Last week I had the opportunity to meet with and learn from recruiting legend Lou Adler. Lou has been recruiting for forty years, has written several best-selling books and currently does corporate training regarding his concept of performance based hiring. While there were many things I was able to take away from my full day with Lou, I wanted to share three things that I learned that will completely shift the way I recruit. Now while some of these may seem like simple concepts at first glance, I would urge you to really put thought into his tips and fully apply them. In recruiting, it's really easy to fall into a rut, get lazy and find yourself having formed a ton of bad habits. With that said, let’s get into 3 great Lou Adler recruiting tips that will make you a better recruiter.
We have all been there. We get a passive candidate on the phone for the first time and we immediately launch into selling them on the role, or finding out about what exactly it is that would interest them in terms of an opportunity. Lou Adler doesn’t do that. In fact, he wants that first conversation to be extremely simple and straight forward. He simply wants to sell the potential candidate on having an additional conversation. In Lou’s training he must have said “don’t sell the opportunity, sell the conversation” thirty times. He uses the specific verbiage “would you be open to having a conversation about an opportunity if it was clearly superior to what you are doing now?” That my friends, is what you call a loaded question. If you think about it, how can you say no to that? If they say yes, then you arrange a time for you two to talk at a time that’s convenient for them. Lou calls that “getting them on the bus”. You get as many good candidates on the bus as you can and you try to get the right ones to the final destination.
When you get a candidate on the phone and you start talking about the opportunity, one of the things that usually comes up right away is salary. Candidates want to know. Frankly, it makes sense. There is no point investing your time in something if at the end of the day you will end up being 20k apart on money. Anyone who has been doing recruiting for a significant period of time has been burnt by this at least once. I know I have. Lou again has a very different approach to this issue. Instead of vetting this component of finding out if it’s a match, Lou does the following instead. When a candidate asks what the salary is he says the following, "Hey Ben, let’s be really frank here. If the position doesn’t offer you the growth you are looking for then the money doesn’t matter. So let’s figure out if this is a career move first and then we can figure out the money."
Lou does this for two reasons. The first is that he always believes the money is negotiable. The second is that he wants to get the candidate into the conversation. When you talk to a candidate, if money is discussed right away they are going to want a significant bump. However, if you can talk to them and sell them on what hopefully is a fantastic opportunity, the compensation becomes only a piece of the puzzle as opposed to an immediate disqualifier.
This phrase is what Lou uses if he finds himself with a candidate choosing between his offer and the offer of another company. If you recruit for any significant length of time you will likely find yourself in a situation like this. Your client wants to make your candidate an offer and your candidate is going to decide between your offer and a competing offer. The fact of the matter is that sometimes this is simply unavoidable. As a recruiter you want to work with the best, most place-able candidates. Well if you plan on working with these types of candidates, you should be prepared for them to have multiple opportunities.
The way Lou tries to influence the decision of this candidate at this point in the process is to talk with the candidate about each opportunity and look at the pros and cons of each. If you find yourself in a situation where your role pays less or perhaps the title isn’t as nice, you are certainly in a bad spot. That being said, this doesn’t mean it’s game over. Look at the roles. What does your role offer that the other position does not?
In the scenario Lou told us about, his job was for less money and the title wasn’t as nice. However, the industry was stronger for his opportunity and the long term growth potential was significantly better than what the other role appeared to offer. So Lou told the candidate to think it over, but urged him not to make his decision just based off what he got on day one. He told him not just to look at what the opportunities offered him on day one, but what they offered him long term. He said to the candidate “don’t make a long term decision based off of short term information”. Hopefully you don’t find yourself in this position often, but if you do and you have a good opportunity, fight for it. In the story the candidate ended up taking Lou’s job and seven months later he had been promoted to a role more significant than both roles were at the offer stage. He called Lou to thank him and told him that moving forward he would make sure he always looked at the long term ramifications before making a decision and avoid falling into the trap of the short term reward.
Well there you have it. How many of us have found ourselves in a situation like this? I have lost out to candidates taking a different role and I wonder if I had used this verbiage, would it had made a difference? Quite possibly. If you haven’t seen or read any of Lou Adler’s stuff I encourage you to YouTube him. If you liked this post, I will be posting more take-aways from my conversation with Lou on my blog at http://www.gettingthejobhq.com, as well as some more of the tips he shared during the training. Thanks for reading and happy hunting!
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