Ask Barb

Q. I recruit in healthcare. I know people who recruit in other industries and make placement after placement. Sometimes I have quarters like that; sometimes I do not. It is very hard to find candidates in my field and in my area. I mainly cold call and try referral recruiting, but people are very resistant to change. The boards are costly, and all the other recruiting firms swarm them every second. I try to get six submittals a week, but that doesn’t fly usually. Any suggestions for myself or my group? John H., Charlotte, NC

A. You’re right when you say the job boards are swarmed by other recruiting firms. The majority of individuals utilizing job boards ARE recruiters. My suggestion would be to develop a referral process in your office – specific times in the placement process when your recruiters ask for referrals. These suggestions would also increase your referrals:

– Interview with an org chart in mind, which will have each candidate giving you the names of others in their department.

– Ask for personal references on your application form. We ask for three and they often give coworkers, who, of course, can become candidates.

– Give a FREE download your candidates would absolutely “HAVE TO HAVE” on the top of your website so you can track all candidate traffic. Most candidates stay less than seven seconds unless they see what they want. If you have a free download, you will obtain their name and email address.

– Have a list of all your current openings, and offer to send this to everyone with whom you speak when you are making indirect recruiting calls or networking. You will be amazed at the level of lateral marketing that will occur. People WILL email your list to their friends, resulting in additional candidate flow. Of course, this is a blind list – no company names or salary levels. You then build a database of these prospective candidates and send them an updated list every other month with an article of interest so they open the email. Put the title of the article in the SUBJECT LINE of your email.

– Pay for referrals of candidates you place. We pay for referrals and actually give away a TRIP for two each December. Anyone giving us a referral we place participates in the drawing for the trip.

– Try to key in to retiring baby boomers who are often not ready to retire and welcome a second career opportunity.

– Mandate at least 90 minutes of indirect recruiting calls daily (don’t answer emails or take incoming calls), and you will enjoy an instant increase in candidate flow. (Only calls are closes you give to your front-desk person or candidates who say, “_______ SAID TO INTERRUPT HER,” which is the message your recruiters should leave when they get voice mail.) You know these callbacks are hits.

– Subscribe to the trade publications read by your candidates. Read the articles and learn who is being promoted, what companies are expanding, which are down-sizing, etc. All this information will lead you to additional candidates.

– Track classified ads in your area of specialization. When someone advertises for certain skills, you now know that individuals in their company possess those skills.

– Have a 30-second pitch ready so individuals you speak to will know who to refer to you. A simple format is “I help__________ who__________ so they can _______________.” You should have different pitches for various types of networking.

Q. I’m about to fire a client who gave me a $5,000 engagement fee six weeks ago. They have interviewed 12 candidates over the phone and 3 face-to-face and are about to make a low offer that probably will be turned down. They have over 6 people involved in the interview process, and even if my guy takes this low parallel offer, I am just about breaking even on time and effort. The dilemma is that they are rapidly growing and potentially could offer six figures in fees in the next three months. Do I continue to try to train them or fire them? Kevin E., San Diego

A. I would say walk away, but you also said they could pay over $100,000 in fees in the next 90 days. Now that you have established the initial rapport with this client, you need to make a few changes next time around. It is apparent they are not aware of your “process,” which will greatly enhance their ability to attract top talent.

1. Get a TARGET DATE TO FILL – a specific date vs. ASAP, immediately, or yesterday.

2. Obtain Interview Times when you write the job order (ensuring send-outs).

3. Email a copy of your job order to EVERYONE in the hiring process to make sure they are all on the same page. Part of the reason you may have had to send in 12 candidates is they are NOT currently on the same page. Over 50% of our “established” clients make major changes on our initial job order.

4. When you obtain the Salary Level, ask what the current person is earning. It is rare for a new person to be brought in at a higher level than the current person was earning. NEVER quote the range to your candidate. Close the candidate as low as you can and discuss salary with both the candidate and client throughout the entire process. Your goal is to obtain an offer higher than the amount you have your candidate closed to accept.

When candidates ask you what their job pays, your answer should always be “They are definitely within the range you have shared with me, but it all depends on HOW WELL YOU INTERVIEW.” If the offer is lower than expected, they blame themselves, not you.

5. You need to educate your clients about the fact that we are in a “CANDIDATE-DRIVEN MARKETPLACE” and competition is extreme for top talent. It is just as important to PREP your client as it is to PREP your candidate.

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When you have candidates eliminated from the process, make sure you get DETAILS so you can fine-tune your search. Your goal should be to have TWO or THREE of YOUR candidates in the final inter-view process. I would give this client one more try before I walked away. For the record, I have never told a client I’m FIRING them – I never know where that client might end up. I prefer to explain that we are in business to make a profit, and the business relationship we have is not producing profits, which is why we can no longer represent them. The end result is the same, but most hiring authorities are aware that we must protect our business and make profits.

Q. Enjoy your info. Looking for your opinion on two things. Do you believe in referral fees to applicants? What do you think would be a fair amount? Guarantees to client company? Had a company request a 180-day, 100% guarantee. We never have really done more than a 90-day 100%. Do you ever refund the money? Thanks for your advice/opinion. Jim P., Sarasota, FL

A. We do pay referral fees to candidates. We pay them $100 for the first referral we place, $200 for the second, and add $100 for each additional referral from 1/1 to 12/31. We also give away a trip in December of each year. This year our trip is four days and three nights in Cabo, Mexico, for two (all-inclusive resort). We conduct the drawing at a wine and cheese party. Each person who has provided us with a referral we have placed in a job is invited, their names are all put in a bowl, and our accounting firm draws the winner! It has resulted in a tremendous increase in candidate referrals.

For over 15 years we provided a 30-day replacement guarantee. If they did not hire the replacement from us, we provided them with a “letter of credit.” We doubled our guarantee to 60 days if our invoice was paid in 10 days, which really reduced the aging of our A/R.

If the truth be known, I had a difficult time providing ANY guarantee, because we don’t “supervise” the people we place. Five years ago, I tried to remove our guarantee or charge clients extra for various lengths of guarantee. It didn’t work because the perception was that I was not confident in the capabilities of our candidates.

As a result, several years ago I went the other way. I provide a 12-month pro-rated replacement guarantee. Let me explain. We’ve had three fall-offs in 2007. One was after six months and our fee was $28,000. For $14,000 they could come back to us for a replacement (six months – 50% of the fee). If the person had worked three months, for $7,000 they could hire a replacement. If the person worked nine months, they could hire a replacement for $21,000.

We replaced all three fall-offs for the additional reduced fee, based on the 12-month pro-rated program. I got tired of feeling like “Let’s make a deal” if the candidate fell off on day 32 of a 30-day guarantee. I’ve always tried to maintain an “outside-in” approach to business. I try to see my business through the eyes of the individuals I serve. If I had paid someone a fee of $30,000+ and the candidate lasted only one or two months, I would have expected my vendor to do something about it, regardless of the guarantee – which is why I developed the 12-month pro-rated guarantee. We don’t have many fall-offs, and this was the fairest agreement I could develop.

This is very black and white, and our clients love it. We have not lost one client as the result of a fall-off issue, and they normally utilize only us to find the replacement, because if they used another firm they would pay the FULL FEE vs. our pro-rated REDUCED FEE.

When you think about the end result, all fall-offs ended up in a fee and a half, a fee and quarter, etc. I came up with this after surveying our client base and realized it was a win/win. I’m not saying this is your solution, but it has worked extremely well for us!

FOR THE RECORD – we also pay for client referrals. If a client refers another client who hires from us, we provide them with a $500 gift certificate (of their choice), or we donate $500 to their favorite charity. This has dramatically increased our client referrals. Most of our clients want to donate to a charity. We provide them with a plaque, have a picture taken with a representative of the nonprofit organization, and the plaque (which has our company name on it) usually hangs in their reception area.

Here’s to your increased referrals and “out of the box” thinking on guarantees!

Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS, offers a weekly FREE training article – go to If you’d like to hire Barb to mentor and train your new hires as well as elevate your experienced recruiters to new levels of production, you owe it to yourself to call her office today at (219) 663-9609 and request a DEMO of her Top Producer Tutor, which is revolutionizing the way training is being offered in recruiting firms in the U.S. as well as abroad. Anyone who schedules a demo during the month of December will receive a free PDF copy of Barb’s book “Attract, Hire, Train and Retain Top Producers,” which outlines Barb’s hiring process. This Web-based program is a Lifetime Training Tool that will become the way your company delivers consistent training. You can download your current training materials into the tutor. CALL TODAY – pricing is increasing in January 2008, so this is the best time to invest.

Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS, is one of the most trusted experts, speakers, and trainers in the Staffing and Recruiting Professions. If you want to receive FREE training articles from Barb, sign up for her NO BS Newsletter! Barb has spent the last twenty years focused on helping Owners, Managers, and Recruiters increase their sales, profits, and income.

Her Top Producer Tutor web-based training program jumps-starts new hires and takes experienced recruiters to their next level of production. Barb's cutting-edge program, Happy Candidates, provides you with a Customized Career Portal in less than 10 minutes. Happy Candidates allows you to help the 95% of candidates you don?t place and eliminates the greatest time waster in your business.

If you'd like to contact Barb, call (219) 663-9609 or email


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