Editor’s note: Jeff Allen has heard every employer excuse you can imagine for not paying up — and dozens more that defy imagination. A few years ago he began documenting them in a weekly collections column. Because of the importance of collections, Fordyce will periodically reprise the most common situations he addressed. The complete collection is here.
What Client Says:
You said you wouldn’t bill us if we hired the candidate.
How Client Pays:
The usual ruses are that you said this was a favor to the candidate; it was a level you didn’t work, or a discipline outside your field.
It’s more effective than employers (and recruiters) realize, since “said,” “told,” “stated,” “talked,” “discussed,” and “verbalized” all mean nothing in court. They’re oral utterances that are contradicted, refuted and denied by the words of each client witness. That’s why the hearsay rule excludes them as evidence unless they’re made under oath. That means on the witness stand.
Written documentation is all that will budge a judge, or send a flurry through a jury. And even that won’t move your audience unless you can show it was communicated to the client. It won’t be moved far, unless that communication was (actually or impliedly) accepted.
Silence, as in not responding to the written agreement you sent, is among the weakest forms of acceptance because clients are silent for many reasons. It might even be because they don’t like recruiters. That’s not enough. You have to prove their witch doctor in HR intended to ambush the unsuspecting headhunter.
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An internal job order form, a fee schedule, a sendout confirmation, and even an e-mail from you are little more that corroborative evidence. What do they corroborate? Your oral, hearsay statements. It’s better than contradicting them — but not by much.
Then it’s the client’s turn. Its employees will contradict, refutem and deny your oral fee confirmation. Then the hiring authority will roll out what you “said” time and time again. You “told” the candidate the same thing. Sometimes even imposters — total strangers — testify to what you “said.”
Courts don’t respond to truth. They respond to proof. That means writing.
Get it, and you’ve got it!