objection handling in recruitment handling in recruitment

Dealing with objections is an inevitable part of being in the recruiting business. If you’re in the field, chances are you’ve already encountered your fair share of them.

You might spend hours perfecting and delivering a great recruiting sales pitch to your prospects, only to be met by an avalanche of unexpected objections.  

Your prospect might tell you that they don’t have the budget for it, they might tell you that they are not recruiting, or that they prefer to do their recruitment in-house. 

However, you can’t afford to give up on a potential sale so quickly. The prospect’s objections provide an opportunity for you to identify their pain points, offer a solution, and reframe their perspective. There are almost always ways to address your prospect’s concerns if you approach the objection in the right way.

As with other skills and competencies, overcoming objections in recruiting can be learned. And over time, a recruiter can become better at overcoming them. As the old adage goes; practice makes perfect! 

In this guide, we lay out some of the most common objections in recruitment, and offer pathways to overcome them.

Common objections to marketing calls

Before a client engages with us they may throw objections our way. The following are examples of handling some common objections.

Objection 1: You’re not on our PSA/PSL

Preferred Supplier Agreements may be formal, water-tight agreements or loose, informal arrangements. Some are highly effective but others fail spectacularly, particularly those that only appoint suppliers who agree to work for below-market rates. Few top-performing or experienced recruiters will work in such roles if there is a more lucrative workaround, so difficult-to-fill roles often remain unfilled.

Also, check our Guide to Landing New Clients and Doing Business Development for Recruiters

Very few companies will allow their businesses to suffer because agencies on their PSA can’t supply the staff they need. CEOs, staff, shareholders, and customers don’t care about PSAs – they care about providing a service or product to their customers. The people that do care about PSAs are usually those responsible for putting it together in the first place, and these are usually the people who will give you the objection: HR, Internal recruitment, or proactive recruitment.

Even if the whole market knows the PSA isn’t working, refrain from criticizing it to the very people who put it together. Insulting their work isn’t going to encourage them to work with you. Instead, focus on how you can improve their situation, without necessarily changing what they have created. Here’s how: 

1.1 Acknowledge the objection and ask questions

Many of our clients have PSAs in place and find they work well for the bulk of their roles…

…What areas of your needs are not covered by the PSA? How do you fill those rare roles that the PSA can’t fill? What could we do for you to consider us as a backup provider?

1.2 Offer a solution

I appreciate how much effort goes into putting a PSA together, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest changing something that works in many ways. What we do for

{other companies} is to provide a backup service on those occasions when the PSA doesn’t have the resources to assist. It takes some pressure off the PSA so they can focus on finding all the other candidates you need, without your managers having to compromise on their hiring targets.

What you are doing here is not battling the PSA but sidestepping the PSA. Sure, they are preferred but they aren’t able to deliver on this particular problem for you. We can, and I am not talking about including us in your PSA! The trick is for you to clearly communicate what you are solving and make sure that you are getting buy-in from the hiring manager. 

1.3 Agree on a path of action

I appreciate that you have a lot of recruiters calling you saying they have the best candidates and I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. I’m meeting with clients {or a specific company – the more high-profile the better!} near your office on Thursday. Do you have 20 minutes for me to introduce myself in person and show you some of our available candidates?

Objection 2: We’re not recruiting at the moment.

First, make sure that this is actually the case and understand that this is true and there is an immediate pain point for your prospect. In this case, being pushy to get their time or attention is going to be futile. You immediately need to change your tactic and focus on just getting to know your prospect better. 

Once you have the conversation established, pivot to talking about the future growth plans – not just for hiring but your prospect’s plan to get to her promotion! You want to establish yourself as someone who can get her that promotion by hiring the best for her! Here’s the playbook

 2.1 Acknowledge the objection and ask questions

No problem…It’s great to see that you’ve got no backlog in recruiting in such a competitive market. Maybe you can teach me a thing or two! (Humour always opens doors for you! Best way to make an impression with your prospects) What are you working on these days?

What are the goals that you have for this year/next quarter? Establish how well networked you are in the market. Once you link growth and hiring (for the future),

…We can provide people at short notice, but many of our clients engage with us before they have a need because it helps to put feelers out before things become urgent. What types of people might you need in the future?

…Are there times of the year that you are more likely to ramp up your hiring? How do you expand your headcount during those times?

…How do you fill unforeseen needs, for example, if someone handed their notice in, or had to take urgent sick leave?

…What skills have you recruited for in the last year? If you were in that situation again, are there improvements to the process that you’d like to make?

…Is there anyone else in the business that may have current or upcoming needs?

2.2 Offer a solution

I appreciate you don’t need anyone until next month, but what has worked well with other clients is for us to meet before the vacancy goes live to discuss the requirement. That way we can keep an eye out for potential candidates and you have people ready as soon as the role goes live. If it doesn’t go live, you’ve not lost anything.

 I appreciate you don’t need anyone at the moment, but I would love to provide you with any other assistance that you might need, in the hope that when you do need a recruiter, I’m the person you choose to engage with. I provide a number of clients with market updates and salary surveys. Some use them to help in their staff planning and pay reviews. Others read them purely to keep an eye on what’s happening in the market.

2.3 Agree on a path of action

I will stay in touch but should we reconnect next quarter (specify time and date) when you need to ramp up hiring?

I’m going to be in your area on Tuesday. May I drop in to introduce myself and discuss how I can assist you in the future?

Objection 3: We don’t need any more candidates for the role.

Having candidates isn’t necessarily the same thing as having great candidates who are going to accept an offer and start the job. Finding out what stage of the recruitment process the client is at – and how suitable the applicants are – helps us to identify where we may be able to improve their situation. Also, this might be your cue to pitch your ability to hire passive candidates

 3.1 Acknowledge the objection and ask questions

That’s good to have the role covered

…What, if anything, could other applicants offer that might make them more attractive than the ones you’ve already seen?

…Do you have a backup if your preferred candidate decides not to leave their current job, or accepts another offer?

3.2 Offer a solution

I know someone who has that experience. I’m not sure if they’re still available but it’ll only take a phone call to find out.

I appreciate you don‘t want to go through the whole process again if you think you’ve found a strong candidate already, but it can be useful for a different supplier to send you their best candidate. It doesn’t cost anything to compare and the comparison will either reinforce your view that your current leading candidate is the best for the job or will show you a potentially better candidate. Many clients have found the hour spent interviewing our strongest applicant has been time well spent.

3.3 Agree on a path of action

If the candidate is still available, would you be keen to interview them as a comparison to the ones already in the running? When would be good for you to meet them?

If you can give me some details of your requirements, I’ll submit our best candidate and see how they compare.

Objection 4: I don’t deal with recruitment – you have to speak to HR.

In most cases, the hiring manager is just passing the buck because they don’t want to be bothered. This is completely fair but this is your chance to shine. While you are happy to speak to HR, try to get a conversation started and you have three hooks to get it started. 

  1. What positions do you hire for and what are the hard-to-fill roles? (Understanding the roles they are looking for?)
  2. Do you stay directly involved in hiring? (Trying to get a buy-in making prospects to realize that dealing with you directly is better for them!)
  3. What do your objectives look like this and next quarter (Get an understanding of what’s keeping them up at night!)

4.1 Acknowledge the objection and ask questions

No problem….

To avoid wasting anyone’s time, it’d be great if I could get a bit of information from you about the roles you hire for before I contact HR…

…Who should I speak to? Are there any particular skills they struggle to find for you? What options does HR give you if they can’t find you the people you need in the time you need them?

…What do you think their main objective is in keeping such a strong grip on how you may or may not hire staff? Do they see it as a cost issue, or do they just need to be kept informed of what’s happening?

4.2 Offer a solution 

I’ve placed {X number} of people with those skills in the last month and have just started working on similar roles for {relevant company}. I’m sure some of our candidates would be interested in opportunities with

you too. I’ll speak with your HR team and let you know how the conversation goes. In the meantime, would you be interested in seeing the caliber of people we represent? – You are trying to create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) here demonstrating that you work with similar companies and candidates they are looking for. If they act fast, you can deliver for them! 

4.3 Agree on a path of action

I’ll contact HR today and send you CVs to review in the meantime.

I’ll contact HR and stay in touch. I will call you Wednesday next week at 4 just to give you an update. 

Objection 5: We do all our recruitment in-house.

In-house recruitment ranges from a few administrators to slick, strategic operations rivaling agencies in size and resources. But even the latter have their weaknesses: there will always be strong candidates who are out of their networks, perhaps because of negative brand perceptions or time constraints. In-house recruitment is responsible for running the entire talent acquisition process which leaves them with less bandwidth to do the old-fashioned headhunting! Sure they have advantages too but at the end of the day, the hiring manager is just looking to build a fantastic team around them and you know you can help them get there!.  

5.1 Acknowledge the objection and ask questions

That’s pretty impressive. Most companies we work with have an in-house talent acquisition team and frankly, some of them are just world-class TA teams. What we do is help you create a pipeline and make strategic hires – we augment your TA team instead of competing with them. 

5.2 Offer a solution

Because we are not a run-of-the-mill agency, we take time to dig deeper into your business, the role, and your recruiting process. We act as an extension to your team to help you find and convert the very best. 

Also, check How to Grow Your Staffing Agency and Stand Out From Competition

5.3 Agree on a path of action

We work with X company (another company in a similar space/ same region) and we’ve placed more than 10 candidates in just the last year. They have an incredible TA team and we partner with them on some roles that are difficult or of strategic importance. 


This 3-step process can be applied to any other objection you might face while pitching your recruiting firm. Remember your goal is to develop prospects into clients.  That may or may not happen on the first call.  Even if they have no immediate need for your service, take the opportunity to have a conversation with them.  At the very least, you will build a relationship with them that will come in handy for future business. Remember to take the time to ask the prospect the right questions, and you may uncover needs they didn’t even realize they had or weren’t initially willing to admit to!

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