Good Recruiters, Bad Recruiters, Jedi Mind Tricks and Influence…

Hiring really should be easier than it is. Company wants to hire, person wants job, sign some paperwork, done. Get the right person with the skills in the role, in the shortest possible time, for the least cost. Simple.

But it’s not easy. In some cases, in fact, it’s pretty darn hard.

Like most processes, if people weren’t involved, it would be a slam dunk. People add complexity to the process in which a recruiter influences a hiring team and an individual to come to agreement on what is, for all parties, a very big decision, while handling the dynamics of culture, market, internal politics, institutional history, etc.

You could go all Jedi on them (“these are not the programmers you are looking for”), but if your Jedi training stinks, you better know how to influence people. Bad recruiters aren’t Jedis, can’t influence anyone and just end up making excuses.  Anti-Jedi.

When I read Dr. Daniel Crosby’s recent article, The Psychology of Influence, on the MonsterThinking blog, I found myself nodding in agreement. Crosby lays out six “weapons of influence,” which serve as a roadmap for recruiters who want to do more than sit around complaining about their “stupid hiring managers.” Go read the article to learn about the weapons, but here’s a snapshot and my take on how a recruiter might use them:

  • Scarcity— Know what talent makes money and drives the business, then use that language when presenting candidates: “Tom, I think you should talk with candidate Bill, because his background in thermodynamics might be a nice complement to your team as you work on the whizzer banger project for 2012.”
  • Reciprocity—Help others, and they will want to help you. “Larry, we won’t hire your son as an intern reporting to you, but I’ll connect him with five recruiters I know in the market to talk to him about potential opportunities.”
  • Social Proof—Show off a little: “Tom, I just spent time with Sally’s group reviewing the business plan for the next 3 quarters, so I have a good feel for what staffing resources they’ll need to hit their goals. Do you have time to meet, so I make sure to resource your needs appropriately? Yep, Tuesday at 9 works fine.”
  • Commitment and Consistency—hiring managers love processes they help create, especially if the initial investment is small. Brainstorm with the hiring manager five questions to ask every candidate. Get her involved in design, and the buy-in will follow.
  • Liking—According to Crosby, “play up similarities and minimize differences when attempting to persuade.” Don’t play the sleazy sales guy “reading the room” when you enter an office, but you need a connection. Find one.
  • Authority—Communicate up well. Let leadership know what road blocks are in front of you. Don’t tattle, but leverage the business leaders to remove barriers to adding great talent.

As I have written before, slapping résumés around, pounding out the calls and throwing it against the wall is by itself a very active but totally flawed plan. Great talent pros still make the calls and work the numbers, but then they also find a way to leverage Crosby’s influence weapons to drive the process. They add and refine organizational capability, which is not at all easy, but critical.

FOT Background Check

RJ Morris
R. J. Morris is based in the STL as the Director of Talent Acquisition and Management for McCarthy Building Companies, a multi-billion dollar national firm. Like many others in the FOT clan, he’s a sports nut who can endlessly draw the parallels between athletes, sports and the talent management game. I know, I know, as if we needed more of that. He has 10 years of practitioner experience leading talent efforts in corporate HR and another 7 years in leadership roles on the agency side, so he gets both sides of the desk. Talk to R.J. via emailLinkedInTwitter...


  1. Leo says:

    I just moved over from temp staffing into a corporate role and this will really help me develop my approach when interfacing with hiring managers.
    I’m curious if you have any additional practical suggestions when trying to come from a place of Authority and “Communicating up”?

  2. Gillian says:

    Haha, this post made me laugh: “Like most processes, if people weren’t involved, it would be a slam dunk.” Good breakdown of the ways to use influence.

  3. James says:

    Good post loved it! However you mis-understood the sales meaning of scarcity. Scarcity means the lack of available resources. In sales this can mean… we only have 10 left buy now before they are gone! Or for a candidate to the hiring manager “Bill i’ve looked high and low and let me tell you there are 10 of these guys out there period, this is the one that wants to work for you.” or something to that effect

  4. I agree and think in your example of social proof you could also lump in the Authority aspect from the article. By spending the time reviewing the next 3 quarters you are one step ahead and able to show you know what you are talking about.
    Great post!

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