Talent Acquisition

5 Instances it’s OK to Say ‘No’ to Clients

As recruiters it’s in our DNA to say ‘yes’ to clients. We want to please them because their business is our livelihood, at the end of the day. But if you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll know that the most fulfilling client relationships come about when the client can rely on you for your opinion and judgement. We are experts at what we do, and it is our advice and consultation that they also pay us for.

Being able to give honest advice – even if it’s not what they want to hear – is part of the deal if you want to secure a truly long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. Saying ‘no’ wisely often garners increased respect, heightened value in our services and ultimately may well lead to choosing us over a competitor.

While we want to please our clients we must choose those moments wisely. These are some of those occasions:

1. Competing with agencies

I’d love to say that we only work on exclusive business but that wouldn’t be true. But there’s something to be said from walking away from a job that has every agency in town working on it. When you drill down on time spent vs the chance of return, it’s just not worth it. I will usually assess how many agencies are recruiting the role and make a judgment on whether or not it’s worth my time to do so.

2. Pushing down candidates’ salaries

Understandably, many clients wish to negotiate candidate salaries. Their reasons for doing so may vary: budget, room for progression etc., but my view is that (in this market particularly) they should be willing to pay for them if they feel they’re the right person. I would be concerned that if I convinced a candidate to unwillingly negotiate, I’d find myself replacing them a few months later when they receive a better offer.

3. Management of expectations

Clients who are not as familiar with the market may have a wish list as long as the job description. As part of the briefing process it’s important to manage those expectations early on and let them know if they’re not realistic.

4. Long shortlists

If you’re good at what you do, you shouldn’t need to give the client tens of CVs to choose from. A small shortlist should suffice and in some cases, just one should be enough! If they request more options, it could be a sign that they’re unsure of what they want. In that case, I’d take the conversation back to briefing stage and go over the details of the role again to ensure you’re both on the same page.

5. The role is outside of your remit

I’ve (happily) won the trust of many clients and they’ll often ask if I can help with roles that are outside the scope of our specialism. If I don’t think we can do a good job, I’ll say ‘no’. The value of the client relationship is simply not worth the risk.

About the author: David Morel is the CEO/Founder of Tiger Recruitment, one of London’s leading secretarial/administrative recruitment agencies. David founded Tiger in 2001 and has written extensively in the press and wider media advising both employers and job seekers on best recruitment practice.

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