There is all sorts of bad advice about screening candidates over the telephone. Quotes such as those of the side of the page might apply when recruiting for high-volume, commodity jobs if there are masses of applicants but it is a SURE ROUTE TO FAILURE in most other situations. This is especially the case when dealing with high value professionals like senior managers. It should never be considered a waste of time to speak to management people. Such people may not be suitable or interested in a specific role today but they will certainly be so in the future. As well, senior candidates always know other senior candidates and certainly understand the game of hiring since they do it themselves. They can be great sources of information and contacts if recruiters take the time to build relationships with these people.

Making abrupt, tactless telephone calls to senior managers to “eliminate candidates” and “speed up the interview process” will ensure the long-term failure of most executive search consultants involved in management recruiting. When calling on executives or any other highly skilled people, there are only 2 things that are important: creating dialogue and offering benefit. If they see the caller as a valuable career mentor who they might want on their team of life-time contacts, any business leader who is somebody, will stop to talk (or schedule another time to do so).

Act in the short-term, Work for the long-term When calling professional candidates, you initially have a short period of 20 to 30 seconds to get their initial attention. If this can be done without creating a reflex rejection, the call that starts as a monologue of the candidate listening to the recruiter can become a 2-way conversation between industry professionals with benefits to both Professionals like senior managers are busy people and calls to them are interruptions to their work day. Recruiters must provide a benefit by offering information that adds to their base of knowledge and motivates their curiosity.

The best method is to simply explain the reason for the call in a clear but not too specific manner. If the caller gives too much information immediately, he or she may either overwhelm the candidate or say something that creates an automatic negative response. It is important there are both an immediate purpose for the call (an open job) and a long-term purpose (future jobs and mutually beneficial relationship). Senior managers who are going anywhere immediately recognize the value of relationships with executive recruiters in their careers and businesses.

Inexperienced recruiters often charge ahead too quickly and aggressively. The result may be that the candidates they source are too often job-hoppers or desperate to make a move. This may not always be bad but it is clear that the best candidates are stable and successful in their current roles. All hiring managers and recruiters need to remember that job changes are life changes to most people. Take time to listen and understand.

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