Capitalizing on the “Difficult to Fill” Position

  By Steve Finkel  |    Wednesday June 28, 2023

Category: Expert Advice, Recruiting



“They worked hard at everything they did, and were never satisfied with a so-so performance. They prepared themselves for the opportunities that life offers all of us. And when something came along that looked right, they were ready.”

Elmer Leterman

How Showmanship Sells

Chapter 10 excerpt...

Throughout your career, when obtaining search assignments from both new and established accounts, you will frequently hear the comment that a particular position is going to be a “tough one.” This may come in a statement from the client, or in a reference to the fact that the position has been open for months despite a sincere effort on the part of the prospect.

The tendency on the part of even highly-experienced recruiters will be to either brush aside the client’s comments with an “Oh, we can find these guys” or to agree that “This type of talent is indeed hard to find” and then proceed to obtain the appropriate information. By doing so, the recruiter will have overlooked a valuable opportunity to strengthen his position by enhancing the perceived value of any candidates submitted.

Even if you don’t hear these specific words from the hiring authority, you may well be working in a candidate-short market. Point this out to the prospect. There’s a good chance he will agree. Let’s face it -- most people want to think that they’re looking for a rare bird, a person with unusual credentials.

Following are the steps to take when the client indicates that he feels the position will be difficult to fill:



1. The search consultant should reinforce this feeling, stating that demand clearly exceeds supply in this area.

2. The recruiter should remind (or inform) the client that he specializes in this field.  He should further emphasize that while it will require a great deal of effort, he has total confidence in his ability to secure candidates with the required credentials

3. He should place the burden of securing these candidates back with the client, asking if the client can attract top talent in a competitive marketplace.



Following are examples of appropriate script to illustrate and expand upon these steps. “SC” is used to represent Search Consultant. And we’ll call the prospect a client for purposes of clarity, even though a real client is one who has paid you money. 

Client: “This is going to be a very difficult-to-fill position. We’ve spent more money that I care to think of in advertising and job boards, and have had very poor results.”

Search Consultant: “ Tom, this is something we hear quite frequently. In certain fields, the demand for top talent clearly exceeds the supply, and this is one of those fields.”

Client: “It sure is a tight market.”

SC: “Yes, it is. Keep in mind, though, that we specialize in this field. What we do for a living is to find highly-qualified, difficult-to-secure people in the __________ industry/field and put them in front of client companies. But while we can find these people, it’s going to be up to you to attract them to your firm. These people will be accomplishers with good futures where they are.

The question in this kind of market is can you convince them that their careers will be better served with your firm.”

Initial Rebuttal

Should the client not fully embrace the idea of having to “sell” people on joining his firm, you must assert your control. Not to do so will leave you with an unrealistic hiring authority. Remember — he has told you how hard it is to find these people.

Client:   “Well, look. If they want to join our firm, fine, but we’re not going to ‘blue-sky’ anyone.”’

SC:  “Tom, I’m not speaking of “blue-skying.”  But we are going to find highly-qualified producers with solid futures who are not actively looking to make a change. It is, as you’ve said, a tight market and these people are in high demand. If you want to fill this position, it will be mandatory for you to tell them why the grass is greener on your side of the fence! You must make it clear exactly why a career with you will be superior to their present firm.

If you can’t do that, the position will be either open for a long time, or else you’ll have to settle for a person with a lesser credentials and accomplishments. As I said, we can get the people in front of you ... but it will be up to you to promote the benefits of your firm.”

Secondary Rebuttal

Should the response still not be positive, your final attempt must be as follows: 

Client :   “We’re not going to sell anyone.”

SC:  “Tom, would you make a career change if it were not in your best interests to do so?”

Client:  “No.”

SC: “Of course not. And neither will a happily-employed recruited candidate. We’re dealing with the best of what’s out there. You have got to tell a candidate why it is in his best interests to join your firm. We can give you help on how to do so – the areas that will appeal to him most – but you’re the one who must give him the reasons to join your firm. We can find the people for you – but it will be a mutual effort to secure them.”



But what if at the end of this, you gain no ground?  What if the prospective client refuses to see your point and refuses to participate in the selling process?  You have received a sign, a clear indication of a lack of cooperation or even good sense on his part.

Do you have a candidate in the files and readily available?  Fine.  Send him out, but use a blind resumé until you get a commitment to interview.  This may be a class B assignment.  But is this a class A?  That is, should you conduct an active recruiting campaign combined with the fact that this is a “hard-to-fill” position?  I wouldn’t.

Even better-than-average search consultants will overlook opportunities to properly direct the client and thus increase the chances of a successful hiring process. The true professional will take full advantage of chances to do so at all times. The ability to alertly turn minor comments into definite gains is one that comes only with experience, correct training and a continuous determination to excel.

Will this specific area of improvement enable you to complete a search that would otherwise not have come to fruition? While you may never know for sure, at some point the answer will be yes.

Consider, as an example, that if you have 12 offers extended over a year and you have improved your odds by only 8%, that is an extra fee each year that would otherwise not have occurred. Over a 20-year career for yourself, that’s an extra 20 fees!

Some areas which may be thought of as “fine points“ will yield increased production on a cumulative basis. These are frequently overlooked, yet will move you closer to the income you deserve and to the professionalism you can achieve.

This is one of them.
Finkel's newest book Breakthrough! 2.0 is specifically designed to increase the production of highly tenured successful recruiters. It is available in hard copy or digital download at his website,<click to see table of contents)

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