When I set up my first recruitment business, I used to aim for around 20 referrals a week and encouraged my staff to use every phone conversation as a route to a new lead. The advent of social media has removed the need for recruiters to ask clients and candidates to refer anyone because they can use LinkedIn, Twitter and job sites to source candidates.
Despite this new reliance on social media, referrals are still a powerful tool and will lead to a more meaningful conversation with a new candidate. Opening a call with ‘Hi I’ve just seen your profile on LinkedIn’ will always lack substance when compared to ‘Hi, I’ve just been speaking to your colleague John who said you were one of the best architects he’d ever worked with…’.
Here are my top tips on how to ask for referrals as a valuable part of the recruitment process:
Ask the right questions
Don’t waste your time on the phone to candidates or clients by asking yes or no answer questions. Every question should have the impact to widen your network. This is especially important when asking for referrals. For example, instead of asking ‘do you know any good project managers’ you could ask, Who do you know who’d be a good fit for this opportunity? Or ‘Who’s the best project manager you’ve worked with over the years?’
Listen to the answers
It sounds really obvious but when you’re nervous and asking people for information such as a referral, it’s really easy to fill the void of silence with idle chit chat… rather than allow them to think and answer. The period of silence which follows isn’t awkward….. It’s the person at the other end of the phone thinking about the question and trying to recall the information you’ve asked for.
People are always more likely to help you if you’ve already done the same for them and proven yourself to be useful. If somebody isn’t a good fit for a particular job or if they decided they’re not interested in a specific position, focus on finding other ways you can help them before asking them for referrals. If you’ve shown yourself to be helpful to their search, it’s a lot easier to ask for referrals, and you’ll be more likely to get a positive result.
How to handle objections
In addition to doing everything described above, you also need to be adept at overcoming objections. It’s impossible to put 30 years of advice into a single paragraph but persistence is the key here. You can prepare for most of the obvious objections to referrals including:
“I cannot think of anyone” – Always try and pre-empt the objections, and this one is an obvious one! Start asking them again about their career history, how long been in the industry? How many companies have you worked for? And once they’ve answered ask again: you must know many people in the industry.. ..?
“I would rather speak to them first” – This is fairly common and the key thing is to thank them for their time and tell them that they need more information about the role, explain what your client is looking for and then turn the situation around and ask again; ‘who is the best fit for this that you’ve previously worked with?
“Give me your contact details and I will get back to you” – Again it’s important to always thank them and show appreciation for any effort on their part to help you. Mention that you would like to speak to anyone they know asap and arrange another time to call them.
Today, we all have access to the same database and average recruiters will not survive in this competitive market. Don’t become one of the 25% that leave the sector every year because of complacency. Social media savvy consultants should not just replace old methods with new ones, use every tool available to help you source the best talent. It’s important to rise above the noise and stand out by following the recruitment methodology and process meticulously for every brief. That only starts with good quality training.
This is one of many trends I’ve spotted when meeting recruiter’s day in day out and it’s something that needs to be re-instated. That’s why I’m excited about the launch of Recruitment Guide; the world’s first training application for recruitment professionals.
This step by step guide, will help to address this issue and bridge the training gap between the old methods and the new tools available to recruitment consultants today.
Register your interest in the Recruitment Guide now www.recruitmentguide.com
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