5 Barriers to Phone Sourcing Success

Today I thought to muse about phone sourcing and the growing difficulty in finding the qualified candidates we seek. As sourcers/recruiters, perhaps the most critical initiative we can undertake is to develop an effective phone sourcing strategy. The key to achieving your sourcing goals is designing a program that is based on a solid understanding of the challenges you’ll face. My impression is that we are finding it difficult primarily because of our inability to adapt our current recruiting model to the tightening market. There are many great prospective candidates out there, but yet they are totally oblivious to the fact that they’re even a candidate.

Barriers to Phone Sourcing Success

#1 – Being Unprepared

The first barrier to phone sourcing success is being “unprepared”. So how do you prepare? Preparing means studying the job description, developing cold-calling strategies, preparing scripts, building networks, getting referrals, and handling objections (yes whether you have your sourcing or your recruiting hat on you need to learn to handle objections, it isn’t just for recruiters).

Start by defining your target’s habits. Look at things like what does their world consist of? What you know about their habits. What magazines or journals do they read? What conferences might they attend? Who do they talk to everyday? What are they like? Don’t forget to keep up with the schools that possible candidates may have come out of. Any school that may offer that have the type of degree your prospect may have, make a list of all applicable ones. Later on in your search they may be useful to either network with the professors or to look for their alumni associations.

Don’t forget to compile and maintain a list of newsgroups, discussion forums, or blogs where prospective candidates are likely to participate in. Think of possible companies that would have the perfect candidate. Create a target list of companies you wish to penetrate. Be sure to include physical address, phone number, and website information.

Keep in mind that preparation can only strengthen your presentation. Strengthening your own sourcing skills can add directly to your bottom line. Spending time understanding the real needs and wants of prospective candidates before making your calls is an investment in your success.

#2 – Not Having a Script

The second barrier to sourcing success is not preparing a formal script. Many sourcers/recruiters think they can just improvise or ad-lib their calls, that they can just let the natural flow of the conversation go because they know what they want to say. It is my belief that you should never stop using scripts but if you rely on your wits and charm and there are still those moments when you think “that didn’t quite go the way I planned”, then you really should consider a script. If you don’t use them, let me tell you, used appropriately they can take your sourcing/recruiting efforts to the next level.

A recruiting script is a documented, methodical, learnable, effective system of marketing yourself, your position and your company in the best possible way. It is a written process designed to give you control of the call while creating much better results and to keep you from wasting calls.

A script will help you establish a strong first impression and to create a trustworthy feeling within a few seconds of the call. It also provides the means to a well thought out presentation to simply say what you want to say clearly, accurately and simply. A successful script is an explanation of what you represent, given in your normal style of speaking and in a methodical organized way, so that your prospective candidate understands.

Another thing a good script does is to set you up as an expert especially if you use phrases like “we specialize in…” or “our reputation is…” “We are known for…” Effective script writing helps build rapport, handles objections, and provides confidence. Combined with listening, presentation and closing skills you can achieve exceptional heights. It takes practice and dedication to do it well but scriptwriting can be an enlightening and gratifying experience.

#3 – Letting Your Assumptions Control You 

Your prospective candidates are all about their job or career, they aren’t bad people, to get their interest in what you have to say you don’t have to watch your words as much as the assumptions behind them. It’s the assumptions that undermine what you are doing.

Let me explain… I love the miracle of telephones. I love talking to anyone, anytime and anywhere. I love the feeling of being connected, of being able to connect with people in the other end of the world in just seconds without having to leave home. I love negotiating and closing deals on the phone. I also love the interaction between technology and people exploring it and taking it to the limits. Like I said, I am fully appreciative of the joys of modern technology but then again technology can invade our private space unlike nothing else.

I have come to tolerate telemarketing calls to a degree but there is nothing worse that being called in the middle of a meeting or even worse finally finding a moment to focus on the task at hand only to hear it the shriek of a telephone ring piercing through your quiet time like finger nails on a chalk board. Just yesterday, after a day of meetings and all the other stuff we are faced with; as I began to work on my spreadsheets (being a people person I really need to focus on number crunching, so I save it for a time when I can focus). Enough said, the phone rings, I pick it up, setting aside my work – already annoyed because I lost my concentration. When I pick up the phone, there is this person trying to “warm up” the call with chit chat. I tried to listen but I felt a burning sensation working up my spine and my face reddening. What does this person want – I began to wonder – can’t he get to the point. After a couple of minutes I understand it is a recruitment call. I make any excuse and quickly hang up.

The first thing this recruiter did wrong was he spent far too much time in conversation about trivial matters, like sports, the weather etc.. you get the picture. He assumed that because I answered the phone I was interested in what he was saying. The other crucial thing this recruiter did wrong (and what many recruiters do when they call prospects at work) was that he launched right into his spiel without thinking that I might be in the middle of something important. He assumed that because I answered the phone I had the time to talk. You have to understand that if your call is taking your prospect away from something they’re involved in, whether it’s important or not, they will not give you their attention, even if they stay on the line.

Do not let your assumptions control your call. Show respect for your prospects time; always remember when you call at their place of employment that they are in the middle of doing a job that feeds their family and are expected to produce results. Good business relationships develop slowly based upon mutual respect. Keep initial sourcing calls cordial but professional. Instead of going straight to the point try asking for permission to speak; being attentive to a prospects needs so that they see you as a dependable problem solver is one of the best ways to develop a long term business relationship. Nothing will derail your sourcing efforts quicker than perceived disrespect by your prospective candidate. The third barrier to sourcing success it disrespect to your prospective candidate.

#4 – Talking Too Much 

We do have to broaden our skills but before we do we need to get the basics right. We have to learn to avoid some fundamental mistakes. The simplest mistake that most often keeps us from sourcing success is that we simply talk too much. That must sound strange being that we make our living by talking, but when you are talking you are not listening, not learning about your prospect’s wants and needs.

In today’s complex sourcing environment, effective communication is the secret ingredient to meeting our bottom-line demands. Communication is a multi-faceted dynamic process and effective listening skills are an essential part of that process. According to the book, Beyond “Hello” by Jeannie Davis, the percentages can vary by interaction, but your telephone conversations are generally about 70% tonality, 14 to 20 percent actual words, and 10-16% body language. This means to me that as sourcers we can’t give ourselves the luxury to underestimate the importance of listening in order to understand that 80 to 86% of the conversation that wasn’t an actual word.

Listen to the pace a person speaks with, the accent, the word choices, the pauses, how the tone may climb or descend. Listen for background things that can give you cues to a person’s current environment. If we acquire skills to be good listeners not only will we be able to solicit good information from others but also to find underlying meanings in what your candidates may say, to answer questions better, build rapport with them better and more importantly it will drive you to implement more successful strategies to connect and improve your sourcing success.

#5 – Starting With the Wrong Mindset

The fastest way to derail your sourcing is to start sourcing with the wrong mind set or to say it another way not putting yourself in a positive mindset. Your sourcing success is at least half psychology and half delivery. What state must you be in to be effective at cold calling prospective candidates? Confident? Enthusiastic? Motivated? Resourceful? Cheerful? Energetic?

It’s not good enough to cold call when you feel like it. You must be able to access those positive emotions on cue. Start with your posture – sit how you’d be sitting if you felt energized and unstoppable or stand if that is what it takes! Breathe how you would breathe if you felt relaxed and confident. Put a smile on your face!

Now focus on the results you want – imagine clients being warm and receptive. Think of a time when a cold call turned into one of your best candidates.

Stop worrying about being perfect. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform – no wonder we’re reluctant to pick up the phone. We’ve got performance anxiety.  Take the pressure off yourself.

Just by getting yourself to follow through and make your calls, you’re succeeded! If you mess up on the call, who cares? I’ve made over literally thousands of calls and I still screw up sometimes. The most successful people are the ones who are willing to make mistakes. The only way you can not make mistakes is if you never take action – and that’s the path to ultimate failure.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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