In a previous life, my role was to train recruiters. I used to teach them that the most valuable thing that you have in this world is TIME. You only have so many hours in the day to make all of the contacts, build the right relationships, do all of your blocking and tackling. So very often the most difficult decisions involve in which clients you should invest your time.
There are a number of factors that go into the decision: your existing workload, the strength of a clients brand (their gravitational pull on top candidates), the story behind the role (is it compelling to top candidates), and – most importantly as the title of the posting suggests – are they a good client.
What is a good client?
We have worked with world-class brands that are horrible clients and start-ups that nobody has heard of that are great clients.
A good client is one that engages their search firm as a partner – not a tool of last resort, an unfortunate necessity. They value the relationship, invest their own valuable time in explaining their needs, helping you to articulate their story in the marketplace… and then they are accessible and continue to provide their valuable time for feedback and refinement.
One of the lines that we always use in our office is, “If he is not returning your calls, he is not a client.” I don’t care what the signed search agreement says.
When you send in resumes, a good client agrees to a call to review what he likes and dislikes about these people on paper – you have to be on the same page. When he interviews your people he has to let you know not only which ones he wants to take to the next round, but why. This takes time – sweet, valuable time. A good client makes the investment along with you each step of the way.
If you have a lot of potential clients that want to work with you, you can’t afford to work with bad clients. In these cases we have the tough job of counseling our clients on how they need to help us be successful. If that doesn’t work, we have to be honest with ourselves and the client and let them know that we can not continue to invest our time because there is no investment coming back in the other direction.
I don’t really care if we have made money with a client, as long as the investment is happening honestly and evenly. I know that we are very good at what we do. So if the partnership is sound, the value will be there on both sides eventually.
When demand slows down and you don’t have as many prospects in the funnel as you would like, that is when we would start considering the lower value, HR-driven processes where you send in the resumes and pray. But thankfully, we are still in a high demand space, so we can do high value-add work and get paid for it.
I hate firing clients, but the reality of the situation is that many great companies have horrible recruiting processes. I have been in this business for nearly 20-years and no combination of technology, process and talent has ever solved that problem. So my job is to have the best candidates in the space ready-to-go and spend my days connecting them with good clients.