When I posted a recent discussion about changing my attitude in approching the closing of candidates, I got a lot of feedback about whether or not I should have made the adjustment at all. Seems it boiled down to whether or not I was still asking the tough questions - which is of course what we get paid for; the ones that some recruiters simply don't want the answers to, but that good recruiters know are cruicial to the success of a placement.

What we didn't touch on was what those tough questions are. I've been thinking about this since a discussion on the Recruiting Animal Show, when one recruiter (whom I hold in high regard) disliked one of the closing questions that was a staple for me in my consulting days.

The question was "If the manager calls to let me know he/she would like to extend an offer, and the details are what we have discussed, can I accept on your behalf?"

The question served me well, while I never did actually accept on the candidates behalf, if they told me yes I knew my deal was in good shape. But we all know, different strokes for different folks. So..... I'd be interested to learn what some of your tough questions are. How do you approach the close with a candidate? When do you ask these questions and do you ever find yourself not asking them, afraid of the answer? Maybe we can help each other out here with some fresh ideas for keeping us well informed through the recruiting process, without overstepping bounds and being bullies!

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Different approaches work for different people, and I know of other recruiters who say something similar about accepting on the candidate's behalf. To me, that's too pushy and even a little condescending, used car salesman-ish, as if you don't trust the candidate to accept, so you have to do it for them. :) I take a softer approach, but basically getting the same info, something along the lines of, "Great, so you're telling me that you're excited about this position. Is it your top choice? So, if they were to offer X today, you would be ready to accept?" How they answer these very direct questions will let you know where you stand. If they hesitate on accepting and say, "well I would have to know what the offer is and then I would consider it." If they answer that way, then you need to dig a little, ask them what will be their deciding factor. It's not always the money, but it often is, and sometimes just a matter of one to five thousand dollars more can mean a yes or no. You need to find that out before the offer is extended.

Candidates will often want time to consider an offer, to see what the mystery number will be, and you need to know if this is of serious interest or just a delaying tactic while they wait for something else. One thing I've done in the final stages to see how 'closed' they are is to say, "let's pretend that you have all the information, that the offer is x and the benefits are y. If that is what it comes in at, would you be inclined to accept?" They usually say yes, and then I'll add, "great, we should have the offer then in a few days, once its been approved and signed off on, so there won't be anything to think about at this point, once it comes in, you can accept and work out a start date. I encourage them to think about the offer long before the offer is extended. There will be no surprises in the offer, except occasionally it might be a little higher than we anticipated, which is always a nice bonus. I like to provide the candidate with as much information about the offer ahead of time so they can do that thinking process and then the end result is when the client makes the offer it is accepted and everything goes smoothly and both candidate and client are excited.

The most important thing though is to ask them every time you talk to them, 'so what else has changed since we last spoke? where else have you been? is this still your top choice?' Not asking those questions are what causes deals to not happen. If you don't have the information, you can't do anything except cross your fingers and hope they take it....which doesn't work so well.
Agree completely, and some great suggestions in here Pam! Especially when you don't know what the $$$ offer will be (I did in most cases so that part was usually already negotiated before hand). One other pointed question I like is after an interview, "what other information will you need before you are prepared to make a decision?" That one is good so you can address any of their concerns with the hiring manager before an offer is even drafted.

One question though, if you ask a candidate to pretend "let's pretend that you have all the information, that the offer is x and the benefits are y. If that is what it comes in at, would you be inclined to accept?" what happens if it comes in lower? Has that ever presented a problem for you or do you always have that information up front?
Pam - reading your reply gave me the idea the we must have worked together in a former life! Your post was right on the money - especially the "what has changed since we last spoke?" question. It is in my top 10 that's for sure. I would even add to make sure you don't just make a statement like "nothing's changed, has it?" because that is a whole different thing. They'll always just agree.....and you'll get no new information. Believe me - people in career transition ARE gathering new information ALL THE TIME and we need to STAY ON TOP OF IT........
Becky, When you mention the Recruiting Animal Show, you're supposed to give me a link
Whoops, right you are! Always forgetting those links...

Recruiting Animal said:
Becky, When you mention the Recruiting Animal Show, you're supposed to give me a link
This is a very good discussion. I will discuss it with Claudia today if I have a chance - tho I might not.
It could be another good panel discussion on the show.
Becky,

It will never come in lower. :) We don't have that conversation until I know what the client can do. You set yourself up for complete failure if you close them on a number higher than the offer.

~Pam

Becky Metcalf said:
Agree completely, and some great suggestions in here Pam! Especially when you don't know what the $$$ offer will be (I did in most cases so that part was usually already negotiated before hand). One other pointed question I like is after an interview, "what other information will you need before you are prepared to make a decision?" That one is good so you can address any of their concerns with the hiring manager before an offer is even drafted.

One question though, if you ask a candidate to pretend "let's pretend that you have all the information, that the offer is x and the benefits are y. If that is what it comes in at, would you be inclined to accept?" what happens if it comes in lower? Has that ever presented a problem for you or do you always have that information up front?
Rayanne,

Great point about the counteroffer. I'll just add that you need to ask that in the pre-closing stage, but it's absolutely essential that you have discussed possibility of a counter-offer long before that point. I do it in the very first conversation, "So, you've had a great career with your company, have you given thought to what you'll do when they make you a counteroffer?" I present it as a given, that they will get one, so that they are expecting it, and understand that it's not in their best interest to accept it. I also emphasize when they say they won't get one, they they probably will be surprised when they do get one. By explaining this all in the beginning conversations and again in the pre-close, you are really diffusing a potentially difficult situation. When they expect the counter-offer, they are more inclined to understand the reasoning behind it, and to be less emotional, less flattered.....and yes, much less inclined to take it. That's what I've found. Explaining it, actually makes them a little annoyed either that they don't get one, or that they do, and are now being offered the salary raise that the company said they couldn't afford previously.

Rayanne said:
As soon as I know that my client or the HM wants to extend an offer, I go back to the candidate and ask what it would take to land them, as far as money goes... if they give me a number I know my client isn't going to offer I ask, "Does that mean you won't accept $XXX ?" Then if that is squared away and the candidate is already employed somewhere I ask, "Would you consider a counter offer form your current employer?" Oh, they won't come back with one... "But what if they do?" You need to push so that you are prepared for anything. Then keep your client or HM in the loop; they must be kept informed about potential roadblocks to an acceptance, and possible decline or reconsideration.

I love Pam's suggestion about finding out what has changed. I will definitely add that to my list of questions. It's always good to know if they have any other irons in the fire that are heating up...
No candidate should ever trust a recruiter.

Your goal is not to get her what she wants. It's to make a placement. Those two goals do not totally coincide.
So when he's telling you what his low number is, he has to know that you're feeding this info to the client - who is paying you.

Sandy has an interesting approach to this problem. She says, "You might be able to get him for the low number but if you really want him, you have to shoot high."

Not all recruiters are like Sandy. And even if they are, may clients will start at the low number and work their way up if they have to.

Steven Levitt in Freakonomics showed that real estate agents urge their clients to accept lower offers than they would themselves because they want to close the deal.

They might not admit it but when their own homes are on the market they leave them there longer.
I disagree with you. If I'm representing a candidate, I'm working on his/her behalf to get them the best offer, not the lowest that they'll take. However, I need to know what the lowest number is so that I can convey to the client several numbers, he/she really wants X, would be happy if you can at least do Y, and may accept Z, but if you want them to really be excited about the job, get as close to X as possible. Most clients understand this. It's not about getting a candidate at the lowest possible number, it's about getting the best candidate, making them feel good about the company and the offer.

Recruiting Animal said:
No candidate should ever trust a recruiter.

Your goal is not to get her what she wants. It's to make a placement. Those two goals do not totally coincide.
So when he's telling you what his low number is, he has to know that you're feeding this info to the client - who is paying you.

Sandy has an interesting approach to this problem. She says, "You might be able to get him for the low number but if you really want him, you have to shoot high."

Not all recruiters are like Sandy. And even if they are, may clients will start at the low number and work their way up if they have to.

Steven Levitt in Freakonomics showed that real estate agents urge their clients to accept lower offers than they would themselves because they want to close the deal.

They might not admit it but when their own homes are on the market they leave them there longer.
If getting what a candidate wants and making a placement don't coincide, how are you getting candidates to take positions that don't match up with what they are seeking? I've always felt (even when I was a bully) that if I sold a job that wasn't a match it was going to come back to bite me - even if they take the job, do they stay? Even if my guarantee period is up when they leave, will they come back to me to help place them again? And how will my client feel about this in the long run if I knowingly put people to work for them who didn't want to be there?

And, if you are placing perms on a fee, isn't that usually a percentage? Meaning of course, aren't we interested in getting the best offer for our candidates - if not for their good, for our own?

I guess if we are talking about making a placement at any cost....

Recruiting Animal said:
No candidate should ever trust a recruiter.

Your goal is not to get her what she wants. It's to make a placement. Those two goals do not totally coincide.
So when he's telling you what his low number is, he has to know that you're feeding this info to the client - who is paying you.

Sandy has an interesting approach to this problem. She says, "You might be able to get him for the low number but if you really want him, you have to shoot high."

Not all recruiters are like Sandy. And even if they are, may clients will start at the low number and work their way up if they have to.

Steven Levitt in Freakonomics showed that real estate agents urge their clients to accept lower offers than they would themselves because they want to close the deal.

They might not admit it but when their own homes are on the market they leave them there longer.
Becky,

Totally agree. There are recruiters who are just trying to make placements with little regard for what's best for the candidate. Those recruiters don't generally stay in the business long. They also tend to have high fall-off ratios. I hate fall-offs. When you make a good match, ensuring that the job really is a great opportunity for the candidate, then you don't have to worry about fall-offs. You also benefit from more candidate referrals to other great candidates, and those happy candidates tend to stay at their jobs longer, and then call you with orders when they are looking to hire. The good karma approach really does work.

~Pam

Becky Metcalf said:
If getting what a candidate wants and making a placement don't coincide, how are you getting candidates to take positions that don't match up with what they are seeking? I've always felt (even when I was a bully) that if I sold a job that wasn't a match it was going to come back to bite me - even if they take the job, do they stay? Even if my guarantee period is up when they leave, will they come back to me to help place them again? And how will my client feel about this in the long run if I knowingly put people to work for them who didn't want to be there?

And, if you are placing perms on a fee, isn't that usually a percentage? Meaning of course, aren't we interested in getting the best offer for our candidates - if not for their good, for our own?

I guess if we are talking about making a placement at any cost....

Recruiting Animal said:

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