A comment made by Maureen on my recent blog post prompted a painful memory about a lesson learned about ineffective "push back". I thought I would bare my soul in hopes you may leave a note about a lesson you've learned as well.

One mistake I recall making was on the candidate side, early in my career I got cocky and began to take the gut instinct that I felt when a candidate didn’t respond well to my push back to mean it was always a red flag. I was proud of this notion; in fact I wore it brazenly as I conducted my follow ups after interviews, closing each candidate down every step of the way. “Locking them down” I called it.

One candidate made it all the way through this process with me, and came on board with my client. About 2 months into his project he came in to meet with our Consultant Representative and after the meeting she came to me. She told me the candidate shared with her that while he enjoyed working for our company and liked the project we had him on, he had felt bullied in the recruiting process. “Bullied”. It hit me like a brick wall. Anyone who knows me would be floored to know I had treated someone that way.

I would push and push until I was sure they were 110% committed, or do a take away – and in many cases I felt that I was justified because they took it. I shudder to think of how many solid candidates I screened out in this process, folks who walked away not because they weren’t committed to the opportunity, but because they weren’t committed to me – and rightly so! In reality they were exercising their own self-respect by walking away.

This is a difficult story to tell, as I am very embarrassed by it. I was determined that I would NOT give a candidate the opportunity to decline an offer, that I would always screen it out ahead of time, no matter the cost… I learned a great deal from being shown the error in my ways. I hope someone else may benefit from the lesson as well. Please, share your own learning experiences – good or bad, candidate or hiring manager – that helped shape your successful “push back” technique.

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Ahhh Maureen,

Love it. My company, when initially drafting and EEO policy wrote. "XYZ is a Bullying Fee environment". I loved it, thought I was on a little earner there. ie people could bully, they just had to pay for it, we hadn't disclosed the fee! I was in heaven.

Unfortunately the wowsers in HR re-read the policy and whacked the "r" in. Effectively giving my plan the "r"'s too. Shattered.

Maureen Sharib said:
I've come to the conclusion that what many of us NEED in this profession TODAY is bullying. This, after a pretty-thorough consideration.
I've found that I can be as professionally blunt as I need to be, if I first make sure the candidate is sold on the fact I'm looking out for his or her best interests.
I agree and I think this same advice can be extended to those of us in the recruitosphere looking to learn things.
I think there's been a lot of good ideas here. The best one is treat others as you expect to be treated,. If you expect honesty, integrity etc... and state it from the outset, you should get what you give most of the time.

I think bullying, in its broad sense, is a killer. With over 15 years in the biz there's always 2 ways to tell s person anything. Sometimes nice, sometimes not. You can still get your point across firmly without coming across like 90%+ of recruiters that are too cut-and-dry.

Being direct, honest and forthright works a great deal for me. It eliminates unqualified candidates fast.

One thing I always remember that was told to me by a 30+ years professional is the your candidates today are your clients tomorrow. Yes he got the job, but if they really didn't have a good process experience with you they may not call you in the future. If you were direct, up-front and respectful, then they have had the type of experience they know you will put candidate through when they call you as a client

my 2 cents
Hi Becky;
Great post. As Ernest Borgnine said in the movie "poseidon adventure", "You got a lotta guts lady, a lotta of guts!"
For admitting this.
I too had a similar revelation (circa 1997) going with my gut and pre-closing every other second.
My efforts and style were weeding out "A" candidates...
After going over a candidates background and personality with a fine tooth comb I decided not to submit this candidate. Alas Another recruiter did and this candidate got the job and later became a hiring manager remembering quite well how I DID NOT submit him.
Needless to say my placements at this company waned and waned...
I am a better recruiter for this though.

This was a great experience to share. I am not a big push back person. I like to think that most candidates would be willing to take the honest approach to interview (of course, I am not that naive to think it happens 100% of the time either).

To combat such challenges, I take the ego stroke and verify approach. It goes back to simple recruiting, but with the right pitch and tone, it is a softer way to "bully" the info you want from the candidate.

As an example, when I recruit for sales, I always get those "canned" sales pitch responses. So I let the candidate respond to introductory questions. As I get into their experiences. I pause to give attention to the next segment of conversation. Then I let them know what the client is looking for and ask them if they feel it is a skill or experience within their scope. I wait for the response, then I ask them to provide some clarification in the resume and provide additional examples for justification.

Often I find that those who had been bluffing will give you a less detailed response (so I dig deeper to find bluff or the real stuff). It's not as invasive, it comes across more as a concern to provide the right fit and you don't get dubbed as a "bully".

Again, thanks for sharing your experience!

Best regards,
Joe Flores
I think it's important to be open and honest with people...The hardcore ask them the tough questions "old school" recruiting tactics that we all learned coming up are what needs to be done in a lot of cases...But the way that you do this can be more casual and on the level with people...

In my experiences, I don't like to preface anything up front, as I work with a candidate through a process, we will probably have 20-25 interactions from first cold call to close, in that amount of time it is up to me as a recruiter to develop a relationship with them, and to give them the lay of the land with regards to the opportunity. If its not a fit, then its not a fit, simple as that...The skill comes in as to when you can realize as a recruiter that it isn't a fit, hopefully it happens early in the process...But this is the art of recruiting and closing..

It's not as simple as just "bullying" someone into a response, you come off cliche if you do that, you will get lumped in with every other tom, dick, and harry in this profession...Quite honestly, what's the point of being in this business if you don't offer a unique service for the candidate?

The real challenge is to stand out...My best advice is to just be yourself when recruiting, candidates can sniff out authenticity in a milisecond, you either have it or you don't...And if you try to put on an act, or be something that you're not, then they will know this.

This is a good discussion, and something that I think is a lost art...I think recruiting in general is going down a treacherous road, but if you provide a service of value for candidates and clients, then you will make it through.
I agree with Steve-- you might be being a bit too harsh on yourself. The candidate took the job and is in a position he likes-- all's well and good in the universe, right?? The problem might be with society's perceptions of how one conducts themselves in business-- a man's forceful? they're called "agressive go-getters", a woman's forceful? they're called the B word. I think that perspective needs to be changed. (Unless your behavior was just completely over the top that you're not letting on to??)

I work in IT, with some very intelligent candidates, who can be very sensitive to "bullying", so I personally use the walk-away most often-- it respects the candidates ability to make decisions for themselves, respects their privacy, but most important-- it hits that nerve in the candidate "don't let this opportunity pass you by, idiot!! submit your resume now!!" Works like a charm every time.
What treacherous road, Mat?
First, I'd like to acknowledge Christopher Perez's comment about putting yourself out there for criticism. Good job. This dialog will help all of us become better at out jobs. Checking ones ego at the door and being humble (for some top producers) generally comes from being knocked off the wall once or twice in ones career and I am fortunate to be a Humpty Dumpty that was put back together again.

I learned early on that the take away close or "hard close" usually results in a short term engagement with the given employer and when we think we are client / customer focused we are not. Interestingly enough the hard close / take away techniques are commonly taught in Executive Search training through out our industry and I believe this contributes to our overall perception or reputation.

Recruiters have a bad reputation for not being candidate focused (you know, the hard close - no follow up - little to know information on the position... etc.) and the argument I hear back in many cases is the client is the one who pays the bills and/or they don't have time, but the underlying issues in many cases stem from ego and being self centered. There are of course other reasons why we would resort to essentially not being professional and that is being insecure, inept and really not a good fit for our profession (I am sure this comment will win me the popularity award)...

My personal solution is to be 100% candidate focused. If we clearly understand the candidates passion, core values, aptitude, skills, connections etc... we can help the hiring manager and company make the decision with our knowledge of facts AND the close is natural. Resulting in your candidate long term success.

When I slowed down and started smelling the roses I all of a sudden loved my job. Help your candidates understand what they bring to the plate and what team they should be on... Put them "through the ringer" but with the right intentions (which is not to ring the bell) and they will thank you when they come out with less wrinkles on the other side. If it is not a good fit we should know why and you'll never have to play the game again...

To end (about time): Executive Recruiters have a wealth of knowledge that can, and I believe should be passed on to the candidate and when you do it will pay off... It certainly has for me... knock on wood:)
Recruiters not recruiting with conversations and by building relationships, but off of LinkedIn/Twitter...

Maureen Sharib said:
What treacherous road, Mat?

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