7 min read

Candidate Call Planning, Six Keys to Productive Candidate Calls

Is Cold Calling Candidates Dead?
There has been a great debate whether or not cold calling candidates remain relevant in professional recruiting.  Perhaps you have seen the articles on Google and LinkedIn that read “Cold Calling is Dead.” The so-called “experts' and “gurus” say that recruiters should never cold call candidates because candidates despise receiving them. They go on to say that cold calling no longer works and that it’s not a productive use of time.  

Let’s acknowledge the fact we as professional recruiters often like to “just show up” without doing any preparation for the candidate call.  Let’s also acknowledge that in most cases we as recruiters consider introductory candidate calls (and emails) as an “all or nothing” proposition; either the candidate is willing to talk and learn candidate call planning six keys to productive candidate callsmore about the opportunity or they’re don't (and we move on to the next candidate).  The problem however is, take this approach and you'll lose more than your share of candidates, candidate submittals and placements that you could have easily had.  

To be clear, recruiters shouldn’t be blindly picking up the phone and randomly calling candidates without any knowledge of the candidate or their background, skills or work experience.  The real reason why many recruiters feel “candidate cold calling" is dead is because recruiters simply don’t take enough time to prepare for their candidate calls.  Surgeons don’t go into surgery without a plan, and pilots don’t take flight without first completing a flight plan. It stands to reason that first and foremost, recruiters must prepare for their candidate calls before they make them.

In this blog post, candidate call planning, six keys to productive candidate calls, I'm going to share with you X key elements that make up an effective candidate call plan. If you incorporate candidate call planning including the elements highlighted in this blog into your daily routine I GUARANTEE that you will see an improvement in the productivity of your candidate conversations including an increase in your candidate submittals. 

Candidate Call Planning The Key to Recruiting Success
As a recruiter, there are many things that are not 100% within your control. For example, you can’t control your clients nor can you control your candidates. You can’t control the outcome of a candidate call or a candidate interview (but you can certainly influence them).  The good news is you can exert 100% control over exactly which candidates you call and what it is you will say and ask of your candidates on your calls. Specifically, you can prepare ahead of time exactly what message it is you want to get across to your candidate.  Even more, through experiential learning, you can practice and prepare in advance what the objective of your candidate call is, how you will articulate your message and how you will handle frequently asked questions and objections.  The key to improving your recruiter results and your recruiting effectiveness starts with completing candidate call plans. 

Let’s examine the key components that go into a candidate call plan. This is the information that you should collect and prepare before calling a candidate.

Keep in mind that for the purposes of this blog, this call plan is in the context of cold calling a candidate for the very first time. The candidate does not know you or your company.

My Call Objective
As a general rule, recruiters should always have two call objectives whenever calling a candidate. The first call objective centers around what information you need to uncover about your candidate. In many ways, professional recruiting is like doing investigative reporting.  You have to continuously collect information about your candidate in order to make intelligent decisions regarding their candidacy for hire and how to intelligently position them with your clients.  You also have to consistently reconfirm information your candidate has already shared with you to ensure nothing has changed.  This means as the recruiter, you need to think and prepare in advance what information you need to collect from the candidate and which questions you will need to ask in order to obtain that information.  Heck, we've all hung up the phone with a candidate only to say to ourselves "shoot, I forget to ask my candidate....." Candidate call planning and having clear call objectives prevents this from happening.

Your second call objective should focus on what action you need your candidate to commit to and complete next in the recruitment and hiring process.  Simply completing a recruiter activity is pointless and a waste of your time and energy without having a call objective that advances the candidate down the interview and hiring process. 

For example, you might need your candidate to send you their resume, or commit to a specific date and time for the phone screen.  The point is, you should always have a call objective including a message that compels your candidate to take the next step in the interview and hiring process. This prevents delays and keeps the process moving forward.  

Finally, keep in mind that your call objectives should always be relevant and within the context of the nature of the call. For example, if you’re cold calling a candidate for the very first time, your call objective shouldn’t be to complete the candidate interview or get a candidate submittal.  While these would certainly be amazing outcomes, they’re also not realistic.  Not off a cold call at least.  A more realistic call objective might be to disarm the candidate so that the candidate feels comfortable in sharing key information with you such as whether or not they're actively or passively looking for work and if they are open to working with a recruiter. Another good call objective within the context of an initial candidate call would be to gain their agreement that they will send you an updated copy of their resume. These things need to happen first before a candidate can commit to engaging in an interview or being submitted to your client.

If on the other hand you’re calling a candidate to get feedback from a phone interview then your call objective might be to discover the candidate’s likes, dislikes and concerns about the job and to gain their commitment to scheduling the 2nd interview. This keeps the process moving forward and you gather more information about your candidate. 

What I will Say That Demonstrates Credibility
When your candidate receives your unexpected, unsolicited phone call, it’s just another unplanned interruption in their day.  And if they get the slightest hint of a self-serving recruiter pitch or that you don’t understand what it is that they do, they will immediately shut you down. 

Here is what is going through the mind of your candidate when they receive your unsolicited phone call or unsolicited email or LinkedIn request:

  • “Has this recruiter even looked at my resume”
  • “Does this recruiter even understand my job role and function?” 
  • “Does the recruiter sound like every other recruiter?”
  • “Can I trust this recruiter?” 
  • "Do I want to share information with this recruiter?"
    • "What's in it for me if I do share information?"

The best way and quickest way to address and overcome these candidate concerns is to immediately share with the candidate what it is that you know about them.  Most recruiters however launch into pitching their opportunity and this is a big mistake.  Why?  It's self-serving but more importantly 99% of candidates respond by saying "can you send me the job description?" And when this happens most recruiters "lose the call."  How? The candidate has taken control of the call by asking the question and the recruiter doesn't know how to respond and regain control of the conversation. The bottom line is the recruiter failed to keep the candidate engaged.  What could have been a nice 5 or 10 minute conversation resulting in a scheduled interview for later in the week, results in the call ending abruptly with no clear path for moving forward. This is how 90% of initial candidate calls ends. But it doesn't have to be this way. 

Instead, you should be creating a candidate call plan that accounts for what you will say to demonstrate credibility by sharing with the candidate the research that you did on him or her. Share with the candidate what it is you that know about them including their job role and function and their career accomplishments such as awards, certifications, and promotions.

My Value Proposition
Are you worth talking to? That is the question going through the mind of every candidate on the receiving end of your LinkedIn messages, email messages and phone calls. In the context of an initial candidate call or candidate cold call, your value proposition is NOT pitching a job. A candidate doesn’t want to be pitched to.  There will be plenty of opportunities to share with your candidate your job opportunities, but not in the first 30 seconds of the introductory call. When initiating contact with a candidate for the first time your value proposition should answer the following questions for the candidate: 

  • How you have been a resource and career consultant for other like-minded candidates
  • How you have helped other like-minded candidates achieve their career goals and personal goals

In essence, you need to share success stories of how you served as a career consultant for other like minded candidates.  

Questions I Will Ask, Issues I Need to Validate
It is no secret that top performers ask the most questions and they ask the best questions.  Not surprisingly, they tend to have a strong natural sense of curiosity.  When creating your candidate call plan you have to make sure you take the time to plan out your questions in advance.  This means documenting your questions in advance on a piece of paper or in your CRM or ATS.  If you fail to plan out your questions in advance then you will inevitably forgot to ask them. When recruiters forget to ask questions they extend the sales cycle.  

Relevant Ideas, Insights, Trends I Will Share to Add Value 
In general, all recruiters provide the same service, so how will you differentiate yourself?  How will your candidates see and hear the difference between working with you vs another recruiter?  

The recruiter that creates the most engaging candidate experience will be the one who wins the heart and mind of the candidate.  In order to differentiate yourself, you will need to create an experience for your candidates that is different from how your competitors engage them. Think of it this way, your conversations should be so impactful and valuable for your candidates that they would be willing to pay you for the time you spend with them.  How do you do that?  You create a call plan in which you prepare what you will say to share fresh ideas, insights, and trends that are relevant and of high value to the candidate based on their job role and function, and their career goals and objectives.  To share ideas and insights that are of high relevance and value to your candidate’s you will need to conduct candidate research and....create a call plan.

Anticipated FAQ’s, Objections and My Rebuttals: 
No call plan would be complete without a plan for handling common candidate questions and objections. In short, you need to anticipate which objections you will hear on your call and script out what you will say in response to each of those questions or objections. The good news is, it's easy to anticipate what common candidate questions or candidate objections you will likely hear based on the context of the call (cold call vs. candidate interview feedback call for example). 

Remember, you can't control what your candidate will say or do but you can control and prepare for what you will say and how you will respond. And make no mistake, how you prepare, what you say and what you do influences your candidate's thoughts, behaviors and actions. 

If your goal is to increase candidate submittals, you need to create candidate call plans. If your goal is to schedule more candidate interviews, you need to create candidate call plans.  If your goal is to increase placements, then you need to create candidate call plans.

To learn more about how to become a GREAT recruiter download our eBook, Executing the Candidate Interview, Five Pillars to Effective Candidate Qualification.

Executing Candidate Interviews for Effective Qualification


six benefits to adopting mutual action plan

Six Benefits to Adopting Mutual Action Plans

Mutal action plans, also known as customer success plan, joint execution plans or go-live plan, ensure the sales and delivery team is in alignment...

Read More
 The Recruiter's Guide to Qualifying and Placing Full Stack Software Engineers

Product Launch, How to Source, Screen and Place DevOps Engineers

For the past few years, we've seen and heard the term "DevOps." You've likely seen them in the job descriptions you receive from your customers;...

Read More

How I Improve Sales Conversion Ratios

Sales conversion ratios measure the effectiveness of your sales team at converting leads into new customers. It's an important metric to track for a...

Read More