Episode #78 – The Correct Way to Approach a Top Candidate About an Opportunity

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant and executive recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary organizations hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary Professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about the correct way to approach a top candidate about an opportunity. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Sharita. I’m glad to be here with you today. It’s always a pleasure to see you.

Sharita: Stacy, I’m very interested in today’s podcast. It seems to me that approaching top candidates is important in the world of hiring and employment. Would you say that’s a correct assessment?

Stacy: I would say that, Sharita. Top candidates are passive candidates. They’re not actively looking for a new job and they’re not responding to job ads. They must be convinced to consider an opportunity. This is one of the most important aspects of hiring top candidates.

Sharita: Another important aspect is first identifying who they are, is that right?

Stacy: That’s right. Today, though, I want to discuss the right way and the wrong way to approach top candidates about an employment opportunity. I want to do this because unfortunately, some hiring managers and company officials approach the situation in the incorrect fashion.

Sharita: What fashion is that?

Stacy: They do what is called “pitching the job” to a candidate.

Sharita: What does that mean, exactly?

Stacy: Some hiring managers make it a habit to call candidates and pitch jobs to them, seeing how far that will take them. While that approach might be successful every once in a great while, it is not a recipe for consistent success. As a search consultant and executive recruiter, I like to work more strategically. That’s why I’d like to share what I believe is a better way to approach candidates about an opportunity, especially top candidates.

Sharita: What way is that?

Stacy: I prefer to find out where candidates want to go in their careers and develop a long-term relationship with them instead.

The reason why I prefer this approach is simple. When the time is right and the right opportunity comes along, I can strategically contact them about an ideal role that could be a great next step for them in their career.

Sharita: That makes sense. That way, the candidate is more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.

Stacy: That’s right, because I have something that I know they want. I know this because they’ve told me in the past. And I have a case study that illustrates this.

I once made a placement in three business days.

Sharita: In three days? How did you do that?

Stacy: Well, looks can be deceiving. It only appeared to be three business days. Here’s how it happened chronologically.

On Thursday, I reached out to the candidate. On Friday, the candidate had a face-to-face interview that involved air travel to another city halfway across the United States.

Sharita: The candidate flew out of town the day after you contacted them?

Stacy: Yes, my client made that happen directly after the phone interview. After the phone interview, my candidate was on a plane. I don’t even think he had time to go home to get a bag.

On Friday, the candidate interviewed. By Monday, he had an offer, which he accepted. On Tuesday, he resigned from his current position.

Sharita: So it was three business days.

Stacy: It was, but there’s a back story to this case study. That’s because the placement actually started years ago when I first met the candidate. Our relationship continued to develop over a number of years. We talked numerous times about his career and what he wanted. I knew his experience and qualifications and I knew his carder goals.

So when my client hired me to fill the opening, I knew exactly who to speak with about it. My client had the perception that it was an easy placement. While I’m happy that my client was nimble enough to move quickly, I didn’t just meet that candidate. When I called him, it’s not like it was the first time I had ever spoken with him. We had years of history together discussing his career, the Animal Health Industry, his experience, and his career goals. I knew exactly what opportunity would compel him to make a move.

Sharita: It sounds like everyone was happy with what transpired.

Stacy: They were! It was definitely a win-win situation for my client and the candidate. My client got the candidate they wanted, and the candidate got the employment and career opportunity that he wanted. My client asked me if that was the fastest placement I had ever made. It was, from the perspective of the calendar, but it was a placement that was actually years in the making. I made it look easy but it took years and hours on the phone to get to that point.

This case study and this placement is a great example of how organizations should develop their talent pipeline and how they should hire candidates. That’s because this is how the best candidates are hired, and I’m talking about the top 10% of people working in the Animal Health Industry today. These types of candidates are cultivated through relationships that are built and maintained over time.

Sharita: Stacy, what are the main problems with the pitching approach that you mentioned earlier?

Stacy: As I said, pitching a job does help to generate interest from time to time. However, if it’s a “cold pitch,” then it’s less likely to work. A “cold pitch” is what happens when a recruiter, hiring authority, or HR representative pitches a job to a candidate without really knowing anything about what the candidate wants or their career goals. They put the focus on the job without focusing on what the candidate wants, which may or may NOT be the job that they’re pitching.

Sharita: Okay, so there are different types or different degrees of pitching?

Stacy: Yes, that’s accurate. A “warm pitch” would be a situation where a recruiter, hiring authority, or HR representative at least knows something about the candidate. A “cold pitch,” on the other hand, is a situation where they know nothing about the candidate prior to having a conversation with them, other than the fact they might be a good fit for the position.

Sharita: In your situation, though, that was more of a “hot pitch,” is that right?

Stacy: Yes, I would definitely call that a “hot pitch,” if you want to call it a pitch at all. I knew the candidate was going to be highly interested in the job opportunity I was presenting. After all, he hopped on a plane the very next day to interview with my client!

And there are other problems associated with “cold pitches” than what I just mentioned.

Sharita: There are? What are those?

Stacy: First, the candidate may view the approach as more threatening and less consultative. Without a prior relationship with the person, they’re more likely to dismiss what the person has to say.

Second, the candidate could be concerned about confidentiality. They might not like the thought of what they’re discussing getting back to their employer, especially if they’ve never talked with the person who is now pitching a job to them.

Third, if you completely rub the candidate the wrong way, not only will they not want to consider the current job being pitched, but they might also not want to consider future opportunities, as well.

Sharita: So a “cold pitch” is very risky.

Stacy: Yes, it absolutely is. Building a relationship with top candidates, on the other hand, is much less risky and more effective.

Another thing to consider are the type of candidates that you’re contacting. Top candidates—specifically the top 5% to 10% of candidates in the industry—are a rare breed. They’re in a class by themselves. That’s what makes them top candidates in the first place.

Approaches that work to generate interest with other candidates sometimes do not work on these candidates, and in some cases, they rarely work. Once again, that’s the difference between active job seekers and passive candidates. Top passive candidates—those in the top 5% to 10%—are typically NOT looking for a new job.

However, they will make a move for the right opportunity, one that’s better than the one they have now. For many of these candidates, they already have the right opportunity in mind.

Sharita: So when you call them with that right opportunity, they’re ready to jump.

Stacy: That’s right, they’re ready to jump and they’re ready to take action.

That’s what makes a top candidate hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to interview with an organization that wants to hire their services. It wasn’t the pitch that convinced the candidate to do that. It was the relationship they had with me and their willingness to tell me what they really wanted for their career. The candidate also trusted me enough to know I would not waste his time and if I contacted him about an opportunity it would be worth his while to consider it.

Sharita: It seems to me that building relationships like that takes a lot of time. Is that the case?

Stacy: Yes, that is definitely the case. And in many instances, hiring managers and HR professionals don’t have that kind of time. However, that’s part of the value that search consultants provide to Animal Health and Veterinary Employers.

Search consultants and executive recruiters build relationships with top candidates and they ask them the right questions about what they want for their careers. Then, when they come across an opportunity that lines up with what the person wants—like I did in the case study we just discussed—they present that opportunity to the right person. It’s the difference between saying, “I think you might be interested in this job,” and “I have the job that you’ve been waiting for, the one that you and I have been discussing.”

When you have a job that a person has been waiting for and you present that job opportunity to them, their response is going to be much better than if you’re simply “cold pitching” a job to them.

Sharita: Once again, Stacy, everything that you’ve presented today in our podcast makes a lot of sense. Thanks so much for all of this great information.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!