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What is The Magic Question for Any Franchise Recruiter?

October 3rd, 2011

In today’s tough economy, many franchisors are signing fewer franchisees than previous years and solid leads are tougher to come by. Every new franchise candidate appears precious.

Franchise recruiters therefore feel a tremendous amount of “deal pressure” to bring more candidates across the finish line. This pressure often seeps into their recruitment process and taints conversations they have with candidates.

Unlike an employer, who will quickly write off a questionable or uncommitted job candidate, a franchise recruiter will often chase and pursue candidates despite question marks or tell-tale signs that they are not interested, such as not calling franchisees to validate the business or putting off attending a Discovery Day.

If you are a franchise recruiter and you feel a deal going south or a candidate you’ve been working with begins to fade away, what is the magic question…the one question YOU SHOULD ASK which can turn the whole situation around?

Drum Roll Please.

The question is, “What would I ask this candidate if I wasn’t afraid of losing the deal?”

Most franchise recruiters are simply afraid to lose a deal and it alters how they treat a candidate. They are afraid to ask a tough or introspective question to a candidate in fear of how they may respond. They are afraid of holding the candidate accountable for doing what they said they would do (such as fill out an application or attend a Discovery Day) by when they said they would do it. They shudder at the thought of introducing some intentional tension into the relationship in fear of turning off the candidate (as if the candidate isn’t already turned off.)

For example: Picture you are a recruiter talking to a candidate who for the second time did not submit their application despite originally agreeing to. You ask why. They say, “I was too busy with work. I couldn’t get to it.” You say to yourself, “Geez (yes, people still say ‘geez’) it is a 15-minute exercise. They could have made the time if they wanted to.” They say they will try to submit it next week, but you don’t hear any real commitment to do so. Under normal circumstances you would wait a week and see what happens. But these aren’t normal circumstances because you prepared yourself by asking “The Magic Question.” “What would I do ask if I wasn’t afraid of losing this deal?”

So you tell the candidate you would welcome their application next week. But you ask permission to ask a few more probing questions. You tell the candidate, “Pretend you are a department head of a company looking to make a key management hire. You tell one job candidate you are very interested in them and they say the same about your company. You request that they submit a resume. They agree but then they don’t follow through. You call as a reminder and they tell you they will send it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and goes and no resume. What did this candidate communicate to you?”

They say, “Sounds like they weren’t really interested in the job.”

You say, “Now let’s apply this to our situation. It sounds like you aren’t interested in the franchise either. Normally at this stage candidates are anxious to submit their qualifications and to see whether or not they match the profile of a successful franchisee. I am not seeing this with you. What appears to be missing for you that sending in your application isn’t a high priority?”

There are franchise recruiters right now saying, “I could never say this to a candidate.” If I were to probe, “Why not?” They would say, “The candidate might get offended and walk.” Put another way, “They are afraid of losing a deal.”

Think about the last deal you closed. Did the candidate do what they said they were going to do and take ownership of the recruitment process or did you have to tiptoe around their wishy-washy commitments in fear of offending them?

Here is one insight all top recruiters have had at one point in their career and keep front of mind every day. If I were to ask them, “When do you know you have the deal?” they would respond “When the agreements are in hand and the check clears the bank.” If I were then to ask, “Are you afraid of losing a deal?” They would say, “No. I can’t lose what I never had.”

So here is my challenge to anyone reading this article.

Prepare for your next meeting by asking yourself the “Magic Question.” Take the conversation in the direction you answered. See what happens.


  • 10/05/2011, 9:20 am  Reply

    Great Post Joe…dead on!

    It is so easy, and primarily (though not always) at the individual level, for franchise sales and development types, to lose site of the goal. I would hope that goal would associate with what serves the organization best. What serves the organization? Getting the right-fit candidates that provide financial and propositional value to the organization into the system and allowing the rest to pursue other opportunities.

    Thank you…

  • 10/18/2011, 9:25 am  Reply

    Hey Joe,

    Good stuff, thanks. The way you phrase things in your articles makes it easy to read and understand. This makes so much sense.

    I often felt like I was chasing leads until I instituted the current process that I use. Now that I think about it, I am never afraid of losing the deal, but I like the phrasing you used about how to identify the “what would I ask if I wasn’t afraid of losing the deal”.

    Thanks a bunch,
    John Henning

  • 10/19/2011, 9:56 am  Reply

    I would also offer to someone to truly believe in your opportunity. I would hope your organization has powerful success stories and you were probably involved in changing that person’s life for the better. Start your day by reviewing these great success stories until its ingrained in you. Believe this – people will “feel” it. Asking the tough questions, pushing back or even taking away the opportunity falls in place naturally at the right moment.

    We find the answers – let others hope, assume and speculate.

  • Tony Morabito
    10/20/2011, 12:27 pm  Reply


    Excellent post……. Sure will help with time management. Thank you for the wisdom!

    Tony Morabito

  • John Thompson
    10/26/2011, 7:09 am  Reply

    This is the magic question I have used in the past. “At this point, what would prevent you from moving forward with this opportunity?”

    If there is something then we can address it, if there is nothing then close the deal…..

  • 06/04/2014, 2:45 pm  Reply

    Joe…thank you for having the courage and foresight…probing insures we are connecting and leading the process. As a Recruiter its my responsibility to bring viable committed candidates to the table, otherwise, we all lose….or lose what we never had!

  • 06/06/2014, 9:16 am  Reply

    Great article, Joe (as usual)! A knowledgeable franchise “recruiter” is a great asset to prospective franchisees. Their job, among other things, is to set accurate expectations for the candidates that they work with. That’s what allows for the best chance at having a long term franchise relationship. I’m with you – each recruiter should think of themselves as a hiring manager of sorts. By doing that, when you take out the head trash associated with “selling” franchises better decisions happen.

    • Joe Mathews
      06/07/2014, 3:45 pm

      Well stated. Thanks for your feedback.

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