A few days ago, our CEO Jeff Weiner led a session at LinkedIn on how to “close” candidates — that is, how to persuade candidates to join your team once you have found and interviewed them. Since not everyone has the opportunity to work at LinkedIn and experience Jeff’s leadership first-hand, I thought I’d share some of his wisdom here.
The key take-away was that closing a candidate is not about selling the job or company to the candidate, but rather working with the candidate to figure out what the candidate wants and whether the job will help him or her achieve that desire. As an employer, you need to do three things to close a candidate:
1) Figure out what is the candidate’s dream.
2) Determine if job and candidate are the right fit.
3) Communicate your own passion.
Let’s take these one at a time.
As I’ve written here in the past, we have to dare to dream. Most of us rely on jobs to sustain us and our loved ones — and for some a job is nothing more than that. There’s no shame in having a dream that is unrelated to a job — Franz Kafka famously worked in a variety of “bread jobs” in order to pay the bills while he wrote novels. Others find their calling as humanitarians, activists, or care givers. It’s easy for many of us to forget that life isn’t always about work.
But the great thing about working in technology is that you can get paid to fulfill your own dream. Look at Larry and Sergey, who set out to organize the world’s information. Or Steve Jobs, whose dream has been to create innovative products. Not everyone is as specific in their dreams or as successful in realizing them, but, as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it.
Convincing a person to accept a job offer works best when that job brings the person closer to fulfilling his or her dream. My own decisions to go to Google and then LinkedIn are good examples. Working at Endeca drove me to pursue a vision of HCIR — to optimize the way people and machines work together to solve information seeking and exploration tasks. At Google, I hoped to bring exploratory search to the open web. I’ll concede that I did not make much headway, but I’m glad that I tried.
And at LinkedIn, I work on problems that not only stretch the boundaries of information science, but whose solutions help millions of other people achieve their dreams by making them more successful professionally. My dream is to truly reduce HCIR to practice so that people can lead better and more productive lives. Once the folks at LinkedIn understood my dream, closing me was just a matter of offering me the keys to make that dream a reality.
If you want someone to work at your company, get to know that person’s dreams. If the job you are offering can’t help him or her realize those dreams, be honest about it. It’s better for both of you, and for a world that is better off with people devoting their lives’ work to fulfilling their dreams.
Fit is a two way street: the candidate should be right for the job, and the job should be right for the candidate. The interviewing process typically focuses on establishing the former, but we often forget that the candidate’s decision focuses on the latter. Just because someone is capable of doing a job doesn’t mean it’s the right job for that person.
For me, fit means many things. A work environment where people work hard and take the company’s success personally. Incentives that allow everyone to win, rather than a zero-sum game where people compete for scarce opportunities. Openness, since I’m someone who lives most of my life in public. I could go on — but I hope you get the general idea. Fit is the set of functional and non-functional requirements that determine whether someone will enjoy a job. And people who enjoy their jobs tend to be productive and stay a while.
If you are trying to persuade someone to accept a job offer, you have to see the decision from that person’s point of view. In other words, ask yourself — and convincingly answer — why the job is the right fit for the candidate. That means accepting the possibility that is isn’t the right fit, and doing right by the candidate even if that means backing off.
Choosing a job is one of the most important life decisions that people make. It’s not quite up there with getting married or having a child, but it’s a a decision that most people take (and should take) very seriously. Some people create spreadsheets of the pros and cons to compare opportunities and try to frame their decision as an optimization problem. Others go with their gut.
Those who know me personally — whether from face-to-face or online interaction — know that I wear my passion on my sleeve. I can’t understand how someone could get up in the morning and go to work without being passionate about his or her job. I know that many people don’t have a choice in the matter, and I pity them. In a country where most people take subsistence for granted, having a job you love strikes me as a necessity, rather than a luxury.
But what is clear is that if you, as an employer, are not passionate about what you do, you have no business expecting a candidate to take such a big leap of faith with you. Moreover, passion is hard to fake. As it should be — I’m not suggesting that employers should pretend to be excited about their jobs. Rather, your own sincere excitement is a baseline for those you hope to attract to your team. Passion is contagious, and passion is the raw material for making dreams come true.
Dream. Fit. Passion.
There you have it: dream, fit, passion. And remember, closing isn’t selling. Do right by the people you try to hire. After all, jobs are short, but careers are long. Celebrate everyone’s professional success, and take your losses in stride. I can tell you from experience that it all works out for the best.