Several months ago Mohamed Achahbar and Laurent Cebarec (from French startup Link Humans) organised a French meetup, as part of their series entitled “La Claque”, on the topic of applying sales techniques to recruitment. 

I was inspired to pursue the theme further and see how sales techniques could be applied to the position of Research Manager in a recruitment agency and to attempt to address the question: 

How to convince a candidate
to join your team? 

Because in my view, the context and relationships in a recruitment agency are comparable to that in sales, particularly as we are both “hunters”. 

Despite the plethora of acronyms describing various sales techniques, AIDA and SIMAC amongst others, the foundations of sales techniques are all the same. As a rule, I use the following steps: Presentation, Discovery, Persuasion, Conclusion. 

In the initial phone call with candidates, I begin by introducing myself and explaining the context of my call (Presentation). In those first few seconds, capturing the candidate’s attention, laying the foundations for a relaxed conversation (if possible), and establishing trust are the major challenges. 

Next comes the questioning phase (Discovery) to understand their situation, what has prompted them to change position or company, and what goal they have in mind. At this stage, it’s critical for me to have a very clear understanding of their position, responsibilities, and the context of their job in order to find a good match in my vacancy list. 

After that, it’s my turn! I present the most appropriate vacancy that I have to offer (Persuasion), being sure to link this to the Discovery phase. 

Towards the end of the call (Conclusion), we agree on a date for another phone meeting, an email exchange of CV and job description, or sometimes we stop there. 

The most crucial steps are
Discovery and Persuasion

As in a sales environment, Discovery consists of determining the needs and expectations of the candidate. 

Here, I aim to understand the candidate’s motivations and gather information in order to better assess them; to learn what they want to achieve, which direction they want to take, and what is important to them. How do they make decisions? Which criteria most affect their decisions? 

The French “SONCAS” sales approach, which consists of positioning someone in a matrix of 6 measures of motivation (Security, Pride, Novelty, Comfort, Money, Sympathy), can also be applied to recruitment. 

Here are some concrete examples: a candidate searching for a permanent position will have Security among their highest priorities, while those wishing to change jobs are often looking for a higher salary (Money), someone looking for a challenge needs Innovation… 

(NB: these examples have been simplified to illustrate my point).

Some of the techniques used to determine a candidate’s needs include using open questions to allow them to express themselves freely, and closed questions to gain precise responses. Reformulating an idea helps to ensure that information has been fully understood by all parties. 

Simple questions and informal discussions facilitate communication and exchange, but “interrogation” is obviously threatening. 

The candidates responses give me further information, which i can then use to better match the candidate to a job vacancy and company. It’s a question of translating what this means for the candidate in regards to their expectations and the benefits of the offer. 

Getting the candidate involved, imagining themselves already in the position, and linking this to their requirements makes my presentation be all the more powerful. For example:  “Concerning your desire to become a manager, this position meets that ambition and also affords you the opportunity for advancement as it involves a team of X employees.” 

This personalised approach is essential in each stage of Persuasion. 

I’ll wrap it up by going back to the beginning: these “techniques” are equally applicable to recruiting candidates because “being a recruiter is also knowing how to sell”. 


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