I talk to a lot of recruiters.

And it is tough for many of them right now. That we know.

Everybody is scrambling for a dollar, chasing every client. A bit like that sad, desperate guy in the bar at 2 am, harassing every one of the last few women left standing.

But there is the irony. As recruiters push ever harder to win the business, they get more superficial in their work, more transactional in their approach, and less discerning about whom they do business with.

I have had this debate a few times in the last month, but why follow the path of least resistance, which so many recruiters are doing right now? Why ‘be like everyone else’? Why work with those clients who treat you like mud, and jerk you around consistently?

It’s crazy! You need to head in the other direction!

You will no longer survive by spreading yourself so thin. The superficial phone call, the multi-listed, non-exclusive job order, the mad rush to get resumes across on some crazy deadline. This is not a path you want to follow.

It’s transactional. It’s superficial. It’s dangerous for your financial health. And it will smash your self-esteem too. What we want to focus on now is ‘share of wallet’, not market share.

What is important is targeting long-term clients with fee-generation growth potential. We want to work with companies that will use our services regularly. We want to partner with companies that themselves are growing. The best client is a client that has a need for all or most of your service offering.

And that might not be the biggest company. It’s more likely to be one that is smaller, growing, and without internal resources, and no social media hiring plan.

The best business is often the hardest to win, but the most profitable once you have it. The future requires us to invest time, resources and brainpower on developing, nurturing and retaining these key clients.

But it’s much more than that too.

We need to build different relationships with our clients. Engage in fresh conversations. This means providing value-added activities for your clients (webinars, blogs, snap surveys, skills testing of candidates, hiring metrics, market insights). It might include digital relationship building via social media too. The goal is ensuring a regular pattern of meaningful contact, and it also means developing proactive recruitment strategies specifically for them. At the end of the day, it’s all about the talent you can find, that they cannot.

I get resistance to this from some recruiters. They say the transactional model is ‘just the way the market is’. They acknowledge it’s mud against the wall, but they claim that’s what clients want, and to win you just need to throw more mud. If that is true, God save us! And our clients too.

But thankfully, it’s not true. The reality is that they have caved in. They have capitulated to the transactional recruiting tsunami, and joined that shallow mob of hard-selling, resume-pumping, cold-calling, candidate-burning, price-cutting recruiters, willing to play that dirty, cheap game

I don’t buy it. There IS still a market for quality recruiting. And you need to be brave enough to fire those clients who won’t work with you that way. It’s OK. More time to invest in the good ones, who do want a partnership.

And who, exactly, should you fire as a client?  These guys.

Clients who jerk you around with sketchy job specs. Clients who demand the world from you and give nothing in return. Clients who pull jobs half way through assignments. Clients who fail to return your calls and who use three other agencies in competition with you. Inflexible clients, who take no advice and ignore your feedback. Clients who unfailingly try to negotiate fees – especially after you have gone to the ends of the earth to fill their job. Clients who see no value in service or quality, but only want to talk about price. Clients who show no respect for what you do or say, who abuse your guarantee and who in the end, refuse to pay the bill.

You recognise your client here, don’t you? You are smiling as you read this! And yet we still work with these guys. Why? They absorb your time and they torpedo your self-esteem. They take your focus off where it should be – your targeted clients and prospects who can offer you long term, sustainable, profitable business.

Why do we keep on giving these pseudo-clients another chance? Why do we defend them within our companies? Why do we say “they are not so bad. They will get better. Next time we will earn a fee”?

Have a team meeting in your office, right now. Identify the culprits. Then fire these so called clients – these renegades and buccaneers – users and abusers – and put your effort into those key prospects and clients who you have identified as the sorts of employers you want to do business with. (And before you cry, ‘how do I fire a client?’, fear not, in next weeks blog, I will tell you).

Frankly, trying to pretty up these ‘clients’ is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.

A pig is still a pig… with or without makeup!


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Views: 661

Comment by Amber on February 4, 2013 at 6:31pm

I agree with the points you make, Greg.

But today I am still a bit forlorn as a client just "let me down easy". I got a decent retainer, an exclusive, and had a great process at the start. I did go in knowing that the position was brand new, and probably quite "fluid" but I was excited about the challenge of finding them just the right person. Anyway, long story short, there has been a total reorganization of departments, etc. at the company and the position is gone. Or at least as far as them using my services. I asked for feedback, got many reassurances it was not related to anything we did or did not do, and that they would likely call us again soon. So not like the client(s) you described - which I certainly agree must go - but end result is still no placement.

Comment by Greg Savage on February 4, 2013 at 6:40pm

That IS frustrating Amber..but to me it sounds like a legitimate change of circumstances on the clients side. It does not seem they were jerking you around, as much as it may feel that way. So I would not be firing this client (I know you are not suggesting that)..in fact this client may feel he "owes you one" and might be a great partner going forward

Comment by Amber on February 4, 2013 at 6:57pm

Yes, I know I will move forward and hopefully work with them again. I just hope I don't find out there's been "someone else", lol. 

Comment by Greg Savage on February 4, 2013 at 7:12pm

Oh yes Amber, that sort of betrayal would be heartbreaking!

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on February 5, 2013 at 10:19am

Greg:  I mostly agree with you, but one area where I disagree.  Most of my clients give me bad job specs.  If I fired them I would lose 85% of my business.  Where I bring value added is by prodding, poking and massaging them to get accurate and actionable job specs.  That's what I do and we all should do.

Comment by Amber on February 5, 2013 at 10:57am

@Paul - agree with that 100% - that is usually the one of the points during which I determine the feasibility of working with a client!

Comment by Geoff on February 7, 2013 at 11:16am
Great post Greg. I try and drum into my team to value themselves as a professional. Make a list for the client of all those things that you do BEFORE they even have to consider paying a fee. Ask the client what part of that process do they want to exclude for us to cut our fee. It’s a reminder of the value that we, as professional recruiters, add to the process.
It takes time but when you become that trusted partner the job orders come think and fast, regardless of the market conditions.
Comment by Greg Savage on February 7, 2013 at 3:31pm

Thanks Geoff. I think that clients push back on our fee because they only see "the tip of the iceberg" of what we actually do. We need to do a better job of showing/telling them everything we actually do to get that candidate to them


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