Candidate communication is such a regular part of a recruiter’s daily activity that it’s usually no big deal. Recruiters learn to have thick skins and are usually able to call candidates “out of the blue” with no real issue. However, calling certain groups of very accomplished candidates tend to make a lot of recruiters very uncomfortable.
You have probably experienced the dis-empowering phenomena of “candidate awe.” If you recruit for software developers, remember what you thought before you called the guy who wrote a bestseller on coding C#? Or if you recruit sales people, remember calling up the gal who sold a quarter of the ads for a major television network? Or having coffee with a guy who made your last year’s salary before his breakfast? These kind of candidates can intimidate even the most tenured recruiters.
The reality is that these types of high powered candidates are no different than anyone else. In fact, most recruiters shouldn’t really spend too much time with these candidates because a lot of them tend to be rather “un-placeable.” However, if you have the right job for them and/or if you are looking to network at high levels within a particular industry, getting to know these types of candidates is critical to recruiting success. A lot of recruiters bag the whole idea of calling and networking with very accomplished candidates because it’s just too intimidating. Candidate awe is a real thing and it can be a wet towel to the fire of your recruiting career.
Here are few tips on how to beat back candidate awe.
- Candidate qualification is often easier: Most regular candidates have rather vague life goals, small expectations for their careers and salaries, and a sense of embarrassment about their own self-interest. For a recruiter, candidate confusion about their career and uncertainty about their ambitions is actually a very difficult problem. With “regular level” candidates, it’s often difficult to truly assess their needs because of these factors. Know that the most successful candidates often have highly “quantifiable” requirements. Very successful candidates tend to be clear about their expectations – instead of expecting a more difficult qualification process, expect an easier one. Executive level and high powered candidates will often tell you exactly what they need for a career change and nail down their salary expectations without pause.
- They’re only human: Everybody had to start somewhere. When you are approaching high powered candidates, it’s important to understand where they came from – it gives you candidate background, but also an empowered and grounded sense of reality. When looking at their resume or the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, look for their “big break.” Try to pinpoint the pivotal moment in that person’s career that made them leapfrog regular candidates. It might a long stay at one Fortune 500 company, being at a startup that got bought out for a lot of money, an odd jump in job title, or being involved with a big business deal. Knowing where the candidate got their big break not only gives you something to talk about with the candidate, but it also reminds you that they’re not a god. They’re just another resume to sling.
- They’re lucky to get your call: When you start wondering if you should call a very successful candidate because they are probably happy in their position, know that you are wrong. That candidate could be happier. They could make more money, work less, stay at home, or have a better job title. In a certain sense, everyone wants a new job. As a recruiter, remember that your task is very easy – you are “selling” something that everyone wants. Before you pick up the call, force yourself to assume that the candidate on the other end of the call wants and needs to talk to you. You’re providing a service and that powerful candidate is lucky to get your call.
- Hit the downside: Every successful candidate made sacrifices to get where they are. Remember the downsides of each candidate’s career and job before you make the call. That busy executive doesn’t remember what his kids look like. The high powered salesperson probably has self-validation issues and a chip on their shoulder. The top programmer probably has bad eyesight, carpal tunnel, and ganglion cysts. Remember the negative things about their success and also, (vaguely) hit upon these downsides in your conversations with the candidate. “Man, I could never travel that much…” “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work.” Chances are that the candidate really doesn’t like the obvious flaws in their job.
- You’re as good as they are: The last but perhaps most important consideration for beating back candidate awe is to remember that you are as good as they are. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out in recruiting or if you live at home with your mom. As soon as you realize that you yourself and your career is fundamentally as important as the candidates, your recruiting will get a lot better and your career will flourish.
Did you know that candidate awe kills more recruiting careers every year than car accidents, dental decay, and heart disease combined? Don’t let it happen to you! What are some of the most “important” candidates that you’ve ever called or met with? What do you do to keep yourself grounded and confident?