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Recruiting & Candidate Development

The Reluctant Candidate - Getting to Yes

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Every recruiter can cite conversations with prospective candidates that included phrases like…I’m not interested….I’m not looking right now…or…”I’m OK right now. Those conversations matter if the prospect is a potentially viable candidate for a client.  But those conversations, especially cold calls, sometimes end when an issue/objection is raised by the prospect but not effectively addressed. 

If we adopt some ideas from sales management, there are constructive ways to respond to “objections” to the “sale” of a new career direction.

In sales training, the concept of overcoming objections is a key element of training for sales production and sales success.   An objection for our purposes is defined as an issue brought up by a prospect, often intended to end the conversation or, in some cases, test the caller.   Sometimes an objection is subtle and requires the recruiter to listen carefully for the real concern of a prospect.  As recruiters, our goals in a call to a prospect are to engage him/her in conversation, potentially develop him/her into a candidate, or at least a source of a referral.  Objections can occur at any point in multiple conversations with candidates, but let’s cover a few likely objections during the first call and conversation.  Assume a first call is made to a prospect and consider the following:

Candidate comments:                                                   Recruiter Responses:

I’m not looking…

“I can understand your reaction.  When I get a new assignment and begin contacting managers like you, I rarely talk to anyone who is actively looking.  But I also find that, in some cases, they want to hear more.  Can we take a moment, discuss my client opportunity? Maybe you can assist me?

I don’t want to change jobs right now…

I understand.  Perhaps you can assist me?  I am looking for an impact player with a solid background in….who can assume a leadership role in …. Any ideas?  Can I send you an email with a summary of my opportunity?

I’m with a large company right now, not sure I want to move to a mid-sized company…

Well, there are certainly some key differences.  For example, the role I am working on will call for a decision-maker, someone who can step in, lead change and make things happen. That’s not usually the way things get done a big company.  Would the challenges of more responsibility and accountability be attractive to you?

I’m with a small company right now, OK with my job and don’t plan on any changes…

My client is a leader in the field, with excellent potential for impact on the market and industry. As you know, there are a lot of things happening in the industry and my client will be a factor.  If your current employer is…  making the right investment in technology …building market share….reducing operations expense…(insert key topic) then you may be OK.  If not, are you open to discussion?

This doesn’t sound like it’s much different from my current job?

(have two or three key differentiators to share about the scope and responsibilities of the role, i.e., # people to lead, independence, decision-making, leadership, leading edge product/service etc.)

Thanks for the opportunity to explore this.  Can I ask a few questions to understand what you do now, and I can show you how my client role adds to your career?

I’m OK with my job, but I am thinking about my career

(have details about the client commitment to best practices, such as ....TQM, 5S, QA, Lean, Green Belt, OD, latest IT upgrade, etc, directly connected to the professional development of people in the field)

If you have a few minutes, can you tell me about your career development goals?

  • Get details of interests, next steps planned
  • Connect interests to client opportunity

I am not familiar with your company, so what can you tell me?

Have three or four selling points to highlight the company, create the rationale for a change

There are certainly more potential objections, but this covers some of the most frequent issues.  For a generic method of handling objections, keep in mind the classic approach: Feel,…. Felt… Found. Whatever the candidate says, the response is:

  • I can understand how you FEEL about (insert issue)
  • I have often FELT that way myself when I have to deal with….
  • But I have also FOUND…(respond to issue with example of someone who faced same issue and the outcome, or a personal story, or a fact based answer to the issue)

In all cases, our role is to get to a close with a candidate and getting past objections is key to the process.  Good luck with those cold calls!

Bill Broderick



Bill Broderick is a consultant with 25+ years experience in HR management, retained search and HR projects. He is a Director of Fennimore Solutions, a retained search and staffing firm focused on Supply Chain and Operations assignments.

He also leads an Internet startup job board,, a social network recruiting resource designed to enable employers to access groups/networks of job seekers to fulfill staffing goals.

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