6 steps for handling objections

One of the hardest things to master when becoming a recruitment consultant, is being able to overcome objections. Whether these come from candidates or clients, it’s hard to not take them personally.


If you’re wondering what the picture of the little hurdle is all about, it’s called a cavaletti. If you’ve ever ridden horses, you’ll be aware of it as it’s used to train them when they’re learning to jump fences.

For me, it’s a visual that helps when handling objections. Rather than seeing it as an insurmountable object, the cavaletti should be seen a ‘trip hazard’, just like an objection. If the horse doesn’t pick their feet up, they’ll knock their hooves pretty hard… in other words, ignore it at your peril.

If you ignore the objection given by your customer, it’s going to trip you up and make you fall flat on your face.

Objections can of course be genuine, but sometimes they’re not…

Typical objections include:

  • We’re using another agency
  • You’re too expensive
  • We have a PSL (preferred suppliers list) already
  • We’re not recruiting
  • We do the recruiting ourselves
  • We advertise our positions online
  • HR are responsible for that i.e. it’s not my job
  • We’ve got a headcount freeze
  • I’m too busy to talk right now
  • We’re too small to use an agency
  • Our business is too technical

Do some of these sound familiar?

They can usually be allocated to one of 4 categories:

  1. Capability: in other words, the client hasn’t got to the point where they trust you and therefore are questioning whether you can do the job at all
  2. Price: probably the easiest one to spot
  3. Vague: there’s a real objection there, but they probably don’t know what it is either!
  4. Irrelevant: it’s a smokescreen, such as “I’m too busy to talk right now”. This isn’t an objection to you working with them, but more likely just a way to get you off of the phone

Sometimes objections can be a tester to see whether you can cope with a small amount of pressure – to see whether you balk at the first hurdle. I’ve actually had a client admit to me, that on a Friday afternoon they would try and get as many objections as possible into a call from a sales person.

Fight or flight?

With that in mind, it’s important that you qualify the objection before carrying on the conversation. The only problem with that is that our bodies will react without our permission… the ‘flight or fight’ response. With that additional adrenalin now rushing around your bloodstream, it’s not surprising that the majority of consultants now feel very uncomfortable (hot, sweaty, pace of speech increased as well as the pitch) and therefore the panic has set in and you are happy to get off the phone as quickly as possible — ‘flight’.

If you’re happy to take on the client and stand your ground and defend your position — ‘fight’ — then the likelihood is that you’ll want to ask some questions around the objection. Unfortunately, in this scenario, adrenalin is not your friend and the question is likely to come across as argumentative i.e. “What are you comparing that to?”, so we need another approach.

Objection handling process

1. Listen

Leave 1–2 seconds silence for them to add anything more, and above all else, don’t interrupt them

2. Acknowledge the objection

This needs to be a statement that confirms that you have listened, but is in no way inflammatory. Notice there are no questions, yet.

For example: ‘I appreciate why you may feel that way…’, ‘I understand that must have been a difficult situation for you…’ or ‘I’m sorry you’ve had that experience…’

3. Specify

Now you’ve acknowledged what they’ve said and made the environment less combative, you can use open and probing questions to establish the real issues. Try to stay away from closed questions at this stage as it’s not helpful for them to just be answering yes/no or a couple of words – you want a conversation.

As well as fully understanding the objection, the aim here is to uncover issues that you may be able to resolve in the future. 

4. Reassure

Summarise what they’ve said to you, making sure you are pointing out the key issues/needs that they’ve mentioned in their answers

5. Present (Sell)

It’s only now that you try to resolve the objection. It’s important to promote this in the 3rd person i.e. hypothetical. “How helpful would it have been if a consultant had done X?” or “Would it be beneficial if a consultancy did Y for you?”

6. Close

The aim is for the customer to give you a “Yes” answer to your question. It’s at this point that you can then carry on the conversation and find out whether you can help the client or not.

Now I’m not unrealistic and I know that this process won’t resolve 100% of objections that you’re faced with – but what if it resolves even just 50% and that gives you the opportunity to carry on the conversation with your customer? Just think what that could lead to…

Angela Cripps

Angela Cripps has worked within the recruitment industry for over 25 years and runs Connemara UK Ltd. Her career started as a recruitment consultant, where she recruited both temporary and permanent staff for Blue Arrow in Catering, Industrial, Healthcare and Commercial sectors. She is now an Executive Coach, Mentor, NED and Trainer for the recruitment industry.

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