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Client management: How to get the most out of your partnership

Having an open and trusting relationship with your clients is paramount for your success as a recruiter, however, it can be difficult knowing how to cultivate strong relationships, set boundaries, and communicate effectively to get the best possible outcome for all. 

We wanted to talk about three areas of client management in today’s edition: Expectation setting and process management, Moving a client quickly with a “hot candidate”, and providing market insight. 

These are three of the core pillars you should look to master, especially in the earlier stages of your career.

So, how can you effectively set expectations?

It can be easy to put clients on a pedestal and have fear around communicating honestly with them and setting boundaries, especially if you are new to your BD journey. 

The reality is that your clients and your candidates should be treated the same, as not only will it allow you to have a balanced process from both sides, but it also removes “the fear” when speaking to a senior hiring manager or someone at C-Suite. 

The trick to setting expectations is to, in essence, under-promise and over-deliver. No client wants to work with a recruiter who operates on empty promises and a sloppy process.

Step 1: Put everything in writing, never assume the client knows what you mean

Your clients are busy people, and for some – recruitment isn’t the only thing on their agenda. In recruitment, you can never assume that the client completely understands (or has processed) the information you’ve given them.

So, to mitigate this, you should always summarise calls in writing and send them as a follow-up post-call. This is especially important when you are doing things such as agreeing on terms of business, interview slots, and feedback calls. 

In addition to this, you should look to book all interviews and calls ahead of the process to guarantee commitment from both parties. It’s your job as a recruiter to take control of the client, so never assume, and ensure that you are as thorough as possible.

TIP: Use a service level agreement with your client. This is a great way to ensure that everything is in writing and you have a framework which both parties have agreed on. 

Step 2: Create a process that is on your terms (as much as possible)

Process management is down to you to navigate, and you must consult your client if you feel that the process in place is too long, or short. For example, if the client wants a 4-stage interview process all in person in the middle of the day, it’s down to you to create a process that works for your candidate as much as your client.

In reality, a process like this will be difficult to manage as it requires candidates to take substantial time away from work, as well as expenses travelling to and from the interviews. 

Creating a process and managing it isn’t about going against your client’s wishes or becoming too controlling, it’s guiding them on the best way to approach interviewing and enabling them to capture the best talent. 

If your client is reluctant or unwilling to change, this could also be the exact reason why they are missing out on talent. The best recruiters will consult – so make sure you are explaining the “why” behind your process, too. 

Step 3: Gather feedback and use it for future processes

Throughout the process, make sure that you are making physical notes on feedback both from the candidate and the client. Not only can you relay this information back to the client, but you can use it as valuable qualitative data for future processes with said client. 

This demonstrates not only how thorough you are to the client, but also enables you to once again approach your client relationships with a consultative approach. 

Moving a client quickly with a “hot candidate”

A “hot candidate” can sometimes be a needle in a haystack, meaning that you need to move quickly and efficiently to ensure that they can land a role with your client. But, how do you do this without coming across as pushy or desperate?

Step 1: Lead with their achievements (facts) not opinions

Although being excited about a candidate is great, you have to ensure that when you’re selling the candidates’ achievements and accolades, that you’re doing it based on fact rather than how good you think they would be for your client. 

In reality, your client genuinely may not be in a place to hire, or they may just not be excited by the candidate in question. It’s your job to position them in the best way possible and create urgency.

TIP: A good way to great urgency is to talk about your clients’ competitors that the candidate (may) be interested in. This shows the level of demand that the candidate is in, and it’s more likely to get you a better outcome. To do this effectively, you have to lead this approach with empathy from both sides. You don’t want either party to feel rushed, so you have to explain things thoroughly without adding too much pressure.

Step 2: Create a watertight process that is faster than usual

This can be difficult, but the trick to doing this is by creating enough urgency in Step 1 that the client will move “heaven and earth” to speak with them. 

A great way to encourage a faster process is by pre-closing your candidate on their salary, as well as getting multiple times they are free to interview. This way, you’re making the process easier for all parties, thus securing the slots up front and having set interviews that won’t change.

Step 3: Be open and honest with the client about how you will run the process

With a “hot candidate” you have, in some ways, a little more right to “call the shots” – especially if the client has expressed how much they want the candidate.

Being open and honest with your client about not just the process, but also how you will hold them accountable is key to an honest and strong relationship with them.

For example, if your client is notoriously difficult to get hold of on the phone (or, just gives feedback via email) you have to outline what you need from them in this process for it to run smoothly.

Again, diarising times and putting everything in writing will help when working with a “hot candidate”, too. 

Step 4: If it isn’t good enough, tell them

As previously mentioned, putting clients on a pedestal will do you no favours in the long-run. Just because they have an open role doesn’t give them the leeway to become flaky and not committed to the process.

It’s your job to tell them if this happens. No matter how much you want to work with a client or represent their organisation, if they aren’t giving you the same commitment and energy back, you have to let them know.

It’s crucial that you work in a balanced way, by not favouring candidates or clients. 

TIP: It can’t be just down to you to sell/influence the candidate. It’s important that your client is equipped (and aware) that there has to be equal effort from their side to secure a candidate. You can do this by coaching the client on how to sell against each candidates’ motivations effectively. Also, it’s important to be open with them that just because they offer a good salary/benefits, they need to get the candidate excited to really ensure that they are engaged.

Providing insight

Providing market insight is a core element of any good recruitment desk. Whether you are working on live roles for a client or not, you should prioritise giving market insight at least once a month to your “core” client base.

This could be:

  • Clients you are actively working on roles with
  • Clients you have agreed on terms with 
  • Clients you have met but are yet to agree on terms
  • Clients you are actively trying to build a relationship with

Giving insight not only makes you more credible in your chosen market, but also allows you to see how receptive current and prospective clients are to this information. A “good” client should take your advice on board, or at least listen to it. 

Some things you could talk about are the following:

  • What other competitors are offering around flexible working
  • What other competitors are offering around employee benefits
  • What other competitors are doing around their CSR initiatives
  • What other competitors are offering in terms of salary and bonuses
  • What other competitors are offering from an L&D perspective
  • What other competitors are doing in their interview processes
  • What candidates have fed back (positive and negative) from their experiences with interviewing and onboarding

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