Talent Acquisition

What to Do When Your Client is a Commitment Phobe

Building a solid business relationship in the agency recruitment industry can be treacherous. Luckily, by following some dating fundamentals you can give yourself the best shot at fruitful and lifelong partnerships. It’s much like that crush you had who originally seemed way out of your league and took a couple of ‘nos’ to win over. You played the game well, made them realise how much of a good catch you were and finally earned their interest!

You’ve just managed to agree terms and conditions with a brand new client and they’ve given you your first role to work on (after almost giving up on several occasions). You put down the phone and begin your victory walk to the coffee machine; everyone was totally listening in while you worked your magic. As you strut past the office leaderboard, you can’t help but daydream about how you’ll be spending that extra commission (I mean, that Prada bag would look great on you, or perhaps it’s that new season REISS suit that suddenly seems obtainable). Eager to do a good job, as soon as you get back to your desk you drop everything and prioritise your new role, after all, this is huge for you!

Flash forward to two weeks down the line, and your new client still hasn’t given you feedback on those 5 killer CVs which you slaved over sourcing. Maybe they’ve cancelled the role? Is there someone else – another agency? Maybe they’re just not that interested in you or your candidates… All you know is that you can’t help but feel like ever since you officially partnered up and signed each other’s dotted lines, it’s turned into a one-sided affair where you have to constantly chase them to hold up their side of the deal.

It started out with great promise… so what’s happened? Perhaps it’s because you didn’t outline your expectations clear enough from the onset? Here are the signs of a commitment phobe to watch out for, and some tips on how to handle them! (Hint – you can avoid a whole lot of heartbreak by setting things straight early on).

There’s a total lack of contact

Have you ever met a potential date and thought they were great, but then they moved way too slow in actually asking you out? Maybe it was the other way around? Admit it, we’ve all been there.

Given the fast pace of the recruitment world, there isn’t time to hang around, the good candidates go off the market quickly!

If filling the role is important to this client, they will have to allocate and commit to time each week, running through feedback with you (as the recruiter) and fitting in interviews. To test their commitment, try hypothetically closing them on this when you’re initially taking the role brief:

“If I found you the perfect candidate when could you interview… next week?”

Before agreeing to work the role, be sure to advise your client that it is ideal for them to book out between 3 to 5 pre arranged interview slots per week. This will also mean you can manage your candidate’s expectations in terms of time frames!

They have unrealistic expectations

Ok great… so your new client’s given you their commitment on interview slots and feedback timeframes (tick!). Now is the time to properly qualify the role itself. This requires actually questioning them about the skill set. The thing is, you’re only half way through the job spec and it’s already reading like a shopping list; a fantastical wish list! You know candidates like that don’t really exist. In life we all have to accept that we’re not going to find Mr/s Perfect…!

Was your client willing to compromise? (I mean, every great relationship requires a bit of give and take, and the recruiting relationship is no exception!) A great way around this is to ask them  for their top 3 attractive ‘must-haves’ and advise that, while you’ll do your best to find them the perfect person, they’ll likely have to be flexible on something, whether it be on skill set, salary or level of experience required.

Broken promises are everywhere!

Sound familiar? Maybe you’re reading this and thinking the client appears to have promised the world to you at the beginning, but then seems to have totally gone back on their word.

To stop your client flaking out, try to get them to formally agree to the process in writing? Think of it as a prenup… Put together a document (like an Exchange of Benefits or Service Level Agreement) which outlines both what you are going to do for them (maybe you are giving them a discount or prioritising your time), but also what you expect from them in return. This way, neither of you should be left high and dry!

Some of the things you could include in your document are:

  • Scheduled feedback slots (CV and interview) timeframes
  • Dedicated interview slots
  • Exclusivity period (details and dates)
  • Meetings with relevant points of contact
  • If your main point of contact is HR, agree some time to qualify the role with the hiring manager directly

Most importantly, explain to your client the mutual benefits of having this document in place; nobody likes a nagging other half! (You know, the constant calls and clinginess…) Explain that this formal agreement will mean you won’t be chasing them for feedback at inconvenient times and interrupting their meetings (it’s hard for us to comprehend they have a normal day job to get on with; that recruitment isn’t the centre of their focus)!

At the end of the day, setting expectations, confirming important dates and leveraging communication are important ingredients for all healthy relationships.

Still not working out?

An important skill to learn in life is when to walk away from something that’s causing you more harm than good. As a recruiter with a lot of plates to spin and candidates to place, calling it quits with a client who’s far more trouble than their worth could be the best thing for you and your business! If your new client can’t stick to these basic levels of commitment which allow you to do your job properly and you find yourself chasing them constantly, save yourself the heartache and walk away.

As they say… there are plenty more fish in the sea!