Every person who has ever had to hire a Unicorn (recruiter lingo for a one in a million candidate) has asked for a meeting with someone who’s not “looking” but who would be “perfect” for the job. They hope the person will help them better understand what to look for and possibly suggest a few people to consider.

Usually the process goes like this:

Person Hiring: “Who do you know who’s the best at X (recruiting, sales, web development)?”

Friend: “You should talk to X; probably can’t get them, but I’ll make an intro.”

Introduction happens, with a note saying the person is awesome but they’re not looking, blah, blah, blah…

They meet, the person hiring asks questions, gets a lot of great suggestions on what to look for, different ways to think about the role and what to focus on as the first set of priorities. Maybe a few names are shared and then they part ways.

Recruiting Fail. If you’ve landed a meeting with a Unicorn for the position you’re filling, don’t assume that you can’t get them. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (Wayne Gretzky)

If you are ever in this situation, talk to the Unicorn about what you’re looking for. Ask them for advice on how they would approach the job. If it were he or she leading the team or closing deals, whatever the job may me, what would he or she do? Try and place the Unicorn in the role as you speak with them. As you are engaging them about the importance of the position, broaden the story to incorporate why the company is amazing. Explain why the challenges the person is going to be working on are unique and meaty. Tell them just how important the position is to the success of the company — and at the last moment, when you’re about to say goodbye, ask the Unicorn if they want to meet someone else. Keep that door open, just a little bit. You’ll be surprised at who you can get to walk through it.