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.

Developing a Hybrid Talent Strategy for Recruiting & Hiring Passive Candidates

Over the past few years, I’ve made the contention that there are two job markets – one that’s public for all to see, and the other hidden. The hidden job market is created when a hiring manager thinks about filling a job. If the job can’t be filled internally or through a referral, it then goes public.

There are significant advantages to filling jobs in the hidden market due to more flexibility in how the jobs are structured and compensated. When jobs go public, they’re overdosed with an endless checklist of requisite skills, salary ranges, experience requirements, educational needs, competencies and personality traits.

In a recent LinkedIn Influencer post I introduced the public vs. hidden job market as a means to highlight the differences between how active and passive job seekers are sourced and hired. This comparison is shown in the graphic.hybrid-talent-strategy

Here’s the quick summary:

  • Most companies seek out active job seekers in the public market using a weed out the weak process – shown as Zone AP. Here candidates are force-fitted into jobs that are, at best, lateral transfers. I contend this is the root cause of why employee disengagement is a whooping 68%!
  • Active job seekers who want better jobs or who don’t meet the traditional requirements need to hack-a-job in the hidden market as shown by Zone AH. Here they have a chance to demonstrate their ingenuity and performance rather then justify why they don’t meet a “perfect” set of arbitrary requirements.
  • Passive job seekers represent the bulk of the talent market. To hire them they first need to be recruited and then offered positions that provide job stretch and upside opportunity. The best approach is represented by Zone PH. When done properly, the result is a more engaged, high performing workforce.
  • Unfortunately, most companies struggle with hiring passive candidates by using the appropriate high-tech processes to source them, but not enough high-touch to recruit and hire them. This is represented by Zone PP.

The graphic outlines some ideas on how to design a hybrid talent acquisition strategy for any company interested in seeing and hiring more qualified candidates, whether active or passive. Here are a few that stand out:

1. Attract the best.

Emphasize an attract-the-best approach, versus a weed-out-the-week approach to recruitment advertising. Eventually all job candidates will review the public job posting to learn more about the job. When the job emphasizes the learning, doing and becoming rather than the skills required, you’ll attract more of those looking for career moves and less of those who will accept a lateral transfer.

2. Implement a hub-and-spoke sourcing model.

By clustering similar jobs onto a microsite, candidates can have the most suitable jobs presented to them rather than requiring them to hunt and peck for one that best matches their skills. The top level of the microsite needs to describe the range of jobs available and how they relate to important company initiatives. This will induce more passive and less active candidates to “browse.” These people can then be converted into more engaged followers.

3. Implement job branding.

Job branding involves incorporating the intrinsic motivators the best people use when evaluating new job opportunities. This needs to be the basis of any type of recruitment advertising copy, whether it’s a posting, voice mail or email.

4. Track passive candidate yield from sourcing to recruiting to hiring.

Getting 100 strong people interested in your opening is a waste of time if only a few are hired. By tracking these six metrics, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your recruiting processes that need to be closed.

5. Use needs analysis to qualify candidates, not box checking.

Needs analysis involves comparing a candidate’s abilities and aspirations in his or her current situation to what your job offers. If big enough, the difference represents the career opportunity. It’s better to modify the job to increase the stretch and growth, rather than the compensation. This whole process is called recruiting.

6. Use a performance-based approach for assessing candidates.

To ensure all candidates are assessed properly based on their ability and motivation to do the work, we suggest giving them this PowerPoint template as a means to have them formally document and present their qualifications. By giving them the questions ahead of time and having hiring managers review their answers, assessment accuracy is increased. This type of Performance-based Interviewing approach is essential with passive candidates, since the recruiting piece is embedded in the questioning.

Recruiting and hiring the best active and passive candidates requires a hybrid high-touch, high-tech process. By attracting the best and modifying the positions to meet their needs, it’s possible to focus on what really matters to them: the long-term career opportunity. Collectively, this is how a company not only raises the talent level of every person hired, but also maximizes employee engagement, performance and job satisfaction.

*Image by Romain Guy