Recruitment is one of the biggest industries in the UK, and as a result, competition is ferocious. For every seasoned recruitment pro, there’s a feisty new graduate, prepared to offer reduced fees in order to get kick-started in their career. However, there’s one thing that even the youngest, most ambitious rookie should learn from the start – and that’s the importance of what we call your ‘f*ck off price’.

Explaining the ‘F*ck Off Price’ Principle

Apologies for the continued use of obscenity, which (to warn you in advance) will continue to be peppered throughout this post. Believe it or not, my wonderful parents raised me very well, and would no doubt be horrified by my use of expletive. However, there is justification for the sentiment that goes beyond shock value. Allow me to explain.

Most recruiters, regardless of age, experience or background, are familiar with the ‘f*ck off price’ concept. It’s that moment, whether muttered under your breath, lip-synced in horror, or shouted out the office window, when you forcefully reject your client’s suggested fee. Generally it’s not the done thing to shout it down the phone, but I suspect some recruiters have resorted to that in the past. Tut tut.

In short, it’s that moment when the haggling over fees comes to an end. It’s the point at which you declare ‘enough is enough’ and stand firm on your price. It’s the lowest fee you’ll work for without suffering a heart attack in the process. That’s your ‘f*ck off price’. And it’s incredibly important to stick by it, no matter what.

The Courtship Rituals in Recruitment

Recruitment, as we all know, is one of the few industries where haggling is expected. We’re all born negotiators and the prospect of getting the best price for an assignment is generally one that we relish.

You’ve got a figure in mind that is your absolute lowest. Your client, in contrast, has a maximum amount firmly fixed in their head. With these two prices in mind, it’s time to let the courtship of negotiations commence. Like swans delicately dancing on the river, we expertly size one another up, testing the water, ascertaining where the hallowed happy medium of the agreed price might lie.

However, all too often, the elegant matter of negotiation breaks down. We lose our way, become brow-beaten by our prospective client and all of a sudden, we find ourselves agreeing to a fee that is wholly unsuitable (and unprofitable) for the job. We become so obsessed with staying ahead of the competition that we forget the importance of standing firm on our bottom price… and our intrinsic professional value.

When ‘F*ck Off’ Becomes a Belated ‘What the F*ck’?

When this happens, it’s never a good thing. If you’ve gone lower on price than you meant to, you’re likely to be left feeling resentful, angry at yourself, possibly even a little violated. Hey, it can happen.

This has a knock-on effect. Chances are that you won’t put in the effort that you normally would, because it doesn’t feel worth your while. Your client is likely to detect this and grow frustrated in turn. In worst-case scenarios, this can result in complete client/ recruiter relationship breakdown, making all that initial courtship seem like a sad, hollow farce… oh dear!

There’s an easy way to avoid this, and that’s to never let the situation arise in the first place. Stick to your guns. Know your worth. And never allow yourself to be persuaded, cajoled or bullied into going lower.

The Rules of ‘Lowest Price’ Negotiation

These aren’t quite the holy commandments of recruitment, but they are very important. Feel free to take notes.

  1. Thou shalt not be concerned if you lose thy client. If your client walks away because your fee is too high, so be it. If they’re looking for low budget services, then leave them to the mercy of the low-budget service providers.
  2. Thou shalt explain thy worth. Many clients don’t understand how much work is involved in the recruitment process, particularly if you’re a niche recruiter. Make it your job to explain it to them. Break it down, outlining just how much effort you put into sourcing them the right person for the job. This may help them to understand why you charge what you do.
  3. Thou shalt remember the importance of time-management. It’s tempting to think to yourself, ‘I’ll take this client on for a lower rate than normal, as I haven’t got much else on at the moment’, particularly when you’re an independent recruiter. Big mistake. The time you spend slaving away on this client for low financial return could be spent working on clients who truly appreciate your value. And remember, drop your price once and it sets a precedent, so it’s really difficult to negotiate up again.
  4. Thou shall respect their ‘f*ck off’ price too. It’s important to remember that your client has a price in mind too, and that’s okay. If you feel it’s unrealistic, don’t be afraid to gently let them know; as this information may help them in the future. However, stick to your price and don’t take on the work for less, even if it’s out of pity!
  5. Thou shalt stay positive. If negotiations fall through and you don’t close the deal, remember that it’s not the end of the world. It happens to the best recruiters and isn’t a reflection of your abilities. Neither is it an indication that your price is too high, it just happened to be too high for that one individual. Brush your shoulders off and move on to the next negotiation.

Sit Down and Locate Your Personal ‘F*ck Off’

If you haven’t already worked out what your lowest rate is, do it now. Put down the mug of coffee and think hard about what you’re worth. Write the figure on a post-it note and stick it to your computer. Glue it to the wall. Tattoo it on your body if you’re particularly dedicated. But above all else, make sure you never forget it.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

About Dave Hume

Dave Hume is a specialist recruiter with over 14 years’ experience in the industry. Having founded his own successful independent recruitment consultancy in 2011, he went on to found Seriously Connected which comprehensively supports experienced recruiters who want to take control of their careers, work for themselves from anywhere, full or part time and enjoy the rewards their skills deserve.

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