Have you ever worked on an extremely hard-to-fill job?  I mean a “Purple Squirrel” or “Unicorn Search.” Stupid question, right?

The most successful 2-3% of search firms are not masters at hunting down oddly colored squirrels or horned horses. They’re masters at getting their clients to modify specs, pay, or both so that the jobs become fillable!

How do they do this? Like most advanced recruitment industry skills, it’s a combination of art and science. Here’s an overview of the principles and steps involved to help your clients to fix the fill ability issues that they caused:

1. They work with committed clients who pay them an upfront retainer. When clients pay you retainers they view you as a trusted advisor whose opinion matters to them.

2. They gather data on the number of candidates they reached out to, the number who responded, and the specific reasons they weren’t interested in the position.

3. When they’ve invested “sufficient time” and recruiting activity and lack quality submittals, they know that they’ve accumulated valid, objective data. Now they can understand the specific issues getting in the way of filling the position.

4. They have a meeting with the client to share this data in an organized, clear, and concise format. Now the client has objective information rather than opinions and emotions. This allows the client to understand the specific modifications they need to make to fill the position.

If you’re unable to fill a position that you have the knowledge, skills, and resources to fill and you’ve made a legitimate effort to source and recruit, it’s because of one or more of the following reasons:

  1. There’s a shortage of people who meet the requirements. This means that the client needs to change the requirements if they wish to fill the job.
  2. The client isn’t paying competitively for what they require. This means that the client needs to increase pay or decrease the requirements to fill the job.
  3.  There are aspects about the job or company/people turning off people who meet the requirements.  This means that the client needs to address the issues turning off candidates to fill the position.

When you go back to the client (step 4), you should separate the data you’ve accumulated from the people involved to avoid making it personal. For example: the hiring manager is coming across as an A-hole to the candidates. You would let them know what you are hearing from the candidates and how it impacts their level of interest.

Avoid using language that is accusatory or judgmental to minimize the risk of defensiveness and anger towards you. Focus on the problem that’s causing you not to fill the posiiton while avoiding judgments about the company and people involved. When your client believes that you are there to help them fill the job, not to criticize the company or the people, you maximize the odds that your client will be open to the data and choose to take corrective action that results in you filling the position!