An all-too familiar roadblock in recruitment is the gatekeeper between you and a potential client.

So, how do you keep your cards close to your chest and manoeuvre your way around them?

We’ve shared four tips on how to communicate with the gatekeeper and speak to your ideal point of contact.

1. Be polite

For some it’s a given, but manners really cost nothing. And for those that choose not to exercise them, it’s costly. If you treat a gatekeeper as a barrier then they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and take on the role of one.

You should approach them and do the following:

  • Be polite and friendly – but remain professional
  • Make sure you are not interrupting their workday
  • Be aware of the amount of their time you are taking up – no one likes a time-waster!
  • Communicate in a way that works best for them – whether that’s over the phone or by email
  • Remember any details of conversations you have with them that you can use at a later date

Gatekeepers have a job to do, so be polite and favourable and they’re much more likely to help you, remember that they hold the keys for you.


2. Switch target

Though one person might seem like your initial gatekeeper and first point of contact, there’s often more than one person that could be helpful to you.

In the case that one gatekeeper is preventing you from getting to someone, see if there’s anyone else who could help you. That could be a contact in HR, or a member of the same team. And remember to take advantage of LinkedIn to help you achieve this – it’s a free database of all the professional contacts you need!

Ten recruitment KPIs you need to know

3. Be assertive and direct

If you present yourself confidently you can traverse almost anything. Use closing and assumptive language to steer the conversation to your intended result.

Instead of if and is, say when and what.

Here’s a couple of examples of what we mean:

  • Instead of asking “if they have a mobile number you could contact them on”, ask them “what’s their mobile number so you can contact them.”
  • Don’t take a shrinking violet approach and ask “is there a best time to contact them”, instead ask them “when is the best time to contact them”.

Just be aware of how you are coming across, however, as assertive and direct can be misconstrued as abrupt and rude. And you won’t get past any gatekeeper if they think you have an attitude!


4. Get their name

I know we’ve continuously referred to them as “the gatekeeper” here, however, they’re also a person doing their job, and they should be treated as such.

So, rather than focus solely on the task at hand (getting to the decision maker), make sure you take the time to understand a little bit about them. We’re not talking about their life story, but asking and remembering their name is a simple, powerful gesture.

As well as being a sign of good manners, it will also put you in good stead as a bargaining tool later down the line. And it will make it easier to get through to the decision maker on numerous occasions.


Whatever your approach to befriending a gatekeeper, the important things to remember are:

  • Be polite
  • Be professional
  • Be friendly
  • Be assertive
  • Be efficient

Recruiters can get a bad rep, which does not work in your favour. So getting a gatekeeper on your side is an extremely valuable exercise. Once you’ve achieved this, the changes are higher that the door to the decision maker will be more likely to remain open to you. So it’s easier to reach out on multiple occasions and do more business with that individual.


This article was originally published on Sept 15, 2014 and updated Aug 06, 2018