Note: Last week, Mike shared strategies for working with candidates. This week we pick up the discussion on strategies on the client-side. Click here to see Part 1.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mike. I have been having some issues with ghosting. I am not really sure if it is my presentation or something else. Any advice is appreciated. – Jim

ANSWER: Onto the client-side. We have several training modules in our programs, but I will give you the Cliff Notes version. Preventing client ghosting begins with a great diagnostic process when you are taking the search assignment.  

Let’s assume that you have taken the search the right way, you have determined there is urgency, and helped the client understand the consequences for the position remaining open. After you complete the diagnostic process, negotiate the fee, and gain commitment, you can set expectations.

When I reached the expectation setting stage of the process, I would say to the client: “Here is how the search is going to roll out. I will give this to my research team, and they are going to work on a list. We are going to combine that list with our database. This entire process begins as soon as we get the executed fee agreement back. From that point, we are going to begin contacting people aggressively.  

There will probably be a few days, Mr. or Ms. Client, where you do not see any candidates from us because we are in the very early stage of the process. We are researching, reaching out to, and assessing potential candidates, waiting on resumes, and things like that. You will sign the agreement now but might not see any candidate profiles for 4 or 5 days. However, if we have a quick match, I am happy to send it over right away.  

In today’s world, and I am sure you know this, Ms. or Mr. Client, it is not applicant-fed. You are competing for great talent, and for the most part, the talent that we find and approach are not actively looking. Here is why speed is important to you.”  

See how I set it up? That conversation is not, “You need to call me when I get the resume; you are going to lose the candidate, you need to call me after the interview, or we are going to lose the candidate.”  That is what every recruiter says. Instead, you explain the realities of the marketplace. 

From here, you set expectations for the submittal and interview process.  

“I am going to submit resumes to you. Here are two things to keep in mind when I submit a resume to you. First, each candidate has been fully vetted.  I have spent a minimum of 30 minutes, usually between 45 minutes and an hour, with the candidate uncovering the match between them and your role, uncovering motives to make a move beyond money, and then helping link those in their mind’s eye with your opportunity. I will send you about five candidates on a search like this, more if I have to. Here is my expectation: you do not need to interview everyone I send you, but I want to understand why the ones you do not want to interview. You need to allow me to defend why that candidate is a great match. If I cannot change your mind in about 1 to 2 minutes based on my assessment on why you do not want to interview them, you are free to say pass. 

Sometimes I will submit a candidate, Mr. or Ms. Client, that I’m, bluntly, on the fence about. I like certain things, and certain things cause me to scratch my head, but I will ask you to make those decisions, and I will lay out both.

Next, once I submit them from the time I hang up the phone with a candidate, especially in today’s market, to the time I get back to them with your feedback, it is like throwing a loaf of bread that has no preservatives in it on the shelf on the grocery store, it starts going stale. The longer it goes, the staler it gets. I have had this happen with some clients that delay getting back to me. They are like, ‘Oh, I am sorry, I was busy with . . . whatever, and I want to see these three guys. One of those people goes, you know what, if it takes that long for you to get feedback, what will it be like to work for them? It might not be a fair assessment on their part, but these are all the messages get when companies are not aggressive in pursuing them as the right person. So, I need to know I can get a 24-hour turnaround from you, preferably verbally. If you want to talk to all of the candidates, we probably do not have to talk verbally. If you just say, here is my availability, fill in the slots; I am comfortable with that. If you want to review any of the candidates, either way, it has got to occur within a day.”  

Pause. Will all the clients agree to that? No.  I like the person who struggles with me a little bit and says, “I don’t know if I can commit to 24 hours on that step, but I can commit to 48”.  Because life happens, and I am okay with that if I know this ahead of time. Now I can properly set the expectation with the candidate.  

Everything in this process is built through setting expectations.

Once you gain commitment and set expectations on this part, you move onto setting expectations for the interview process.  

The next thing is when the candidates come out and interview, you are competing probably with 2 or 3 other companies. The longer you delay the feedback, just like that loaf of bread analogy I said, they begin to lose interest. They will think that if he has not talked to you about me, he is probably not interested. Candidates who start from a defensive structure will start engineering the reasons in their heads why you are probably not the right fit. After you are done interviewing, can we talk within a day? No, later than a day after the interview, so you tell me what you like and what you did not like.” 

Lastly, on the offer side, I do not say ‘I like to” or “I would appreciate it if I could.” I say, “I make the offer to the candidates.” You go in very assertively. Did I always make the offers? No. It is a negotiating point. 

This is how I set it up with the client: “I make the offers to the candidates, and here is why. They tell me the things they do not tell you. I know you are probably really skilled at making offers, but with all due respect, this is all I do for a living. I find and assess talent, and I help negotiate packages. Because of this, I can read their BS a mile away because it is all I do. Just like your role as VP of Sales can do circles around me – I never say I can do circles around the client – this is an area where I have expertise.”  

Do I occasionally have offers turned down? Yes, but it is usually with the candidate that is out of integrity because my process is designed to nail them down, gain their commitment, and make an offer that I am 99% sure will be accepted.  

I have had some clients who were adamant about making their own offers. In those cases, I say: “I will compromise, but you have got to run me off or buy me first. I promise you, I will not make the offer, I will not leak it, but when they are on the phone with you, I want them in a position to accept. That is part one that we will strategize on the offer. I will allow you to make the offer, but I can set them up for acceptance. Number two is you cannot let them think about the offer.”

For many of you, this concept of not allowing the candidate to think about the offer might be new to you. You might be letting people think about the offer. It was rare – because I cannot say never – it was rare I let a candidate think about an offer.  

Again, the whole thing is much more than this question from Jim; it is all about having these conversations throughout the process. Nothing new should be happening. There should be no new information. You should not be crossing your fingers at the point of an offer. Acceptance of an offer should be determined. You know what the number is and the terms are that the candidate will accept before the offer is even being made.  

A phenomenal question, Jim.   

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash