25 June 2008

The client's side of the deal

This article appeared in Issue 38 of my newsletter InSight Published 25 June 2008

One of the most important things that ensured my success as a recruiter was working in partnership with my clients. I did ‘my bit' and they did ‘their bit' in ensuring that the best possible candidates were recruited as quickly as possible.

This occurred because I clearly communicated my expectations to each client about what action they could take to make the recruitment experience as quick, painless and effective as possible.

It surprises me when I talk to recruiters, how reluctant some of them are to communicate to the client how they can best help themselves when recruiting for a vacancy.

Here are 8 suggestions as to how a client could do ‘their bit' to assist you in securing the best available candidate in the shortest amount of time:


1.    Meet with you face-to-face at their premises
Attempting to match a candidate to a job, when you have never seen where the successful candidate will be working, is a difficult (but not impossible) task. Matching a candidate's technical skills to a job is the easy part.

Ensuring the candidate's behavioural competencies and major motivators are aligned with those required for the client's job is more difficult, but made much easier when you can personally assess a work environment and observe common behaviours.
 
2.    Provide you with a job description that REALLY matches the job
In my experience, sometimes the more words there are in a job description, the more confusing it is and the less help it is in identifying the right person for the job.

Some job descriptions may have been constructed many years earlier and never reviewed until presented to you as ‘the job'. There is a strong likelihood the incumbent has made the job into something materially different from what's on paper and the client has failed the recognise it.

If possible, speak to the incumbent and match what they say they do with what the formal job description says, then check back with the client about any differences.

 
3.    Provides specific behavioural competencies, not generalised concepts
I would love a dollar for every job description that lists as the competencies sought: "good communication skills, initiative, team player, flexibility and common sense". These are general concepts, not specific competencies.

A specific competency is identified when you understand the behaviour the client is seeking. You do this by simply asking
"could you give me an example of what you mean, Mr Client, when you say (for example) flexibility".

Without a description of the specific behaviour, you have no idea what interview question to ask the candidate to assess their flexibility as it relates to this client's job.

In this example:
"The person will need to stay back until about 7pm on the first two working days of the month to close off last month's accounts" is a useful client response because you now understand the specific behaviour that the client identifies as ‘flexibility'. 

Unless you ask the client for an example, you run the risk of asking a competency question about (in this instance) flexibility as you define it, not the client.
 
4.    Pays a salary & benefits package that matches the skills and competencies being sought
Would the client move from their job to another job for less than their market worth? I think not. So why do they expect candidates to do exactly that?

If you offer a top-market package, you gain a top-market candidate. If you pay a below-market package, you gain a below-market candidate.  Don't be afraid to tell your clients these facts of (recruitment) life.
 
5.    Books interviews with suitable candidates immediately they are presented (either verbally or in writing)
Waiting to see resumes before booking interviews is a sure way to miss out on the best candidates. The smart shoppers get to the farmers market early and act quickly to get the best produce - the same applies in the candidate market.
 
6.    Effectively sells the job and the company to the candidate at interview
As much as the recruiter can get the candidate enthusiastic about the interview (which will take an hour of the candidate's time), the client then has to sell to the candidate the next 2 plus years of the candidate's working life as being well invested at their company!

The most powerful way for the client to do this is to share their own story of why they joined that company and what they have gained so far through their employment there.
 
7.    Has you manage the offer
Even though 95% of the assignment is completed at the offer stage, you still have the job 0% filled. Most clients are unskilled at negotiating offers and as a result, lose the candidate.

You are the expert here and it's your reputation at stake. Remember, the client is unlikely to blame anyone else but you if the candidate does not come on board.
 
8.    Dispatches the written offer quickly (same day or next day)
KPMG can provide a written offer, online, within 15 minutes of a verbal acceptance. The bar has been raised substantially in this area. Think of every passing day without a written offer as a 15% daily reduction in the chances of the candidate accepting. After a week, you're shot.

In the same way that a personal relationship is doomed to fail (mostly slowly and painfully) if one person is the ‘committed doer' while the other person is the ‘interested on-looker', a recruiter/client relationship also relies on both sides doing ‘their share'.

This is not a power issue - it's an issue of both sides doing what's necessary to accomplish the ultimate result.

Unless you communicate clearly and gain agreement with your client about their ‘side of the deal' then any unfilled job will always be viewed by your client as your failure and nothing to do with them.

A true partnership is both parties understanding their respective roles and taking responsibility for completing what's required to deliver the result.

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