Four Tips for Taking a Vacancy and Making it Easier to Fill

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Lessons from the Wolf Pack is an ongoing series of recruitment advice articles taken from, or inspired by, situations and events observed during our phone coaching sessions with recruitment consultants making real, live calls to win business and find candidates. This is advice directly from the recruitment front lines!

Lessons from the Wolf Pack #7

Four Tips for Taking a Vacancy and Making it Easier to Fill

Ever been asked by a client to find a left handed astronaut? Not actually of course but in the sense of have you ever had a client ask you to find someone for them who is going to be really hard to find? 

All the time I suspect.

Well I don't have a magic wand that will turn a hard search into an easy one but I do have ideas for turning a hard search into an easier one.

The first thing you need to do is clarify and expand the search specifications.

This is the classic technique of taking what the client has requested and asking if a close alternative would be acceptable.

So the client wants a left handed astronaut? Then how about a right handed astronaut? Or an ambi-dexstrous one?

Ask the question regarding your substitute idea (e.g. right handed rather than left) and identify what the reason for the original request was.

In other words what you have to do is have a real conversation with the decision maker about their specific requirements for the person. Clients haven't always thought about what they are asking for in as much detail as they could have done and part of the job of a recruitment consultant in my mind is to be a consultant and make the client think about what they are saying.

There might be a valid reason for the request but I'd like to know what it is.

After that I'd like to know about previous people that they have interviewed but ruled out for this role. I'd like to know what it was that made them look attractive in the first place, what the client later liked and what it was that ultimately prevented them moving further through the application process.

It is very important to know what your client doesn't want to see as this can become a filter that allows you to quickly eliminate candidates. Similarly to the point above I'm going to explore the reasons behind the clients reluctant as this gives me a stronger understanding of their thinking and their situation.

As they have already ruled people out based on these points its going to be unusual for you to be able to over come them directly but that doesn't stop you having that conversation with the client.

Also in the situation where a company has been struggling for a long time to fill a role it might be that they do actually have to open up the spec and set aside some points of reluctance in the interests of getting someone into the role.

There is no such thing as a perfect candidate and sometimes the client needs to be educated on that point.

Where you already have strong candidates that potentially match the role you can run a 'compare and contrast' exercise with the client to test the spec that they have given you. This can either be done at the time of taking the vacancy if you can remember which candidates you have or it can be done as a separate call after you've reviewed who you have.

It works like this - go through with the client on the phone two or three contrasting candidates who are close to the spec and see what they like or don't like. It's the recruiter equivalent of a test drive.

The client has said they want x, y and z however when you read through a couple of candidates who have mostly x, y and z but also a little a, b and c by way of skills and experience it can often result in the client altering what they are looking for.

It is vital when doing this exercise that you have explained to the client up front that this selection of candidates are not supposed to be exact matches but are "potentials to discuss with the idea of clarifying how you feel Mr Client about the type of people currently and quickly available."

Two great things can come out of that - 1) the client clarifies what they really want 2) you might get one of your tester candidates an interview!

It's a technique best done when the client themselves are a little vague about what they are after. In just the same way when people go looking for houses with initial ideas of the mansion they will buy in their head once they see the actual state of the housing market they often rethink their plans to be more realistic.

The final tip on this topic for this week is to arrange interview dates with your client at the time you take the vacancy. It shows that you are serious about working this vacancy, that you are confident in your abilities and it helps give you a little more commitment from the client.

Some of my recruitment clients take this idea quite far and actually arrange times for first and second interviews along with times to take feedback. One client even arranges a call to prep the client pre-interview so they know how to sell the role properly.

As with most of recruitment this is a great technique at the right time so don't blindly apply it. If the role is exceptionally unusual and rare - a left handed astronaut who can speak five languages, has a biochemistry degree and lives in Sheffield, then you might want to hold back about making rash promises.

What you should do in that situation though is arrange a time to speak with the client again to give them the results of the initial search that you have done as well as warning them that, based on their specific critieria, this might prove challenging to fill.

That way you can go back to them and challenge the more limiting aspects of the spec based for example on the fact that there are no astronauts living in Sheffield!


Have real conversations with your clients about what they are looking for, challenge the requirements and expand them where you can. By acting like a full consultant not only will you take more accurate and easier to fill vacancies but you will have more grounds on which to justify your fee.

More Recruitment Advice Next Week

That's all the Lessons from the Wolf Pack this week - tune in next Wednesday for more advice from the recruitment front lines. 

And remember if you're looking for recruitment training or recruitment coaching for yourself or your team give Edenchanges a ring or drop us an email today.

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist,

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