“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”
– Dale Carnegie
Once, early in my career, I accepted a new role despite my misgivings about the position. The recruiter talked me into it. Female engineers were quite a rare find in the late 90s and recruiters were constantly approaching me with engineering opportunities. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t stay in the position for long and in hindsight, I should’ve backed my instincts and walked away from the opportunity.
The ‘hard sell’ is rarely effective in the long term (particularly within an executive search context). I’ve seen it at work in business, as well as that personal experience working as an engineer. I don’t blame the recruiter for the outcome by the way – it was my choice to take the job against my better judgement, but the experience has shaped my approach to recruiting as an executive search consultant.
As a hiring manager, you may have observed that candidates who were subjected to a hard sell, more often than not, withdraw at some stage of the recruitment process. They’ll find an excuse to pull out, accept a counter-offer or won’t be a long-term hire if they do join the company. It’s not a great result for anyone: HR, the hiring manager, the recruiter or the candidate – not to mention the significant cost to the business in beginning the whole process again. Ethical and professional recruiters seek to add value to their clients on a long-term basis and are not simply seeking short-term commercial gain.
Passive candidates, who form a major part of the executive search process, may express a little hesitation and reluctance on first approach. This is completely normal and does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in discussing the role further. However, there’s a big difference between informing a candidate about an opportunity and delivering a sales pitch.
My approach includes fostering dialogue with a prospective candidate and providing them with as much information as possible on the role. Once it is established that their skills, culture fit, remuneration and career goals are a good match, I encourage them to participate in a discussion with my client, as position descriptions are no substitute for a face-to-face meeting and the insights that are obtained through that discussion.
Should the candidate then decide that the opportunity is not one they wish to pursue, I respect their decision, thank them for considering the role and do not press the matter further. This approach has allowed me to forge trusting and long term relationships with my candidates; they understand that I will respect their views, will listen and am not purely driven by commercial considerations. Similarly, my clients have confidence that I’m representing them in the market in a professional way and respecting all candidates throughout the process.
Personally, I still suffer from the inevitable disappointment when an ideal candidate decides not to proceed with a role. It’s particularly hard if I feel that the opportunity meets their expressed goals and would provide them with a chance to further grow and develop professionally. However, nobody likes a pouting recruiter and it’s futile – not to mention unprofessional – to let that shape your behaviour or treatment of the candidate.
It’s important to remember that there are usually other factors involved that may be guiding a candidate’s decision (which they may not feel comfortable disclosing), and it’s not possible to address every contingency. In fact some of these individuals have returned to me in later years, when I have had the pleasure of placing them in their next role, whilst others have engaged me as a consultant.
It’s risky changing jobs. Candidates are acutely aware of the need to perform in the role within a new organisation and team, long after an executive search consultant has moved on to their next assignment. So forget the hard sell and take my advice: Behaving professionally, respectfully, ethically and with complete transparency always yields positive results in the long term.