As a Third Party Recruiter, I spend quite a bit of time meeting with potential Clients to learn about their leadership recruiting needs, and educating them on how we can work together to identify, recruit and attract the best talent to their organization. Usually, after some information sharing and discussion, as well as completion of the necessary paperwork, we’re off and running.
However, there are some times when meeting with a potential new Client where I’m not “feeling the love” as a recruiting partner, and it becomes apparent that a relationship is likely not going to work between us. Of course, there are many things that go into a successful partnership between Clients and Third Party Recruiters, but here are a few I’m looking out for in initial discussions:
1. Be monogamous/commit to our relationship. Expectations may be slightly different depending upon whether a Recruiter works on a retained or contingency basis, but being considered and treated like a valued partner is important in any recruiting relationship. Nothing says that a Client is “just not that into you” like being one of many Recruiters working on the same position. If Clients have no investment in the relationship, then Recruiters who do choose to engage will likely invest very little time and resources in the search as well. It’s no surprise that Clients who won’t do retainers or exclusives are often the ones who complain the most about candidate quality and working with Recruiters.
2. Have realistic expectations about timing. I once met with a potential Client who was rolling out a multi-million dollar national advertising campaign in 2 weeks, and wanted to engage our firm to quickly find a VP of Marketing before the campaign started. (What?) They’d been looking on their own for several months and were now desperate. (You think?) While that may seem like an extreme example, it’s not uncommon for Clients to expect that perfect matches for key strategic roles be delivered to their doorstep in less time than it takes to knit a sweater. In this situation, being honest and admitting that you are in fact – a human – not a super hero, is required. While It’s possible to locate some great candidates quickly, a good recruiting process (like fine wine) takes time. Good Clients appreciate honesty and communication of realistic expectations. Bad Clients? They don’t, and will move on to other Recruiters who are eager to disappoint them.
3. Expect success from the process – not miracles. Potential Clients who say “we’ve had bad luck with Recruiters in the past”, or “we’ve not found a Recruiter yet that can meet our needs”, or “no one seems to understand what we’re looking for – we’re different”, are waving red flags like the color guard in a marching band. If no Recruiter has made them happy, it’s possible that I won’t be able to either. Bad Clients who have a poor work culture, pay and benefits that aren’t competitive, hiring managers who aren’t cooperative, etc., won’t solve those problems by engaging an outside firm to recruit talent. However, if they’re willing to listen to a recruiting consultant who can advise and assist them with making the changes required to recruit “A” players, then it’s possible they could be a good Client.
4. Value the service and expertise a Recruiter provides. Nothing says “win-win relationship” like a potential Client starting the inevitable fee discussion with something like “we never pay Recruiters more than ___” (where the number in the blank is something slightly more than the price of a postage stamp, and something much less than the industry standard). Makes you wonder why they contacted you in the first place, if all the Recruiters they’ve been paying substandard fees are delivering the results that they’re looking for. (Insert Albert Einstein’s insanity definition here.)
5. Communicating and being responsive. We’ve got to be in this together, and if the decision-maker or hiring manager doesn’t have the time to meet with me, provide feedback on candidates, etc. then I’ll be rowing the boat with only one paddle. As Jerry Maguire so eloquently stated – “Help me help you.” It’s important to determine during initial discussions if the main point of contact/decision-maker has the “communicates effectively” box checked on their most recent performance evaluation.
I was once on the other side of this equation too – as both a hiring manager and an HR leader working with outside Recruiters – and it’s important for companies to have their own criteria for choosing a Recruiter/Search Firm to work with too (that goes beyond fees). If you haven’t created that, you’ve probably been disappointed with a recruiting relationship, because you didn’t communicate and agree upon expectations at the start.
Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away before a relationship even gets started, because you’re just not right for each other. If that’s the case, it’s optional to use the “it’s not you, it’s me” line when breaking up. (Which of course really means “it’s not me, it’s you”, so make sure you’re the one saying it first.)
Jennifer McClure is a Vice President at Centennial, Inc.,a Cincinnati-based recruitment and coaching firm, where she’s charged with strategic recruiting efforts, executive coaching and business development for the firm. Send her an uncustomized LinkedIn invite at your own peril…