Main image of article Guide to Overcoming Objections from Passive Tech Candidates

With the unemployment rate for tech occupations hovering at around 2 percent, understanding how to effectively engage passive candidates is more important than ever before.

What is a passive candidate? They’re currently employed and not actively looking for a new job, but they may be open to discussing future opportunities if you approach them the right way.

Working tech professionals simply don’t have time to engage with every recruiter who reaches out, so they inevitably respond with objections or “blow offs,” hoping that you’ll go away. Unless you learn to anticipate the objections of passive tech candidates and how to handle them correctly, you may be stuck fishing in an exceedingly small pond.

In the spirit of having better conversations, here are some ways to overcome the most common objections of passive tech candidates—and even prevent them from happening in the first place.

“I don’t work with recruiters.”

It doesn’t matter what the job is, or the pay; until a candidate knows and trusts you, they will be skeptical of you and any job that you offer, noted Lou Adler, CEO of Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems.

Highly effective recruiters work on building trust by becoming known as experts in their field and creating a “network of knows”: someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone. They mention those shared connections and connect online with passive candidates before they reach out, which goes a long way toward changing the candidate’s perception.

When they finally do reach out, they don’t mention a specific job until they understand a candidate’s long-term career goals and timeline for making a change.

So, what should you talk about? “Don’t sell the job, sell the discussion,” Adler said.

For instance, say something like: “I understand that you may not be looking for a new job, but I’m wondering if you would be open to exploring a different career trajectory?”

Candidate behavior has changed over time. The technology pros you submit for open positions today probably came from the relationship seeds you planted three months ago.

“Send me the job description and I’ll take a look.”

Make no mistake, this is a “blow off,” said Dan Fisher, founder of Menemsha Group and sales and recruiter enablement expert.

Passive candidates feel uncomfortable sharing sensitive information with someone they don’t know. When you call them unexpectedly and launch into “pitch mode,” they put their guard up and try to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

To avoid spontaneous shutdowns, you need to develop a communication skill that Fisher calls “disarming.”

The idea is to let the candidate feel in control of the conversation. Rather than approaching an interaction with a pitch mentality, ask if it would be okay to take two minutes to explain why you’re calling. Continue asking for their permission every step of the way.

Flipping the conversation is another communication skill that every recruiter should have in their toolbox. The idea is to answer their question with a question instead of ending the conversation.

For instance, say something like: “I’d be happy to send you the job description. However, I thought you might want to hear what the hiring manager told me about the job that’s not in the description. Would you like me to share it with you?”

Remember, opening up with a pitch conveys the idea that “I want something from you” versus a conversation which conveys the idea that “I want to share something with you.”

“Why are you calling me? That position doesn’t begin to match my skills, interests, level or career goals.”

If you get this objection a lot, chances are you’re taking a “pitch, ready, aim” approach. That won’t cut it with today’s passive tech candidates.

Highly effective tech recruiters thoroughly research a candidate’s background and invite them to participate in a career discussion. They build credibility and strike an emotional chord by demonstrating that they understand the professional’s domain and career path trajectory.

“I’m only interested in fully remote positions.”

The best way to handle objections about pay, location or work arrangements is to gain an understanding of the candidate’s motivations and reasoning.

First of all, you want to show empathy to make sure candidates feel understood. After that, ask why remote work is so important to them, or whether their current employer is planning to end or reduce such work arrangements. What kind of package they would need to make a move?

Sharing statistics and facts about remote work or current pay rates may cause the candidate to reconsider their limitations, as well. For instance, remote jobs comprise only 15 percent of work opportunities in the United States, which means landing a fully remote job may not be as easy as they think.

“I’m not looking to leave.”

This objection is actually a blessing in disguise because it buys the time to build a relationship that may pay off down the line.

The best way to respond to that objection is to acknowledge that it makes sense. Follow with, “That’s exactly why we should talk.” Adler suggests that you explain your goal: helping the candidate map out and achieve the next steps in their career, no matter how long it takes.

Ultimately, your patience will pay off, because nobody stays in the same company and job forever—especially in tech.

Closing Thoughts and Tips

Objections can actually be helpful in developing relationships with passive candidates because they help clarify what’s important and invite productive discussions.

The most effective tech recruiters have adjusted their mindset, goals and their definition of success to prevent the types of immediate rejection that can end a relationship before it begins. They realize that it will take more than one or two conversations with a passive candidate before they are willing to share their resume. They balance quantity with quality and regard a substantive conversation as a win.

Building fruitful relationships with passive tech candidates requires more than a 10-minute discussion; it’s a process. “In fact, if you’re still cold-calling passive tech candidates to pitch an open job, you’ve already lost,” Fisher added.