6 Ways Recruitment Consultants Piss Off Their Clients

By Paul Slezak - Apr. 18, 2016
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Editor’s Note: This post is by Paul Slezak, Cofounder and CEO of RecruitLoop – the World’s largest marketplace of expert Recruiters and Sourcers available on-demand.

I remember writing an open letter to all hiring managers a few years ago. At the time I wrote it on behalf of all recruiters since I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts.

Over the last few weeks I have run a series of webinars for the RCSA in Australia. The topic of one of them was “Taking the Ownership Back in the Recruitment Process“. Part of my preparation for that particular session involved seeking feedback from hiring managers around their experiences with external recruiters – especially around the idea of adding value and being a trusted advisor. I was also interested in learning about what employers found most frustrating about working with an external recruitment consultant.

I thought I would share a few of the more common responses I received … opinions which I am pretty sure would resonate with employers everywhere (not just in Australia).

Realistically this is a snapshot of what hiring managers are thinking about recruiters right now. And having been in the recruitment game for 20+ years now, unfortunately I can say that not much has changed in that time.

If you are recruitment consultant reading this post, you may want to put yourself in your clients’ shoes for a moment.

1. Not adding value beyond a ‘bum on a seat’

Let’s face it … there are some employers out there paying some pretty big fees to recruiters.

What are you really offering your clients? A candidate with a pulse that can start on Monday? A bum on a seat? Or are you a true recruitment consultant … providing your clients with a solution to a problem or pain point they might be experiencing?

How are you adding value to your clients? Are you thinking innovatively? Are you thinking creatively? Are you thinking outside the box? Are you providing them with market insights that might help them formulate their decision?

Do you think for your clients or do you just think about them? In other words are you focused purely on the fee and potential bonus coming your way? I really hope that’s not the case.

Are your KPIs intrinsically linked to what your organisation requires or what your clients might actually need?

I have asked a string of pretty important questions here … plenty of food for thought. But just remember these days hiring managers have access to the same tools you do. So given the potential fees at stake, what are you providing your clients that they wouldn’t be able to do themselves?

2. Disappearing completely once the invoice has been paid

When speaking to one particular hiring manager, she said, “Once I paid their invoice, I clearly fell off their radar“.

Unfortunately we know that many employers think we just throw an ad up on a job board, maybe spend a few minutes scanning the database, flick a few résumes their way, hope for the best, and then send them an invoice for $20,000.

Once the bill is paid, many recruiters will then keep in contact with their candidates (all the while praying that they will stick it out past their probation … ahem … guarantee period) and completely forget about the client.

Who paid your invoice again?

There are a few common reasons for this. Firstly some recruiters are scared that speaking to the client might open up a can of worms. But there are also a few recruiters out there living the life of the ‘one hit wonder’ – putting a huge effort into one placement with one employer and then quickly moving on to the next victim.

Spend $20,000 on a new car and you will receive offers of free service, extended warranty, free car washing for a year, etc.

Spend even $10,000 on a plane ticket and you will quite literally be given first class treatment all the way … flat beds, your own designer menu, private shower, and perhaps even a butler in your own suite!

So why, when someone has paid you $20,000 for finding them a new team member, are they often so quickly forgotten about?

Showing your appreciation and keeping in regular contact can go a long way. Heaven forbid when you check in with them (for no other reason than to show them you care!) they may even talk to you about a new opportunity!

3. Overselling themselves and not listening to what the customer wants

One of the most important lessons I have shared with literally thousands of recruiters over the years is that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason!

This has always been a pet peeve of hiring managers (and candidates too actually!) … recruiters who just name drop, talk about what other companies they have recruited for, what types of candidates they’ve placed, (and basically how good they are) rather than listening to their clients’ needs.

In any client interaction, as recruiters we should be listening twice as much as we speak. Whether it’s the first meeting, a conversation presenting a shortlist, or even discussing a formal offer … listen to what your client wants. You might just learn something!

Nobody wants a client who remembers you for having spent more time talking about how wonderful you are than finding out what the client was actually looking for.

4. Knowing nothing about their client

I’m certainly not suggesting that you have to meet up with every client in person and become their bestie. After all RecruitLoop was designed specifically to allow independent recruiters to work virtually with all their clients.

But a recruiter should never represent a candidate for a role where they haven’t even spoken to the hiring manager … and sadly this happens a lot.

I recently heard of a scenario where a recruiter briefed a candidate on a potential opportunity and sent the candidate across for an interview. Later, when the recruiter spoke to the candidate, he asked, “So you met with Jacky … do you think you’d be able to work with her?” … to which the candidate replied “Yes I could definitely work with Jacky. But Jacky’s a guy”.

How well do you really know your clients? If you receive an automated ‘out of office’ reply to an email letting you know that your client is on annual leave, do you know where they’ve gone? Did you even know they were going away?

Sorry I just thought you said you had a great working relationship with all your clients … My mistake.

Meeting face to face (if possible), or at least having a phone or Skype call with a hiring manager before taking on any brief will make everyone’s life so much easier.

5.  Submitting profiles of candidates who don’t even meet the brief

Again this comes back to the question of whether you operate by throwing mud (or some other dark stuff) at a wall hoping that something will stick? Or whether you know what your client wants, you’ve taken a qualified brief, and you provide them a carefully hand picked shortlist?

Have you ever been out to dinner at a restaurant where the waiter has brought you the wrong meal? How did you react? Last week I saw a customer at a café literally freak out because the barista had got his coffee order wrong (‘invoice’ value? Approx. $4.00!)

So why (or perhaps it should be ‘how’) do recruiters submit CVs and profiles of candidates that aren’t even close to what the client ordered and then not expect to get a bad name?

6. Bribing clients with tacky gifts to cover up the lack of candidates

During my research for the webinar, one hiring manager I spoke to said, “I don’t want wine or chocolates. I just want the best candidates“.

When I heard that, I had a flashback to when a client of mine said something similar to me many years ago when I delivered her a Christmas gift.

I don’t need your Christmas pudding! I’m just happy for you to find me the best talent and keep filling my jobs.

At least she was honest and I knew where I stood.

Hiring managers don’t want the ‘bullsh*t bribes’ (a phrase another one of my clients once used). They are not going to ask you to help them fill a key role simply because you sent them a box of chocolates or took them to a football game. They will brief you on a key role if you have proven yourself in the past by finding them candidates who meet their brief and stick around beyond the guarantee period.

Harsh but true.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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