Latest Article

Hire More Employed Candidates… By Raising Doubts About Their Current Job (The power of “doubt raising”)

Employed candidates are gold but hard to sell unless you raise new doubts about their current job. 

Descriptors| Recruiting /Selling The Employed – Increasing Doubts – How To – 8 min 

Yes, Doubts Do Change Job Acceptance Decisions

I hope that everyone realizes this. Among your currently employed candidates, doubts about both their current and your open job may literally be the most influential deciding factor in their final job choice.

Yet despite their powerful impact, few recruiting departments actually act as if they care about these doubts. If they did, every recruiting leader would have already developed a systematic way to discover and manage these candidate doubts.

So next time, you absolutely must successfully sell/hire a candidate who already has a job (that they can remain in). You should first proactively act to expand the candidate’s doubts about their current job. At the same time, identify and minimize any serious doubts the candidate may have about your organization’s open job. 

Because “doubts change job decisions.” Proactively increasing any lingering doubts an employed candidate has about their current job will almost overnight become a top reason why most of your employed candidates finally decide they must move on (Hopefully to your open job)!

Why Currently Employed Top Candidates Add Top Value

This article has a narrow focus on improving how you sell currently employed prospects/candidates. A more effective selling approach will do three things. It will make them more likely to apply for open jobs, remain in your interview process, and accept a job if it is offered.

Of course, all groups of candidates contain good hires. However, the top employed candidates are worthy of special focus because of their unique value. First, they come on board with 100% updated skills, training, and experience, which allows them to get up to speed quickly. They also bring with them the current best practices of their present employer. Next, their continuous experience (without any gaps) makes it more likely that they will be able to operate the latest technology and AI.

A final benefit is that you will end up hiring many more extremely valuable innovators after you have encouraged each innovator to re-examine how they have been treated in their current jobs.

Note: Learn more about hiring the currently employed here

Why This “Doubt-Based Approach” Works

This “raising doubts” is a selling/convincing approach. Like all candidate selling approaches, it emphasizes the positive aspects of the open job and new company. However, whenever you need to “tip the scale” dramatically in your favor, I have found that the best chance of achieving that goal is by adding a second “selling component,” which I call “raising doubts.”

This raising doubts component subtly encourages each employed top prospect to re-examine the areas of doubt (AOD) associated with their current job. This revisiting is effective because very few employed top prospects have actually spent much time examining their job’s negatives. So, you can act proactively to lower their doubts about your open job while simultaneously raising their doubts about their current job.

You are proactively doubling the factors that now tilt their job decision-making in your favor. I should also note that because your unemployed candidates will no longer be working, revisiting the negatives of their last job is not beneficial.


The 4 Categories Of Doubts About Their Current Job… That Should Be Explored With Employed Candidates

In this next section, I have provided a broad list that covers the most common “areas of doubt” in their current job that are most likely to impact the decision of a top candidate to stay. You, of course, need to use your own communications and interactions with the candidate. As a basis for selecting the limited number of AOD areas in their current job, you will probe with each candidate. All of the most common top-candidate AOD areas fall into four categories. 

  1. “It’s Time For A Change” – Time-Related Doubts That Often Have A High Impact

This category focuses on the amount of time a top prospect has put into their current job. What career stage should they be in? If they are overdue for some things, a new job/company would probably provide them with them.

A sample “it’s time” probing question – Can you mentally step back and consider that you have already put in your time after five years in your current job? So consider the possibility that you are overdue for a new opportunity.

Time-related doubts that you should consider probing 

  • You are approaching your work anniversary. You should seriously consider whether you really want to spend another year in this situation. 
  • Do you realize that you spent X years in your current job? Don’t you agree that you are overdue for a change?
  • Do you realize that you haven’t been promoted in X years? Isn’t it time for one?
  • With over X years at the same company. Don’t you agree that changing companies would significantly expand your learning? 
  • At this stage of your career, you have earned the right to be doing “the best work of your life.” Are you disappointed that this is not currently happening? 
  • At this stage in your career lifecycle, you should proactively receive individual growth and development planning for the next few years to continue growing. Have you received that help yet? 
  • With the rapidly growing need for AI professionals. Do you agree that this may be an opportune time for a shift into AI?
  • Given the current problems that your company is experiencing. Isn’t it an ideal time to change companies? 
  • With today’s industry turmoil. Shouldn’t you wonder whether it’s time to move to a more stable and growing industry?
  • After reviewing your resume, it appears that you are overdue for a significant career change. Don’t you agree?


  1. “You’ve Earned It” – AOD Areas That Often Have A High Impact

This category covers doubts about what the candidate should have earned in their current job as a result of their many accomplishments. So you should bring up the things that they should have already received. But they have not yet received it at their current job. 

A sample “you’ve earned it” probing question – We have been getting reports that almost everyone on your team is close to becoming burned out. So, haven’t you earned a healthier work environment for your and your family’s well-being?

“What they have received” doubts that you should consider probing

  • We feel that you should be extremely proud of your current work at XYZ. Do you feel fully appreciated there? 
  • In our view, you have earned the right to do “can’t put it down exciting work.” Can you honestly say that your current work meets that excitement level? 
  • People with your capabilities deserve to be members of a great team that won’t take you for granted. Do you feel that this has been happening to you?
  • We have determined that you would produce a high ROI in our organization. When you think about it, do you feel that your employer has invested enough in you
  • Given your many accomplishments, aren’t you entitled to more development
  • Given your track record, have your new ideas been positively received and implemented? We pride ourselves on that!
  • Does your current manager make it easy for you to maintain your expert status in your current job? If not, be aware that that will slow down your career growth. 
  • Someone at your level should have earned the right to a high degree of choice, freedom, and flexibility. Are there times when you wish you had more freedom
  • At this stage of your career, do you feel that you have earned the right to work under great managers? Do you wish that that would happen more often?
  • We pride ourselves in offering significant rewards for performance. Are you currently satisfied with the extent to which your performance is rewarded? 
  1. “Well-Being”… AOD Areas That Often Have A High Impact

This category covers improving the candidate’s own personal well-being. And how, given their current health and age. You have earned the right to pay more attention to their mental and physical health. 

A sample well-being probing question – With all the turnover, restructuring, and layoffs you have endured. Don’t you agree that it is “your turn” for a more stable and secure work environment?

“Well-Being” doubts that you should consider probing

  • Given the workload that is reflected in your resume. You may be approaching burnout. Has your manager made any attempt to manage your workload better? 
  • You may be in a rut. Has anyone made a proactive attempt to expand/enrich the work that you do to energize you?
  • Given the turmoil within your current team, haven’t you earned a more stable environment
  • Are you currently satisfied with your work/life balance? Because we place a strong emphasis on it. 
  • Is your current company doing enough to monitor and improve your overall well-being
  • We have found that when an employee knows where they will be in X years. That enables them to relax and to calmly plan their future. Has anyone told you where you will be?
  •  Does your manager show concern for your family? By proactively removing most of the stress and the frustrations from your current job? Don’t you owe your family to find a less stressful job?
  • Have you been suffering through any form of discrimination? And if so, have you been frustrated with the company’s response?
  1. “Striving For More”… AOD Areas That Often Have A High Impact

This final category covers higher-level aspirations that a candidate at the top of their game would likely strive for. You should use the mini-discussions covered in this area to clarify to the candidate that their chances of reaching their declared aspirations would be higher at your company (than at their current job). 

A sample “striving for more” probing question – It’s clear to us that you aspire to have greater environmental and community impacts. But given your resume, it doesn’t appear that you have actually experienced that desired impact. And because we have an established record in these areas. Doesn’t it make sense to seriously consider fulfilling your aspirations with us? 

“Striving for more” doubts that you should consider probing 

  • Employees like you have excelled at almost everything that they do. All are often offered a customized “dream job.” Has anyone approached you about that? 
  • Isn’t it time for a moonshot in your career? It doesn’t appear like you have had a chance to try one at your current employer. Why not join us? We’ll take that shot together.
  • Haven’t you pretty much done all that you can do at your current company? So it may be time to move on to another company.
  • Haven’t you always wanted to do this ____? Well, we can include that opportunity in our offer. 
  • Do you frequently wish you had more opportunities to innovate? We will strive to give every new employee at least one chance to innovate.
  • With your impressive track record of accomplishments. Don’t you feel that you deserve a shot at becoming a manager
  • Given all of your accomplishments, you should have earned more executive exposure. Have you ever wondered why this hasn’t happened? 
  • Someone with strong values deserves to work at a company that shares those values. Would you be willing to explore how our company’s values more closely align with yours?
  • It’s clear from your resume and our conversations that you desire a job with a purpose. Have you considered the possibility that that will never happen at your current company? If you more closely examine our company, you’ll find that our entire organization is “purpose-driven.”
  • Do you ever wish you could make more of your own decisions? Is it possible that your current managers don’t trust you?
  • Do you ever feel that you are entitled to something ______? But is there nothing on the horizon that indicates that you will actually get it?
  • You appear like you are ready to run your own project. Do you see that happening in the near future? Well, if you joined us, we would make that happen.

Note: You can learn more about the elements of a powerful offer process here.


Additional Information For Those That Are Considering Implementing This Approach

Below, you will find descriptions of the first two implementation steps.

Step one – Identifying… The Most Impactful Areas Of Doubt (AOD)

Obviously, every Area Of Doubt won’t have an equal impact on a top candidate’s final decision. So, I suggest you initially build your list of areas of doubt to probe. Based on the list of factors that have been proven to attract top candidates (not regular employees). You can further refine your list of AODs by using the results from exit interviews that identify any significant reasons why the best are leaving.

The recruiter can also directly ask each top candidate to provide you with their list of “job switch factors,” which are positive factors they must have to accept a new job and knockout factors they would not tolerate based on any further conversations and first-round interviews with each candidate. You can later add or subtract from your initial list of AOD areas.

Step two – The Process For Actually Probing The Key Areas Of Doubt

When one of your employed top candidates becomes an interview finalist, you will need to set aside some time to explore each of their key Areas Of Doubt with them. The best time to hold the session is before or after a finalist interview, and when possible, it should be face-to-face.

Start by calling it “a clear-the-table conversation.” And let the candidate know that its purpose is to openly and honestly identify and explore each of the primary factors that will influence the candidate’s final decision. Start the conversation by asking them to share any areas of doubt about your open job (and, of course, counter each one).

Next comes your opportunity to probe areas where you estimate their current employer should have treated them better. Do that by asking them if exploring some of the reasons would be okay. That will influence their decision to stay in their current job.

Then, pose 3 to 5 questions that cover their most important “stay factors.” And whether they feel they may have initially overrated how well they have been treated. These “challenging questions” will subtly push the candidate to revisit and reevaluate. How well or poorly have they been treated in their current job?

Obviously, you should also use any of the mini-discussions to highlight how things they now find negative in their current job will be much better if they take your open job. 

Final Thoughts

Obviously, employed top prospects (some call them passives) are more difficult to sell/convince. It’s easy for them to decide to stay in their current job. Fortunately, convincing them not to stay in their current job is the most effective aspect of the “doubt-raising” approach I have presented here. It reduces their doubts about the open job you offer while subtly forcing the candidate to rate their current job situation downward. 

Author’s Note 

Please spread these ideas by sharing this article with your team/network and by posting it on your favorite media. 
Also, join the well over 20,000+ that follow or have connected with Dr. Sullivan’s community on Linkedin.
And, if you don’t already subscribe to Dr. Sullivan’s Aggressive Talent Management articles, you can do that here.

Recent Articles