Episode #98 – The One Important Technique for Hiring More of the Candidates You Want

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive search consultant and veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers 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 an important technique that can help employers hire more of the candidates that they want to hire. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, we’ve discussed the state of the economy, the employment marketplace, and the fact that it’s a candidates’ job market. This strategy that we’re going to discuss today, does it have to do with enjoying more hiring success in the midst of what’s happening right now?

Stacy: Yes, it does. Hiring top candidates right now is more difficult. Another term for hiring candidates is “closing” them. This is similar to “closing” a sale or “closing” a business deal. It means an employer has successfully convinced a candidate to work for its organization. The employer has made an offer, and the candidate has accepted the offer.

However, the strategy that I would like to talk about today is called the “pre-close” strategy.

Samantha: Pre-close? What does that mean?

Stacy: Well, to go back to what I was talking about a moment ago, there is something in the sales profession called “ABC.” That’s an acronym that stands for “Always Be Closing.” In essence, that means as a salesperson, you should always be asking the right questions to determine if the person you’re speaking with is a prospect and whether or not they’re likely to buy from you. And even if you’ve determined that they’re likely to buy, you keep asking questions all the way up until the point that they do buy.

Samantha: Because people can change their mind at the last minute?

Stacy: Yes, because people can and do change their mind at the last minute.

Samantha: And it’s the same with candidates, right? They change their mind at the last minute about the options they have during their job search.

Stacy: That is absolutely the case. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen candidates change their mind at the last minute during my recruiting career. You might think that they’re going to accept an offer from one of my clients, but then they decline it. Or they accept an offer from another organization.

Samantha: So tell us more about this “pre-close” technique.

Stacy: Well, the first important aspect is knowing when to start using it, and that’s whey you’re dealing with a viable candidate. When I say viable candidate, I mean one that a hiring manager believes could be a fit for the position. After all, if you don’t think a candidate is viable, there’s no reason to pre-close them since you’re not interested in closing them.

When you do implement the pre-close technique, it’s designed to accomplish a number of things. First, it helps you to identify the priorities of the candidate. Second, it helps you to determine how interested the candidate is in the opportunity. Third, it helps you to identify any obstacles that might exist that would prevent the candidate from accepting an offer if one was made to them. And finally, it communicates to the candidate that you are interested in them and that you consider them to be a viable candidate for the position.

Samantha: And that’s important because top candidates want to fell wanted?

Stacy: That’s correct. That’s a great way to effectively engage them, especially at the beginning of the hiring process.

There are typically two important parts of the process: the phone screen and the face-to-face interview. However, with the pre-close technique, it’s recommended that you use a phone call before the official phone screen to gather information.

Samantha: So this first phone call is not the actual phone screen?

Stacy: It’s more like the pre-phone screen screen. It does not have to be a long phone conversation, but you can use it to quickly qualify the candidate further based on what you saw on their resume.

Samantha: What kind of information should you gather?

Stacy: With this phone call, you should identify obstacles. Find out what might prevent the candidate to work for your organization. Ask the candidate what would go into their decision-making process regarding whether or not they would make a move for another employment opportunity. Ask them what is most important to them. Ask them their thoughts about this particular opportunity as opposed to other opportunities they might be considering. Because once again, if they’re a top candidate, there’s a good chance they’re looking at more than just your job.

Samantha: So there really are no questions about skills or experience?

Stacy: That’s right. These questions are all about motivation and priorities. That’s because unless you have an idea of what those are at the outset, there’s no reason to start asking questions about skills and experience. However, that’s something you can do during the official phone screen.

Samantha: What are the questions you should ask during the phone screen to pre-close the candidate?

Stacy: This is when you can start asking questions about the position, now that you have the background information regarding motivation and priorities from the previous conversation. But you should still identify possible obstacles, this time in regards to what the candidate thinks about the position specifically. Those might be different than obstacles that relate to family or commute time, which you would have uncovered with the first phone call.

You might also ask about compensation, but not in terms of what they’re currently making. This is especially the case if asking about current compensation is illegal in the state that you’re operating. However, the candidate might offer that information without being asked, or they might say they’re looking to earn a certain percentage more than what they’re currently making.

However, make it clear to the candidate that this is not an offer negotiation. This is more a “test the waters” conversation. At the same time you’re discussing that, you can again ask about other opportunities that the candidate may be considering. This is a critical part of the pre-close technique. I can’t tell you how many employers lose candidates late in the process because they didn’t know the candidate was considering multiple opportunities and decided to join another organization instead of theirs.

Samantha: Do you ask any of the questions that you asked during the previous phone call during this phone screen?

Stacy: Actually, yes, but not the exact same questions. You should ask questions about the same topics, but in a different way. You delve a little deeper to find out the depth of their priorities and the degree of their concerns. You have to dig a little deeper because sometimes candidates play things “close to the vest.” They’re not willing to talk at length about their concerns, so it’s your job to coax that information out of them.

And this leads us to the final stage.

Samantha: Is that the face-to-face interview?

Stacy: Actually, it’s after the face-to-face interview.

Samantha: After? Why is that?

Stacy: I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. But remember that anything you do before an official offer of employment is made is considered to be pre-closing. Even if you’ve conducted an interview, you’re still pre-closing. Even if you’ve conducted two interviews, you’re still pre-closing.

Samantha: What kind of things are done after the interview is over?

Stacy: Well, we’re assuming that after the face-to-face interview is done, the employer is still very interested in the candidate. If that’s the case, then you should move the process forward, at the same time letting the candidate know how interested you are and also gauging their interest level at the same time.

For example, it’s important to send a follow-up email to the candidate reinforcing everything that’s been discussed to this point. You could even ask when the candidate would be able to start employment if an offer was made. A member of management could call or email them to express their interest in the person’s candidacy.

There are a few keys here. First, express your high level of interest in the candidate. Second, gauge their interest in both the position and the organization. Third, work to remove any obstacles and address any concerns they may have. Ideally, these obstacles and concerns should have been identified during the very first phone conversation.

Samantha: So the employer should have been addressing them all throughout this process?

Stacy: That’s right. It’s when you fail to do so that you lose a candidate at the last minute.

Samantha: Stacy, does a recruiter or executive search consultant enter the picture at any time in the process?

Stacy: Yes. There is opportunity for an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter all throughout the process. A search consultant can help pre-close and also help close candidates. As an example, they can conduct the first phone call that we talked about earlier, the one before the official phone screen. They can ask all of the appropriate pre-close questions and prepare both the candidate the hiring manager for the next steps in the process.

Samantha: Can the recruiter help during other steps in the process?

Stacy: They absolutely can. They can help during every stage of the process, depending upon their relationship with the client. Ideally, they should help in any way that they can. Remember that the world “consultant” is in the phrase “search consultant.” When they partner with a client, they provide consulting services, and one of those services involves both advising clients about the best ways to pre-close top candidates and also close them.

Samantha: Stacy, thanks once again for joining us today and for all of this great information today.

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