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Some Strategies for Source Calling During an Executive Search

The Proposition

Before making any calls, it is important to make sure that you can do a good job selling both the job and the company. You must practice to the extent that you can do the pitch well and at the same time sound convincing. Do not start calling before you have it down right, as you get only one chance to make a first impression.

A good way to make sure that you get the pitch right is to write down what you want to say and practice it until you know it by heart. It will also be of great help to have this script next to you when you are working on several searches simultaneously. Let someone who is also working on the search listen to your sales pitch before you start making calls. This will help ensure that what you are saying is correct.

When making the pitch, do not trick your target by lying, just to get him on your hook. If you do so, it will only backfire later in the process. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener. Be able to explain why your listener should be interested in the opportunity. You must be able to sell the position, which means finding a good way to trigger the listener's attention. Keep in mind that any negative points may cause the target to decide too rapidly against what may actually be a very good opportunity.

Before you start to make calls, it is helpful to speak to someone who really knows the field for which you are recruiting.

Preferably, this person should not be a candidate, as you want to determine the golden nuggets that will make someone interested in what you have to offer. Also, try to practice your pitch with this expert so you can get some feedback and make necessary adjustments.

Calling the Target List

If you are using an outside executive search firm, the source call typically opens with the recruiters or researchers identifying themselves and their organization and asking for assistance in getting the names of prospective candidates. Usually, the job is described in general terms including the projected compensation range. This small amount of information makes it possible to screen out inappropriate candidates. If the person has been previously identified as a possible candidate, there may be some discussion of this possibility as well.

The executive search consultants and their researchers use different techniques to get data from a source or to get prospective candidates to volunteer their own names. The specific technique is not as important as the end result of securing names through forthright and ethical means.

When speaking to people you should have the following information handy:
  1. A questionnaire to be used during the source calls
  2. The position specification/candidate profile
  3. Situation report documentation
  4. A list of potential candidates and sources (target list)
  5. A one- or two-paragraph synopsis of the client company and opportunity (the pitch)
Sourcing calls can often be time-consuming, depending on the circumstances, your personal style and technique, and the interest and receptivity of the individual called. The overall number of calls will depend on the complexity of the search and professional judgment as to when enough names have been secured. One good rule to follow is that you should not stop searching before a candidate has accepted and signed the papers.

A major obstacle when calling is that most of the people you aim for will not be reachable. The closest you will get to them is through their voice mail, which means you are dependent on them calling you back. Therefore, when you leave the message, make sure that it will get their attention. Keep in mind that there might already be other voice-mail messages from other recruiters when you leave yours. You want people to call you back, so make sure that you do not sound like a sales representative from a telemarketing firm. But also keep in mind that there is always a risk of a secretary or an administrative assistant listening to the recordings on the voice mail. You could be badly burned if you leave a message giving the impression that Mr. X is job hunting. A good rule, therefore, is to approach everyone as sources when contacting them the first time, and always when leaving messages. You should always leave a message when you have the opportunity.

If your company is conducting all the calls itself, it is difficult to maintain full discretion. If full discretion is required, it is always better to have an outside source to assist you in the search.