How to poach a candidate from Ariana Huffington #Part 2

Not getting a strong grounding in sales and the general arts of persuasion is the one of the biggest issues plaguing recruiters today, especially internal ones. When your offer is competing with 9 others, good sales skills are not only the important thing. They are the only thing.

Many recruiters have confided in me of late about their lack of “closing skills”. They just can’t seem to take it over the finish line. They are approaching the problem all wrong. The lack of closing ability is a a simple symptom of a larger issue: they never truly found out what motivated the candidate in the first place. By motivate, I mean the discovery and facilitation of “deep motivations”. Not “I want to work in an eCommerce company”. That is surface level stuff.

This is what got me a leg up against Ariana Huffington. Luckily for you, most big companies stop paying attention to the emotional drive behind why a candidate chose to work there in the first place.

So employees fall through the cracks as the work becomes “just a job”. Sneak in there and you’ll be amazed at the incredibly talented people you can poach.

But how do you get to the “deep motivations” in an interview? When you walk into an interview, you are in pure “evaluation mode”. Technical, experience, cultural. You are in an emotionally “cold state”.

The first step is to get out of that state. Forget about the logical, rational reasons why the candidate is interested in working with you. Focus 100% on the emotional.

Awhile back, my father showed me a method that really allows you to open somebody up in a genuine way. I have used it both professionally and personally – and have been amazed at the results.

When somebody is telling you a story, or recounting an event that happened, where they might have been emotionally affected. Simply say:

“That must make you feel…….(insert emotion here). “

This simple line allows you to be truly empathetic, and serves as an invitation to open up and share a deeper story.


What are some emotions that you can use?

Well, let’s start with the negative ones:

Annoyed, bummed out, frustrated, envious, and their stronger cousins: sad, angry, disappointed, helpless.

And some (slightly more) positive ones:

Happy, greedy, lustful, ambitious, proud.


Back to the AOL poach. The candidate obviously had a cushier job than I could ever offer, with much better benefits, perks, and of course, cash. But then he began talking about the levels of management above him, the boring work, and the feeling that he was past the post college level and wasn’t really living up to what he had expected.

“Wow, that must make you feel disappointed”, I said.

“Actually, its not that.”, he replied.

Oops. Not sure whether I screwed this one up for good, I paused to let him utter the next word.

“Its more that I need to make more than just this salary. I need to make some REAL MONEY”

Greed it was. I got what I needed.

And therein lies the beauty of the system. People will be more than happy to correct you if you are wrong. They want to tell somebody these things, so even if you initiate with an off the mark emotion, they’ll happily redirect you.


Words of Warning

You actually have to give a crap about what this person is going through. This is not some Pick Up Artist power move, or some line of code in a program. And this is certainly not about manipulation (although its power could be abused). The trick is to not point him in the wrong direction once you learn more about him. Don’t be a dirtbag recruiter :)

Also, you might find it difficult to say deeper emotions, like “sad” or “angry”. I would encourage you to avoid staying in the “safe zone” with lighter words. Lean into the harder stuff, you’ll connect in remarkable ways.

So begin exploring your emotional side, and try this out. It might not only save your deal, but also your marriage.


How to poach a candidate from Ariana Huffington #Part 1

We were nearing the close of the deal. We snagged a superstar developer who did great on the interviews, killed it on our coding tests, and got along well with the rest of the team. I negotiated hard with the CEO to get him a strong offer. We were a small startup, and he was coming from AOL – so we really needed to stretch ourselves to make it work. That said, it was coming together – and I could see that signed offer letter on the horizon.

Then I got a call from him. AOL was going to make a counter offer, and Ariana was going to have a chat with him. 

ARIANA HUFFINGTON IS GOING TO SIT DOWN WITH HIM??!!! Oh ok, well now I’m fucked. She will probably offer him enough cash to bail out Greece, not to mention a hard sell to stay. How the hell do you resign from a quasi-celebrity anyway? I remember, that night – I began sourcing again for his role. I was convinced he was not going to come over.

But I had something very powerful on my side. I knew what to sell him on.

Recruiting systems are optimized for candidate evaluation. As a startup, you want to make sure your candidate is knows his stuff technically, works well on a team, and could easily hang out with you guys for beers after work. A good process will allow you to determine this efficiently and systematically. Honestly, most companies haven’t figured this bit out – so “congrats” if you have.

But when your candidate is getting a counteroffer from Ariana Huffington, with all due respect, your little system ain’t worth shit.

Here is the problem: good candidates are going to get offers from you and 10 other startups. They’ll get offers from larger companies with giant paychecks. They’ll be asked by VC’s to start their own companies. And they’ll get crazy counter offers.

So why will they choose you? You have no idea. Because you have no clue what to sell him on.

Most recruiting systems are not optimized for that. So what ends up happening is that when it is time to “close”, you will just say how awesome you guys are, reiterate some generic startup pitch like a broken record, and pray.

Ariana Huffington eats your prayers for breakfast.

Instead, you need to do the work that larger companies fail to do – you need to understand this person’s deeper needs. You need to dig into a place that is more emotional than rational.

You need to find out what basic fear/desire spectrum does this person sit on.

We might seem complicated, but we all have simple needs. Love, Money, Sex, Power, Belonging. Figure out what this candidate’s needs are, and you’ll have a massive leg up. You’ll be able to come out on top, over larger companies, sexier startups, and bigger counter offers.

The question is, how do you know what this person deep needs are? And how the hell do you make that happen in an interview??

In the next post, I’ll give you a solid system to do just that.