If you have ever had a client ask you for a progress report or a synopsis of your activities to date on their behalf, essentially you have been asked the “What have you done for me lately?” question. Although this question is generally focused on recruiters who work with their clients on an exclusive or retained basis, pure contingency recruiters are increasingly being asked the same question.
Good recruiters should always keep track of their activity on behalf of each client when conducting a search or attempting to fill a job order. However, the specifics of what you share with the client about that activity will be determined by the nature of your working relationship. With exclusive and retained relationships, this must be discussed and agreed upon prior to commencing the search.
However, when this question catches you by surprise, be careful not to respond before you understand the reason(s) behind the client’s request. Generally speaking, when a client asks this question, they have one or a combination of the following reasons:
1. A genuine interest in learning whether or not you are making suitable progress with the search/order
2. To see if you are properly covering the market for all potentially qualified and interested candidates
3. To determine whether you are earning your fee
Any properly qualified search/order worthy of your effort should include a communications component that defines when and under what circumstances you will provide progress reports to your client. If this is established and implemented, the first two reasons listed above should be met in a timely manner.
However, if you suspect that the client is trying to determine whether or not your efforts justify the fee, then you need to take a step back from your activity and explain that effort has nothing to do with determining the fee.
The only valid justification for paying a fee has always been and will continue to be the value a client places on the work product that needs to be generated through the open position. If there is little value attached to it, paying a fee, even a heavily discounted fee, is generally not justified. Conversely, if the value is high, paying a full fee for a qualified and properly motivated employee is a good business investment.
The only other justification for paying a fee is when the client does not have the time and/or expertise to fill a low-valued position on their own.
Bottom line, you are being paid to deliver results regardless of the effort involved. The benefit of working on a contingency basis is that when the effort expended is no longer justified by the expectation of a positive outcome, you can walk away from the search without having to refund any money or deal with the encumbrances of a contractual arrangement.
Nevertheless, regardless of the conditions and terms of your working relationship, when a client un-expectedly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” or one of the endless variations on this question, make certain you understand the reason behind their request. The best way of doing this is to ask questions similar to the following:
1. Specifically, what information do you wish me to provide?
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2. Why is this information important to you at this time?
And, if justified,
3. In what format would you prefer that I provide the information?
The client may have valid reasons for requesting the information, and if you wish to maintain your relationship with them, it may be in your best interest to comply. However, depending on the parameters of your working relationship, their request may be unreasonable.
As an example, if a contingency client unexpectedly requests that you provide a complete list and contact information on everyone you have called, recruited, or interviewed during the course of your efforts on their behalf, the request is unreasonable.
If a client makes an unreasonable request based on the nature and scope of your working relationship, you should not comply. More importantly, you need to explain to the client “why” the request is unreasonable. This requires that you possess the wherewithal to properly articulate the parameters of your relationship (see TFL, 02/00, “Contingency or Retainer – A Question of Priority”).
To ensure that a “what have you done for me lately” question is appropriate, you need to fully understand the agreed-upon working relationship with the client, you need to understand their reasons for requesting the information, and if the request is not justified, you need to confidently deliver a reasonable response.
Remember, just because a client requests the information, that does not mean you are required to deliver it without justification. However, if it is justified, you need to provide it in a timely and accurate fashion. This is not the place for guesswork, exaggeration, or misrepresentation of the facts. After all, mutual accountability should be a cornerstone of the relationships you have with all your clients.
As always, if you have questions or comments, just give me a call or drop me an email. As many of you already know, I will respond as quickly as possible.
A 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 email him at Terry@tpetra.com.