"The Business of Recruitment" Series - Client Expectations: Expecting Your Clients' Expectations


What do your clients want? What do they expect from you the recruitment professional? What do you think they expect from you? What is the difference between what you think your clients expect and what they actually expect from your service? These are some questions that, if you answer them honestly, will greatly help you in improving your service levels in your industry. Regardless of the market you serve you will have competitors, other recruitment professionals who compete with you head-to-head for the same clients and the same business at the same time! In talking with successful industry professionals as well as end user clients, the successful recruitment professionals are the ones who “manage” to manage their clients expectations on each assignment they are engaged to work on by their clients. Conversely the unhappy clients and not so successful industry professionals are the ones where the clients expectations were not met by the recruitment professional and hence the client was left with a negative experience of working with the recruiter or company.

When dealing with a client or company always ask your contact what their expectations are in dealing with a recruitment professional. Don’t assume that you know what the clients expectations are, They want you to fill the vacancy right? Yes, but they also expect the service to be delivered in a certain way and time period and they also expect a certain quality and number of candidates to be presented as well. They also expect the professional to have conducted a first level interview with each candidate that is presented and may want to know information such as remuneration expectations, communication skills, and a summary of why they make a good candidate. This is the time for the professional to also “manage” the clients expectations and if there will be a difference in expected service to be delivered to  the expected service expected by the client, the recruitment professional should make the client aware. Let me give you an example:


You are helping a demanding client fill an urgent vacancy for a senior level programmer with a hard to find social media skillset, the clients expectation based on the pressure they are under is that you find them four suitable candidates for interview by the end of that same week, you know that finding four suitable candidates for this organization within one week will be near on impossible for a variety or reasons, including the fact that the particular skill set is in such high demand. You should manage the client’s expectations by letting them know what you will aim to achieve, i.e. four suitable and qualified candidates by the end of the week, but they may not get this many due to, (give your reasons).

Here’s a list of some of the some expectations you should discuss with clients you deal with:

  1. What is your client's expectation of your attitude and conduct throughout the process?
  2. Number of candidates on shortlist
  3. How long will the shortlisting take?
  4. What will be the key sources for shortlisting process?
  5. Updates to client while search is running
  6. Skills expected from shortlisted candidates
  7. How you will be presenting candidates and your expectation of feedback after presentation of candidates?
  8. What are your candidates expectations of feedback after their resumes are presented?
  9. How long after resumes presented will interviewing start?
  10. Recruitment timelines, from first interview to offer
  11. Decision process from clients side
  12. Feedback during interview process
  13. Who presents offers to selected candidate?
  14. The client will be kept informed of all other interviews that candidates are on in case of impending multiple offer scenarios
  15. Can the client present an offer quickly in case of a multiple offer scenario?
  16. What is the top end of remuneration the client is expecting to pay?
  17. Under what circumstances if any will they pay more for the right candidate?
  18. Will the client compete and to what extent in a multiple offer scenario?
  19. What is the clients’ expected start date of candidate?
  20. What is the clients expectation of your “guarantee” period?
  21. What is the clients expectation of your payment terms?

These are some expectations that, if you want to manage your clients’ expectations effectively, should be discussed and not taken for granted in order for both you and your client to be on the “same page” throughout the process. In dealing with clients from small, medium sized and Fortune 500 companies alike they always have a preconception of what their expectations are of the process and these expectations are sometimes not in line with what actually happens. Clients are sometimes not aware of what the recruitment professional nor the represented candidates expectations are, and in too many instances because of this disconnect, there is likely to be an unhappy client, unhappy candidate and recruitment professional.

Whether you as the recruitment professional choose to have these conversations with your clients or not, let me assure you that they have an expectation for each. In my years of managing clients, from small family run twenty person companies to account managing for major Fortune 500 company accounts on a national basis I have made it a point of habit over the years to ask new as well as existing clients what makes a “bad” service to them and why they are no longer working with a particular individual or company and it always comes down to un-met expectations. Even vice versa, when the recruitment professional or company has chosen not to work with a particular company its normally because their expectation has not been met, whether its not receiving any feedback from clients after the candidates have been presented or not paying the bills, it comes down to expectation. To avoid disappointment in this regard with each assignment you work on, make sure you have a discussion with you clients external or internal on expectations and on any point where the expectations aren’t clear, work with your client to come up with something agreeable.

Discussing your clients expectations with them and agreeing on expectations for each point gives you so much more “control” of the process and allows you to actually “manage” both the process and your client effectively. You will know from discussing their expectations with them what their strengths are in the process and what areas they will need support due to a lack of understanding of the market. And don’t expect your clients to know all about the recruitment market or your “Core market”, even though they are hiring managers they are not recruitment experts, that’s why they are working with you so use this opportunity to share your expertise and give your advice. In some instances especially with newer clients they may decline to take your advice, don’t take it personally business relationships take time to develop fully, but do point out the consequences for the client up front and also, and more importantly, have a Plan B as an alternative to your previous one and one will still get you the results that you want. Your aim is to assist your clients so always aim to do just that and find a solution.

Gerard Ezinwoke is an award winning recruitment professional and strategist based in Toronto, Canada to individuals and organizations with experience working in Europe and Canada. 

"The Business of Recruitment" Series aims to provide productive strategies for each aspect of recruitment & staffing for recruitment agencies and headhunters. These strategies are based on experience of high performing recruitment professionals across North America and Europe.

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Tags: #Networking, #Recruitment, #Staffing, #agency, #candidates, #linkedin, #sourcing, recruiting


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