A Strategy for Attracting Great Recruiters ... It's Much More Than Selling 'The Money!'

  By Michael Gionta  |    Wednesday May 29, 2014

Category: Expert Advice, Recruiting


When I first opened in 1990 I had neither a defined nor strategic interview process to attract great recruiters to my firm.  I just brought in prospects in and “sold the heck” out of them!  I would call them in, tell them how much money they can make, ask a couple of brilliant questions like “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?” tell them again about how much money they could make and make them an offer.  I would then wonder why people turned me down.

Furthermore, those I attracted failed.  I went through DOZENS of new hires waiting to find the “right one”.   I went through years of trial and error and finally dialed in a system for attracting, interviewing, hiring and on-boarding recruiters that worked!  In this article I review the first step, the “attraction” phase for your future big biller!

First, why was I unsuccessful?  I ran everything through my own individual filter.  When I stepped back and studied my failures in this area I imagined what it the opportunity looked like from the INTERVIEWEE’S perspective.  Once I did this I combined the needs and the perceptions of the candidate along with my need for good information on them.

So here is what came of the lessons I learned that dramatically increased my ability to attract great recruiters to our firm!

Step 1, Make them work for the first interview!

Our firm has been successful attracting great talent off of the major job boards by making the candidate do a little work before arranging the interview.  When a candidate replies to our ad with their resume, we reply back to those we are interested in with the following simple statement: “Your background looks very interesting.  Please call me at the below number to discuss the opportunity in greater detail.”  

First, if they don’t call, we don’t pursue.  Period!  Start chasing them now and you will be chasing them through the whole process!

Second, when they call and after we have thanked them for taking their time, we open with the question, “Before we discuss this in more detail, I am curious, what was in the ad that inspired you to forward your resume?”  Why this question?  One, did they take 60 seconds to prepare for the call by re-reading the posting?  If they do not remember and they could not invest 60 seconds in their OWN career, what will they do with someone else’s?  This also shows if they are pro-active, prepared and if they do their homework. 

Two, it sets the agenda and keys you in on their interests so you can highlight the appropriate parts of career opportunities in search along those lines.  Additionally, my experience is that they are NOT in “interview mode” and speak much more openly than when they would arrive for the formal first interview.  This is a great time to get a glimpse of how they really think.

Three, you get a strong sense of their phone presence.  While some nervousness should be expected, how conversant are they?  Do they naturally build rapport?  Do the answers to your questions engage you or are working hard to get information out of them?

This call takes no more than 10 minutes most of the time and gives you a great snap shot of the persons career desires, their ability to converse on the phone and ability to communicate.  If the call is weak from my perspective, I tell them that for reason “x” their does not appear to be a match.  If the call goes well I schedule an interview immediately.


Step 2, The First Interview 

In the first interview I tell them what our process is and I ask them to give me their description of what their career would look like “If they could wave a realistic magic wand”.  After I fully explore that, I begin to describe the opportunity.

The key in the first interview is to have them to describe where they want to go and why FIRST, before you explain the opportunity.  Again, you want to discover if their career goals are in alignment with your firm and the role you are hiring into.  Also, like the good recruiters we are, we want to be able to weave their needs into our description of the recruiter career opportunity.

While asking questions I try to keep the conversation as informal as possible and make them as comfortable as possible. I ask as few of the “normal” interview questions as possible.  Why?  I want them to drop their guard! When they drop their guard they reveal more of their “true” self. They tend to reveal the person that will show up to work vs. the bright, nice, well spoken person that showed up for the interview.

When discussing the opportunity I open with the vision of the career track we offer, the ability to interact with “C” level executives and the ability to in effect, build companies.  I also counter-balance this with excruciating detail of what success takes.  It is important to challenge your prospect with something to the effect of “I am not sure if you can handle this.”  People love a challenge.  I have even said in interviews, that “this doesn’t appear in alignment with your aspirations”.  They do one of two things.  First, they might agree, great, interview over.  Second, they usually defend why they are in fact IN alignment.  Again, great!  In effect I am putting them in a position to ask, no, even BEG for the opportunity.

One axiom of life that has served me well is that I fully believe “people want what they perceive they can NOT have!”  In the interview I am always interested in what they say, but indifferent to selling them.  People’s antennae go up when they are being “sold”. 

Following this axiom, at the end of the interview I tell them that we have discussed a lot of information and I instruct them to think about it overnight.  It is natural for a candidate to leave a 90 minute interview and come up with numerous questions after they leave and we discuss this.  Then I tell them to call me “before the close of business tomorrow” if they are still interested to set up the next meeting, not interview-- meeting.

I never hear back from 25% of the people and I NEVER call them.  Once you start chasing, again, you will always chase them.  Most call the next day and we arrange the second meeting. (Who is seeking whom here?)


Step 3, The Second Interview

My first question when they sit down is “What brought you back here?” The response needs to be compelling to me.  Again, did they think it through or is this just a job?  Also, how they translate this opportunity back to me verbally through their emotions, choices of words, etc is a small indication of how they may be presenting opportunities as a recruiter.  Additionally, I look for comments about any research they may done, conversations they had, etc.  This is a great indicator if they have any intellectual curiosity around this career.  If they don’t, how passionate will they be to learn once they start?

Along those lines, I ask what questions they have for me. If they say “None really, you answered them all on the first meeting”, interview over!  Seriously, there is no way on this planet on my most lucid day that I can answer all the questions one might have about a career in executive search in the first 90 minute meeting.  What they are communicating is that they are not serious.  They are also communicating an intellectual laziness.  Pursue these people at your own peril!

If they open a notebook and a bunch of questions are written down, huge bonus points.  The message they send is that they take this seriously and this usually indicates they will take your direction and training seriously.

After all their questions are answered, this is the meeting where they walk me through their career, their roles, accomplishments, etc.  Remember, though, the most important information came from the first meeting with their answer to their ideal career.

At the conclusion of the interview I again ask them to reflect on our meeting and if they are still deadly serious to call before 5pm the next business day to arrange the last meeting.

Step 4, The Final Meeting

In the final meeting the candidate meets with someone in the office with two plus years of experience for an open conversation.  I tell the candidate in advance that this part of the meeting is for them at a peer level to really understand “a day in the life” of a person in the firm.  I usually allow forty-five minutes to an hour for this.  I do not send my tenured person into this meeting with an agenda.  My goals for this meeting are two-fold.  One, make sure the candidate gets all the information they need and, two, get the candidate so comfortable and conversational that their “true self” is revealed.  If done correctly, you would be shocked how different the conversation is with your tenured people than yourself.  We have eliminated quite a few actors at this stage.  Sometimes candidates who appear very professional in front of you ask questions like, “Mike said this job requires 80-100 calls a day during the ramp up, you don’t really have to do that many do you?”  Seriously, this happens frequently.

Most of the times, however, this will reinforce your decision to bring someone on board and also gives some ownership in the process to your tenured person.  They feel more a part of what you are building.

Lastly, I bring them in my office for any last minute questions either of us have and look for them to close me on the job.  After meeting with the tenured person their interest should peak and I look to see if it has.  I rarely make the offer right there, even though I look to be closed.  Generally, I ask them to call me before a certain time the next day as my final test.  When they call, I offer the job, reiterate the terms of the offer and set the start date.  As a final step I ask them to raise their right hand and solemnly swear to do EXACTLY what I ask of them for the first 120 days.

When one follows a process like this where the recruiting firm owner is not overly aggressive and maybe even a bit disinterested, that person shows a process that is well thought out and professional.  At all costs we want to avoid our prospects leaving the meeting thinking “this is too good to be true”.  While one should emphasize all the benefits to what a great career recruiting is one should also emphasize the price to be paid at each step of the process.  You will be surprised how many self-select themselves OUT of the interview process saving you numerous hours and thousands of dollars in ramp up.

Speaking of ramping up new recruiters… on June 16th and 17th I am hosting a 2 day “How to Hire Million Dollar Recruiters” Intensive that walks you through step by step in great detail how to find, attract, hire, on-board and retain fantastic recruiters.  You can get all the details at www.TheRecruiterU.com/bootcamp.  Feel free to email at info@theRecruiterU.com if you thinks this makes sense for you but you still have a question or two and we can have a brief chat.

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