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How to Stimulate Referrals and Fill More Jobs

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Bill RadinSometimes recruiters obsess so much over the science of recruiting---the “where to look”---that we tend to ignore the true art of the business, the “how to ask.” These days, it seems we’ve all turned into info-junkies, addicted to databases, directories and Internet research.

Which is fine. Candidates don’t fall out of the sky, they have to be found. And given the Internet’s exotic allure of an unlimited supply of highly skilled candidates, what recruiter wouldn’t be tempted to compile a list of 100 names before even having to pick up the phone?

Unfortunately, the mountain of evidence approach to recruiting threatens to become an end unto itself, as we increasingly rely on raw data, rather than strong relationships as the best source of qualified candidates. Today’s recruiter frequently squanders resources already available by failing to leverage relationships into referrals.

Go Right to the Source
To find qualified candidates, I’ve found that it’s far more efficient to daisy-chain through a series of recommendations than it is to cold-call a widely scattered collection of prospects. Or, to use a football analogy, you’re more likely to score a touchdown from a sustained drive than to run a post pattern on every play.

For example, many candidates can be found simply by taking the time to ask the employer for referrals. By deposing the decision maker before the search begins, you can eliminate many hours of unnecessary research and data collection. Here are some simple questions to ask as you write your next search assignment:

• Mr. Employer, is there anyone you’ve interviewed in the past that might develop into a candidate for this job or into a source of referrals?

• Have you met anyone in the last year or so (at a trade show, industry meeting, etc.) that might be able to help me in the search?

• Can you tell me where the people on your staff worked prior to coming to work for you?

• With your permission, may I speak with them, to see if they have any contacts at their old companies that I might call?

It’s also advisable to ask the employer for the names of any candidates that have already been interviewed or are known to be unsuitable. That way, you’ll save time and eliminate the risk of embarrassing yourself by presenting duplicate or unwanted candidates.

Your Presentation is Everything
I’m often asked how to increase the number of referrals you can get from a cold recruiting call. The answer is threefold:

[1] Build credibility. Demonstrate that you understand the job market, your capabilities and the candidate’s everyday world. If you’re new to recruiting, nothing will establish your credibility more quickly than expressing your sincere desire to learn.

[2] Reciprocate. Be as helpful as you can to everyone you talk to. As an expert in your market, you have a lot of knowledge to share in terms of career management, salary guidelines and industry trends.

[3] Strengthen your presentation. Most recruiters do such a poor job of presenting themselves to candidates that they end up building a barrier, instead of a bridge.

In a first-call situation, you have very little time to “connect” with another person, so your recruiting script has to quickly stimulate interest in order for a dialogue to develop. A classified ad script (as in, “My client is a Fortune 500 company, looking for a degreed engineer with three years’ experience in automotive gears, knowledgeable in CAD/CAM, blah, blah, blah. . . ”) is almost guaranteed to put the candidate to sleep, and will probably stereotype you as a mere telemarketer.

In contrast, by using a technique called storyboarding, you’ll connect more quickly with candidates and dramatically increase the number of referrals you receive. Storyboarding sets the table for dialogue by incorporating the element of drama into your presentation. Once you’d piqued the candidate’s interest, the two of you are more likely to engage in conversation, and the candidate will more freely exchange ideas and provide you with referrals.



Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter whose innovative books, CDs and training seminars have helped thousands of recruiting professionals and search consultants achieve peak performance and career satisfaction. Bill’s extensive experience makes him an ideal source of techniques, methods and ideas for rookies who want to master the fundamentals—or veterans ready to jump to a higher level of success.

One of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, Bill has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Staffing Industry Summer School in Chicago, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and

Bill's recruiting career began in 1985, after he received his Master's degree in Music Performance from the University of Southern California. A specialist in the sensor and instrumentation industry, Bill serves his client companies by filling sales, managerial and technical positions (visit his Web site at

Under his leadership as manager and training director, Bill helped Search West of Los Angeles and Management Recruiters of Cincinnati set individual and company billing records. In addition to his best-selling industry-specific books for recruiters, Bill has also authored the critically acclaimed career books, Take This Job and Leave It and Breakaway Careers, published by Career Press.

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