The Underpinnings of Engagement (Every Sourcer Should Know) – Part II

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Aug 24, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

This three part series covers the core elements of behavior management for talent engagement. In the first part, the theory behind behavior management is reviewed. In the second installment, a road map for the initial stages of engagement will be shared, and the third part you’ll see how to use behavior management to attract and engage career consumers who reside in the top 10-20% from a talent perspective for any functional area.

In the first installment we discussed the value, theory, and ethics of using behavior management techniques as a sourcer. In Part II, I am going to show how you can improve your sourcing engagement efforts by managing behaviors of those you reach out to.

I find that most people are attracted to Sourcing roles because of their love of research where they can use their technical sleuthing skills to uncover data and people that others overlook. I would say that the biggest hurdle Sourcers face in the job is when they need to engage directly with the results of their research – especially when it’s time to pick up the phone. Sending an email or using a social media platform is so much less daunting with less pressure to perform verbally in the moment, but doesn’t always deliver the results a phone conversation will. With that in mind, the following verbal approach (Phone, Skype, etc.) will focus on lessening the anxiety by providing an easy to follow path that provides elements of behavior management so a successful result is achieved.

The key element to the success of approaching a person not actively looking for a job is to be sure that you are taking a consultative approach to the interaction. If you go barging in to sell a job or talk about how great you are or the terrific companies that you support – unless the prospect IS active – you will probably experience quite a few hang ups or brush offs. Let’s face it, without learning a prospect’s career motivations, interests or attitudes, we’re flying blind. Instead, using the right phrases and tonality we can quickly demonstrate that we are interested in “them” and want to be a guide to career success. Empathy, understanding, and listening are attributes that the best employ to gain the trust and confidence of non-active career consumers.

Since approaching active job seekers is pretty well defined, I’m going to focus on how best to approach non-applicant prospects. Whether the prospect has been warmed with a previous digital send out or not, the following phone or Skype process will be the same. It’s important to realize that when your prospect answers – you are “on-stage” performing – it takes a lot of rehearsing to win a sourcing Oscar!

Where to begin

Not surprisingly, the approach begins by managing a prospect’s attention and awareness, with phrases that “create curiosity” and “break their routine.” Let’s face it, people aren’t waiting by the phone or sifting through their inbox for your message. In addition, grabbing their attention is not nearly enough in our sensory overloaded world since more than likely they’re multitasking when you approach them. Breaking their routine to gain their awareness is vital. Blending both aspects into the first line of text or sentence you speak along with adding a bit of mystery will make the difference.

For about 20 years, my teams and I have constantly tested various approaches and found that the best initial phrases are always simple and crystal clear. Here is one example I use a lot:


You and I haven’t spoken before, but my research team here has uncovered some very interesting information about you that has prompted me to give you a call. Do you have a moment?

Seems ridiculously tame (right?), but in this simple phrase, quite a number of emotions and behaviors are stirred:

             Phrase                                                   Behavior/Emotion

…haven’t spoken previously                      >> Sets a tone of reality & honesty

…my research team                                     >> Indicates this is more than a recruiter lurking on LinkedIn

…very interesting information                  >> Builds curiosity

…prompted me to give a call                      >> Igniting awareness (who is this?)

…do you have a moment?                           >> Breaks Routine to ponder the question

At this point, the objective is to get your prospect to think (or say out loud), “What is this all about?” Obviously, creating curiosity and breaking the person’s routine can be achieved in many different ways. I’m certain many of you use variations on this theme.

Lowering Tension

poor good exAs you gain their attention, the level of tension will rise as the prospect is wondering why you have interrupted them. Regardless of introvert or extrovert, tension is the #1 cause for a recruiting call to go south. Unless tension is lowered, it’s unlikely that anything positive will come of the engagement. I’ve spent more time training the “tension meter” concept than most other areas. To me, getting it ingrained into a sourcer/recruiter’s thinking is critical to their success in “live” conversations.

The single best method I have found to lowering tension is humor. The flow of the interaction from breaking their routine to lowering tension should be smooth and seamless and if done effectively – regardless of how bad your humor is – will take prospects completely by surprise.

Those with a dry wit do this best, but actually silly and corny one liners work incredibly well too. It’s the transition from serious business statement to humorous phrase that makes it work. It needs to be a “one liner” that each sourcer/recruiter crafts on their own so they are comfortable in delivering it.

Here are a few examples:

Let me back up and take some of the mystery out of my call. I’m not calling from the IRS, and I am sure there is nothing wrong with your tax returns…at least for now!

Let me back up and take some of the mystery out of my call. I’m not calling from City Hall, and as far as I know you haven’t missed Jury Duty…have you? 

The first phrase – the set up – is critical to making it work. By saying that you will take the mystery out of why you are calling, this tees up the humorous phrase like Dean did for Lewis, Abbott did for Costello and Laurel did for Hardy. The humorous phrase comes out of nowhere and if done effectively (it does take practice), is like the air rushing out of a balloon. As horrible as my examples at humor are, they’re completely tension lowering, so you don’t have to be famous comedian to pull it off. At this point you have managed the prospects curiosity, routine and tension, and many of you may be thinking, so what?

The focus of the approach up until this point is to ensure your prospect is primed to absorb, listen and react to the important message you are about to deliver. They may not want to take part in what you’re asking for, but it won’t be because they weren’t fully engaged with your message.

So what is that message? How should it be delivered? What behaviors need to be managed to get a prospect from initial engagement and into your talent pipeline or candidate pool? Are there behaviors that can be managed to increase the likelihood of engaging with talent from the top 20% of the talent pool?

As you may surmise, there is a lot more that lies ahead, and we will cover all of that in Part III of this series: How Top Sourcers go from Zero to 60 in just 300 seconds…for now let me know what you think of this approach in the comments.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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