Ask Barb: Client Nepotism

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Jan 4, 2012

Dear Barb:

I have a very unique situation. One of my top clients has put an internal recruiter in place who happens to be the wife of the CEO. She has never recruited a day in her life. The first thing she told me was that I need to reduce my fee to 15% including the current searches I’m working on, which I refused to do. She is delaying hiring decisions and I’m losing very qualified candidates.

She wants to listen in on my calls so she can make sure I have the pitch right. This is after they’ve hired seven of the last ten candidates I presented. How do I get her to see the light that she is doing more harm than good? This company is growing and will do extensive hiring this year. I talk to the CEO often, which also complicates this situation.

The biggest problem is I can’t talk to the hiring managers and she is providing me with little or no feedback. Should I just try to work around her and go directly to the hiring managers I’ve worked with for years?

Rachael Z., New Orleans, LA

Dear Rachael:

If your new contact wasn’t married to the CEO my answer would be different. It would not be wise to go around your new contact which could be interpreted as a lack of respect.

  1. You can give her your pitch, but she can’t listen in on calls because of the candidate confidentiality.
  2. Provide her with the exact details of how “time is killing deals.” Get a target date to hire, interviewing times and only work searches that are top priorities.
  3. Regarding the reduced fees… let her know that 15% is putting her at a competitive disadvantage. All her competitors are paying ___% fees. Then you decide if you want to work at reduced fees. Only agree to do it for 90 -120 days. After she sees the caliber you represent – you want to discuss the fee percentage at that time to possibly renegotiate.
  4. I would stick to my guns on current interviews going into final interviews.
  5. When you talk to the CEO (sounds like you do often) remember this is his wife. If you make him choose – he will choose her side. He has to see and understand the benefits of you aligning yourself with her. Then you can discuss some of the challenges you are facing and offer multiple solutions. If possible have a meeting with both of them at the same table.

Hope this helps.

Barbara J. Bruno, CPC, CTS

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on

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