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Handling the “You Need to Talk to HR” Objection

Mike, can you help me find out how to handle the objection of ‘you need to talk to HR’. I have my own thoughts on this, but I wanted to get your take.Kay

Answer: So, there’s a couple of scenarios that can happen, both are very similar. The first scenario is when I get the hiring manager on the phone and they say, “Before we even have a conversation, you have to talk to HR”. The other scenario could be you go through the whole relationship building process and then they say, “Okay. Well, you have to go to HR”.

You have either just got on the phone with the hiring manager or they start to say they have an opening and you start maybe getting a little bit of the details and they say, “Look, before we go any further you have got to get on our list.” I always say, “Great! Mr./Ms. Hiring Manager, I have no problem with that. Before I call them, let me get a clear understanding of what your needs are because my instinct tells me you’re the one who is going to make the decision on the person you choose to hire. The person in HR is qualified and as wonderful as they are, is not going walk in with a person and say, ‘This is your new sales rep. This is your new accountant. This is your new controller.’”

“Well, no. Of course not.” I reply, “Great. So, it is important for me to understand your needs. Let me get a clear understanding of what your needs are and then, when I get through with that you can set me up with a Human Resource person.”

A lot of hiring managers will allow you to continue. Before we go deeper into this, let’s talk about the ones who do not.  They will say, “Look, before we go any further, if you are not on our list, you have got to call this person first and then get back to me.” And I reply, “I am just not going to do that because they will never call me back.” Honestly, if you are less than 2 or 3 minutes into a conversation and you think getting ditched to HR is anything other than “send me a brochure”. This is a way for hiring managers to gently get off the phone with you without having to deal with you because they know HR is never going to call you back.

If you are in any of those fantasy lands that believe they will call back, I ask you does it happen that the HR person gets back to you? … So few times that it’s not worth even talking about. So, I will say, “Mary, just tell me now you do not want to work with me because you and I have no relationship. We have just met. You have no idea what my capabilities are. You have no idea if I am the recruiter who is right for you. I have no idea what your needs are. Bluntly, I am not sure if I am the right recruiter for you and I am going to go negotiate a fee policy in the complete absence of understanding what your needs are. And I’m a big boy, Mary. Just tell me now you have got more than enough recruiters, you have got great recruiters already on this, and let’s part friends.”

Now if you address it boldly and bluntly, you know what they are going to say? Because they have said it to me, or they say it in this tone, maybe not these words. “No one has ever talked to me like that before as a recruiter. This recruiter is different.” Now, if they say, “You know what? You are right.” Move on. You have lost nothing. You were going to leave 10 messages for HR over the next 3 weeks with zero return phone calls and in the event that they do call you back, this is one of those companies that even in this strong economy, is quoting a 18-20% recruitment fee, 90-day money back guarantee, this is that PITA–Pain In The A#$–account that you want to avoid anyway. You have far more leverage if they tell you that in the early part of the call to develop a really good relationship then genuflecting to what they want.

Now, if that happens and they say, “You know what? You are right. I do have this opening for a controller but let’s see what the our postings and /or our marketing produces first.” Let’s assume you don’t have Ms. Perfect right there for them. If it is the end of January, put them on your list to call them in the beginning of March. If that position is still open, they are going to be a lot more flexible to talk to you then.

It is not that I do not follow up with them and it is not that I think they are terrible, it is just that the urgency and the need for me as a recruiter is not there now. I am going to listen not just their words, but what they are proposing knowing that this is going to be one of those hiring managers that if I follow this horrible process, it is just going to be a horrible process of getting feedback from them. I am just going to pause the relationship and I am going to call them back in March. But I am going to just say, “It looks like you’re looking for a recruiter to produce volumes of resumes and that are going to get screened through HR and you are not looking to build a relationship with a recruiter and Mary, I am completely okay with that. I am just not that recruiter.”

Part two of this is you continue the conversation and they say, “Yeah. Okay.” And you take the recruiting search. You identify what the needs are. You know, you have taken the search the right way. You have built some rapport. You have demonstrated your ability and, again, the way we demonstrate our ability as a recruiter in a relationship is not the quality of our statements but the quality of our questions.  Then, at the end of the call, they say “you need to get approved by HR”.

This happens and it is real. You have to get approved by HR and I would say, “You know, Mary, I’m thrilled to do that, as I said at the beginning of the call. Here is what I’m up against. If I call Bob in HR, Bob is not going to call me back and you just told me for these reasons,” and I will reiterate what they said; why it’s important for them to fill this now. “Mary, can you set up a joint call with me and Bob? Other than next Tuesday at 1:00, I can change any part of my schedule. This is so important for me to establish this new relationship, I will make myself flexible based on your and Bob’s schedule because I am telling you right now, calling in the absence of your endorsement makes me recruiter # 367 on their list and they are not going to get back to me.” If they do not really want to do it, I would probably say, “You know what? It sounds like I read this the wrong way. Sounds like filling this position is less important to you than I thought.”

My final thing is, if they push it off to me, “What do I do after I leave 3 voicemails and Bob does not get back to me? What is my next step? I am going to leave a message for Bob on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Can we set up a time in our calendar where we are going to talk on Friday? Either we are going to talk on Friday to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the search or we are going to talk on Friday on what you need to do to help me get the search approved with Bob in Human Resources.”

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