Jen Lambert: Bring Clients the Good Stuff

Jun 10, 2010

Jenifer Lambert says she knows what recruiting firms’ clients want, and has even boiled those wants down to something so short it could fit on a Twitter tweet, as follows:

Good news! Your clients want to pay you. They would be happy to pay you, but they have expectations that you must not violate.

Lambert, speaking at the Fordyce Forum in Las Vegas today, knows clients can be pains in the rumps.

One company wanted a two-year guarantee. “I can’t even guarantee the guy’s going to be alive in two years,” she jokes. Other times, clients aren’t fully sure what the candidate will be doing in the job or what type of person would be the best fit.

On the other hand, she says, clients have good reasons for what they do. Their hiring processes, including phone screens and pre-employment tests and all else, may seem cumbersome, but they’re there for a purpose. Instead of putting down clients’ processes, Lambert says, let clients know you understand their importance, but also explain why the best candidate or candidates may not want to spend their valuable time with phone screens and such. Explain to the client how they can win through a streamlined process (for example, a conversation between your candidate and the sales veep), rather than how a streamlined process can benefit you.

She also says recruiters should make sure they don’t give the impression they’re trying to “slip in the side door” by doing an end-around the HR department. One VP of HR Lambert knows of has noticed all the wining and dining outside recruiters have done with company executives, and mistakenly thinks there’s something sleazy or somehow corrupt going on. To avoid this feeling, Lambert says recruiters should make sure they’ve at least introduced themselves to HR professionals, rather than avoiding them like the plague.

When you call a potential client, make sure you name-drop, Lambert says. Tell the client you’d like to talk to them about your services, and mention the name of someone they know (use LinkedIn to find out who they know, where they’ve worked before, and what their interests are). Let them know you’ve followed the news regarding the company, as in: I heard you’re expanding in the Northeast. I can help you. Lambert recently spoke to the recruiting director at Amazon, who said, “I love it when a recruiter calls and they have some insight into what’s going on at our company.”

One of her favorite tactics is to talk to a company about the information she learns from the employees she’s recruiting out of that company. So if she’s trying to recruit salespeople from a corporation, and finds that a large number are perfectly willing to leave, she may call the sales VP, saying, “you’re headed for some serious trouble. Turnover is coming, and I want to talk to you about what I can do to stem the tide.”

She’s finding that some clients don’t want to hire the unemployed, feeling that they could have found the candidate on a job board anyhow. So, though not avoiding all unemployed candidates, she says you may want to limit your “active” candidates to one of three on your slate, or two of five, or some other number. If you’re presenting the client with top talent, and some of that talent isn’t currently working, she says, that’s OK. She’s not saying that you shouldn’t search job boards, too, but “we need to be able to bring clients the good stuff they can’t get on your own.”

So much of recruiting, in years gone by, was focused on sourcing, she says. This included finding candidates, getting through receptionists, and so on. Now, nothing’s more important than the delivery of a candidate: making sure you understand the client’s wants and needs, as well as the candidate’s, including what would (and would not) motivate them to switch jobs, how likely they are to accept a counteroffer, and any reasons they would decide, perhaps at the last minute, to not make a change. What’s really galling companies is when a recruiter wastes their time with a candidate who, in the end, wanted more money than they were going to get, or otherwise presented a candidate who they should have known sooner and not later just wasn’t going to take the job.

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