How to Effectively Handle ‘Objections’ While Telephone Job Prospecting

MJD Editor Rachel Kaufman’s Note: We’re beta-testing a partnership with Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog where we syndicate content from the blog on a weekly basis. This one‘s from Skip Freeman, a headhunter who’s turned to helping jobseekers get hired. This particular post is an adaptation of the chapter entitled, “Never Rebut an Objection—Roll with it!,” in “‘Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!. Do you want to see more of these posts? Let us know.

What is your first “gut” reaction when you encounter an “objection”—“We’re not hiring right now,” “You need to call HR,” etc.—while telephone prospecting for a new job among hiring managers or the companies they represent? It’s to immediately rebut or counter the objection, right? “I’ve already tried to call HR numerous times and all I get is a busy signal,” you might respond, probably with even a slight edge of frustration in your voice. This of course would be a very normal, quite human reaction. It is not, however, likely to work in your favor or get you where you want to go—to land a new job.

In this blog I am going to review some of the more common objections you’re likely to encounter while job prospecting by telephone and then show you how you to effectively handle them by resisting the temptation to “push back” by offering a rebuttal or countering the objections in some other way. By learning to effectively use this approach you will brand yourself as someone who is different from and better than the typical job hunter who is perceived as “just someone else looking for a job.”

(Coincidentally, the suggested ways of handling common objections featured in this blog work best when you precede your telephone prospecting by the direct mail campaign outlined in these previous blogs: and

In my executive recruiting firm we coach all of our job candidates that the best way to handle objections they’re likely to encounter during their job hunt is, first, to think in terms of the martial arts, wrestling or similar forms of hand-to-hand combat. To be effective in these disciplines, one must learn to “roll with the punches” or other aggressive tactics and not attempt to “block” them. This same approach also works quite well with objections you’re likely to encounter during your job hunt. The basic rule is this: Never, never rebut or counter an objection, “roll with it.”

Let’s start with the number one objection you’re likely to encounter during your telephone prospecting activities:

“You need to call HR.”

The best way to handle this objection, which will occur often enough to become an issue, is by using a response such at this:

“Sure, I can call HR. But before I do, may I ask if I am the type of individual you could see making a contribution to your team?”

Notice that you made no attempt to block or rebut the objection. Rather, you “rolled” with it when you said, “Sure, I can call HR.” You merely agreed with the person making the objection, which they probably were not expecting at all. So, when you asked the follow-up question (“. . . may I ask if I am the type of individual you could see making a contribution. . . .”), the person is far more likely to work with you, at least for awhile.

Here is another, very common objection you likely will encounter while telephone prospecting:

“We are not hiring.”

An often effective way of handling this objection is by saying something like this:

“I didn’t necessarily think you were at this point. If someone were to resign, or when business increases at some point in the near future, am I the type of individual you would be interested in speaking with?”