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When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not coconuts
Find the ‘no’.
Welcome to the next article.
Many recruiters believe recruitment to be a sales career.
I see it as a recruitment career that benefits from skills found in sales. It’s other things too.
With a focus on sales, the objective is usually to close the deal and get your yeses as quickly as possible.
In a competitive marketplace, with a focus on transactional processes, that’s understandable.
What if this was the wrong way to think when recruiting for key hires?
What if we found the no’s as quickly as possible instead, and how might that benefit everyone?
One key difference between sales and recruitment is that in sales you have a seller who sells a product to a buyer.
When the transaction is complete the product won’t change its mind.
While in recruitment employers and candidates are buyers, sellers, and products who can change their mind, for intrinsic and extrinsic reasons.
The irony is though that often they aren’t changing their minds at all, they’ve simply identified why they should have said no in the first place.
That discovery can happen at any point.
After an application - “Sorry, I didn’t realise how far the office was from home”
After a call - “It sounded great when we spoke, but then I realised I don’t want to work in Food”
After an interview, a job offer, or three months into a new role.
It’s not a sudden twist in the tale that leads to this No, it’s that they hadn’t been able to find the non-negotiable truth which made that role untenable.
How often have I spoken to a job seeker who told me “They offered me the role, but despite promising it was 100% remote, I’d need to go to an office 300 miles away once a week” or “Competitive salary turned out to be unacceptable”?
That and many other clearly fixed points wasted everyone’s time, even with good intentions.
Problems for the candidate and problems for the employer.
If it was never going to work, why wouldn’t you find that out as quickly as possible?
That’s where Occam’s Razor comes into play.
The Earl of Ockham was a thirteenth-century English scholar and friar, famous for this long-standing principle in problem-solving.
Presumably, he had a razor which he used to peel back layers of an onion to see what remained.
If not an onion, then assumptions at least.
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem
“Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” This translates into something like “the proposition that needs the fewest assumptions is usually the right one”.
I wonder if Arthur Conan Doyle nabbed it when writing this line for Sherlock Holmes “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.
Eliminate both assumptions and the impossible to find the truth.
In recruitment, the impossible is the non-negotiable no. Not to be confused with negotiable no’s which derive from false assumptions.
The truth is the right person for the job, not just a bum on a seat.
If we eliminate non-negotiable no’s and get to the manageable truth of negotiable no’s, we are left with viable candidates.
Another concept in sales is not to present objections. This means not giving your prospect information that may create doubt.
It’s an important concept if all you want is a yes, in a volume, competitive marketplace.
After all, if they don’t say yes to you now, you might lose the sale to a competitor’s identical product.
But it’s a terrible concept in a recruitment exercise that might lead to transformation, for the employer and for the candidate.
Think about those times you didn’t achieve the outcome you want in recruitment. If you drill deep with root cause analysis, can you say the reason was something you couldn’t have identified?
In fairness that happens all the time, with matters out of our control – illness, pregnancy, a change in circumstance, the economy tanking.
But if you could identify that reason early, why wouldn’t you? Face the issue that might create doubt and see if it is either non-negotiable or a false assumption.
Find the no.
I had a conversation with Ben Browning a few weeks back about a six-hour process with a candidate I had yet to submit, where they ultimately said no – and I saw this as a good outcome.
I saved the employer time in interviewing someone that would say No. I shared valuable feedback as to why this happened, which informed how they qualified other candidates.
The candidates they went on to interview were great and the job filled.
My coaching allowed the ‘no’ candidate to negotiate a better arrangement with their current employer. Quite the win. And they likely would have been a counteroffer withdrawal, had I not, given how their discussions played out.
That wasn’t six hours wasted, it was an integral part of reaching a successful result.
Were I purely yes motivated, banking on their positive decision, it might have been a huge setback, but my process is built on mitigating nos.
Did I say I haven’t ‘lost’ a candidate to counteroffer since 2008?
You’re probably wondering why I’m harping on about why to look for no’s rather than telling you how.
It’s because the mindset shift is what’s important, rather than the execution.
The execution is simple – work to your candidates’ needs, applying the principles I’ve covered in these not-a-newsletters.
Give clarity on compensation.
A true and fair, suitable and sufficient job description.
Adverts based on AIDE or your preferred copywriting approach.
Critical path interview processes.
Eliminate ambiguity and assumption, and provide clarity.
No easy task it’s true, but a simple set of tasks that is achievable and works for key hires, problem vacancies and ‘new role’ recruitment.
The roles I recruit for with a 100% fill rate and 4-year tenure. And why I offer a 1-year free replacement guarantee that’s only been used twice in 12 years of trading.
But rather than this being a boast, it’s a promise.
These bulletins show the pared-back truth of how I recruit, which you can apply too, for roles where a transactional approach is ineffectual.
The next journal is about how you can encourage the wrong readers not to apply while making the same an attraction point for ideal readers. It’s called ‘Negative space’.
Thanks for reading.
P.s. This might-be-a-missive was originally called “When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not unicorns” alluding to the diagnostic process in medicine. Daryl Hewison, off of LinkedIn, rightly changed my mind - for this reason.
P.p.s. While you are here, if you like the idea of improving how you recruit, lack capacity or need better candidates, and are curious how I can help, these are my services:
- Go-to-Market, Operational and Technical leadership recruitment
- manage part or all of your recruitment on an individually designed basis for one client
- recruitment coaching and mentoring
- recruitment strategy setting
- outplacement support
Just hit reply to check if my approach is right for you.