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If you think “selling” is a dirty word, think again

By ZoomInsights staff

If you don’t want to admit that selling is a major part of the recruiting process, you’re not alone — but you might also be losing out on opportunities. It turns out that recruiters with superior sales skills are consistent top performers.

Sales skills are one of the basic core competencies that all recruiters must have in their tool kits. Wearing your sales hat allows you to engage candidates and quickly identify their needs, manage and overcome any objections, gain their commitment and move the hiring process along, quickly and efficiently.

“It all comes down to questioning and listening, which also happen to be key sales techniques,” said Nancy L. Parks, owner of HRPartnersPlus, a Denver-based consulting firm that specializes in sales training for recruiters. “You need to ask decent questions of your candidates and then listen to what they have to say.”

Focus on the pain points

Many recruiters like to lead the conversation by telling a candidate all about the position and the company, and then they forget to ask any questions that identify the needs of the candidate. A skilled salesperson knows better.

Telling is not selling, advised Parks. “You need to know what is important to the candidate and what their needs are,” she said, adding that she calls these “pain points,” or the issues that probably lead them have the conversation with you in the first place. These pain points can be anything from salary to location to work conditions to a desire for better teamwork.

Once you identify the candidate’s pain points, you should define them further. “What does ‘better teamwork’ actually mean for that candidate — you have to dig deeper and find out,” said Parks. “You may have a great story to tell about your Fortune 500 company, but if what the company offers doesn’t address the specific needs of the candidate, it doesn’t matter.”

“I’ve listened to more than 1,000 calls, and what we find most often is that recruiters simply don’t listen,” added Parks.

Handling objections

Objections just come with the territory when you are recruiting talent — especially salary objections. Skilled salespeople are experts at handling objections. Rather than get held hostage to salary-related questions, Parks advises recruiters to use a step-by-step sales model.

“We help recruiters get their word tracks down so they have road maps when they get the salary objection,” she explained. “We help them stay calm and acknowledge the objection.”

Parks’ model helps you turn candidate objections into conversations, allowing them to introduce positive aspects of the company and the position, rather than talking solely about dollars and cents, or allowing the interview to shut down. “This takes a lot of practice so that it doesn’t sound scripted,” she added.

Engage, involve and close

Gaining commitment from the candidate (closing) is the next step in the recruiting process, and this requires you to be on the same page as your candidate. Parks encourages recruiters to seek feedback from candidates early and often. “Keep them engaged and involved,” she suggested. “You’ll only get commitment from a candidate if you ask for it.”

These foundational sales skills — to listen, to overcome objections, and to win commitment – are essential for all recruiters. “Having solid sales skills will make you more resilient and help you know what to do in challenging situations,” noted Parks.


As a recruiter, you can benefit from some of the same tools that top salespeople use, including ZoomInfo Pro. It lets you create very specific searches of the profiles of 65 million businesspeople to find the perfect candidates for the jobs you’re working to fill. Learn more.