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Recruiters have always had the upper hand when it comes to job seekers vying for a position.

And, with technology only making the screening process faster and less  personal, their role in identifying ideal candidates out the mass of applicants only becomes even more important.

This paradigm has the average job seekers adapting by doing whatever it takes from floating in more keywords on their resumes to networking to get in front of a person with influence in order to secure a job and avoid ending up in the black hole of applicants.

But, for recruiters vying for top talent and passive candidates, all this power can mean little to nothing if a recruiter forgets that they don’t always have the upper hand.  And, if mishandled, recruiters may not feel the love from the talent they’re reaching out to.

In fact, many recruiters forget the basics of establishing a relationship with both employers and candidates and end up turning off the very talent they’re trying to secure.

Perhaps it is the increasing informality of technology, the economy turning the job market into a veritable war for positions, or just forgetfulness from day to day affairs, but people are still people — they  want to be treated like human beings.

The power of the first impression goes both ways.

Top talent and passive candidates aren’t looking to jump ship at the first shiny object dangled in front of them.  And, a thoughtless first email or impersonal voicemail can turn a potential candidate into a dead end, or worse, your brand’s worst enemy, if you really turn them off.

Just like in any relationship, candidates of any type want to be wooed (or courted if you prefer.)  They want to feel like they matter and that you have an investment in them, in order for them to invest their time and energy in pursuing your job opening.

Do your research before reaching out.  Know what you have to offer them that they may not already have.  And, don’t act like if they’re not interested in what you have to say that you’ve got better people in the line-up.

Top talent knows why you’re calling them, because they’re good at what they do.  And, if you’re reaching out to them directly, either you know that, and know what a great fit they are, or your candidate pool is running thin, or both.

It’s a relationship built on trust.

Once a candidate decides to take the first step in speaking with you, they’re putting trust in you that you’re going to do right by them.  If they begin to feel like they’re just another number in an open casting call, or that you’re not invested in their placement, they’ve got other recruiters knocking on their door who will give them the time of day.

Not only are they placing their trust in you, so is the company you are recruiting for.  And, recruitment at its core, is all about relationships, whether it be personal or with a brand.  You’re doing both the candidate and the company a disservice by not establishing a good relationship from the opening gate.

And, even if you place the candidate this go round, if you didn’t treat them well, forget them picking up the phone to call you when they’re ready for a new change in their career.  The same goes for the company if the trust built goes sour during the process (or if the candidate reveals how you treated them, after the hire.)

Repeat business is far better than a one-time placement and this stems from building a relationship of trust, respect, and dedication to both sides of the table.

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

There’s nothing worse than being put in the middle of a negotiation and realizing your best interests aren’t being honored.  A passive candidate needs a reason to make a move.

Sometimes it’s about money, but more often it’s about opportunity.  Factors like work/life balance, new projects, a more impactful role that actually entice talent to leave where they’re comfortable.

Did you take the time to find out what motivates your talent pool?  What really matters for them.  That extra $10k you got them on salary was great, they’re sure you like the fact that it adds to your commission, but did you get them that better title, more vacation days, or a guarantee to work with the new companies leadership?

You may feel like you’re almost to the finish line only to get burned when the talent walks away from the table because they weren’t motivated to make a move.

A great recruiter will take the time to understand what’s important to clients on both sides of the table.  They also know when to be honest and admit when it’s not a fit rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  And honesty goes a long way in both uncovering motivation and building a relationship.

Timing is everything.

While an average job candidate will wait (begrudgingly) sometimes for weeks or months to hear back (if they do at all), top talent and passive candidates have a need to know where they stand at all times.

You’re not the only recruiter on the block, nor the only opportunity, and quite frankly, they have other work to focus on because they’re usually already employed or very serious about finding the right path for their careers.

Blow them off or let them linger too long and you’ve lost your window of opportunity to keep them interested in your position.

If there’s something holding up the process, let them know what it is and that you’ll keep them informed.  Don’t try the smoke and mirrors act to keep them on the hook, it gets old fast.

If it’s not the right fit at this time, build a bridge with the candidate to reconnect and stay in touch from time to time so that you don’t lose the chance of placing them in the future.

If you want to feel the love and keep top talent and passive candidates turning to you when they’re ready to transition, you have to remember the basics of recruiting.

And if you want to be a great recruiter, remember that top talent started on the bottom just like everyone else.  Don’t neglect your active candidates just because they’re lower on the totem pole or not as high of a commission.

These candidates could very well be the talent you’re chasing after in a year or two after you blew your chance at forging a solid relationship early in their careers.

A good recruiter knows the value of their candidates and remembers to treat them that way.  A great recruiter remembers that every candidate is a human being, and that every relationship is personal to the person involved.

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