Great clients for recruitment agencies don’t just come along, ready made. It’s like any great relationship…while there may be some instant chemistry and sparks right off the bat, it takes time and commitment to make it work. Working around the socks left on the bathroom floor (or the hiring managers that are eminently reasonable, yet incredibly picky) can result in either a disastrous break-up or a stronger, more committed relationship. But the trick to both (or at least to recruiting) is recognizing the opportunity and knowing how to capitalize on it.
Don’t Always Have an Answer: Recruiters have to know their candidates and know them well, but from time to time, we need to backtrack and realize that we’re not omniscient. When a hiring manager comes back to us with questions on a candidate’s resume or stumbles upon a hiring issue during an interview, Recruiters often have a quick knee jerk reaction. We try to explain away the issue or maybe we come up with a quick answer to dispel the hiring manager’s concerns. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about building a long-term relationship, quick answers won’t get you very far. Once the situation has happened more than once, you’re going to sound disingenuous and be delivering lip service rather than customer service. So bite the bullet, slow down and admit you don’t know…then hurry up and fill in those gaps. You’ll become someone the hiring manager trusts to give them a straight answer. They’ll also start to look at you as a trusted recruitment partner that they can go to for information, answers, and insights about the market.
Respond, Don’t React: No one wants to be the reactive Recruiter. Being reactive is all about listening to a client’s concerns and striving to make them feel better…without actually fixing the problem. Being in the recruiting business is often about hearing or delivering bad news, but when the bad news is from a client and it’s about you (your recruiting process, your qualifying etc…) the need to smooth the issue over and maintain the business can become paramount. Ensuring the you’re actually being responsive rather than reactive to a client is really about the long-term. With both R’s, you’re working to minimize problems and maintain your business, but a responsive partner will actually try to solve the problem. Making them feel better in the short term is great, but if they see no tangible change or concrete difference, then you won’t be the partner for them. Be in the relationship for the long-haul; listen carefully, identify the issue and find a way to address it.
Educate: Oh Recruiters, we love to keep our clients happy. But sometimes keeping a client happy and keeping our business and reputation intact are mutually exclusive. For instance, a great client may want you to drop your fees precipitously. They may have great reasons: the market has fallen off, they sole source with you, or maybe they’ve already spent a good deal of their budget on your recruiting fees. In cases like this it’s imperative that your client really has a true understanding for the business…and guess who has to teach them? For many companies, the nature and business of recruitment agencies is quite mysterious…they tell you what they need – you miraculously produce where they have failed for 6 months and then they pay you large sums of money. Educating a would-be partner on your methods, process, service differentiation, and yes even your competing clients’ fee structures is necessary. It’s a hard conversation to have, but if a client wants to be your partner and get your best product and service, they have to understand what it is they’re paying you for in the first place.
At the end of the day, being a great business partner is about trust and delivery. If you’re really looking to become a trusted recruitment partner to your client (and I suggest you should), you need to consistently deliver with dedication, integrity and candor. The road won’t be easy…in fact it can be more arduous than simple quick hit business. But at the end of the day, the professional and financial payout will be more than worth it.