Why Multi-Listing a Job May Not Be in the Client’s Best Interest

I coach and train recruiters all around Australia, and one of the most frequently asked questions from desk-level recruiters is “How do I stop my client listing the job with other recruiters?”

Great question! The practice of clients multi-listing a job has always been part of the daily challenge for recruiters. My question in return is “Did you give the client a sound reason why it is not in their best interest to multi-list the job?” Inevitably the answer from the consultant is “Er, no I didn’t.”

If the recruiter doesn’t provide at least one compelling reason for the client not to multi-list the job, then why wouldn’t the client go ahead and list the job elsewhere? The major reason why most recruiters are unsuccessful in their attempt to dissuade the client from multi-listing a job is that the conversation for job exclusivity comes across to the client as being about what’s in the recruiter’s best interest (no competition and an almost guaranteed fee), not about what’s in the client’s best interest (getting the best candidate for the job, as quickly as possible).

In this skills-short job market, the client logic for multi-listing is something like: “Listing the job with more recruiters means greater market coverage, therefore a better chance of filling the job quickly.” On the surface that sounds logical, but let’s look at eight reasons why that logic might be flawed, and why exclusivity may be a smarter choice for the client.

1. It potentially devalues the job in the market and potentially devalues the brand of the employer: The law of scarcity is a very powerful law. Using a metaphor to make the point, you are hungry and are looking for a good restaurant at which to eat. You don’t know the area. You walk past a busy restaurant that has one table free. The almost-empty restaurant next door has plenty of tables free. Which restaurant do you choose? Nine times out of10 you choose the busy one because the fact (and most likely the reality) is that the scarcer the seating, the more likely it is that the food is better value. It’s exactly the same with jobs. If four different recruiters ring up the same candidate across a 48-hour period and all mention the same job, the perception is that the job is of less value than if one recruiter has the job. The candidate is more likely to wonder why the job needs to be given out to four recruiters. If it was a hot job or a job working for a “brand employer,” one recruiter would be able to fill the job easily and quickly. Good jobs (or jobs with good companies) don’t need a multitude of recruiters to fill them.

2. Quantity becomes more important than finding the best candidate: If a recruiter knows they are up against a competitor, they are much more inclined to just “throw mud against a wall” because they don’t want to risk a competitor putting forward a candidate that they also had on their database. As a result, all recruiters in multi-list situations put forward any candidate who remotely fits the job spec. The outcome: four different recruiters finish up sending 20-plus résumés, and the client is lucky to find one candidate worth inter-viewing.

3. The client does more work and still pays the same fee! Taking the 20-résumé example above, the client now has to spend their own valuable time reviewing all 20-plus résumés and then fielding, or making, a multitude of calls to four different recruiters to provide feedback, arrange interviews, etc. (not to mention the four separate conversations to brief each recruiter on the job). If you add up all this additional time (compared to working with one recruiter), the client probably spends another five or six hours in duplicated communication.

4. The client does more work, resents it, and starts to cut corners: Because a client has briefed more than one recruiter, the client quickly starts to resent all the duplicated communication. This then leads to the client lessening the most effective communication channels (face-to-face and phone) and increasing the least effective communication channel (email), so the client can “get back to doing their real job.” These tactics may help the client (in the short term), but they frustrate the recruiter, who needs consistent and up-to-date “real time” client feedback to deliver the best possible candidate as quickly as possible.

5. Exclusivity gives the recruiter time to do a thorough job to find the best candidate: The most valuable gold nuggets are found by drilling down into a gold field; they are not found scattered on the surface, where it is quick and easy to locate them. It’s the same with the best-quality candidates; you need to drill down deep into the market to find them. They are rarely to be found “on the surface.” A recruiter who has an exclusive brief has more time to “drill down,” i.e., properly review their database, network the market, write a quality advertisement (if necessary), screen effectively, interview effectively, brief the candidates fully, compile an effective short list, take references before referring résumés, etc. All of this vastly improves the possibility that an 8/10 or 9/10 candidate will be found to fill the job, not a 5/10 or 6/10 candidate.

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6. The reality is that all recruiters give priority to exclusive jobs: Whether any recruiter admits it or not, the reality is that exclusive jobs are given higher priority by the recruiter for two main reasons: (a) the client is relying on that recruiter, and only that recruiter, to fill the job, and (b) the probability of receiving a fee for work done is about four times greater with an exclusive job com-pared to a multi-list job. Like any smart person, a recruiter pursues the option that is most likely to provide the best outcome (fee) for their input (time).

7. The best candidates are put forward to exclusive jobs: In almost all cases, the clients who multi-list a job are slower at responding to quality candidates who are put forward. Recruiters don’t want their hard-earned reputation with candidates damaged by unresponsive clients, so the best candidates are forwarded to quick-response clients (almost always clients listing jobs exclusively). Slow-response clients are more likely to be sent second- or third-tier candidates simply because these candidates are more likely to still be on the market when the slow-response client finally gets around to responding to résumés sent by the recruiter.

8. Other professions don’t do it: What accountant would take on a client’s tax work if they knew that three other accountants also had the job and the first one finished would get the fee? Real estate agents rarely take on a multi-listed property from a vendor. Multi-listing is rare elsewhere because other professions know that it (mostly) leads to a vastly inferior client service. How is recruitment any different?

As a recruiter there will be times when it is not in your client’s best interest to list the job exclusively with you (e.g., it’s not your area of specialization, your “job book” is currently full, you’re about to go on leave, etc.). You should then recommend to the client what approaches you believe are appropriate to best fill the job, with the best candidate, as quickly as possible. I definitely don’t recommend exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake.

The question I would recommend you ask yourself is “What recruitment process best serves my client for this vacancy, in these current circumstances?” If we act with our client’s best interest as our guiding light, then we significantly enhance our chances of the client seeing us as a true recruitment partner, not a fee-hungry body shop. And isn’t that what we all want?

Ross Clennett started his professional recruitment career in London at the beginning of 1989. Since then he has worked in the UK and in three cities across Australia. He has been professionally recognized by the designation MRCSA (Accredited Recruitment Professional), award-ed by the Recruitment & Consulting Services Association (Australia & New Zealand). As a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Ross has a real skill and flair for communicating his passion for recruitment to others in a simple and powerful way. He now runs his own business as a recruitment coach and professional speaker. Ingenius Coaching, P.O. Box 425, Bentleigh East, Victoria, Australia 3165; Phone: 03 9563 8200; Mobile: 0423 557701.

Since commencing his recruitment career in 1989, Ross he has worked in the UK and three cities across Australia. He now runs his own business (www.rossclennett.com) as a speaker, trainer and coach, specializing in recruitment, based in Melbourne, Australia.


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