Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"I’ll Be Back"… Don’t Take “No” For An Answer

What is your first response when a prospective candidate tells you “no”?  Remember in the movie, The Terminator, when Arnold said his famous line, “I’ll be back”?   All recruiters should take this to heart… it should be our mantra, especially in this market.  How many times have you had candidates tell you that they were not interested in your job?  Maybe they were happy with their current role, not the right time to make a move, looking for a different type role, couldn’t relocate, looking for a higher level role to make a move… we have heard them all.  If you haven’t then you aren’t doing your job properly.  And by your job, I mean building relationships with your prospective candidates.  

Being trained as an agency recruiter has many advantages.  We are taught never to take “no” for an answer.  In fact, on my first recruiting job they told me that I would hear “no” at least 5 times before getting to a “yes” and they gave me a long list of how to overcome typical objections.  The key learning here was that if someone said no, they were engaged in the conversation and giving me the opportunity to turn that no into a yes.  The rule of thumb was that you make your pitch and then shut up… the next person to speak loses.  This brings back memories of very, very long silences over my desk telephone while I was waiting for the person I was speaking with to say “no” or “not yet” or “not now”.  (Yes, I said telephone… we used to actually cold call prospective candidates to recruit them.  Does anyone else remember dialing for dollars???)

Fast forward many, many years to today and these principles still hold true as a corporate recruiter and perhaps even more so in the executive search world.  My world now is all about building relationships with the people I talk to, promoting my company, creating awareness, being a brand ambassador and helping them find the right opportunity here.  Just having conversations about our company values, new products and technologies, global expansion, company culture and personal growth and development can keep me talking to people for 10 – 15 minutes.  And they really get excited when they hear these things!  (Of course it doesn't hurt to work for one of the best companies in the world.) 

Many times just having that initial conversation with a candidate will get them thinking about outside opportunities and before you know it, they are looking at what else is out there.  Especially when they had a bad day, a change in work or family situation, were passed up for promotion… you get the idea.  It all goes back to building that relationship with the prospective candidate.  Really listen to them and figure out what they want and the best path to get them there. 

These days I’m finding that more and more of the candidates that told me “no” the first time are now actively seeking me out and asking for my help, even people I haven’t’ spoken with in years.  This is a win/win because it saves me time when they come to me with resumes in hand (most times they have seen a job posting that they are interested in and are asking for my help getting them to the hiring team) and I’m better able to help navigate them to the right group or business leader. 

Bottom line… the next time you hear “no” your response should be “I’ll be back”!