December 12 , 2018

Recruit Top Prospects During Their ‘Angry Hours’ — Because Timing Is Everything

An in-depth analysis on how the right timing can dramatically improve recruiting

In my experience, the hardest-to-recruit exceptional targets are those who I label as “no, and stop calling me” passive top prospects who simply won’t accept a recruiter’s call. Even though most recruiters will tell you that their lack of interest in changing jobs is unwavering, my research has found that there are exceptions that may occur once or twice during each year, and I call them “their angry hours.”

During this brief time period the prospect is open to a recruiting discussion because something has recently occurred that makes them angry about their job, their manager, or their company. And for at least a few hours … that anger makes them suddenly receptive to recruiter calls and to new job opportunities.

Timing Is Everything in Sales and Recruiting

If you’re going to be strategic in recruiting, realize that finding top performers and superstars on the Internet, on LinkedIn, and on social media is actually now quite easy. The remaining part of recruiting is selling, because it is extremely difficult 1) to get top identified prospects to even talk to you and 2) to “sell” these individuals to the point where they are willing to apply for your job. Most top performers are fully employed and because they are so valuable, they are treated well at their current firm. As a result I classify them as “stop-calling-me prospects.” When even a top recruiter calls them or contacts them via LinkedIn or email, they either don’t respond at all or they say emphatically “no.”

Effective recruiting requires precise timing. The same call that was not returned by a prospect on one day may get an immediate callback another day, because something in the target’s work life has dramatically changed that made them angry.

Fortunately, we can learn from those outside of HR who have an effective solution to this resistance. And this solution is based on the timing of the contact rather than the content of the actual sales pitch. For example in high-end real estate, boat, and luxury car sales, experts use prospect research to identify the factors that indicate that a formerly not-interested prospect is now ripe for a purchase. That same “call-at-the-perfect time” approach can be applied to recruiting, if you can identify the times where your targets are considering entering job search mode, which are the hours when they become angry and frustrated with their current job.

Unfortunately, very few recruiting departments fully use this or any form of prospect research, even though it can reveal the triggers that shift a top prospect from stop-calling-me mode to a more receptive mode which I call “I-am-angry-enough-right-now-to-enter-job-search mode.”

An “Angry-hours” Recruiting Approach Designed for Passive “Stop Calling Me” Top prospects

Identifying and recruiting during angry hours is extremely important because these angry periods occur so infrequently among employed top performers because they are treated so well. Being well treated means that your recruiting target will currently have the “right job,” which I define as having a combination of the right manager, coworkers, work assignments, freedom, etc. Their current job is so perfectly designed around them that they know that they are probably doing the best work of their life.

Because they are top performers they are also largely unflappable, so easily brush off 99 percent of the work-related issues and problems that they encounter. The remaining 1 percent are potential career-damaging issues that only occur one or two times during the year when these top performers get so frustrated with their job situation that they will consider an outside offer. I call those times “angry hours,” and that is the hour or two (and occasionally the evening or weekend) where they are extremely angry about their work situation or their boss. Taking advantage of their anger at their job must come quickly because their anger is likely to dissipate once they get home, have a drink, once they talk out their frustration with a friend or mentor, or sleep on it overnight. 

What Causes “Angry Hours”?

Some of the events that can cause an angry time period include:

  • A major project proposal of theirs is rejected
  • Their budget or equipment was cut
  • Leadership decided to go in “a different direction” in their functional area
  • They were forced to reduce their staff
  • They got a lower-than-expected performance appraisal or ranking
  • They were not selected for a promotion or leadership role

How to Identify When an Individual Prospect Is in Their “Angry Hours”

If you are interested in direct sourcing and the search for “purple squirrels,” you will find that the logic of the angry-hours recruiting approach is hard to argue with. There is one difficult roadblock, and that is identifying when one of your recruiting targets is about to enter, or is currently going through, an “angry period.” You’ll need some help in identifying their angry hours, but don’t start out with the notion that this kind of info gathering can’t be done. A version of this information sourcing is successfully used every day by gossip bloggers, paparazzi, and TMZ. Your job is to simply adapt some of their proven approaches to recruiting. Even with great research, you won’t be able to identify “angry hours” every time, so the goal is simply to increase the odds that you will find it at least once during each year. “Angry-hours” identification approaches that you should consider using include:

  • Identify one of the confidants who your target will talk to – almost everyone has a confidant who they talk to frequently but especially when they are frustrated and angry. Often that individual is a mentor, a current or former colleague, a former manager, a spouse, brother/sister, or parent. The best way to identify your target’s go-to confidant is to start early by simply asking their contacts and friends who their confidents are. But you can also find confidants by looking at who they communicate with and link to on their social networks. A prospect’s references and those who recommend them on LinkedIn are also likely to be confidants.
  • A regular commute partner – of all the possible confidants, the one most likely to be instantly aware of potential and current angry hours is their regular commuting partner. If your target has one, you should ask them to give you a heads up before or immediately after any traumatic work event.
  • Find the “super knower” in their work area – most organizations have what in the communications trade are known as “super knowers” (i.e. someone who is always knowledgeable on the latest happenings and gossip). They are usually easy to identify; ask them to alert you about upcoming career-changing decisions and whenever they suspect your target is exceptionally angry.
  • Assigned employee referral – since you know specifically who you’re trying to recruit in advance, assign one of your employees which has a relationship with them or who has a good chance of starting one to monitor them from a distance. Do not encourage this employee to try to recruit them, but instead, just to find a way to know when they are in an angry period.
  • Active on their blog – if your target is a frequent blog writer, the odds are that they will signal their angry state through their blog writing. Use an RSS feed or a Google alert to identify when they have put up a new post. Also be aware that even if your target is not an active blogger, there is a chance that others with an interest in the company or industry may blog about their negative incident.
  • Monitor the right social media – many individuals will signal their frustration by communicating on social media. Twitter and texting are prime outlets for venting their frustration immediately, and Facebook may also work, provided that they are extremely active on it. Some individuals may signal their anger by playing violent games online or through their comments in functional chat rooms and forums. Sometimes a prospect may choose to update their LinkedIn profile as a result of their sudden anger. Things can go a little easier on the recruiter if they can get a confidant to alert them about their target’s negative social media messaging.
  • Visiting the right place  occasionally a frustrated individual will physically go to a certain bar, coffee house, or restaurant during lunch or after work and meet after they become frustrated. Location services like Foursquare or a confidant at the place they are visiting may alert you to their presence and mood.
  • An alert bonus — offering a confident or colleague an alert bonus of $100 may help you get a timely notification. An extraordinary referral bonus if they are hired might also encourage others to let you know when they are angry and ready to consider another job.
  • Ask them to tell you — I have found through personal experience that individuals who consider it disloyal to actively look for another job will surprisingly sometimes agree to alert you directly if they ever get extremely frustrated. Nothing is better than hearing about their frustration from the prospect themselves.

You Must Contact Them Quickly

Because in many cases their “angry period” may be quite brief, call or text them immediately with a prewritten message after learning about their frustration. In some cases you will need a pre-approved or quick-to-approve offer that can be presented to them while they are still angry. Delaying a call or an offer gives them time to calm down and for their boss to take action to fix their frustration.

Also Target “Right Days”

In addition to “angry hours” there are also “right days” when prospects are more likely to be seeking a change because it is a day where most are being reflective. A “right day” when they may rethink their life usually includes their birthday, New Year’s Day, the day after their annual bonus, their work anniversary, and any day where their company undergoes major turmoil. 

Ethical Concerns?

Those who are risk-averse may somehow characterize this “angry hours” approach as unethical because they view it as a form of stalking or an invasion of privacy, but I simply don’t see it that way. You’re not trying to take their money or invade their privacy; you are merely offering them a job opportunity that may improve their life. Remember, you don’t have to tell them how you found out that they are angry, and if you find that “they are not angry enough” to consider your job, simply thank them and wait for their next angry period.

Final Thoughts

I find it paradoxical that recruiting leaders are always seeking new strategic recruiting approaches for landing extremely valuable top prospects, but when they are faced with one that involves some level of complexity and risk, most of them immediately shy away. I consider that to be a huge mistake because both identifying your target prospect’s “angry hours” and their “right days” have proven to be so incredibly effective, that they should be standard tools for targeting otherwise impossible to recruit top performers.

Both of these approaches may also reveal that not only is this targeted individual frustrated but that there are also many others that work at the targeted firm who are equally as frustrated, so they too, should be contacted immediately. In recruiting, timing is everything.

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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