Imagine a market owner. Some customers visit the market, and they want suggestions for what they should buy – what are the best brands, what’s on sale, or what’s in season. Then, on the other hand, there are other people who simply go to the market to buy a bag of apples, the same bag of apples, once a week, every week. No insight or input needed. For them, the market owner is a means to an end: they just want their apples.
Recruiting, to a certain extent, is similar. It’s a service-based job, and different people have different conceptualizations of how their relationships with a recruiter should manifest. Some want the conversational answers, and others may just want the “apples.” One relationship isn't better than another - they're just different.
My team’s focus at LaSalle Network is sourcing candidates. Given that I am often reaching out to passive candidates who are unfamiliar with LaSalle Network, my job relies on my ability to connect with individuals in a short amount of time, to fundamentally understand who the person on the other line is, and what sort of relationship they are looking to have. For example, if I notice a candidate is giving brief responses under their breath, it’s important I acknowledge they are probably in a bad place to discuss their job with me. In that case, I stay concise and offer alternative times to speak.
I’ve discovered candidates want to have different relationships with their recruiters… and that's ok! While certain recruiter-candidate dynamics may appear preferable, the best dynamic is ultimately the one that leads a candidate to find a great job. And that may vary.
Here are several examples I encounter, and how to approach the various relationships. Keep in mind, none of these are bad - they're just different approaches to working with recruiters:
The Consultative Relationship
Some candidates want a more consultative relationship. They want resume advice, networking opportunities, market insights, etc. They’ll often come prepared with a lot of questions, and they look to a recruiter as a multi-dimensional resource. Oftentimes this sort of relationship calls for coaching through big career transitions.
The key is to listen (really, that’s the key to a lot of recruiting). Listen early on, and then respond. Ask open-ended questions so that they can air all the questions, comments, and concerns they have. Demonstrate that you’re someone who will listen and someone who is a subject matter expert who can answer their questions and be said resource.
The Transactional Relationship
For others, recruiters are a means to an end: the job opportunity. They want a more “transactional” relationship: it doesn’t stem from disregard for the recruiter or the value we provide – rather they view working with a recruiter as a professional service. They want conversational efficiency, which means brief and to-the-point interactions to keep the process moving. They just want to talk about what they do, their background, what they’re looking for, and what opportunities you have. No frills.
Recognize early in the conversation that their answers may be brief and to the point, and be efficient with the questions you ask and the answers you give. It will ultimately lead to a higher level of buy-in from them. The right time to have more in depth conversations will arise if this is handled properly.
The Reassuring Relationship
Some candidates can get nervous, or they get cold feet during the process. Maybe they haven’t looked in 15 years, or they’re new to the market. They need a recruiter to be the voice of confidence, re-confirming that they’re making the right decision and talking through their reasons. If they’re out of their comfort zone, they need a recruiter to reassure them and communicate. Again, the key is to listen.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sometimes these relationships change. Someone may start the process envisioning a more transactional relationship. But as they get close to getting an offer, a new candidate emerges: they may want a more conversational or reassuring recruiter because over time you’ve built trust with them. All of a sudden they need a reassuring recruiter. A new job moves from concept to reality, and they now turn to a recruiter they respect and trust for guidance as it comes to fruition.
The bottom line is that you’re working with people, the most diverse, fascinating, and unpredictable commodity to exist.
There are so many personality types – the aforementioned examples can’t, and don’t, encompass everyone. The key is to listen and notice trends. Note how people respond to a specific question you always ask early in conversations: what are the social cues you’re getting that tend to reveal a particular profile trend? Become familiar with these trends. Then you’ll know how to adapt quickly to match what they want. Ask more experienced co-workers who have been successful in their careers for their insights. Listen to what they say, and then practice, practice, practice.