SAY WHAT? You mean you never met that candidate!?

  By Frank Risalvato  |    Wednesday June 21, 2012

Category: Columns, Recruiting


Unless you work exclusively on mid six figure executive searches and are always paid a retainer and travel expenses – your probably one of thousands of recruiters that often refers candidates without actually meeting the candidate in a face to face situation.

This is an often "non discussed" yet sensitive topic which occasionally rears its head in ugly ways.

You've probably heard the statement "You mean you never met the candidate" from a client more than once.

I recall the first time in my recruiting career that I was confronted with this shocked reaction by a large company client I had just signed on. The tone used in discussing this matter with me seemed to indicate I should have felt as if I had "cheated" or done something naughty.

Yet I knew it took a three-person well trained recruiting team (two recruiters and one administrative coordinator) to pull that feat off. Here I was being hailed as a hero one minute, and assailed as a con-artist the next when it was discovered I did not meet the woman I placed.

I was on site visiting the company and surrounded by executives who all wanted to know who this wizard of search was that found the individual they failed to identify or hire on their own for nearly one year prior. In this particular case the position I had filled was titled "Western Hemisphere Director of financial analysis". Big Title. So-so salary. Nevertheless I was attempting to enhance the relationship by making an on site visit.

When the candidate appeared one of the observant managers immediately took notice that her and I did not recognize one another instantly. "Of course Frank you know Gloria … or should I introduce you two?" he sarcastically asked when realizing we didn't immediately recognize each other.

Another manager hopped into the dialogue with "You mean you never met her? What personnel service doesn't actually meet the candidate they're referring?" And so it went as each manager present repeated the comment as if they were well trained parrots.

Oh brother, I thought in my head. My meeting was rapidly spiraling out of control.

The year was around early nineteen nineties and by the end of that decade the advent of the internet, email, and rapid expectations of instantly transmitted resumes has greatly diminished the expectations of face-to-face meetings – especially for rank-and-file contingency searches scattered across state lines in industries where it is well known hot competition is breathing down the company's neck.

Having a script bailed me out of that situation a number of times since then.

I decided to write such a rebuttal I could use again and again for whenever this particular objection was raised. Interestingly enough – this topic was never covered by Anthony Byrne whom used to train our recruiters back then.

Here's what I came up with – simple, straightforward and honest.

I hope it helps you if you ever encounter the "What? You never met that candidate?" syndrome:

Employer: "You mean you never actually met the candidate?"


"Mr. Employer with all due respect the most difficult and time consuming aspect of any search is the searching process itself.

Ninety percent of our time is dedicated to contacting, network, communicating and establishing dialogue with hundreds of individuals in order to find the one elusive candidate worthy of referring to you.

Finding the candidate [emphasize this statement] is the most time consuming part of our efforts. This is where many of our competitors give up and fall short because they are not interested in dedicating the time necessary for achieving success.

Meeting the candidate once he or she has been discovered and identified is very easy in comparison to the searching aspect.

There would be no candidate for us to ever meet unless we invested hours each day over many weeks executing the search aspect properly to begin with.

Anyone can conduct a face to face meeting once a candidate is identified. It's the searching process that leads to identifying a candidate that presents the greatest need for skill and dedication."

Stated with confidence this usually takes care of this particular objection 90% of the time.
In those few instances where the client continues to be dumbfounded as to how you can be dealing with people in a people business and not meeting those people there may be other questions asked such as:

Client: "But how do you know if the person has the right image for us?"

A reply to this I usually provide is:

"I've conducted thousands of face to face and tens of thousands telephone interviews over my twenty years of search. In ninety-five percent of cases, my telephone interview assessments have coincided with what the face-to-face assessment would have concluded. Only in rare instances that take place around 2.5% of the time does someone thoroughly fool us in an in-depth telephone interview that would not have been able to do so in person.

Issues such as:

  • Split second pauses before a reply to an interview question
  • Split second hesitations to questions such as "Are you comfortable in a face to face sales environment"
  • And other factors...

Are all assessed as part of the "face to face" process that can be handled telephonically."

Beyond these two counter-objection steps – if the client continues balk I use this opportunity to upgrade the compensation or fee structure. After all … I'll do anything for the right dollar figure. Including flying to Syracuse, N.Y. in the middle of winter if my expenses are covered and the engagement fee or retainer justifies such.

If they wish for us to physically meet their candidates – fine provided we are compensated accordingly and the contract is re-drawn to specify such.


If a client finds out after the fact you never physically met the individual candidate, NEVER EVER allow that person to walk away believing you did not earn your fee or cut a corner. Truth is YOU DID EARN YOUR FEE. Every dime of it. Don't let them walk away believing otherwise.

Make certain you explain that the "finding" aspect of search … is precisely what they agreed to pay you for. Meeting someone is easy ... but meetings can be scheduled only by those select recruiters that actually find their candidates!

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