Talent Acquisition

Be Nice to the Gatekeepers, for They Hold the Key

Does it sometimes seem as though hiring managers are living in some sort of gated community? As a recruiter, the key (no pun intended) to success is learning how to reach those all important decision makers so you too can enter the gates.

Let’’s face it, half the difficulty in approaching a potential client is actually getting in front of, or being heard by the decision maker to make your case. Gatekeepers come in various guises: the PA who is entrusted with guarding the decision maker at all costs is one; another might be the administrative assistant, the secretary, the voicemail system or the switchboard operator.

Whatever form they take, there are definite “do’’s” and “don’ts” to bear in mind, in order to gain access and receive consideration by the decision maker. First and foremost: Don’t doubt for one moment that the gatekeeper is vital to the successful outcome of your information gathering mission. If you fall at this first hurdle, getting back on the horse to have another go could be challenging. Following these few simple guidelines could mean the difference between success and failure in your efforts to speak to your target audience.

Do turn the gatekeeper into your ally

–Treat them with respect, humour and compassion, be friendly, but not over-friendly, establish a rapport. Remember they are busy, their job can be tough too. They get it from both ends all week long. Make a special effort to regard them as people with their own personality, and not as faceless obstacles to be overcome at all costs.

Do your research before you pick up the phone.

This is vital and cannot be stressed enough. Asking for the “Head of Sales” is vague and woolly and will immediately set alarm bells ringing with the gatekeeper. Attention to detail in your delivery is important too; –you’ have gone to the trouble of researching the name of the person you need to speak to, so make sure you get it right when you call.

For example, at Newman Stewart we had one person who wanted to speak to our Marketing Manager but merged his name with the name of the company and asked for Gary Numan, another wanted to speak to our Managing Director but asked for the legendary singer and guitarist of Squeeze, Glen Tilbrook.

These are just a couple of (admittedly very funny) real life examples of my colleagues being turned into 80’s pop heroes by unwitting callers. The moral of this tale is if you know and remember correctly the name of the person you need to speak to, your chances of being successfully put through to that person will be vastly improved.

Do use humour and empathy.

Humour in solidarity with the gatekeeper will work, always assuming the person on the end of the phone has a sense of humour and you haven’t caught them on a really bad day – if you’’re having a bad day and so are they you can bemoan this together and lighten both your days.

If this is the tenth time you have spoken to the gatekeeper this week, they will remember it too, so don’’t pretend otherwise, make light of it–; persistence is my middle name”, “you can’’t blame a man for trying” etc, etc.

Don’t turn it into a 24 chapter best-seller if you’’re leaving a message.

Make a voicemail message short and sweet, direct and professional, with only the important facts included: Your name, your contact details, the reason for your call and when you will call again should suffice.

Don’t ever lie!

You can be “creative” in giving your reason for calling, but don’’t lie. Don’’t pretend you’’re a relative, the police or an old friend from way back –this could backfire with unthinkable consequences for you and your job/reputation. Don’t over-rehearse –the gatekeeper is trained to sniff out those who are reading from a script and will immediately be thinking of a way to end the call without even listening to what you are saying. Be natural, try to make an impression and use your own personality to make you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t be rude!

Even in the face of what you see as absolute inflexibility and downright unhelpfulness on the part of the gatekeeper, you must always remain polite and professional, never rude or sarcastic – no matter how tempting it may be!

Do remain upbeat.

–This might be the hundredth call that you have made today, but this could be the one.

By following these simple rules you will increase your likelihood of getting through to the decision maker or getting the information that you require significantly which will in turn lead to a potential contact or placement.

By Newman Stewart

Newman Stewart is an Executive Search and Management Selection company who helps excellent businesses employ excellent people. We are experts in our field and proud of the results we achieve for our clients. With a vast proven track record of success, nationally and internationally, we are the retained, recruitment partner of choice to many national, multi-national and small businesses.