When you think about the brands Apple, Louis Vuitton, and Nike, what are the first things that come to mind? Maybe how Apple has transformed a $1,000 cell phone into a tool that a majority of the modern world is reliant on daily. Or that Louis’ iconic pattern reflects luxury and exclusivity, acting as a status symbol for the upper class. Perhaps the way that Nike has us convinced that with its equipment, we have the potential to one day compete on the same level as world-class athletes.

So what can we, as recruiting professionals, learn from these powerhouse brands? How can we adopt their techniques and engage with potential candidates? Each of these companies has a thorough understanding of the golden rule of marketing: Consumers buy emotionally and justify rationally.

Humans have a need to move away from pain and towards pleasure. This is obvious, but it’s a shocker how few members of the recruiting industry understand that. Oftentimes, even those who grasp this knowledge focus on one part of the concept–exploiting a candidate’s pain.

It’s critical to identify a candidate’s pain. That, above anything, should be the focal point of the recruiting process. Otherwise, we’re not helping the candidate see that we can provide a successful path to happiness. It’s our responsibility to act as a guide and coach, not a sleazy salesman offering the deal of a lifetime.

There is a better way to engage with fewer candidates and get them to work with your organization for the right reasons.By mastering the following steps, you’ll build a deeper emotional bond with each candidate.

1. Find the Pain

As the recruiter or search consultant, your job is to ask questions that’ll uncover the pain the candidate is feeling. You’re required to go deeper than surface-level issues like compensation or commute. Having an extensive understanding of an individual’s pain requires strategizing the placement and timing of your questions. Your goal is to find his emotional motivators that aren’t as apparent. My series covering The “Baker’s Dozen” of Candidate Questions can help you to formulate your plan.

2. Induce the Pain

Once you have an understanding of the candidate’s pain in his current position, you have to verify it. Do this by asking specific questions about his issues. For example, if the candidate’s upset because his boss is a micro-manager, you can ask questions like, “When was the last time your boss was really in your business? What happened? How did you feel as a result?”

3. Expand the Pain

If you find that the pain is validated, take this opportunity to expand the story using the candidates own words and experiences. Your goal is to get the candidate to understand that things won’t get better by just hoping that they will. Ask further questions along the lines of, “What happens in 10 years if you’re still working under the same boss? How will your career continue to be stifled?”


4. Find the Pleasure

Your success is dependent on two bits of information: understanding the factors that drew the candidate to his current organization and what keeps him there. Once you know his primary points of pleasure, you can pinpoint the candidate’s priorities. This will help you uncover the path you’re painting in step 7.

5. Build the Pleasure

Pleasure is a powerful motivator. It’s essential to assure the candidate that the pleasures most important to him can be replicated and expanded in a future role.

6. Identify the Disparity

Inside every candidate’s mind, there’s a disparity created by following these steps. It exists between what he currently has and what he wants in the future. Part of your job is to widen this gap. Get the candidate to consider the possibility that there could be a better fit for him at another organization.


7. Paint the Path

Foster an emotionally-charged conversation with the candidate by reflecting on his current situation. Paint a path that focuses on as many points of pain and pleasure as possible (as it pertains to the opportunity). Remember that this isn’t a time to talk about the job description. Instead, use this moment to discuss how the overall opportunity addresses his emotional needs.

Your role as a recruiter isn’t to sell someone on a position. It’s to ask questions that lead an individual to see that they’d be better off in another role. Through the right questions, you can help candidates uncover their pain and forge a better path forward. It’s time to drop the sleazy sales approach to recruiting, and become the coach you were meant to be.

For more recruitment advice, take a look at my 12-part series.