The goal of recruiting is to find a match - the right candidate for the right role. To find that match, my main goal is to always help a recruit make an informed decision. If a candidate chooses to go elsewhere and knows all the pros and cons - it stinks, but it’s not a match. If they go elsewhere and don’t understand the role’s value and opportunity, that’s a big failure.
So how do you articulate the value of a role and a company? I went through three stages: clueless, scripted, and selling value.
Oh, To Be Clueless
When I first became responsible for recruiting candidates, I had no idea what I was doing. Send them an email? Say thank you? Keep eye contact? Go out for drinks? Whatever.
Mainly I answered questions, and I answered them clunkily. Like a new standup working out material, I didn’t know what worked, and took a lot of lumps before I was able to confidently answer questions accurately, if not in a compelling way. Recruiting outcomes ticked up gradually.
In this phase I did learn some basic elements of answering recruiting questions. For example: describe challenges optimistically. For many reasons, people new to recruiting often answer the question “What are your biggest challenges?” in an overly negative way. Whether they’re trying to seem authentic via revealing organizational warts, or because they don’t want the responsibility of selling someone on a company, or because they don’t know enough about the work being done to fix things, many people describe a tunnel of challenges with no light at the end. Recruits already expect you to be showing the best version of the company, so skewing negative comes off as twice as bad. Answer honestly but optimistically.
Once I had my cache of answers, I was ready for the next stage.
I was pretty proud of the answers I had put together. So proud, in fact, that I decided it would be a waste for people not to hear them. As a result, I started scripted selling - proactively repeating a rehearsed script of content aimed to sell the role.
“Let’s start with me giving an overview of the company and the position.” Enter my punchlines, nothing but highlight reel.
This felt good - surely people appreciated the amount of great content I was sharing! But the results didn’t really improve. As I continued to iterate and try to improve upon my pitch, I plateaued.
In retrospect, I stopped getting a return on investment for a few reasons:
- I was bored with my scripted sell. I’d end up thinking about other things while going through my pitch. People could sense this.
- I wasn’t honing in on things people cared about. My script was a jack of all trades, master of none. Instead of dazzling with one topic, it simmered on all of them.
Somewhat by dumb luck - I got really tired of giving the scripted sell - I stumbled into the next phase of selling: value selling.
Value Sell Recruiting
Sales teams have a concept of value selling software: instead of doing a feature rundown and trying to impress with every widget and gizmo, figure out what problems people are trying to solve and talk about how you can solve them.
I cut out the scripted sell and went to a two step process when it came time to describe the role:
- I always ask people what the top things they are looking for in a new role. This isn’t always the same as what they ask questions about, so it’s good context for answering questions.
- Just answer questions.
I realized this was the better way, for a bunch of reasons.
First, scripted selling is implicitly based on the premise that people either don’t know what they care about or that people all care about the same things. In any case, both are false premises.
Second, making sure a candidate is well-informed doesn’t mean making sure they know everything - it means making sure they know what they care about. Shouting every benefit of your organization and hoping something is interesting is boring and wasteful. So the first step must be to learn what people care about. Ask them what they want to know. Listen.
Third, scripted sales distract focus and time from what matters - providing information about what people care about. For example, you might spend 5% of an interview on the RSU growth potential. However, what they really wanted to know about how the team processes support introverts…now you don’t have time to fully answer that question.
Finally, scripted selling is just plain boring. Value selling finds what people care about - so you’re guaranteed to talk about things they’ll find interesting.
In The End
When I moved back to just answering people’s questions my close rate went way up. I was selling the same role and company, but I was doing it better.
Reminder: selling in recruiting is all about getting people to make the most informed decision (i.e. you’re not trying to convince or compel). As it turns out, the most informed decision is one where the candidate gets deep information about what they care about, not broad information about what they could care about.
After the change, I was articulating the value that people cared about, not the value that I thought they would care about. Contrary to the Linkin Park song, in the end, that really did matter.