The telephone has become mobile, and it has transformed recruiting from a 9-5, to a 24/7 work day!
But it is also an irony that this effective device is vastly becoming the most overlooked tool in recruiting passive candidates.

The content of this blog post did not start out as a study; it started out as a mission of a fast start in 2010 and to erase some of the bad memories of 2009.

After 6 week into the new year of making recruiting calls with a purpose, I realized that my call-backs were not at the level as before the financial meltdown. This is a major concern if you are an agency recruiter because if my phone doesn’t ring, it means that I am not spending enough time selling my job opportunities. Like sales, recruiting is a numbers game. The fewer potential candidates that you talk to, the less referral opportunities that you will have, the less qualified candidates that will be generated in your pipeline; which ultimately decreases your chances of finding the right candidate. This downward spiral in activity will also put a good recruiter on a fast track to telephone burn-out; consistently doing more of the hardest work in recruiting (sourcing and cold calling) over and over again.

Here are the details of this project:

This search assignment was to fill two junior level analytic positions (3-5 years of experience, salary $60-80K).

For a period of two months, the client has been conducting this search in-house. Both jobs were advertised on CareerBuilder and LinkedIn; they received heavy resume flow, 2 offers (low-ball) made but were ultimately

I used LinkedIn as my only source for this search because most of my personal contacts are high level executives with limited access to individuals at the lower level. Even though I have been in the same niche Industry for twenty years, the challenge remained the same, cold call these passive candidates to find a mover.

In this case, passive candidates mean are qualified contacts that has been identified and the next step is a direct recruitment approach.

Here are the numbers after 6 weeks:

84 -Calls attempted

8 -Returned calls from voice mail

4 -Candidates reached on initial attempt

3 -Candidates interviewed

2 -Offers made

1 -Unsolicited referral call

1 -Placement

Here is the troubling part; take a good look at the first 3 numbers!

Now, let’s assume that this is the game show “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and I am using a lifeline to poll the experts of the recruitment community!

Here is the question: Why are passive candidates not taking/returning recruitment calls; is it the method of
communication, content of the voicemail, the new normal or other?

Here is some additional information:

All calls were initiated to a work number, during normal business hours, below is the voice mail.

Hi _____,
this Ken Forrester, I am not sure if my name will ring a bell with you, I am
with an executive search firm.

If you get this message, please give me a phone call.

To make a long story short, I am involved in a search for one of the National employee
benefit firms in ___. I came across your name in the midst of my search and I wanted to provide you with details regarding this unique opportunity.

Please give me a call and I will provide you with the additional details.

My telephone number is _______.

Your thoughts?

Views: 170

Comment by Barbara Goldman on March 2, 2010 at 9:46am
I have an idea.

When recruiting, it's a good idea to tell a story. And, when recruiting executives, the story is everything.

Let's say I'm trying to fill a position in senior management. I need to know why the person I am calling would be interested, or he won't call me back.

Put on the candidate hat, and forget you are a recruiter for just a moment. Think like the candidate. What is the story? What is happening with the company? Why is the postion available? What value can this candidate bring to the table, and how will the candidate benefit by joining this company? Why is it a dynamic career move opportunity? Why should your target call you back?

I like to start my calls with, 'something interesting is happening' or 'the situation is this', or 'My clients needs someone who can" or how about "did you notice that xyz stock a hit in the market? I have my theories"

Passive candidates are looking for a challenge, an opportunity. If it sounds like you might have something interesting, they'll call you back.

Early in my recruiting career, I decided to do something that I thought would be better use of my talents, I became a stockbroker. (I was wrong, I hated it and came crawling back to recruiting) As a broker, I learned to 'tell a story' about a company. What is going on? Why should this exec call you back?

Sometimes, when the pitch sounds like every other pitch, then there is no return call. Sound like a stockbroker. Think like someone who is analyzing the company, and know why your client is the best move for the target candidate.

Your pitch is good, but give me some sizzle, baby :)

Happy recruiting today!
Comment by Paul Alfred on March 2, 2010 at 10:01am
Great article Ken that number is about right 100- to 1 in this market place ... I would add one more thing don't leave messages - Get the candidate live on the phone - If you take the candidate's perspective he gets you plus 10 other recruiters leaving messages ...
Comment by Andy Lucas on March 2, 2010 at 1:06pm
I agree with Barbara - the story is everything.

When I was between gigs a few months back, I had recruiters calling me and leaving generic voicemails ("I have an exciting opportunity I'd like to discuss with you"). Yeah, I get it: everybody's opportunity is exciting/life-changing/career-making. But why are you calling ME?

I kept praying for someone to leave me this message: "Hey Andy, I noticed on your resume that you have experience recruiting IT Professionals in both search firm and corporate settings, and our client is looking for someone with that kind of diverse corporate environment and technology background. It's close to your home in West LA, and I think you might be interested: give me a call... etc."

I just wanted to know that someone had read my resume, understood my background and interests, and also taken a whiff of interest in where I might be interested in commuting from (this may not be a big deal for others in the country, but here in Los Angeles a short commute is as good as a performance bonus).

Tell the candidate why you're calling THEM in PARTICULAR, and you will immediately set yourself apart from the crowd of recruiting "telemarketers" out there.
Comment by Maureen Sharib on March 3, 2010 at 6:59am
Here's your problem "I used LinkedIn as my only source for this search..." LinkedIn is fast becoming just like the other job "boreds" - full of people who are called time and time again for "open" opportunities. They might have swooned at the first or second or maybe even the third call from a recruiter but now? You gotta' find a better way. The good news: You're on your way - it's that thing in your hand but you need to back it up a step or two. Use those LI names in a different do you suppose you could do that?

By the way, I saw a warning signal in your post: "...2 offers (low-ball) made but were ultimately
What's with this low-ball stuff? Are you (ultimatley) wasting your time?
Comment by Wendy Kerkhoff on March 4, 2010 at 1:24pm
I agree in part with Maureen that Linkedin has become the new job board and is being over used by many recruiters as the primary source of candidate leads. It should be part of the arsenal but should not be relied on as the only source to drum up candidates.

The other thing that came to mind in this approach was the metrics in the success rate. Of the 3 candidates interviewed, it would be interesting to know if they came from the batch of returned calls or from the 4 people directly approached which might also shed some light on the most effective approach. Regardless, with less then 10% of calls returned from voicemail, it is quite obvious that in order to improve your success ratio, something there needs to change. Either the voicemail script needs to be improved or you need to work harder at making direct contact with target candidates. But make sure you know as much as you can about your target before you make the call and tailor the approach to their background as Andy Lucas described. They need to feel like this is an opportunity made for them.
Comment by Ken Forrester on March 4, 2010 at 2:25pm
Wendy, thanks for asking!
The candidates that interviewed were from the group of returned calls. As I thought about your question, it occurred to me that after a relationship was developed with these candidates I discovered that they all had the same thing in common. A very short time prior to my call, they each thought about the possibilities of exploring opportunities outside their present employer, but took no action. The timing of my call prompted their action to learn more. Getting them to become active and moving them successfully through the interview process is another story.
Thanks to everyone for responding and for reminding us that a recruitment call, regardless of the source (referral, database, yellow pages) is most effective when a relationship is already developed or when your message is perceived as personal to the receiver of the call.


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