold.

  • Firstly, objections give you a chance to retort. Counter them well enough and you may even win yourself a new customer. You wouldn’t get this chance in an email.
  • Secondly, there are only really 10 or so major objections that you’ll ever encounter. You’ve probably heard most of them already… we’re not recruiting… we don’t use agencies… we’ve got a PSL… I’m too busy to talk… the more you face them, the more likely it is that you’ll find a way to overcome them. Arrange a brainstorming session with your team, get all the objections you can think of written on a board and then share the ways around them you’ve found most effective (and those you’ve found useless).

Expecting the worst also means you’ll never be taken by surprise by a candidate. Truly understand their wants and needs for a future role and take time to establish their genuine reasons for leaving. When you arrange job interviews for them, look at every possible problem and do your best to pre-empt it. Find out what the client’s dress code is. Ask the interviewer whether the satnav will lead the candidate directly to the front door or somewhere “nearly but not quite”. Make sure your candidate has planned to leave sufficient margins for error in the journey. Leave as little to chance as possible when it comes to the elements that you have some control over. Of course, once the candidate is alone in the room with the client, all bets are off and you’ve just got to hope that the prep you gave both sides of the equation will see you through to the finish line. Still, a clever recruiter prepares for it to go horribly wrong even at this point and will have a backup candidate waiting in the wings in case of disaster. If a client calls you to report a disastrous interview, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reply, “don’t worry, I’ve got Steve on standby – I’ll send you his CV now and he’ll be with you in 45 minutes”?

You can even share this policy of expecting the worst with your candidates and clients. Once a candidate has been made an offer, you should prepare both sides for the inevitability of a counteroffer from the existing employer. Explain to the candidate that, whilst it may seem like a compliment to be counteroffered, usually it is simply a knee jerk reaction to maintain the status quo and rarely works out beyond the short term – statistics support that around 80 to 90% of people who accept a counteroffer are back on the jobs market within a mere 6 months. Explain to the client that the market is rife with counteroffers and most companies would rather throw a little extra money at a disgruntled employee to buy them some breathing room instead of being left in the lurch. Tell your client that he will need to make himself available on short notice to meet with the candidate again to convince them to take their offer – and get your client thinking about the absolute maximum offer he is prepared to make to secure the candidate in the event of a bidding war. Providing you manage this process and help both candidate and client see what is likely to happen next, you can smooth over problems before they happen and maximise your chances of success. If you cut corners and leave it all to chance, you are simply hoping for the best.  You may therefore be taken by surprise when things go awry.  People will get upset – and they will blame the recruiter!

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