Preparing For & Executing the Candidate Submittal Call
While prospecting for new business including cold calling, objection handling and running face to face sales meetings get a ton of well deserved attention, executing the candidate submittal call is probably the most pivotal step for IT staffing sales professionals. Just about everywhere I go sales leaders tell me that they need to improve their candidate (client) submittal to interview ratio. So why doesn’t the candidate submittal call garner more attention? Today it does!
In this blog post, preparing for & executing the candidate submittal call, I’m going to share with you five tips for improving candidate submittal to interview ratios.
Step 1. “Drill” Your Recruiter
No, this is not about a salesperson going on a “power trip,” this is about really knowing your candidate before you them to your customer. When a recruiter submits a candidate to you and asks you to submit them to your client, you should be asking your recruiter the following questions:
- Why is this candidate interested in this opportunity?
- Why do you feel this candidate is going to get this job?
- On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you this candidate will get the job?
- When and where has this candidate solved the challenge that my client needs them to solve? Explain to me who the client was and how they solved the problem. What were the results?
- What is this candidate currently making?
- What is their interview availability?
As the salesperson you only have so much equity with your clients. The client doesn’t expect all of your candidates to be perfect but you can’t submit a bunch of duds either. Before you ever submit a candidate to a client, it is critically important that you test how well your recruiter knows their candidate and how confident they are in their candidate’s experience level and ability to perform the job. These questions do just that.
Ask these questions before submitting your candidates to your client. More importantly, listen-and I mean really listen-to how your recruiter responds to these questions and the answers they share with you and what they don’t share with you. Be sure to listen to the tonality of their voice and how confident they sound of their candidate and how sure they are of themselves. If in their response to your questions they say things like “I think” or “maybe” or “probably,” than you have some serious red flags that need to be addressed before you submit your candidate to your client. Bottom line, if your recruiter can’t convince you their candidate is the right person for the job how can you expect to convince your customer?
Step 2: Call and Speak With Your Candidates Before Making the Client Submittal
Many staffing sales professionals (and recruiters and managers alike) feel salespeople who call all of their candidates before submitting them to the client slow down the sales cycle. It doesn't. But let's assume it does. Does that mean quantity is more important than quality? I don't think so. Delivering quality candidate submittals is all about working smarter, not harder or faster.
I have followed this process for over twenty years with thousands of sales reps on tens of thousands of candidate submittals and I have yet to see it delay a hiring manager from making a hiring decision. If this is not currently part of your process, please take the leap of faith and trust me. It will not slow your client down from making a hiring decision. What it will do however is improve your candidate submittal to interview ratio and your interview to hire ratio.
After your recruiter has clarified any uncertainties about your candidate, you need to call your candidate. This doesn’t need to be a thirty minute interview but rather a five to ten minute discussion in which you want to validate the things you already know and don’t know about your candidate (the things your recruiter shared with you). Questions you might ask include:
- Tell me what you know about the client and this opportunity?
- Why are you interested in this opportunity?
Key Takeaway: If they don’t have a well thought out answer to your questions, can you really afford to put them in front of your customer and risk sounding unprepared? You don’t want to waste your time or your customers time so your candidate better have a really good answer for these simple questions. Don’t take their initial response at face value, ask clarifying questions such as “why is that important to you?”
These next set of questions will help formulate the overall narrative (of your story) that you will share with your customer. Those questions include:
- Tell me about a time where you worked on a similar project and had to solve the same or similar challenges.
- What was your approach?
- What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?
- What were the results?
Key Take Away: Earlier this month I posted the blog, How to Execute the Candidate Skill Marketing Call and one of the points I made is that all good sales pitches are delivered in the format of a story. Like any good movie, the story begins by providing context. When you pitch your candidate during the candidate submittal call (and this is a call and not an email you send) you want to share with the hiring manager how your candidate’s experience, expertise and background is relevant to the problems your customer is trying to solve, the goals they’re trying to achieve and the business results they seek. To do that you will need to ask these questions:
- Tell me about the other opportunities you are considering?
- How does this opportunity fit into your personal career goals and aspirations?
- Confirm their pay rate.
- Confirm their availability to interview and start.
Key Takeaway: If my client likes this candidate, can we even deliver them? And if so, by what date? What pitfalls might lie ahead in order for me to deliver this candidate and how will I navigate those pitfalls and/or negotiate with my client?
The reason salespeople need to personally ask their candidates these questions is not to check to see if the recruiter did their job, but to see if we learn anything new about the candidate that they didn’t share with the recruiter. Many times candidates share information with salespeople that didn't share with their recruiter. You’re doing this to test the candidate for consistency in his or her answers and to see if there are any red flags you need to be aware of before you submit them to your client. You also want to have a conversation with the candidate so that you can get comfortable with them and have confidence and conviction in selling them to your client. How can you pitch your candidate to a client and expect them to commit to scheduling an interview if you have never spoken with the candidate?
If your client asks you some basic questions about your candidate, you need to be able to answer them confidently. Not being able to answer your customer’s questions about your candidate is what slows down the sales process and prevents them from making a hiring decision.
Step 3: Conduct Reference Checks (Before Submitting Candidate to the Client)
You need to have two to three professional references on all candidates. You’ll want to have completed at least one candidate reference, ideally two before you submit the candidate to the client. All candidate references should be from past supervisors (peer references, friends, colleagues, etc. will not suffice). When conducting the reference checks you want to begin the conversation by sharing with the reference the following details:
- The day to day tasks and activities the candidate will be responsible for
- The technical and/or business challenges the candidate will be responsible for solving
- The solution the client is expecting the candidate to implement including work artifacts or deliverables
- The business results the client expects to achieve from the solution your candidate implements
By sharing these details, you provide that person with context. By providing this context or frame of reference the candidate’s reference can now answer your questions in the context of knowing what will be expected of the candidate, their former employee. This is much different conversation than just ask “do they have .Net skills?” or “how would you rate their communication skills?” You will want to ask these questions when conducting the reference check:
- How do you think he/she would perform in this type of role?
- What unique experience or expertise do you think he/she brings to this role?
- Did he/she solve these types of issues for when he/she worked for you? If so, please explain.
- How did he/she overcome these challenges? What was their approach?
- Did he/she deliver the same types of work product or artifacts when he/she worked for you? If so, please explain?
- What results did they deliver for you?
Key Takeaway: I have found that best way to overcome an objection (when submitting a candidate to a client and to schedule the interview) is to be armed with references. I can use my candidate references as my rebuttals. The reason this is effective is because the rebuttals come in the form of a story. For instance, if my customer says, "they look light with Java experience." I can respond with a credible rebuttal by sharing with my customer how my candidate used Java in a previous role and share with the customer what the references had to say about my candidate regarding their Java experience.
Step 5: Executing the Candidate Submittal Call
By asking these questions, your candidate story and how you should position your candidate with your client will begin to unfold. The conversation should sound something like this when executing the candidate submittal call.
Sales Rep: “Hi <insert customer name>, Dan from High Tech Staffing. Is this time still good to talk and review my candidates background?”
Client: “It sure is.”
Sales Rep: “Awesome. Let me share with you why I’m so excited to share <insert candidate name> with you. As you recall, when we took the job requirement you shared with me that the goal of the project is <insert project goals> and the issues you need the candidate to resolve include <state the issues> and the deliverables you expect the consultant to produce include <re-state the deliverables> and the end business result you seek is <insert the client’s desired business results>. Is that all correct and accurate?”
Client: “Yes, that is correct.”
“Great. So as we look at <insert candidate’s name> resume, when he worked at <employer's name> the goal of the project was <state goal> and the challenges they faced were <state challenges>. My candidates role on the project was to overcome <insert issues>. The steps he took to resolving these issues included <insert steps taken>. He also delivered <insert work artifacts and deliverables>. The business results included <state business benefits>.
I think you will find that when you pitch your candidate in the context of a story and share with your customer how your candidate solved the same or similar challenges and delivered the same or similar results they're seeking, your candidate submittal to interview ratio will increase, drastically. Presenting your candidate in this manner is so much more interesting for the customer because you're telling them what is not on the resume. This is a much different approach than simply regurgitating facts and data off the candidate resume.
Final Takeaway: When you deliver a candidate pitch to your clients in an effort to secure a candidate interview you have one shot. If the customer is not interested they in all likelihood are not going to change their mind a day or two later and you in all likelihood are not going to try to pitch the same candidate a second time, especially after the candidate was already shot down. Pitching is a one shot deal. Get it right the first time and start improving your candidate submittal to interview ratios.
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.