I was once at a recruitment event for a former employer and overheard one of our internal recruiters turning away a candidate for a sales position because his background was primarily in recruiting. I stopped her, invited him to interview with me and that young man became one of the top producing sales reps in the company. Recruiting IS sales. In fact, it’s not only sales, but a sale that’s twice as hard because recruitment is a “double sale.” As a sales rep I only have one job, I sell my product/service to my customer. Recruiters have to sell twice; once to sell the candidate to the hiring manager and again to sell the company and the position to the candidate.
Most of the recruiters I have interacted with over the years don’t think of themselves as sales people. Maybe its because sales folks have a bad rap, maybe it’s because it’s uncomfortable to think of another person as a commodity. But at the heart of it, recruitment is selling. So recruiters can take some lessons from the sales persons process in order to hone their craft. One crucial element of any effective sales persons process is pipeline management. Sales needs to know where each ‘opportunity’ is in the sales process, what we need to do next, what obstacles need to be overcome, etc.
Managing your candidate pipeline isn’t much different and just like sales people, having a tool to help you manage your pipeline is critical. Just as you wouldn’t expect your sales folks to run a book of business without a CRM, you shouldn’t expect your recruiters to work from inefficient or archaic systems or worse, no system at all. Chief People Officers and Directors of Talent Acquisition want and need quantifications and metrics that measure the performance of the individual recruiter as well as the process as a whole, just like a sales manager wants to understand a sales pipeline.
On the other side of the coin, your recruiters need to be extremely adept at selling your company, it’s culture, and the position in question. In a candidate scarce market, you can’t afford to lose top talent to your competition because your recruitment efforts don’t have a focus on selling the candidate on why they should pick YOU. In sales we call this an elevator pitch. Your recruiters should be able to sell a candidate in an effective way on why your company provides the best opportunity for them in the time it takes to ride an elevator. If your recruitment team doesn’t have a cohesive messaging strategy around selling to potential candidates, implement it today. Nothing is more important than selling your company as the best place to work. Please know that the recruiter at your most loathed competitor is doing just that. Can you afford NOT to think of recruiting as a sales strategy?
Which leads me to employer brand management. Another important factor that has ties to sales. Sometimes, when I’m speaking to a potential customer, it’s just not the right fit. I want that person to walk away from our interactions thinking positively about my brand and their sales experience with me. Much of a sales persons book of business is through word of mouth. If I burn a bridge with a potential customer, then I’m potentially burning several other bridges I didn’t even know about yet!
In the age of social media, damage can be done to my and my company’s reputation in the matter of a few clicks. Same goes for recruiting. Sometimes, a candidate just isn’t the right fit. It’s so important to continue to give this candidate a positive experience with your brand because guess what? In just a few clicks, they can tell millions about the crappy time they had interviewing for your company, which could potentially affect the decision of another candidate who is the perfect fit.
Not only do you need to provide a positive experience to those candidates you are engaged with, but also to ALL candidates who apply. In fact, 77% of people think less of brands that don’t respond to job applicants. It doesn’t take much, a simple email can do the trick, which comes back to tools. Empower your recruitment force with automated tools to weed out the candidate “noise” but to give a favorable impression of your brand. When those candidates have a favorable experience with you even if they aren’t the right fit, they’ll be much more likely to have something positive to say about you.
So, take a moment to think about how your duties align with sales processes.
- How can I better ‘sell’ my candidates to my hiring managers?
- How can I better sell my company and the position to the candidate?
- How are we treating applicants we aren’t interested in?
- Is it helping or potentially hurting our employer brand?
- How can I utilize my own internal sales team to gain insights on ‘selling’ to our candidates and coming up with a killer elevator pitch?
You have a team of people inside your own organization that can provide you with excellent resources to sell your positions better. Use them! And do me a favor, the next time someone tells you that recruiting isn’t sales, please say, “Recruiting is harder than sales because I’ve got to do it twice!”
Margot Wampler‘s career started in a boutique IT recruitment firm. Once she realized that double selling was way too hard, she made the transition into selling saas based products and services. Over the last 8 years she has worked for companies such as Salesforce.com, Vendini, and has recently joined the SmartRecruiters team from Demandforce, a division of Intuit. Modified Photo Credit zcache.