How to successfully pitch a candidate to a client

Pitching a candidate to a client is a key skill for any recruiter.  It’s the opportunity to transform a candidate from just words on a page into someone that a client wants to meet in the flesh.

Get it right, and a recruiter can develop long-term successful relationships with both clients and candidates. Get it wrong and… well, there’s no need to go there, which is why we’ve asked to experts in the field for their advice on pitching like a pro.

First impressions

For Austin Blackburne, Regional Director at Hays Victoria, a common mistake, especially for early career recruiters, is to attempt to communicate every single positive factor about a candidate.

“Instead, focus on what the organisation needs and communicate the parallels with the candidate’s skills and experience,” he says.

“Share your overall impression of the candidate through the lens of what the client needs. Hone in on the distinctive qualities that this candidate possesses that the client also wants.”

“It’s about managing client expectations,” says Bradley Wills, Consultant, Project Services at Hudson.

“Clients are looking for a skill set on a budget and won’t necessarily get everything they want. So, what are the candidate’s transferable skills?”

Making the connections

“Rather than simply ticking off the selection criteria, recruiters should share real examples from the candidate’s experience as proof to quantify their ability to do the job in question,” says Blackburne.

“This is really the key of the pitch – providing the client with proof that this candidate can deliver what they need them to deliver.”

Blackburne gives an example of the kind of thing recruiters should be pitching:  

“A career highlight of this candidate was exceeding the annual sales target by 45%. This was in part due to their design of a new business development tool, that has since been implemented across the department and has led to a 30% increase year-on-year in the team’s results.”

References

“Generally, I will complete references after the interview stage,” says Wills, “but if we’ve taken up references before, the client gets a lot of buy-in from ‘this is feedback we’ve had in the past’.”

Blackburne likes to supplement his evidence with one or two comments from the candidate’s referees.

“This provides further verification that they match the clients’ needs.”

We’re ready for you now

Availability issues will vary with industry and levels of seniority.  But in the IT project contract space where Wills operates, for a high-profile position, clients are prepared to wait two to four weeks for a six-month contract. 

“For shorter contracts, though, anything longer than two weeks’ notice could impact the outcome,” he says.

Delivery

Blackburne believes that a phone call is always the best way to deliver your pitch.

“There is a time and place for email, but it can lead to a less personalised service. Building and developing a long-term client relationship through the simple art of having a conversation is an essential skill for any recruiter.”

“I always email a CV over first, then follow up with phone call,” says Wills. 

Wills believes that the phone call is also the ideal place to focus on a candidate’s soft skills such as communication, as these are harder to convey on a CV.

Above and beyond

For Wills, the real success at pitching comes from having the ability to go beyond simply matching a candidate’s skills with a client’s requirements.

“Why else has this candidate been successful?” he asks.

“There might be a dozen candidates who look good on paper, but what can this candidate bring that others can’t?”