Last week, a veteran recruiter who was confronted with the following situation contacted me. As explained, he was more than halfway through a search, with candidates being interviewed and one particular candidate identified by the client as the potential finalist. The client wanted to proceed to the offer stage but shared with the recruiter that the company was considering moving the location of the position to headquarters (different city and state), where the new employee would report to someone else other than the hiring authority. The client did not believe the potential changes were significant enough to share with the candidate, as they would take place at some point in the future, most likely within the first year of employment. Besides, nothing had been finalized and the plan was still subject to change.
Obviously, the recruiter was somewhat concerned about these potential developments, but didn’t know how hard he should push the client for more detailed information. His actual statement to me was:
“Do I have the right to ask my client for greater clarification?”
My response was:
“Ask away. What’s happening is referred to as a ‘substantial change in the original job description.’ As the recruiter representing their client’s interest, you need to know what is likely to happen, why it will happen, and when it will happen.
“It’s a question of trust. You need to be trusted with this information in order to do your job as an extension of their company.
“If they are unwilling to share this information or if they are working through a period of uncertainty about their future direction, you may need to place the search on hold until clarity can be established. Without this, the worst possible results may occur, i.e., either they could lose their top choice because of uncertainty, or, if they actually hired the candidate, the individual would likely resign the position once notified of the change in location and reporting relationships.
“Definitely some red flags that should be dealt with before you and your client proceed. So, you not only have the right to ask questions, but you have an obligation to do so.”
This example is anything but unusual. Frequently I receive calls about similar situations where a fear of pushing the client (or candidate) too hard is the primary concern.
For most people, the fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain. Unfortunately for recruiters who succumb to this fear, a loss is generally what they end up experiencing.
As recruiters, we have only two things going for us – our time and our ability to make things happen (See TFL, 07/07, “Time and the Ability to Make Things Happen). Consequently, we have the right to determine how we use our time. Abdicate that right by working blind with poorly qualified clients and candidates, and everyone loses. Conversely, we have an obligation to both our clients and candidates not to waste their time.
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In the situation described above, if the recruiter does not persist in asking relevant questions to further define the variables involved with this client, he will not be pursuing his right as a recruiter nor would he be fulfilling his obligations to the client or candidates.
The most effective way of dealing with these problems is to take a preemptive approach. At the beginning of your relationship with both clients and candidates, make certain that mutual rights and obligations are established. You can initiate an appropriate discussion by using your own words to explain:
“In our working relationship we both have certain rights and obligations. Of primary importance to me is the right not to waste my time. Conversely, I also have an obligation not to waste yours.”
This type of opening statement should stimulate a discussion in which agreement can be reached on mutual rights and obligations. For most clients and candidates, this will be a novel experience. Rarely do recruiters take the time to build this type of foundation for their working relationships, and that’s truly unfortunate.
Because once in place, agreement on these points will help eliminate misconceptions and build a trust-based working relationship, while positioning you with the necessary power to be effective on behalf of all those you serve. Remember, it’s not only your right; it’s your obligation.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments.
Recipient of the 2006 Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry’s leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, and temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including “Petra on Call,” visit his website at www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or by email at Terry@tpetra.com.