Convincing Reluctant Candidates on the Right Day, Part 2

The six basic approaches required:

  1. Read business papers and magazines. The purpose is to identify when newsworthy companies have positive, negative, or dramatic business events.
  2. Watch the weather. Watch the weather channel and read the weather section of the newspaper to identify geographic areas where people are likely to want to "flee" because of recent horrible weather.
  3. Use CRM systems. Customer relationship management systems can be used to track birthdays, performance appraisal days, bonus periods, graduation dates from college, etc., and send out customized communications relative to each.
  4. Leverage your network. Emails and telephone calls to a target candidate's colleagues and friends asking them about positive and negative events in a target candidate's life can reveal occurrences that lead to frustration and anxiety. Identifying and staying in touch with "super knowers" (they just seem to know everyone and everything that's going on) is an excellent approach. Attending professional meetings is a great way to pick up on potential happy and unhappy times for your target candidate as well.
  5. Search the Internet. Many corporate websites release information about promotions and major business events in their PR section. Personal websites,, sales leads from credit reports, or even Google searches on the person's name can come up with an amazing amount of information which indicate "right and wrong days."
  6. Practice common sense. Common sense and experience will tell you that there are certain days where people reconsider their life, independent of the work year or family events. Those days include birthdays, New Year's Eve, the last day of school (if they have children), and the worst weather days.

Ask Them at the Right Time of Day

If you get into the science (yes it is a science, not an art), you soon realize that in addition to the day, the time of day and the location where you make the request are also critical.

Any salesperson or fisherman will tell you that there are certain "right times" during the day that are optimal to reel in your catch. Some of those might include:

  • Late in the day, at which time many professionals have been exposed to more opportunities that tire and frustrate them.
  • At the very beginning of the day, before they began, when they realize they are facing an insurmountable pile of work.
  • Any day you can catch them working after hours at the office.

Ask Them at the Right Place

Do your homework and find out which location makes them most likely to say yes. You might start by asking them or their friends what location they were at when they said yes to their current job.

  • Lunch, breakfast, or dinner conversations often have a greater impact.
  • Have a drink. People tend to think differently after a little alcohol.
  • Talk to them in person. Some people can easily turn down someone on the phone but can't do it face-to-face.
  • Talk to them at a conference, where most people have their guard down.
  • Talk to them at your firm's office, where they might "feel the love" from other employees that would like to see them come onboard.
  • Give them a call at home right after dinner, where, for instance, the spouse might ask "what was that about" after you call. That conversation with a spouse might get you a return call that never would have occurred if you called while they were at the office.

You can also increase your odds of getting a reluctant candidate to say yes if you:

  • Involve the family in helping you sell.
  • Sell their references on how great your company is.
  • Influence the public by building your company's external employment brand so that friends and acquaintances "talk up" your firm.

But What Would Denny Crane or Miss Manners Say?

Now for those that say that what recruiters are doing here is taking advantage of someone's misery or that they are violating some fairy-tale ethical code, my answer is "Yes, we are." But these approaches also offer candidates an opportunity to get out of that misery.

Great recruiters identify when candidates are vulnerable and use that time period to get them to say yes, just like most potential fiancees, salespeople, and smart children who ask for an advance on their allowance! Great recruiters take advantage of opportunities and openings, while other recruiters get 100 percent of their information from candidate resumes and later scratch their heads and complain because, inexplicably, "the best candidates always turn us down."

Also, for those HR pseudo-lawyers without law degrees, using someone's birthday or personal event to recruit is perfectly fine because you are using the information in order to proactively offer them an opportunity. Discrimination occurs when you do not offer someone a position because of their age or other personal information.

Privacy can be an issue, but generally people don't complain when you use personal information to offer them a great job that pays them more money. Most privacy issues relate to individuals using your personal data to take the money you already have, not to offers to give you more money and better opportunities — which, incidentally, you can turn down at any time.


It's important to realize upfront that asking a candidate to apply for job or accept an offer requires precise timing. It's just a fact that the same offer given to a candidate on one day will get a no while making the same offer at the appropriate time or place will get a resounding yes.

If this "new approach" makes you nervous, go talk to your salespeople and the retained search firms that you use and see if they don't already use a similar approach. Don't be surprised if you encounter resistance to this approach, because outside-the-box approaches make people resistant to change nervous.

"Nervous nellies" who see a hundred reasons why you shouldn't use this, or any new approach, are the same ones who hire third-party recruiters to do exactly the same thing for them. But just because someone else does it out of sight, it is somehow okay.

Hunt on the right day yourself and you will have good hunting!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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