How to Respond to the 3 Most Common Passive Candidate Objections

There are two types of recruiters.

One type uses strong sourcing skills to build a pool of fully skilled active candidates.

The other type relies on strong networking skills to quickly identify 20-30 performance-qualified passive candidates and, using sophisticated recruiting techniques, convinces 4-5 of them to become serious candidates. Since passive candidates often need a lot more convincing and easily bring up objections, I wanted to share a few scripts you can use when a candidate balks. These scripts are from the Recruiter’s online handbook we provide as part of our Performance-based Hiring recruiter workshop:

1. Candidate says "I’m not interested." or "I’m not looking for a job now."

Use the following script to engage a person who says he/she is not interested in exploring another situation. The key to this dialogue is to find out if the person is truly not interested, or if he/she is just putting you off for one reason or another.

Response: I can fully appreciate that. I’ve probably caught you off guard and it’s an idea that you haven’t thought about recently, but let me ask the question differently. I‘ll take the initial question off the table and make it future tense instead. In this case, if an opportunity developed in the future that offered a positive career move, would you then at least be willing to talk about it?

2. Candidate is open to talk but wants to know what the compensation is first.

Often candidates are willing to talk but overemphasize the compensation as a criteria for engaging in a conversation. The following script reverses this pattern by putting the salary issues in the parking lot and emphasizing the career opportunity.

Response : Let me say this right away – if you‘re the right person for the job and you‘re interested in the company and the company is interested in you, the compensation package won‘t be the issue.

What I‘ve discovered is that many candidates and hiring managers put up short-term conditions before they even decide to have a short discussion about a new situation. My role is to determine if the job match is a good fit, and if so, work the compensation package to meet everyone‘s needs. This allows everyone to come out ahead.

The first conversation with me is purely exploratory so nothing ventured, nothing gained. There‘s no cost to talk for 5 or 10 minutes. From this I‘ll get a sense if you‘re qualified for the job, unqualified, or over-qualified. If you were over-qualified, you wouldn‘t take an offer if one was ever made anyway, so it doesn‘t make sense to start setting up conditions now. If you‘re a perfect fit, the compensation package must meet your needs or you wouldn‘t accept an offer.

It seems to me we should at least take the first step. If we‘re not mutually interested in pursuing the job, we‘ll stop. If it makes mutual sense to pursue it, we‘ll schedule another phone call to get into your background and the job in more depth.

3. Candidate is playing hard to get and asks a lot of questions.

Sometimes candidates are interested in talking about a job but ask too many pre-qualifying questions. This script offers a direct frontal attack and allows the recruiter to regain control of the conversation.

Response : Sometimes setting up preconditions can work against you. A candidate has much more leverage as the finalist than when just starting the process.

To me, it seems like we should just spend a few minutes confirming if there is a job match here, and if so, figure out how to proceed. If you are the right person, you wouldn‘t take an offer unless it made sense. You‘d balance the compensation package with the growth opportunity. The company is also more likely to be more flexible with someone who is a great fit.

What I‘d like to do is use this first call to learn a little about you, and for you to learn a little about the job. With this information, we can then mutually determine if it makes sense to proceed. Let me just ask you a few questions about your background and then I‘ll give you a quick overview of the job.

By scripting responses to common concerns like these, a recruiter is able to engage with many more passive candidates. This way the recruiter is able to qualify or disqualify the candidate without giving away too much information. If the person is not a perfect fit for the job, the recruiter can then search on the person’s connections using LinkedIn Recruiter and proactively get some perfect referrals.

While recruiting passive candidates takes more skill than sourcing active candidates, the result is stronger people being seen and hired. You need to persist though and not take “no” for an answer.