Why Are You Such a Scaredy Cat About Approaching Candidates?

By Jenn Steele - Jan. 30, 2014
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Approach candidatesDoes this sound familiar?

You’ve met the perfect employee after months of looking! There’s just one problem:

They don’t know they want to work for you yet.

In fact, they think they’re in their “dream job” making pretty great pay to commute to an office right on the transit line to their 3 bedroom house around the corner from where their kids go to school, blah blah blah. They’re blissfully unaware of how much their life would be transformed by working in your wicked awesome company.

So now you’re a big, puddly mess of wishing they would just come and work for you right this instance. The thought of picking up the phone to call them or sending them an introductory email makes you more nervous than a cat on a deflating pool toy.

It’s time to get over it and get those perfect employees on your team!

Why are you such a wuss, anyhow? I have some theories as to why you recoil at approaching passive candidates:

  1. You don’t want to be seen as a Spammer
  2. You’re afraid of rejection
  3. You actually just… well, don’t know how! So you use the phone? Email? Hang outside their office pretending to tie your shoe all day…?

Get over it!

Seriously. There is no other way out of your fear than through it. Need a hand? Glad you asked. Here are some ways to address your fears:

1. You’re Afraid You’ll Be Seen As a Spammer

So don’t spam.

There’s more on this in point 3 but if you have any other method of contacting that person other than an InMail on LinkedIn, DO IT.

If you have to send a message, make your messages good & not generic. Don’t do stupid things like send a recruitment email to the CEO of your top competitor. You have the unique advantage that you are genuinely interested in connecting with that person as an individual. It’s a personal connection, so make it a personal email. Read our advice on how to write LinkedIn messages that will attract perfect job candidates before you get started.

2. You’re Afraid of Rejection

Rejection happens. A lot. The bridge to what you want is made up of a whole lot of no’s. It’s easy to say, but harder to really believe.

Nobody likes rejection, even those people who you think are immune to it. Here are some ways top salespeople get over their fear and the pain of rejection:

a) Don’t take it personally

Reframe the voice in your head that says, “They’re rejecting me” or “They’re going to say no because I’m going to say something wrong.” There are plenty of reasons why they would reject your call / message / offer and 99% of them have absolutely nothing to do with you. You’re not that big a deal – or dealbreaker. You’re just someone making an offer or trying out an idea.

b) Prepare

The more prepared you are the better you will feel about making the call. Write down options of what you want to say. If you’re alone, practice saying it outloud. If you’re making multiple calls, trial a bunch of different scripts to see which one keeps you on the phone with the prospect longer. Don’t assume some magic fairy of charisma will anoint your tongue once you’re halfway in to the conversation.

c) Stop Preparing

Or rather, don’t use preparation as an excuse. Decide on a reasonable amount of time to prepare and schedule the day and time you will make the call. Ask a colleague to keep you accountable for making the call.

If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you’ll never get off the starting line.

Just. Do. It.

3. You Just Don’t Know How

Okay, this one makes a little more sense to me, so I figured you could use some tips. Work your way down the hierarchy of connection options, starting with the one most likely to get you a positive – if not affirmative – response: face-to-face.

a) Face to Face

Will they be attending any of the same events as you in the future? Do they buy coffee from the same place as you? Even if you have to send them a message as an introduction, a message of “Hey, I think we’re both going to be at ABC event in a couple of weeks, and I’d love to chat,’ is much more likely to get a positive response than an outright recruitment email.

b) Through a Connection

Are you connected to anyone they know? It’s better to receive an introduction, even if that’s through phone or email. Introductions are simple: contact the person you know who also knows them and ask them to introduce you. They should know them well enough to have their email address and can cc you both on an introduction email that goes, ‘Johnny Bravo, meet Awesome Hiring Manager, he heard about your work at XYZ Company and wanted an introduction. He’s doing some seriously wicked awesome stuff with…’

c) Phone Call

There’s debate about whether a phone call is a good way to go in recruiting. It interrupts the candidate and can catch them in really awkward situations (i.e., at work!) where they can’t talk to you. However, a phone call is much harder to ignore than yet another recruiting email. You took the time to personally contact them, which, along with the tone of your voice, conveys your sincerity and excitement.

If you think a phone call is the best way to go, try to obtain a mobile number and call in times when they will be more likely to be out of the office (e.g., around lunchtime). If you do catch them at work, be brief, state your purpose, and suggest straight up that you were calling to see if they’re up for a chat (at a better time) about your awesome job opportunity.

d) Email / InMail

As we said before, check out our advice on how to craft the perfect introductory message before you send it off. Contacting a candidate through LinkedIn is a legitimate but truly overused method. You really have to get it right if you’re going to stand out.

Now that you’ve read this post, there are no more excuses! Get out there, get in touch, and get those rockstar employees on your team!

Photo courtesy of Stefan Tell.


Jenn Steele

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