Techniques for Building Rapport with Tech Candidates

27 Nov 2023

As a tech recruiter, one of the most challenging aspects of my job is negotiating with top talent in the industry. The competition is brutal, and it takes more than just offering a generous salary package and a bunch of benefits to be able to hire talent. It requires a set of negotiation tactics that can help to attract and recruit the best tech professionals.

I want to share some effective negotiation tactics that have helped me secure strong tech talent for my clients. These tactics are mirroring, tactical empathy, and labeling the candidate’s emotions.


Mirroring: building rapport and establishing trust

Mirroring is a subtle technique that involves mimicking the other person’s body language, tone of voice, and choice of words to build rapport and establish trust. It can make the candidate feel more comfortable and relaxed, reducing tension and creating a favorable negotiating environment.

To effectively mirror a candidate, you need to pay attention to their tone of voice and choice of words. 

At the earlier stages of the recruitment process, you have written text (reach-out messages) or phone/video calls as your only way to communicate with the potential candidate. 

Since you don’t see each other in person, as a recruiter, you should focus more on their choice of words and their tone of voice. However, be careful when matching someone else’s tone of voice. If they sound frustrated or aggressive, your tone of voice should remain calm and balanced. So instead of mimicking them, try to establish trust with a calm and measured attitude.


Matching the tone of voice

Matching someone’s tone of voice starts with analyzing their communication style. Before I even start writing to the candidate, I take a moment to explore their style. I look at the language they use when posting on LinkedIn or other social media channels or when replying to comments or posts. This gives me a pretty good understanding of how the candidate likes to communicate. 

Once I have analyzed the candidate’s communication style, I try to use a similar language style when writing to them. I use words and phrases they are familiar with, and I try to use a similar tone and voice.

However, keeping it professional is key since you represent a company, and the candidate probably doesn’t know you in person.


Another key aspect of matching someone’s tone of voice is ensuring your message is clear and concise. This means I avoid complex language or technical jargon unless the person uses them themselves. 

Lastly, when matching someone else’s tone of voice, it’s important not to lose yours or fake a communication style. It’s not about duplicating the other person’s style; it’s more about finding common ground that works for both of you. 


Tactical empathy: understanding the candidate’s perspective

Tactical empathy is putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes and understanding their perspective. By doing this, you can gain valuable insights into what motivates them, what their concerns are, and what they are looking for in a job. This information can help you tailor your negotiation approach to meet their needs and interests better.

To practice tactical empathy, I do active listening. I pay close attention to what the candidate is saying. I then ask open-ended questions encouraging them to share more about their perspective. The more I learn about their attitude, objections, concerns, and needs, the better I can tailor my negotiation approach. 

I sometimes also use one of the so-called reflective listening techniques – I summarize what they have said and check if I have understood their point of view correctly. For example, “I don’t want to change my job right now. I am happy doing what I do in my current company especially considering that they are a growing startup and I got a big stock share there.” I could add to this, “It seems it’s not an easy decision to leave a startup that offers you an interesting job and great stock options.” 

Instead of jumping into bringing arguments and shouting about facts on why they should leave their current job, I summarize what they say, and this helps the candidate feel heard. 


Labeling the candidate’s emotions: validating their feelings

We all experience emotions, whether positive or negative, about our jobs. Labeling the candidate’s emotions involves validating their positive and negative feelings. By doing this, I show the candidate that I understand and respect their emotions. This helps me build trust and strengthen my relationship with the person I am in contact with. 

When talking to the candidate, I pay close attention to their verbal and nonverbal cues (if the conversation happens in person). When I notice the candidate is experiencing a particular emotion, I try to label it by saying something like, “It sounds like you value work-life balance a lot” or “It sounds like you feel excited about an opportunity where you can take the lead on X, Y, Z” or “It looks like you are frustrated by the lack of proper processes for managing X, Y, Z.”

By doing this, I am demonstrating empathy and showing that I am paying attention to their concerns. This can help to build trust. Later, when the time is right, I can use all that has been said to me to try and “sell” the work-life balance or the nicely-established processes in a company I am offering them to join. 


Final notes

Mirroring, tactical empathy, and labeling the candidate’s emotions are great negotiation tactics I use regularly. However, the key point for success here is that I don’t rush their decision-making. I’ve had candidates on my radar for months, if not years, whom I’ve been in constant contact with. I kept listening to their perspective and gathering insights about them until I could offer them the right opportunity that would minimize their objections (that I already knew of) and maximize the possibility of them agreeing to attend an interview or speak with my client.


Author: Tatev Blbulyan