“I’m Sorry I Didn’t Call” and Seven Other Reasons to Fire a Client . . . NOW

Third-party recruiters – those individuals who represent organizations as opposed to working directly for them as an employee – have it all over corporate recruiters in one dramatic way.

In almost all cases, they can pick and choose those organizations and/or hiring managers with whom they wish to work. Far more important, they can pick and choose those organizations /hiring managers with whom they do not wish to work. This, folks, is about as good as it gets because dumping a client who has been making you crazy for what can seem like forever is as liberating and freeing a feeling as one can have. I know this because when I was in the agency business, I did it on a regular basis. As a result, I billed more and had less stress. You can do this as well.

One of the sad realities for corporate recruiters is that they are accountable to the hiring managers they are assigned to serve. As a result, there is no picking and choosing here, and that can often be a very bad deal. Think of it as having a parent choosing a mate for a child. It might work out well for the child, but the child really should make the choice himself.

The world of third-party recruiting is a very different ball game. You can fire the client who makes you crazy and wastes your time, as opposed to simply thinking bad thoughts about them and trying to coach them for the 97th time in an attempt to get them to work with you in an intelligent and effective manner. (After the 10th coaching session, I suspect they are just passive-aggressive anyway and realize that more coaching is simply not the answer.)

With this in mind, as third-party recruiters, I strongly suggest that you consider any of the following behavioral characteristics as grounds to consider jettisoning a client. Frankly, if you have all of these characteristics in evidence, I strongly suggest that you give them a list of your three biggest competitors and let the client make them crazy instead of you. Please consider the following:

1. Clients who do not return phone calls. Recruiting is, if nothing else, a game of on-going communication. You and the client are trying to fill a position. This mutual goal creates a partnership, as the objective is the same for both parties. Clients who do not return phone calls are telling you through their actions that the goal of making a hire is not important.

2. Clients who do not respond to submitted candidates. For this point I will assume that you’re submitting only qualified candidates. If this is indeed the case, there is no reason that the client should not respond to your sub-mission in a reasonable time frame. You may determine what is reasonable, but 48 hours is a number I’m comfortable with.

3. Clients who change the requirements every 20 minutes. This is an interesting point. I don’t mind working with clients who change the requirements endlessly, but I simply do not wish to work with them until they have solidified what they are looking for in the candidate. I am willing to chat about it, make some suggestions, and help them to derive a final spec if that is helpful. But I can’t recruit if I do not know what the client is looking for in this hire.

4. Clients who “have no time.” No time to talk, no time to interview, no time to spend with you. We all have time; last I looked, we all have the same amount. When people tell you they have no time, they mean they have no time for you. That’s perfectly fine, but it is an indication that this relationship is not important to them. Given the chance to choose between what the client says as opposed to what they actually do from an action/ behavioral standpoint, go with the latter.

5. Clients who make lowball offers. This is a personal favorite of mine. After endless discussions with you about compensation, the client decides to wing it and try to save a few bucks by going around you to close the deal with an offer that you know will not fly. This is big-time dumb. The client decides in their infinite wisdom that they have nothing to lose and the worst thing the candidate can do is say no. They figure, “Big deal, we can just try again in a few days after the candidate cools off.” At this point, you get a call on a Sunday night from a candidate who is angry and insulted and you are caught absolutely flatfooted as you tap-dance in an attempt to mend fences and save the deal.

6. Clients who say such bright things as “I will know them when I see them.” This is a first cousin of number 3 but bears mentioning because I have heard it so many times. If they will know them when they see them, that’s terrific, but they should not be seeing them on any time that you invest. However, when they do know what they need, the time to begin to work on them has arrived.

7. Clients who can’t answer yes to the following two questions:
– Is the position approved and budgeted for hire? If not, I strongly suggest that you wait until it is before you put in any time. (Remember, time and experience is all you have, so use it wisely.)

– If I find you the candidate who meets your needs, will you hire him/her? I once had a client tell me, “No, I just want to see who is out there for possible hires in reorganization.” That’s perfectly fine, but not with my time.

8. Clients who do not get back to you after a candidate interview. This makes me crazy. Even if the client has no respect for your time or your work (a good enough reason alone to send them packing), they should at least have the decency to treat the candidate well and get back to you so you can get back to the candidate. There are few situations more uncomfortable than having candidates call you every day for a week after the interview with steam coming out of their ears because you have no information about what the client is thinking. It makes both of you look bad, and it’s unnecessary.

I know what you are thinking: Adamsky is unreasonable. I am not. I am a sweetheart. But I do expect my business partners to do what they say they are going to do and live up to their end of the agreement. (Hence the term “business partners.”) I hardly see that as unreasonable. I am also sensitive to the occasional blunder or family illness, but this type of behavior as a standard operating procedure should be unacceptable to you. You work hard and your job is important. As recruiters, you build great organizations, and if there is something that is more important than business-building, please email me and tell me what it might be (howard@hrinnovators. com)

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Two more things:

1. They pay me. I can under-stand the temptation to put up with grief for money, because in the end, the kids need shoes and clients do pay the bills. Truth be told, money for misery is a bad deal all around. You will grow to hate the client, and you will not be all that happy trading self-respect for cash.

2. It is political; the client is the director’s cousin. I understand that problem. Tell the director that it is a bad business decision for you to be working with that client and have him/her assign it to another. Everyone wins.

No one who has read this far and is still awake can avoid one simple reality that I have not addressed:

– Finding new clients is not easy.

I concur. But recruiters are not by nature shy individuals. I strongly suggest that you accept the reality that the marketing is never done. If you buy into this philosophy, you will have more possibilities for new clients because your continual marketing will simply put you in a better position than if you were simply working with the same five to seven clients and having one or two of them make you nuts. (I happen to know a recruiter who jettisons his least favorite client or two every year and simply replaces them with others. It’s not a bad way to operate.)

Tell me, is it time for you to get rid of a client who’s making you crazy?

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. He works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. His experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent clearly improves the condition of his clients.

Mr. Adamsky is a politically in-correct, atypical thinker who solves problems and gets results. Since 1985, his work has made an enormous difference in how organizations see the recruiting function and how that role can be leveraged to lead the talent acquisition process by hiring smart, motivated employees.

Howard is also a writer (Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals: The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike, published by Osborne/McGraw-Hill). His articles on everything from leadership to recruiting trends appear on too many sites to count. He is also a regular contributor to ERE.net, a member of the Human Capital Institute’s Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, a Certified Diversity Recruiter, and a charter member of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, and he rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today’s Recruiting Professional.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net