Ask Barb

Q. The market has dramatically improved, but I’m still having a difficult time landing the clients I have targeted. I’ve followed your advice and ask every candidate for the top companies they would like to work for and those are my targets. I don’t know how to differentiate myself from my competition – your suggestions would be appreciated. Pam A. – Des Moines, IA

A. When I ask that exact question of audiences, their responses usually include:

• We have better candidates
• We conduct thorough reference and background checks
• We’ve been in business for over twenty years
• We provide a high level of service
• Our recruiters are all certified

These are all great answers, but most of your competition could provide the same responses. The one primary BENEFIT in utilizing your services as opposed to someone else is simply “YOU.” Your competition doesn’t have “YOU!”

• It’s the level of service you will provide
• It’s your level of commitment to fill their needs
• It’s your excellent negotiating skills
• It’s your proven track record of success
• It’s your network of highly qualified passive candidates
• It’s your great follow-up after a placement is made

Rather than sending them your company brochures, send them testimonial letters from satisfied clients and candidates. Everyone likes to buy on the approval of others and these letters are much more powerful than a brochure!

The only other suggestion I would make is to research if any of your current clients, have contacts in your targeted companies. There is nothing better than an introduction by another client to turbocharge your marketing efforts. Please email me with your results.

Q. In the past two months, I’ve lost three deals as a result of my candidates dragging their feet, waiting for other offers to come through. In two of the three cases, they never got the other offer, but my clients had already hired someone else. How can I prevent this from happening again? These are high level executive positions I’m talking about. My clients are not happy with me and the candidates felt I should have done a better job representing them. I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Is there a solution to this? The candidates are getting more than one offer and I see this issue getting worse in the future. Steven E., Tucson, AZ

A. It is extremely important to be clear about the “expectations” of both your client and candidate, when you start the search process. They also need to know what they can “expect” from you and what you expect from them. Multiple offers will become commonplace with a candidate driven marketplace. On the client side:

• Inform your client up front you expect your candidate to receive multiple offers because of the level of talent you represent
• Keep them informed of the “other interviewing” activity of your candidates.
• Let them know the importance of keeping the process moving.
• Prep them to “sell” their company and opportunity so they become the #1 choice of your candidates.

On the candidate side:

• Share this exact scenario with your candidates. Let them know you had candidates “wait for offers” that didn’t come through, and they lost. Other great offers in the process.
• Make sure you know details about their other interviews.
• Always ask where your opportunity ranks, compared with others.

Early in my career I remember learning a FORMULA FOR SUCCESS that went like this: 3 + 3 = 3

• If you have three candidates for every job (in final interviews)
• If you have three opportunities for every candidate

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You need to have MULTIPLE candidates going into the final interview process. You want to be the person responsible for your candidate’s multiple interviews – so you know when offers will be extended. Too often you start with multiple candidates, but by the time you’re in final interviews – you only have one. If you had the first and second place candidates – your client would still be happy. It’s the same with candidates; even passive candidates get “active” once they start to interview.

Very rarely will they make this major decision after only interviewing with one company. You need to market their skills and get them multiple interviews. The formula is not correct mathematically – but it is correct for our profession.

Hopefully this will prevent any future deals from going “south.”

Q. Is there a dramatic increase in companies utilizing retained search firms for executive level positions? The last few leads I’ve followed-up on were all given to retained search firms and I know once even a portion of a retainer has been paid, it eliminates contingency recruiters. Any advice? Ralph Z., San Diego, CA

A. Your timing on this question is perfect. One of the members of my Recruiting Coaching Club, Aaron Wandtke, just closed a placement for a fee of $100,000! The company had already paid a retained search firm who had been working on the search for over six months. Aaron presented a candidate with the exact credentials they were seeking, and earned this amazing fee in the process.

Retained Search Firms place anywhere from 70 – 75% of the retainers they obtain – which leaves the door open for the remaining 25% that are not filled. Personally, I have placed candidates in high level positions AFTER the first two-thirds of a retained fee had already been paid to another firm.

If you know the credentials needed and you have a match, I would pursue the business regardless of the retained agreement. This goes back to the philosophy “you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!” Telling you they have put the search out to a retained search firm is the easiest way to get most contingency recruiters instantly off the phone.

This is an important position to fill, if they have put out a retainer. You just have to give them a reason to see “your” candidates!

Barbara Bruno, CPC is one of the leading Recruiting/HR Training Professional today with thirty years of experience in the “trenches.” She is the author of the Top Producer Tutor, the first step by step online training program that would take training OFF YOUR DESK forever. Visit You can still purchase an UNLIMITED LICENSE for the life of your company. VERSION 2.0 IS NOW RELEASED. We will extend the unlimited license for FORDYCE customers who respond to this offer before August 15, 2006! If you’d like to receive a training article from Barb each week, sign up for her popular NO BS Newsletter at

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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