Phone sourcing is a seduction - not a sell!

Phone sourcing is a seduction – not a sell!

Last week I said it was simply dumb not to use the phone to approach top talent. That blog hit a nerve, got 5,000 hits in the first 24 hours of publication, and countless social shares.

But the question arises. What about the call itself? What do we say? What are we trying to achieve?

The first step is to understand that in 95% of cases you have identified a great person who is not overtly looking for a job. They are not necessarily thinking about moving. They are focussed on the work they are doing now. Your call has not been invited. You must factor in this critical psychology.

So, for you to blunder in and aggressively tout, ‘I have I got a great job for you’, will likely be unproductive and damaging to your reputation.

So here is the thing so few understand.

When you phone source a passive candidate. You are not selling a job at all. Oh yes, you will have a job in mind, but that’s not where you start.

No, this call is a seduction. It’s the start of a romance.

It’s a subtle sell at most. You are stalking a flighty prey, which may bolt at any aggressive move.

Think about the call this way;

Be clear on your desired outcome. You will have researched the candidate, know her background, made some informed assumptions about the sort of role that may suit her. You will have identified an actual role, and know how its benefits will likely suit her. If you are super switched-on you may even have researched her on Crystal.

You are not selling ‘a job’. Not right now, anyway. This is the key. Don’t leap into a conversation about a ‘job’. She is not looking for a job, remember? You mention ‘job”, she says, ‘not looking’, then, where do you go from there?

Sell the discussion. This is the seduction. Instead of, “I have a got a great job for you”, try something like this;

“Mary, your name has been mentioned to me several times as a highly regarded Property Lawyer. I have researched your background, and I see you have been at ABC Partners for 5 years. What you may not realise is that the market has shifted a great deal in that time. Salaries have risen, firms have merged, international players have moved in. So, I am calling you today to see when we can set up a time to have a confidential discussion about your options and your future career”.

Did you get that everyone? Let me repeat the key phrase…

“I wish to set up a time to discuss your career”.

You are simply selling why they should set aside time to talk to you. They may not be ‘looking for a job’, but who is not interested in their career? Their future prospects? Their market value? She can still say ‘no’, but it’s far less likely. This call and this question is not threatening. It makes sense. It’s potentially appealing…to her.

It’s a career discussion. That’s what you are offering. It’s a seduction.

Set that time. It could be now, but it’s probably later. If she says, “I can talk now”, well, in you dive. If she says, “actually I was thinking of moving, do you have any great jobs”, wham, bam, away you go! But until then, easy does it Tiger!

Most likely, she will agree to speak after work, or call you back at lunchtime, or have a coffee with you next Tuesday. No matter, any one of those outcomes is a top result! This is a ‘unique’ candidate. She is not applying to your job board advert. She is not approaching clients directly. She is not ‘available’ to other recruiters, unless they take proactive smart action, like you.

Remember phone sourcing is not a hard sell. It’s a seduction. A romance. You are not selling a job (necessarily). You are selling the need for them to discuss their career!

So, pucker up baby. The romance has begun!


UK readers, please join me at one of my UK Masterclasses, in Manchester and London. October, 2015.

And if you live in Central/Eastern Europe..see you in the Czech Republic!


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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15 Responses to Phone sourcing is a seduction – not a sell!

  1. Achyut August 4, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Love the idea…sell them the need for discussing their career!

  2. john milce August 4, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    Hi Greg,

    There’s a first time for everything, and this is the first time that I disagree with you. I agree with the thrust of what you are saying, but not the actual ‘script’. If a Head Hunter / Recruitment Agent rang me out of the blue and said:-

    “So, I am calling you today to see when we can set up a time to have a confidential discussion about your options and your future career”.

    I would tell them where they could get off. In fact, in a previous life (I used to work in I.T. before selling my soul to the devil) I used to field such calls in this manner, not that I used to get that many of them 🙁


    • Greg Savage August 4, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Fair enough John.. I am just grateful we were on the same page so many times before!

      But seriously, this is not a science, it’s an art, so there are many ways to skin a cat, and what I write is almost all just opinion, open to debate. In fact I often feel that if people don’t disagree sometimes, I can’t be saying anything very interesting 🙂

      No doubt there are many better and different ways to tackle this.

      Thanks for reading my blog, and commenting..Cheers

    • Andy Wise August 4, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      In complete agreement John – up until the script it was almost like Greg read my mind viz attitudes towards approaches to passive people.

      For what it’s worth my opening is a brief intro – e.g. I’m a medical affairs recruiter with x years experience and then I ask how my services could be of benefit. See where the conversation takes me from there.

      Also important to go into the call with the attitude that your services may simply not be relevant to the person at that time and that the best you could hope for is a person who’d be happy to have further contact in the future.

      This call is a seduction and my take on that is if you’re trying to seduce someone the best way of doing so is to take a genuine interest in what they actually want rather than what you have to give.

      Thanks for the blog Greg – world class insights as always.

  3. Olivia August 4, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    A great refresher Greg. It just so happens I’m in sourcing mode this morning and just used this pretty much word for word. A great conversation and a lead produced!

    Not only that, it took me back to the good old days of back to basics 101 recruitment (with personal flair and finesse of course!)


  4. Neil Bolton August 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Good one Greg. But this is Sales 101, not just Recruitment 101 – you can replace “job” with “product”. No-one wants to buy your product if you ring them – but they might meet to discuss what car you’d dream of in a year’s time, and how you might go about getting it, or where you might want to live if your dream house came up.

    As John and you said, one size just doesn’t fit everyone – but the quickest way to have the conversation ended is by obviously selling your product.

    And I’d strongly add – a referral from a friend here is powerful – you’re much more likely to get past first base if you can say that a true friend referred you. (And I don’t mean a LinkedIn or FaceBook connection!)

    • Greg Savage August 4, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      Most of recruitment is interchangeable with sales and general business Neil. That a given. But my blog is read by 750,000 recruiters every years, so I tailor it to them. Good idea? 🙂

      I do like your refer a friend tip though. That can be very strong

  5. Maya August 6, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    this is not a science, it’s an art – the way i feel on a daily basis 🙂

    i do “hard placement” (immegrants to top companies), and i always see placement as a

    very delicate dance .

    Since my candidates are never a 100% qualefied for the position, i have to first establish trust

    relationsheep with top HR manager.

    Make them first open the door for my candidates and then living the door opened 🙂

    Liked the fact that you see the fine art of seduction the way i do 🙂

  6. Dorothy Dalton August 8, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Hi Greg – agree absolutely with your concept. As someone who calls candidates regularly in retained search – for me the script is too long. We also live in an era where unscheduled telephone calls can be seen as intrusive and people are busy with attention spans less than goldfish.

    You would certainly want to have a short compelling hook about a specific role as part of a sales process to set up a further conversation which is in line with your own selling style.

    But you are correct it is similar to a seduction.

  7. kay September 3, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    I find this an interesting perspective.

    As a candidate with over 20 years’ experience in a niche sector, I receive extensive recruiter contact. My resume is online on the primary e-boards.

    Over 50% of contact is from persons who have not reviewed my resume with a human eye and are going on some key word search or match algorithm, however flawed it may be, and call for things ridiculous in nature (£15/hour computer repair person, etc. ). Delete.

    Over 70% of contact is from persons who can neither speak nor write the Queen’s English. Delete.

    At least 60% is from recruiters who are “senior” by virtue of their being on board for three months, so they are either too young, or inexperienced, to know what they need to in order to be of any help.

    I receive at least 5-10 contacts a day from persons who are not at all interested in hiring me, but want a referral.

    I have limited time. Weeding through all of this is time intensive.

    When a recruiter calls me or sends an e-mail and wants to discuss my career, it is rare I call them back. If you have a role to discuss, send it to me. I don’t have 20 minutes to talk to everyone who wants to talk about my career, not least because the bulk of them are in no position to do anything about it. Very few of those calls turn into anything of value historically, as recruiters tend to work on the hot fill, and move on to the next shiny object afterward. They are not trying to find you a job, they are trying to fill roles in the hopper. This I understand.

    If this method works for you, that is great. But on the receiving end, it generally implies you have no respect for my time.

  8. Johnny September 15, 2015 at 12:17 am #

    I believe the original nerve hitting blog got a mention on Ed Hunter in the UK

  9. Priyanka March 12, 2016 at 1:00 am #

    I like to just cut to the chase and not waste anyone’s time. I find that if I were to seduce a candidate and if the candidate wasn’t ready or thinking of a move then the candidate will fall out on the later stages – which would be more painful at that point since we would have both more time into something that didn’t work out at the end of it.

    • Greg Savage March 12, 2016 at 11:40 am #

      The strategy Priyanka does not include pushing the candidate to engage with job opportunities before they are ready. As you say that will likely end in tears. The plan involves taking a much longer view than most recruiters are inclined to do. To continue the metaphor.. it might be a long, long seduction. The call made to day may result in a a committed candidate in a years time, after lots of conversation and thinking. That’s ok isn’t it? You plan to be a recruiter in a years time dont you?

  10. Recruiting Animal August 24, 2016 at 5:40 am #

    We call this a recruiting cold call, not phone sourcing.

    Phone sourcing is the discovery of targets using the phone to find out who does what in a firm. Following up is recruiting.

    I know that some people call cold calling and screening people sourcing but then I have to wonder what recruiting is.


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