Let's face it, people love to be in control. Not only that, but we like to think we have control over (or at least a handle on) things that are completely and totally unpredictable. Take, for example, the stock market. There are plenty of people who are supposed to be experts, yet it has been proven that even the experts don't get it right all of the time.
A Swedish newspaper gave $1,250 each to five stock analysts and a chimpanzee named Ola, to test who could make the most money on the market in a one-month period. Ola the chimp, who made his choice of purchases by throwing darts at the names of companies listed on the Stockholm exchange, won the competition.
For years, the Wall Street Journal did this every month, enlisting four Wall Street stock experts to pick one stock apiece, and then having someone throw darts four times at the paper's stock listings. After six months they'd compare the average returns on the four stocks the experts picked versus the four stocks the darts hit. Very often, the "dartboard portfolio" won; almost always it beat at least one or two of the pros' picks.
So how in the world does this translate into recruiting?
Recruiters deal with something perhaps even more fickle than the stock market - people and the emotions that come along with them. We discuss candidate control all the time. Training sessions are held to make us expert negotiators, great closers, and better predictors of our candidate's behavior. However, what if we're like the experts in the stock experiments above?
The fact is, people are very difficult to control. Considering the fact that we are not in their heads, nor are we with a candidate 24/7, we cannot completely impact what they will do or how they will react to things like a job offer, a counter-offer, or a sub-par interview experience. There are a multitude of other factors to be taken into account, and while we do have an impact on the final decision, we don't exactly control it.
Don't get all up in arms quite yet, though. By no means am I suggesting that we throw our hands in the air, walk away from the situation, and let the chips fall where they may. Come on now, we're recruiters; some of the most control-oriented people on the planet in my opinion! No, we can't just give up, but perhaps a slightly different approach is in order.
Instead of candidate control, I propose a more reasonable approach - candidate influence, perhaps. The art of skillfully developing a relationship and rapport such that the candidate trusts your judgment, thus allowing suggestions and advice to guide them through the decision making process. This, combined with the minuteman-esque preparedness that things can (and occasionally will) go completely haywire is a powerful tool. Imagine how much easier it will be to ‘control’ a candidate if they think of you as a trusted source of information rather than a used car salesman pushing your wares on them. Imagine how much better you could have handled the objections which came out of left field during a seemingly smooth process had you constantly been prepared for the worst.
On the surface it may seem like a very pessimistic method of recruiting, but quite frankly that's not my style. I prefer to be cautiously optimistic, overly prepared, and flexible to change directions at a moment's notice. I think this level of readiness and a slightly different model of candidate interaction makes a good recruiter much more effective than a primate armed with a few darts.