“They didn’t quite meet the brief” is a sentence recruiters dread. After promoting a candidate to a client, it’s frustrating when the client doesn’t want them – especially when you know that candidate was perfect. So why aren’t you successfully selling your candidate?

One reason may be that the candidate wasn’t right for the role, which means you didn’t do your homework properly. However, what if the reason your client isn’t interested is because you didn’t tell them what they needed to hear?

Your window to discuss potential candidates with your client is limited. Recruiting into the role only takes up a small portion of their day, so it’s essential that you fill this time with the information that will convert this introduction into an interview.

First, let’s explore how to successfully sell your candidate:

Active Listening

The use of Active Listening is beneficial when presenting a candidate to your client, particularly ‘Remembering’ and ‘Reflection’. Whilst this is usually used in face-to-face meetings, you can apply the verbal cues to highlight your candidate as perfect for the job, as well as to impress your client with your interest and dedication to the role.

Remembering details, ideas and specifications from previous conversations proves that you have understood and considered what they said. Make notes of any buzzwords they say about the role and the type of candidate they want.

These will form the foundation for Reflection. Closely repeating or paraphrasing what has been said to you will show your client that you have listened to them. Recalling the buzzwords they used and applying them to your candidate will help you to present them as right for the role.

You should bear this in mind when going through the following pointers for what to say about your candidate:

1. Selling your candidate through your overall impression

When you’re sharing your overall impression of the candidate, you should cover the following:

  • What made this candidate stand out to you?
  • How did they present themselves?
  • How did they communicate?
  • Why are you putting them forward?

Tip: You can use their CV as a base for this, especially if they have a strong opening statement.

2. Highlight how they match the key criteria

Looking through the key selection criteria and comparing it with what your client has said about the role should highlight the most important criteria for you. Select a few of the most important ones and highlight how your candidate matches them.

Depending on the role, the focus may be more on a candidate’s technical or personal skills, and picking up on this will help you to sell them better.

The same approach should be taken with their skills and qualifications. Rather than sharing all the skills they have, focus on the ones that are essential for the role and, if necessary, then explain their broader range.

Ten recruitment KPIs you need to know

3. Give an insight into their career highlights

If relevant, share your candidate’s professional achievements with your client. The highlights should resonate with the client and the role. If they don’t, it’s not worth mentioning them at this point.

It’s important not to overload or overwhelm your client at this point with a long list of achievements. You’ll most likely lose their attention and lose the deal.

4. References

If you have your candidate’s references to hand, they’re a good card to play to highlight just how great they are. Having the opinion of someone who has worked with the candidate before will make your pitch deliver more of a punch.

As with the above points, your focus here should be on matching your client’s expectations. So, if possible, focus on the points in the reference that reflect what your client has said about the role requirements.

5. When can they start and what do they want

When selling your candidate to your client, it’s best to put this information on the table now. This way you don’t waste their time further down the line.

  • What is your candidate’s availability?
  • What is their salary expectation?
  • Do they have any flexibility on either of these?

Stand out from the crowd

Jimmy Johnson, the famous American Football Coach, once said: “The difference between being ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”

When you’re selling your candidate to a client, keep this in the back of your mind. Consider what it is about your candidate that makes them more than ordinary.

Ask yourself the following questions before you make the call, and make sure you have the answers:

  • Do I know exactly what my client is looking for?
  • What skills does my candidate have that matches the role requirements?
  • What personal attributes do they have that my client will find attractive?
  • Do they have professional achievements I can use as a selling point?
  • Am I ready to sell my candidate so that they meet the brief?


And once you’ve made it past this point, it’s time to prep your candidate for the interview!