Dear Claudia,

Recently I have been experiencing a large number of people hanging up on me. What is driving the increase of this kind of behavior? Is it because my searches have been targeting the "Open Source" community (more radical "techies"), or do "greenhorns" just not know how to properly conduct themselves? What fosters such negativity to the recruiting community in general?

Sal Petrara

Hi Sal,

You're describing classic rude behavior -- and there are lots of reasons why people act this way, according to those who track these things. You mentioned two reasonable possibilities (although this research might indicate that you're dialing for dollars among the elderly), but one doesn't have to look far in the recruiting community to see the disconnect (sorry, bad joke) between prospects and recruiters.

Maybe it's what you suggested. Or maybe it's you? Most often the truth lies somewhere between extremes. You can't avoid rude people -- but you can be accountable for your part in the exchange with them. When I need a reality check for my own fishing skills I go back to the basics:

1. Do the homework.
One of the biggest complaints of passive candidates is that recruiters don't know the basics before engaging them in that first conversation (check this out for lots of real world examples). If you are working from a list of names, try a simple Google search to learn something - anything - about the person you're calling; you might just learn that your purpose and their experience aren't in sync, and you've added value to both of your days by asking them a more relevant question ("who do you know?" instead of "does this sound interesting?").

2. Ask permission.
Is it a good time for a short conversation? Don't assume that you're the interruption they've been waiting for all day; the candidate had a life before you called, and will go back to it after hanging up the phone. Your opening line should address who you are, why you're calling, and then give them the control for what happens next. "My name is Claudia, and I recruit in your industry. I'd like 5 minutes of your time; can we speak now?" Short and sweet.

3. Get to the point.
Before you pick up the phone, hone your message. Write down your points, or the entire script if you need to, so you can present the opportunity in less than a minute. Think speed dating, and go for the highlights; remember that if you end with a question, you respectfully put the option of continuing where it belongs: back in the hands of the candidate.

4. Don't take it personally.
Cardinal rule of cold calling: "No" happens. Give yourself credit for a respectful approach, and move on.

And if all else fails and you simply must retaliate, consider a reverse phone campaign with the goal of hanging up before they do. I'd block caller ID first, though.

Happy recruiting.

In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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Great advice! We (in our office) occassionally have to reminded ourselves to use these coping skills when confronted with bizarre behavior. Keep on keeping on...
Great advice Claudia, hang in there Sal - hang ups happen no matter what, everyone has their own "defense mechanisms" for getting rid of recruiters/ it rude? Absolutely- but most people have a bad taste in their mouth from another bad experience and they most often will take it out on the next guy. I often try these same hang up people later in the day or the following day- sometimes you may have just caught them at a bad time (no excuse regardless, but you cannot always make the assumptions that all people are rude all the time)

The only thing you can control is how many calls you make and the quality of your techniques.
Rob, I really like that you come back around to the hang-ups one more time to eliminate the assumptions. Any sense of how many surprise you in a positive way on the second try?
Thanks Claudia, funny thing about it- when I first started in the business I would get so angry that I would call right back immediately- and more times than not they just hung up again.

However I began to realize that if I gave them some time to change their state of mind, many times it had a more positive impact- and you learn that they thought you were someone else, or they had a bad experience, or just experienced a tragedy, or maybe just something as simple as phone trouble. So it is somewhat suprising - and I think it definitely puts things into perspective when you find things like that out.

People all have different reasons for their behavior, and for many it stems from bad experiences from others.
Very helpful Claudia... I will keep a note of it ~~ :) keep on coming.. (esp. like #4)
Sal, occasional hang ups are par for the course in recruiting. If you are experiencing hang ups on a regular basis, it may be time to fine tune your message. Some of the things that work for me:

(1) Not introducing myself as a recruiter. I let them figure it out through the course of the conversation.

(2) Tailoring my message to what's in it for them.

(3) Rehearsing my script instead of reading it.

Hope that helps Sal!
You make a really good point about the impact of positive experience on the prospect's willingness to take your call the next time. Never underestimate the power of candidate experience!

Maren Hogan said:

These are pehnomenal points. SO many times, it's easy enough to chalk it up to rudeness but the best of best practices is to ensure that our delivery is respectful of their time and professional background (so far as we can unearth it) and then to be able to walk away from the call knowing we did all we could to engage them. One more thing the research and streamlined phone manner does, is make sure your call gets taken the next time.
Scott, I'm curious to learn more about how you tailor your message to "what's in it for them" on an initial cold call?

Scott Godbey said:
Some of the things that work for me:

(1) Not introducing myself as a recruiter. I let them figure it out through the course of the conversation.

(2) Tailoring my message to what's in it for them.

(3) Rehearsing my script instead of reading it.

Hope that helps Sal!
Im new to this so excuse the late reply.....

You're trying to sell to someone, how can you be sure that is what they want, chances are they will carry on in the job they are doing unless someone highlights reasons to look else where? Once you have qualified that the person is happy to give you a few minutes of there time try an open questions, something simple like what frustrates them in their current job, this approach is two fold: you're giving the person the opportunity to talk (which lets be honest most of us like to do!) and also they are giving you all the reasons/ammunition to talk about finding a new role and eliminating some of those frustrations!

On the flip side some people are just plain rude....and then you need to ask yourself do you want to help this person? Sometimes we just got to move on..
Good morning all! Seems like I need to clarify a couple of things. Tailoring my message was probably not the best choice of words. Any presentation I put together, I design from point of view of how this may be beneficial for the prospective candidate/client. Many recruiting presentations I've received (both before and as a recruiter) were all about what the recruiter wanted or needed. A perspective candidates or clients care about themselves first and foremost. On an initial call, they really don't care what's in it for you.

There is a stigma attached to our industry. Negative attitudes about recruiters do exist. I have heard so many horror stories from clients and candidates about unethical and incompetent recruiters. Consequently, the word recruiter has a negative connotation for some. If that's the case for whomever I'm calling, not mentioning my title allows the recipient the opportunity to listen to the message and not prejudge.

Hope that provides some clarity to my initial post. Have a great weekend!

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