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Candidate Personas: The Motivated Mover Versus The Happy Hard Sell

Candidate Personas Series: Introduction, and Part I

When looking at candidates, it's important to look at their motivations for the job search. Over time, and with enough interviews, you can begin to identify candidates based on why they would consider your position.

This is not a cure-all. It's not a substitute for behavioral assessments or proper interview procedures. It is simply a way of thinking about a candidate's point of view, so that you can learn to identify their needs and communicate in a way that will increase your likelihood of success. This is a... basket of general attitudes. It's not candidate-specific, but as you see the patterns, you should be able to clearly place someone into a general category.

Let's take a look at three candidate personas, and then we'll look at ways to start conversations with them.

Motivated Mover:

This is every recruiter's favorite candidate. The Motivated Mover is an in-demand, talented candidate who interviews well, understands their value, makes good choices, and is absolutely looking to make a change. 

Motivated Movers have a track record of success. They ask questions about what is needed and who they'll work with because they're trying to picture success at your company. Interviews are two-way conversations. Negotiations are tough, but they're part of the decision-making process. The Motivated Mover isn't looking to just get the best deal, they're determining if your compensation policies deliver success. Throw money at this person, and they'll know you overpay to cover flaws in the business. Come in too low, and they know that you can't or won't pay for the right kind of talent.

Motivated Movers also have multiple options. They don't interview with one company. They have multiple interviews and multiple offers, which means speed is important as well. Wait too long, and a Motivated Mover will get a better deal.

This is prime candidate beef.

How to win: You need a transparent hiring process that is clearly communicated and actually followed by the company. You need high responsiveness from everyone on the hiring team. It's as simple as saying what you'll do and doing what you said.

Cons:  When all is said and done, if you're truly dealing with "A" talent, you're still only going to nab 50% of them (that's a good thing. If you win every pitch you make to a candidate, it's because you're not talking to a high enough quality candidate). 

Happy Hard Sell:

The Happy Hard Sell isn't a candidate you're going to see very often. They're as talented as the Motivated Mover, but they're not motivated to move. They're still quality beef, but they're the steak behind the glass. They like where they are, and they're not particularly interested in hearing a pitch. 

Recruiters often make the mistake of finding a Happy Hard Sell and thinking they can talk them into an interview. If you can talk them into an interview, you then assume they'll take an offer. They're attractive to managers because they are talented and exclusive.

How to win: The Happy Hard Sell isn't interested in being screened, they're interested in being challenged. If they sense that they're just another candidate, they have no reason to continue interviewing. What they want to see is a well-thought out pitch that makes sense for them. Be prepared ahead of time. Focus on the work, and not on selling. The benefits and perks and salaries need to be competitive, but they're not the hook.

The hook is the problem you're trying to solve. During your pitch, you need built in problems that the Happy Hard Sell wants to solve.

Cons: The Happy is a Hard Sell for a reason. That reason may be something you can't match. If so, you can spend a lot of time and resources courting someone who will never move. There's also an element of luck. If a Happy Hard Sell is on the verge of finishing a product, and they're current company hasn't planned out their future, they are susceptible to a pitch. That's a very hard timeline to match.

Planning Player:
This is my favorite kind of candidate for digital marketing management. In our industry, there is an 18-24 month window for advancement. In general, a manager will either be promoted within their company or they'll take a new position at another company. That length of time varies by industry, but it's a good balance between completing a project and embracing new technology and trends.

The Planning Player is clear that their career is the motivation. The promotion is recognition that they are improving, and they are protective of making a smart move. They're okay with a less-defined process, and jumping through your hoops, because they understand that's part of the process. It's not what they care about. They care about your reputation, and the chance to get a short-term win. They're also very focused on selling themself. 

How to win: The planner looks for clarity. They want to know that there aren't hidden risks. They will be sensitive to the company's reputation, and the job description, and the planned budget. The easiest way to pitch is to keep it simple. If they can quickly understand the opportunity, and they can quickly run it past their friends and family, they'll probably interview. And once a planner is in the interview, just don't mess up. 

Cons: Planning players don't like ambiguity. They don't like managers who want to shoot the breeze and get to know them. They believe if they're interviewing that the company has an interest in them. They're not prima donnas - but they're not sheep. You can mistreat them as a function of the process (they're not as sensitive to extra demands or steps), but when they're done with you, they're done. It's like a stress test. They're fine until they're not, and their seeming unflappable nature is hard to judge when they're close to being done with you. The problem is they don't pull themselves out of the process. They will go through to the end to see if they can get the offer, but you're dealing with a dead candidate who is just practicing their interview and negotiating skills.

Things To Say To Each Candidate Type

Motivated Mover: 
1) I know you're looking at several companies. Are they all the same position? Do you clearly know what you want to do next? 
2) Thinking about the company you're at now - what do you wish they would have done to make your last project more successful? 
3) This process is going good places, so let's stop and have a conversation about compensation. This is the ideal package the company would like to see. You can see it places you a very specific niche below a VP but above a typical Director. That's because they want you to have autonomy, but not fall under a normal salary band that requires a certain number of employees to manage. Now in this, you'll be reporting directly to this executive, but will have dotted lines to these three, and regular contact with senior executives during planning. 
4) What are we missing here? If you take the job or don't take it, what do we need to add to the work to make it successful. Is our timeline right? Is our project too ambitious? Maybe not ambitious enough? 

Happy Hard Sell:
1) What did you want to accomplish when you started your current position? 
2) When looking at our company's future, it was clear that the right team in the position takes more than a job description written by a recruiter like me. There's a tension between what we think we need, what we actually need, and what the right candidate thinks they need. It's kind of impossible to know where any of us are right. We need to be flexible, but everyone can't do this. It's a commitment to the right person, to give them the tools they need. 
3) We're not looking for a moon shot. It's not the impossible - but you don't get the chance very often to make a real impact. Our company has this window, but it's not doable unless we find the right person, and put the right team behind them. 
4) Does any of this sound interesting? Is it even worth you hearing more about, or is there someone else you feel would really be able to get their teeth into this? 

Planning Player:
1) I like your background. It's methodical, it's planned. You've managed your career well. Is this the move that you anticipated? 
2) The roles you've had in the past show you can succeed, but the next rung in the ladder is an important one. It has more competition, more risk, and is fundamentally different from your last few roles. The interview, the process, the negotiation - they're more difficult because there's more at stake. 
3) Many of the candidates that have been successful in your roles had a mentor. As their mentor was hired, they brought them along. Has that been your experience? I mean, it's great, until the mentor's career stalls. Have you been largely self-motivated, or have you been trained and led? How does that effect you now? How do you plan to adapt without...air cover? 
4) I don't like to dig into salary history, but I do want to ask, have you thought through what you need to take this next step? Financially, are you in a position to make a move, and is it about a specific dollar amount or a specific increase? What is the reward for your work, and why hasn't that occurred at your current employer?