Engaging Recommended Candidates

The key to success with recommended candidates lies in having a strategic approach. In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies for engaging recommended candidates, with a focus on selling the meeting, leveraging your team’s connections, and sharing success stories.

Before we do that let’s just outline the potential outcomes of candidate mapping.

Candidate Map Outcomes

When it comes to candidate mapping with our colleagues there are several categories that prospects may fall into.

These are:

  • Referral – as in “I can introduce them”
  • Recommended – as in “they’re great but I don’t know them well enough to introduce them”
  • Not recommended – for whatever reason
  • Unknown – no action required

Referrals, unrecommended and unknown statuses generally take care of themselves, but despite the extra effort required, it is the recommended candidates that offer a significant opportunity recruiters.

The Engagement Plan

Before you – the recruiter – jump in and attempt to engage the candidate, there are some things you should do to prepare. We might call this step the ‘Engagement Plan’. 

1. Confirm Collaborators

Confirm the degree to which the team member(s) who made the recommendation will be able to assist you if called upon. Are they off limits? Are they okay to have their name disclosed? If not, why not? Can they be called upon if the candidate shows interest in talking about employment? Can they assist you by having a casual coffee chat if the need arises? Knowing who can help and how they can help may be vital at later stages.

2. Add Information

When a prospect has been recommended by a team member we want to know as much information as we can about the potential candidate. Go back to the team or network member who is making the recommendation and ask questions.

Double check with other people that may have worked with the prospect to confirm or add to the information you now have. While the main goal is to understand the candidate’s strengths and career successes that earned them the recommendation, other helpful information about their current situation, likes or dislikes, and life circumstances may come up. 

3, 2, 1, Contact

When you engage with the prospect for the first time, focus on the opportunity to exchange information. A hard sell is never appropriate, so don’t over play your hand. You need to understand your role as the ‘broker’, and that the candidate needs to hear from the people they would work with on a day-to-day basis should they join the company.


Before pushing for a meeting you should confirm a few vital pieces of information, such whether the candidate has been entertaining the idea of a move, and if they have, what would be required to move them across the line. Confirming motivations, likes and dislikes, and other information guide us to get the candidate the right information at the right time, potentially from the right people, along the journey. 

Sell The Meeting!

When communicating with the candidate promote the idea of connecting with current team members and managers, including any former colleagues, if appropriate. In addition to sharing positive information about the company and the opportunity, here is how you might drive the conversation toward a meeting:

a) Familiarity: Mention the success of former colleagues or managers with the same background. If other members from the candidate’s career history are successful, mention the potential reasons for that success, whether they be from a shared cultural, product, skill or experience point of origin. 

b) The Power of Reunion: Mention the opportunity for the candidate to reconnect with former colleagues or managers to hear first hand how the company compares to the candidate’s perception of it. The prospect of rekindling professional relationships can be a strong motivator, while getting information directly is also powerful.

c) Learning Opportunity: Position the meeting as an opportunity for the candidate to learn more about the company’s culture, values, and future plans directly from those who live it every day. Provided the company you represent has enough upside, why wouldn’t the candidate go find out more?

d) Name Drop: The person in the company who made the recommendation obviously believes the candidate will be a good fit. That person may have agreed to you disclosing their name, and if so, the candidate will get more reassurance by knowing who it was.  


When you engage with the prospect for the first time, focus on the opportunity to exchange information.

No Downside

Hopefully your rapport and ability to form a connection is enough, but you may need to look at the downside from the candidates perspective. Remind them that as the recruiter, you are merely the broker and sell the meeting as the opportunity. The potential outcomes for the candidate are either A) they learn a few things, or B) an opportunity that may change their world. In the grand scheme of things, there is no real downside for them, so why not give it a go? 

“Selling the Meeting” In Practice

Let me share the story of a recruiter who uses the concept of selling the meeting to great effect. This recruiter was billing over US$700K a year with a client simply by selling the meeting. Here is how they did it:

  1. The recruiter would present a list of redacted profiles to the client; 
  2. The client would select the ones that were of interest; [In this case “of interest” is exactly the same as “recommended”.]
  3. The recruiter would go back and tell the candidates that the client was interested to meet them, and sell the idea of a casual meeting; 
  4. For those that agreed to meet, the recruiter told the client to sell the opportunity if they saw something they liked;

It sounds easy and as though the client did the real work, but of course the recruiter helped broker all the necessary information gaps along the way. I have no doubt there were cases where they crossed the line, but the point of this anecdote is that selling the meeting to recommended candidates can be a powerful tool in the recruiters tool box. 

Confirm the degree to which the team member(s) who made the recommendation will be able to assist you if called upon.

In conclusion, engaging recommended candidates is not just about having the recruiter sell the job, but about leveraging everyone you can to broker a meeting. It is the meeting that will provide the candidate with the valuable information and meaningful connections they need to make their decision. With this in mind, start by selling the meeting as a unique opportunity and share relatable success stories that inspire confidence. 

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