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This article appeared in Issue 48 of InSight Published 3rd September 2008  

I attend RCSA breakfasts and other functions as much as I can. Even though I have been in the recruitment industry since 1989, I am always hungry to learn more about makes a recruiter successful.  

Late last year I went along to a Victorian RCSA breakfast presentation, featuring Geoff Slade. Even though I had heard Geoff speak numerous times over the past 15 years or so, as well as having worked at the Slade Group for just over a year, I knew I would learn something.  

There were many excellent tips that Geoff imparted in that presentation but the point that stuck in my mind the most was his point about the difference between being a good recruiter (say $400k-$500k p.a. perm fees) and an excellent one (circa $1 million), was the importance of reverse marketing (or floating) candidates.  

Geoff’s point was that there was not sufficient time in the typical recruiter’s day/week/month to transact enough start-to-end assignments to bill huge numbers.   The only way to do this was to make regular ‘float’ placements – placements that, almost always, have a very favourable time-invested-to-fee-received ratio.  

If you are interested in making reverse marketing or floating of candidates part of your regular business development activity (I highly recommend it), then here are my top 10 tips in selecting candidates that are worth reverse marketing out to clients and prospect clients:   

Tip # 1:  Fresh on the market  

Candidates that are already very active in the job market, either by their own efforts or through other recruiters, are likely to receive and take another offer before your efforts can bear fruit.   

Tip # 2:  Immediately available or compelling reason for leaving  

You don’t want to go to all the efforts of making lots of calls, arranging interviews and negotiating offers if the candidate isn’t going to accept a reasonable offer. Completely satisfy yourself as to the true job-seeking motives of the candidate. Immediately-available candidates are best for obvious reasons.     

Tip # 3:  Reasonable salary & benefits expectations  

In the current economic climate, all clients are looking to bring some sanity back into candidate salaries so if your candidate is looking at an unrealistic salary package, then it significantly reduces the chance of a placement.   

Tip # 4:  Will give you a timeframe of exclusivity  

If you are willing to put in a significant effort to market a candidate then the candidate needs to assist you by giving you an agreed window of time for you to represent them exclusively to the market and receive feedback.   

Tip # 5:  A stand-out feature  

Given that you are potentially making a large number of (mostly unsolicited) calls to a range of clients and prospects, it makes a huge difference in the degree of cut-through your ‘float’ conversation has when one key phrase will compel the listener to want to know more about the candidate.     

At various times over the years as an accounting recruiter, these ‘cut-through’ phrases have been things such as ‘SAP experience’, ‘speaks Japanese’. ‘has worked at Lend Lease’, ‘M&A experience with a Big 4 firm’ or ‘has US GAAP reporting experience’.   

A candidate with a ‘garden-variety’ skill set or resume is unlikely to generate much interest from the market.  

Tip # 6:  From the same industry  

As your clients will know their competitors and other industry players better than other organisations (and are most likely wanting to know more about them), a ‘same industry’ candidate is more likely to provoke interest than a candidate from another industry.   

Tip # 7:  Reference checked  

Being able to quote an outstanding piece of feedback from a referee eg “if I left to go to another organisation and I needed to recruit a manager then Jane would be the first person I would contact’ makes the candidate’s quality all the more compelling as the comment is coming from an unbiased source (ie not the recruiter who has a commercial interest in saying positive things about candidates).   

Tip # 8:  Interviews effectively  

Given that you are asking a client to interview a candidate for a (mostly) currently-doesn’t-exist job, the candidate’s interview performance carries much more weight – they have to present themselves compellingly.   

Tip # 9:  Resume does 80% of the selling  

When reverse marketing candidates, there will often be times when either the person you speak to is not the real decision-maker (eg HR) or you simply can’t get through to the desired person on the phone.     

This means you are likely to be emailing through a resume before being able to make a ‘verbal sell’. In these instances, a well structured, easy to read resume that sells itself, is critical.     

Solid stints at well known companies, no dubious gaps in employment history and well known qualifications gained at respected institutions, are all highly desirable resume attributes.   

Tip # 10:  Will work in partnership with you  

As important as each of the previous 9 tips might be, the most critical one is that the candidate you believe is worth your time ‘floating’ is a candidate who will listen to your feedback, take your advice and work with you in partnership to create a win-win outcome.     

Arrogant, irresponsible or disinterested candidates are to be avoided at all costs, no matter how ‘great’ their skills or resume may be.   

In a slowing market it makes a lot of sense to proactively market candidates – what’s critical is picking the right one.  

Ensure you have your own, clearly defined, minimum criteria to make it easy for you to choose which candidates you will invest time and resources in reverse marketing.

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