Talent Acquisition

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Negotiate on Rates… Ever

When you take on a new vacancy, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to send over your terms of business to the client and find that they whizz them straight back signed and without question. When that does happen it’s the exception rather than the rule!

What’s more likely is that you’re going to have to have the rates conversation. You know it’s coming and they know it’s coming. It’s a standard part of the recruitment dance.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that they’re a great client with a super vacancy and you reckon you’ve got a good chance of filling it. As recruiters, we all like to say yes, so to appease the client and get the work agreed, you negotiate. After all, you’ll get the work on and that’s a good thing, right?

Actually, I’d beg to differ. There’s a reason you charge a certain rate and that’s because, as the L’Oreal advert so succinctly puts it, ‘you’re worth it’.

Here are five reasons why you should never compromise your worth by dropping your rates.

They’re paying for your experience, not just a piece of work.

The client looks at the salary they’re going to be paying for their new permanent member of staff and works out your fee percentage. Usually their mind is thinking along the lines of ‘How much?! For a few CVs??!!’ On the surface of it, that’s exactly what they see that they get. However as recruiters, we know there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes, that usually the client has no idea about, so it’s time to educate them.

Your client is not just paying you a fee for the piece of work you’re doing for them, what they’re actually paying for is your experience. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something and recruitment is no different. Your client is paying for the thousands of calls you’ve already made, the CVs you’ve trawled through, the interviews you’ve conducted and the knowledge you’ve accumulated along the way. They’re paying for the time you’ve spent getting to know the market, the trends and the competition so the day they give you a job to work on, you’re ready to deliver. You’re already saving them time as you can eliminate all the places you don’t need to look.

So next time a client’s mouth drops open when they work out your fee, remember they’re not paying X amount for X number of CVs, they’re actually paying for your 10,000 hours of mastery. Work that out on an hourly rate and it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal!

‘But we usually only pay 15% on recruitment fees…’

Who hasn’t heard this one before? Some clients do like to tell you in no uncertain terms what they usually pay and what their ‘company policy’ is. However, not all recruiters are created equal. Some, it’s fair to say, care mostly about putting bums on seats for interview. The ‘shove ‘em in and stack ‘em high’ approach. Throw enough mud around and some of it’s bound to stick. Well if that approach works for their clients, then so be it. They can keep the 15%.

It’s a little like buying dinner. By all means, tell the world you only pay £5 for a meal. That’ll get you a good spread at a well-known fast-food chain (though it may also clog your arteries and leave you feeling a little nauseous afterwards). However, try telling that to a chef in a cordon bleu Michelin starred establishment and I’m sure you can imagine their response! You pay for what you get and recruitment is no different!

Rather than firing wildly in all directions and hoping that something will hit the target, if you value your specialist eye and the skills you’ve developed, it’s time to stick to your guns. If you know that you’re positioned to find not just plenty of likely-looking CVs but actually the right potential candidates for the job, then it may be time to say ‘thank you Mr Client, I appreciate your company policy however for the reasons we’ve just discussed I’m unable to help you with this assignment at 15%. If you’re unable to fill the vacancy through other means, please do come back to me and we can discuss it again.’

Know your worth.

If you’re recruiting for one of your clients and your candidate tells you that they want at least £35,000 a year because they believe their skills and experience make them worth that much, what would your reaction be? Unless they’re wildly out of the ball park on the value of their skills and experience, you’d probably agree that was a fair wage. It’s unlikely that you’d try to convince them to take a job for £29,000 simply because your client told you that’s what they usually pay.

So, bearing this in mind, why as a recruiter are you any different? If you believe you’re worth a certain amount, why would you even consider taking any less?

Sometimes the client might just be super pushy and/or persuasive. Sometimes they may have just caught you at a time when you’d be willing to negotiate just to get another vacancy on the board. Before you drop your prices, remember this is usually only a short-term fix and not a long-term strategy. Not only is it hard to put your prices back up once you’ve dropped them, but if you don’t know your worth how do you expect anyone else to know it?

So which bit of my service don’t you want, exactly?

Sometimes clients just don’t appreciate that recruitment is a process. It isn’t a singular event. More often than not it certainly isn’t a simple case of firing off a few emails, then sitting back cheerily as the perfect candidate miraculously rolls in. Actually, it’s a series of intricate events that when combined successfully and with skill, produce great results.

If your client doesn’t understand this, make it your job to educate them. Explain the difference between a run-of-the-mill recruitment service and what you offer. Let them know that you go the extra mile. You personally interview each candidate. You invest time in speaking to colleagues and bosses, and reference check with the zeal of a bloodhound. You dig deeper to find the best candidates and their true motivations.

Your reputation is built on finding the best candidates, and your investment into the recruitment process is exactly why the client pays the fees they do. If the client wants to drop the rate they pay, then ask them which corners they’d like you to cut. I can pretty much guarantee the answer will be ‘absolutely none’!

The magic of the ‘little black book’.

Clients aren’t just paying for your time. They’re not even just paying for your considerable skills and experience. They’re also paying for that special little something on your desk. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that little tome that holds all your contacts.

That treasured list of contacts is like gold-dust. And, in much the same manner as panning for gold, you’ve got to know exactly where to start looking. Clients could waste weeks, months even, trying to locate a starting point for what they’re looking for. But you, with your fabulous little black book stuffed with contacts, know exactly where to turn in a matter of minutes. And believe me, that’s one of the most valuable assets you have.

The truth is that fantastic desirable candidates are becoming less visible. They’re coming off LinkedIn. They don’t want to be found. They’re sick of being spammed by recruiters. They’re virtually in hiding and are busy concentrating on going about their day jobs. But you, with your black book know exactly who to call to start searching out exactly what you need. This is absolute gold, please make sure you don’t forget it!

And so they STILL want to negotiate?

Sometimes, in spite of all this, you’ll still get a client who likes to haggle. If you encounter this, a great tactic is to be playful with it. Reply with a polite ‘sorry, I know you want to negotiate, but I really can’t put my price up any more, this is absolutely the most I’m willing to charge!’

Humour often diffuses the situation, but perhaps more importantly it also drives the point home. Be strong and proud, because you really are worth it.

By 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.