09 April 2008

Trust me, I'm a recruitment consultant - Part 2 Winning Client Trust

This lead story appeared in Issue 27 of my Newsletter, InSight.
Published: 9 April 2008


I first wrote about the issue of trust in recruitment about a month ago in InSight 22, (which also appeared as a lead article in Recruiter Daily on 1st April).

During my day spent in the Stephen Covey seminar, Covey devoted a fair proportion of his time discussing the issue of trust. Dr Covey’s son, Stephen M.R. Covey, has recently released a book called The Speed of Trust.

I loved the basic formula that Covey referred to, which is as follows:








When TRUST is LOW the speed of doing business drops and the cost goes up.









Conversely, when TRUST is HIGH the speed of doing business accelerates and the cost falls.

This formula could have been written for recruiters.

In talking to recruiters, one of the most common complaints is the speed (or more accurately, the lack of it) with which clients respond to communication from recruiters, especially with respect to available and suitable candidates.

When I was working a recruitment desk, my aim was to always have a client agree to a start date (for temp) or an interview date and time (for perm) when I presented a candidate over the phone, regardless of whether I was talking to a long-standing client or a new client.

I wasn’t always successful in accomplishing this goal on every occasion, but I certainly was successful a large majority of the time. How? By building trust with the client quickly - quicker than any of my competitors.

In his book, Covey (Junior) lists 13 high trust building behaviours. I have provided my perspective on an adapted and edited version of these 13, from a recruiter’s viewpoint:

High Trust Behaviour #1
Listen effectively to understand

(What is the client really saying?)
In their hurry to talk, too many recruiters fail to hear the subtle (yet important) communication coming from their client. It is critical to understand the individual client’s challenges in the following areas: their accountabilities, their boss, their subordinates and their customers. Be empathetic with a client’s individual and personal situation.

One of the biggest client accounts I secured in my recruiting career, was won simply because I sat and listened to a CFO moaning for an hour about all his frustrations with the company’s internal politics. What he (the client) was really saying was ‘nobody listens to me’. So I listened – really listened, until I understood his challenges. I won that account ... and built it very successfully.

High Trust Behaviour #2
Confront and communicate reality
Why are recruiters so reluctant to discuss realities?
The realities I am referring to fall into 2 categories:
1. The employment market - as it affects the client’s vacancies.
2. The client’s own employment brand and how candidates perceive the attractiveness (or otherwise) of working for that employer.

I believe that optimism is an important part of being a successful recruiter, yet equally important is having the courage to openly and frankly discuss the things that are likely to be impediments in your quest to recruit the most suitable candidates for your client.

The recent ABC TV 4 Corners program ‘Howard’s End’ was a classic demonstration of the cost of low trust.

The program showed John Howard’s unwillingness to confront reality. The reality of fifty plus consecutive opinion polls showing that Howard was significantly behind Kevin Rudd as preferred PM.

Howard’s ministerial colleagues’ lack of courage in unequivocally communicating their wishes and the reality to their PM (that Howard step aside for Peter Costello) lead to the downfall of the Howard Government and, even more humiliating, Howard’s loss of his own seat in parliament.

High Trust Behaviour #3
Clarify expectations about your recruitment process

I watched on in amazement a couple of months ago as an allegedly ‘senior’ recruiter took a six figure salaried job brief from a new client and then left the meeting without initiating any discussion at all about what would happen next ... how he was going to successfully fill this job.

How could the recruiter manage the client’s expectations when he didn’t even know what they were?

How will appropriate candidates be sourced? What internal sourcing of candidates has/will be done by the client? When will the short list be delivered? How many candidates should the client expect on the shortlist? When will the interviews be held? Where? With whom? When will reference checks be done?

These are just a few of the essential questions that you and your client need to discuss in detail and agree on before the meeting concludes.

High Trust Behaviour #4
Present candidates positively but accurately

Don’t oversell candidates. I shudder whenever I hear a consultant describe their candidate as ‘fantastic’ or ‘brilliant’. So is Humphrey Bear!

Unless you are putting forward Grant Hackett or Layne Beachley to your clients, I suggest you refrain from using over-hyped language. It sets an expectation which the (unfortunate) candidate is unlikely to deliver upon.

Clients are cynical of perfect-sounding candidates. Present a complete and accurate picture of a candidate’s technical skills, behavioural competencies and major motivators and provide comprehensive reference checks.

If you don’t have any suitable candidates, then just say so and outline what you are doing or planning to do to rectify the situation.

High Trust Behaviour #5
Deliver results consistently

This is straight forward.
Results, in the client’s world, simply means (as Greg Savage never tires of saying) “excellent candidates, delivered quickly”. In today’s recruitment market place nothing else matters more.

The client cares little about your new branding, funky website, sexy brochures, innovative referral program, cutting edge skills/psych testing or your QA status. The only thing that really counts is proof that you can quickly refer suitable candidates, at a fair price and keep them coming.

High Trust Behaviour #6
Keep your word on your commitments

Do you actually DO what you say you will DO?
If you can’t meet your commitment, then let the client know in advance of the stated deadline. It’s called integrity. Easy in practice – hard in reality. That’s why it builds high trust. Many recruiters talk a good game but few deliver as promised.
Do it or don’t say it.

If one of your current complaints is of slow response from clients, then maybe now is the time to have a good look at the level of trust you have established (or failed to establish) with your clients. I invite you to take the free Covey on-line trust survey to find out.

How do you know when you have reached the pinnacle of trust with a client – easy!

For a temp job:
The client only wants to know the temp’s name.

For a perm job:
The client gives you a few interview times and asks you to “just fill them up with candidates and send the resumes across later”.

How often does this happen to you?

1 comment:

  1. Wendy Cole, Managing Director, iPeople9/4/08 10:30 PM

    Thanks Ross for another great article. I value your perspective and your ability to consistently remind us to focus on the fundamental aspects of recruiting that ensure that we deliver results for all stakeholders: clients; candidates and ourselves (recruitment consultants)!

    ReplyDelete