New members to join your organization.
New volunteers to donate their time to your cause.
New customers to do business with your company.
New employees to offer their loyalty to your enterprise.
New congregants to share their faith with your community.
New friends to join your cult, drink the cyanide punch and commit mass suicide.
What’s more, whomever you’re recruiting – and whatever you’re recruiting for – there are certain approaches that work, and certain approaches that don’t work. For example:
Holding people up at gunpoint?
Very effective recruiting strategy.
Chasing people down in the parking lot of Safeway until they finally make eye contact with you so you can waste the next seven minutes of their life vomiting the benefits of joining your organization?
Not very effective.
Today we’re going to explore a collection of universal recruiting practices that can be applied to anybody, any organization, any time – without resorting to hypnosis or hairy guys named Vinny.
1. The onus to initiate is on you. In an article from The New York Times called To Hire Sharp People, Recruit in Sharp Ways the first rule of recruiting is that the best people already have positions they like. Which means: You have to find them – they’re not going to find you.
Think about it. It’s highly unlikely you’ll receive random email tomorrow morning from a complete stranger saying, “Scott, I have the singe most fulfilling job in the history of the planet. But do you by any chance have any openings in the mailroom at your company?”
It’s like my mentor Reverend Bill Jenkins reminds me: “You can’t be a Christian in a corner.” Even if you’re not a Christian. It’s not about religion – it’s about reaching out. Be willing to take that first step. Approachability is a two-way street. How many people did you go out of your way to avoid yesterday?
2. Disarm the immediate preoccupation. Instead of trying to convince people to join your organization, understand and neutralize their resistance. For example, let’s say you have lunch with a few people who used to be affiliated with your organization, but have since dissociated. Remind yourself of three key words: Alienated people remember.
People rarely forget how you treated them the last time. And if you know you’re starting with a negative balance with people, address that issue immediately. Ask them what would bring them back.
Another elephant in the room is explaining, specifically, why your organization is worthy of someone’s time. People are ruthless about their time, and are slow forgive if you waste it on a consistent basis.
The challenge is learning what makes each individual person’s time value, and then positioning the value of your organization as worthwhile investments of that time. And you can only do that by hooking moments to personal meaning. How are you preparing yourself to overcome people’s existing concerns about the value of joining you?
3. Come out swinging and you will be perceived as a threat. Why are pitchers terrified of Albert Pujols? Is it because his average is .350? Or that his on base percentage is 83%? Or that he’s the most dominant hitter the MLB has seen in years?
Nope. Pitchers are scared of Pujols because of one foundational attribute of his ability: He comes out swinging.
He’s not looking for a walk. He’s not trying to force a balk or a wild pitch. He’s not hoping to lean into an inside curve, take one for the team and load the bases. Instead, he’s focusing that laser vision of his. That way, if a pitch comes anywhere near his wheelhouse, he’ll be ready to knock the cover off the ball.
As such: These things make Albert a threat. Which is great for the Cardinals.
But it’s just the opposite when you’re trying to recruit someone.
Think about it: When you sit down with people, do you threaten them by coming out swinging? Or do you ease into the recruitment-heavy part of the conversation only after you’ve gauged receptivity?
As much as it pains me to say it: Don’t be like Albert. Don’t get right down to business. How long are you willing to wait before launching into your recruitment pitch?
4. Hold an information session that’s actually worth attending. First, deliver value that can’t simply be found by spending five minutes on your website. Exclusive information prevents people from feeling their time was wasted.
Second, don’t make people sit through a bunch of job descriptions. Nobody cares what it feels like to be a president. Tell them what it’s like, specifically, on a daily basis, to be part of your organization.
Third, during your pitch or presentation, if you’re not getting some kind of laugh every sixty seconds – you lose. Laughter is the lubricator of communication.
These things make your message more relaxing to experience, more enjoyable to hear, more digestible to consume and spreadable to people who weren’t there. Are you offering information meetings or unforgettable emotional experiences?
5. Breathe life into the hopes and dreams of others. I recruit people to yoga all the time. But not intentionally – incidentally. See, yoga is my religion. It’s not a big part of my life – it is my life. And interestingly, the reason I started practicing yoga was because of my best friend Drew recruited me.
He once told me that the first time he walked out of Bikram class, he felt more alive and more healthful than ever in his life.
I was sold. That’s all it took for me.
And Drew was right, too. I walk out of class now and I literally feel my health as if it were a tangible thing. And that’s what I breathe and infect into other people with when I recruit them: The hope and dream of feeling alive.
What are the hopes and dreams of the people you’re recruiting?
That’s the cool part about this approach. If you concentrate on breathing and infecting intentionally, you will recruit and retain incidentally. Are you vomiting hot garbage onto people or breathing healthful life into people?
6. Your organization isn’t a catchall. Unfortunately, yoga is not for everybody. Take my friend Rhonda, for example. She took my advice and came to practice one day. And at the end of class when I asked her how she felt, her exact words were, “I hate you.”
Lesson learned: Health benefits notwithstanding, recognize that what you’re recruiting people for isn’t necessarily for all people. Learn to walk away. Have enough self-control to discontinue your recruiting efforts when it’s clear that someone is not going to become part of your organization.
Yes, be persistent. Yes, ask for the sale. But don’t be pushy. Preaching to atheists is a nice challenge – but it tends to be a waste of time. Plus, the frustration that results only reinforces and strengthens the non-believers position.
Look: Some people aren’t just going to change. You need to be okay with that. And you need to remember that the first word that comes after “no” is “next.”
Remember: Fulfilling a compelling need for your target market isn’t the same thing projecting onto that market what you think they should want. Are you blinded by the illusion that everyone in the world needs what your organization offers?
7. Demonstrate interest in the person, not the potential. While recruiting, speak to someone as a person. Not as a position. Not as a prospect. Not as a butt in the seat. Not as a possible board member. Not as a statistic. And not as a number on your recruiting quota so you can attend next year’s national conference for half price.
Successful recruitment is a natural byproduct of speaking to people with an abundance of compassion and an absence of compartmentalization. Remember: People buy people first. Is that what you’re selling first?
8. Face time never fails. I’m not a futurist, but here’s my prediction: Face-to-face is making a comeback. We’ve been held hostage by instant, electronic communication for the past ten years. People miss people. It’s time to get back to basics. Never underestimate the power of having lunch with someone.
The secret is laying a foundation of comfort and honesty at the onset. Consider reaching out to people and saying something like, “Hey Brian: You’re cool. I’m cool. We should hang out. Would you be interested in having a zero agenda conversation sometime?”
That’s it. That’s all you have to say. No technique. No system. No hidden plan. Just two people talking. Like we used to do. Kind of hard to resist. I’ve been having those conversations for years and never once been rejected. The only caveat is: During lunch, you’re not allowed to say single word about recruiting unless they ask.
That means no unnatural, unnecessary sneaking of your organization’s name into the conversation.
That means no wearing of your company logo shirt in the hopes that they’ll notice the emblem and ask a question about it.
That means no handing them a brochure you conveniently had in your pocket the whole time right as the waiter brings the check.
Just be cool. Have a conversation with another human being. Zero agenda. I know it’s a lot to ask. But people rarely forget such gestures. What would happen if you tripled your amount of face time?
9. Communicate the need. All love wants - is to be believed in. (Counting Crows!) In the same vain, all people need – is to feel needed. I experienced this truth firsthand several years ago. Two conversations. Two different people. Both of whom I was recruiting for my professional organization; and both to whom I made the exact same remark:
“Look, we need you. Our current membership is filled with too many people who don’t matter and don’t belong – but you do.”
It just sort of came out. With all the sincerity and honesty I could muster, that’s what I said. And it must have struck a nerve, because both people were speechless. My organization’s need was communicated, and their human need to feel needed was confronted.
Lesson learned: When you acknowledge people’s unique contribution and show them that you’re conscious of their capability, you inspire them with of a vision of what they can contribute. And it all starts by speaking to their need to be acknowledged, need to feel heard, need to share, need for answers and their need to be included.
That’s what drives people’s decisions. When you speak straight to the heart of human experience. Are you paying careful attention to the things people care about?
10. Solicit commitment actively but carefully. People work best when they know that others are depending on them. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific, small participation. Even if you think you’re being too pushy when you ask people to join or participate. Consider the fact that some people are just waiting for you to invite them.
On the other hand, keep time demands reasonable. Assure people that exploring options isn’t committing to them. Commitment-phobes are a dime a dozen. Are you asking for too much too quickly from someone who isn’t too interested in being too committed?
11. Offer yourself as a resource of accessibility and candor. Make sure your actions silent say, “I’m here if you need me. And if you don’t, cool. But if you do, I promise not to bullshit you.” I attribute my seven-year membership (and current presidency) to National Speaker’s Association to this very principle.
I was fortunate enough have several board members who offered themselves as available resources. That way, if I ever needed honest answers to questions I wasn’t normally getting straight answers for, they were there. And through their example of accessibility and candor, I eventually felt comfortable enough to join.
Thanks guys. Are you willing to be somebody’s first friend – who also tells him the naked truth about your organization?
REMEMBER: Everybody recruits.
Whether you’re looking for employees, members, donors, congregants – or just some random sucker to man the punch bowl – I challenge you to mesh these practices into your recruiting efforts.
However, if none of the above suggestions work, you can always contact my friend Vinny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But please don’t tell him I sent you. I can’t swim.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
When you were first recruited, why did you say yes?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010