Mastering the Introductory Candidate Call: Skills Recruiters Must Master Blog Feature
Dan Fisher

By: Dan Fisher on March 30th, 2018

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Mastering the Introductory Candidate Call: Skills Recruiters Must Master


This may not be the case with you and your team of IT recruiters, but many recruiters are struggling to hit their weekly candidate submittal goal. For many staffing firms the weekly goal or standard is ten candidate submittals yet most recruiter’s are only submitting six to seven candidates per week and many more are only averaging three to five candidate submittals.  Are candidates really that much more difficult to source and speak with today than they were five or ten years ago?  Arguably. Yes, the market is tight but there is a massive passive candidate market that is prime and ripe to recruit from. So what is the real reason for why recruiters are struggling to submit ten or more highly qualified candidates each week?  Are that many candidates failing the technical interview?  I have a theory-one that I think you may find pretty compelling-as to why recruiters are struggling with candidate submittals. More importantly, I have a solution for recruiters and recruiting managers.

If your recruiters are struggling with weekly candidate submittals and if on the introductory call with a candidate your recruiters are making a pitch that sounds something like “I saw your resume/profile online, I have the perfect opportunity for you” or, your recruiters are sending out cold emails pitching the job with the job description attached then let me tell you, your recruiters need to change their approach.

Candidate Behavior Has Changed
Candidates are incredibly skeptical of recruiters these days and it easy to see why. Unfortunately there are plenty of recruiters out there who over-promise and under-deliver and there are many more who fail to ever follow-up with their candidates. These experiences leave a bad taste in the mouth of a candidate. And of course candidates despise being pitched to by a recruiter. For these reasons (and many others) candidates are highly skeptical of recruiters. When a candidate receives a call from a recruiter, the hair on the back of their neck goes up and they intuitively become defensive. When the recruiter goes into pitch mode the candidate naturally responds by saying “send me the job description and I will take a look.”  This is a blow-off. The call ends and that candidate no longer answers that recruiter’s calls or emails.  Sound familiar?

Adopting The Cold Calling Mindset
When it comes to making the introductory candidate call the first thing you need to do is adjust your mindset and properly set your expectations. You can’t make your personal agenda the goal of the call. Mentally speaking, your goal should not be to get a candidate submittal or secure a face to face interview on your introductory candidate call. Those are ideal outcomes but if that is your goal or expectation going into the call, you are simply setting yourself up for frustration and failure.  

What should your mindset be going into a introductory candidate call?  Your mindset should be this:

  • Take the pressure off of yourself of getting a submittal or interview as the goal. If you take this pressure off of yourself, it changes your perspective and mindset. You won’t come across desperate and needy or salesy!  More importantly your confidence will get a boost and your candidates will hear it in the tonality of your voice. Remember, nobody ever wants to hear from a desperate and needy recruiter
  • Second, because you have not yet spoken with the candidate, you have no idea if the candidate meets your target profile.  Your disposition should be that you are simply trying to see if there is a fit between the types of positions (not specific opportunity) you recruit for and the types of opportunities the candidate might be interested in and if you can be resource for the candidate.   

Establishing Credibility
I have many friends who are senior software engineers and/or engineering managers, many of which run teams, and they tell me they get calls all the time from “idiot recruiters.” They go on to complain about recruiter calls because they feel the recruiter only cares about themselves and making a placement and that they know nothing about them.  The key to creating credibility with your candidates is not to talk about you, your company or your job opportunity but instead, focus on sharing with your candidate what it is that you know about them and how you have helped other candidates like them. When a candidate gets a call from a recruiter who can demonstrate that they understand their role, work experience and background and the industry they work in they are far more likely to engage in a conversation.  

The reason why this is so critically important is because your candidates are inundated with unsolicited calls from recruiters who are touting their self-serving sales pitch proclaiming they have the perfect job opportunity.  Within the first minute of the call candidates are asking themselves:

  • Is this recruiter worth my time?
  • Does this recruiter understand my role and job function?
  • Does this recruiter sound sincere?
  • Does this recruiter sound like all of the other recruiters or do they sound different?
  • Do I want to share information with this recruiter?

Remember, candidate are quickly evaluating whether or not you are worth their time. So you need to quickly articulate that you understand what it is that they do and that you understand their career path and the value of their skills and experience.  Candidates do not have the time to explain to recruiters what their job function is. Recruiters are expected to know and understand this ahead of time. Finally, you need to show a genuine interest in learning about their career goals and what it is they might want to do next in their career before pitching your opportunity.

Mastering the Skill of Disarming Your Candidates
While the entire industry has become absorbed and fascinated with the latest and greatest sourcing and recruiting tools, ATS systems and sourcing strategies, one of the most fundamental and critical recruiting skills been completely lost. That recruiting skill is disarming candidates.  Until your candidates know you and know that they can trust you, they will naturally be skeptical of you and what you have to say.  Think about how you feel when you’re approached by a salesperson in a retail store. How do you react? Most people are full of anxiety and naturally put their guard up and just want the salesperson to go away.  Your candidates are no different.  To make your candidates feel comfortable in speaking with you, sharing sensitive information by answering your questions, and engaging in open, honest and transparent dialogue, you will need to develop the skill of disarming.

Disarming means to relieve your candidate of anxiety, pressure or hostility, and to put them at ease and feel comfortable speaking with you.  How can recruiters accomplish this, especially with a brand new candidate? Rather than launching into a pitch on your opportunity you might say “would it be ok to for me to take two minutes to explain why I’m calling?  By asking a simple question like this, the candidate now feels like he or she has a say in the conversation. By giving the candidate choices they feel empowered and no longer feel threatened. Another example is when you want to share an opportunity with a candidate you could say something like “may I make a suggestion?”  Again, this is another, softer way of disarming the candidate by asking for their permission and giving them control of the conversation. It sounds counterintuitive but it works like a charm. These examples may sound like small minor details but they are not. They make all the difference in the world. The difference could be three, four, five or more candidate submittals per week!

Practice Makes PerfectAngelo mission
To increase your candidate submittals and ultimately your total number of placements go into your introductory candidate calls with the goal of disarming your candidate.  If you focus on that as your goal I think you will find that your candidates will be more open and willing to engage in a conversation with you which will enable a more productive candidate call and lead to more candidate submittals. (I believe) the real reason why recruiters struggle with candidate submittals is because they simply are not speaking with enough candidates, and speaking with candidates begins with mastering the skill of disarming. Recruiters may also be failing to properly qualify the candidate's current situation.

To master the skill of disarming, jot down a list of three to five questions that you could ask your candidates on the introductory candidate call that would make the candidate feel like he or she is in control of the call. For example, instead of just launching into your pitch what if you said, “would it be O.K. if I shared with you an opportunity that came across my desk that may be of potential interest to you?  When you put it in those terms it makes it really hard for the candidate to say no. After you come up with your questions you will need to sequence them so that they flow in a chronological order and create a nice flow or harmony to the conversation. Once that is complete you should practice role playing your introductory script including those disarming questions with a co-worker. The goal of your role plays is for the candidate to not feel like you are selling or pitching them. After each role play ask you co-worker (who played the role of the candidate) if your approach put them at ease and made them feel comfortable. Ask them why or why not they feel that way. 

You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here but what is your strategy when making the initial candidate call? What are you finding that works and doesn't work? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.

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About Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.

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