Don’t give up on exclusive job orders! This is how

A great recruiter will be totally articulate in positioning why a client is doing themselves tremendous harm by getting recruiters to compete.

By all means, let recruiters compete for a client. No problems there. That’s capitalism at its finest. But we should not compete on the same job. That is just dumb business by all parties.

View video on YouTube

Let’s examine what is happening when a client gives a brief to say, four recruiters.

The client thinks they get better commitment from each recruiter. In fact we know that quite the reverse is true. We might put a burst of energy into finding candidates for a job ‘in competition’. But if we don’t fill it fast, we lose interest, and put our energy into clients who treat us as partners and are committed to finding the best person through us. That is the reality. But for some reason we don’t tell our clients this.

Are you prepared to look a client in the eye and say “Mr Client, when you give an order to four recruiters, you are effectively giving each recruiter 25% of your commitment. What makes you think that any one of those recruiters will give you more than 25% of their commitment in return? In fact what you are doing Mr Client, is inviting us to approach your crucial hiring decision on the basis of speed — instead on the basis of who can do the best quality job”.

Then go on to ask the client for a “window of opportunity” to handle the role exclusively, so that you can give the role 100% of your commitment and bring all your resources to bear to ensure the best quality outcome.

“Give the job to me exclusively, Ms Client, so I can have the time to put appropriate strategies in place to find the right person – which will of course include researching my database, working my talent communities, advertising, using my networks and searching the passive talent pool.”

Working multi-listed, contingent perm orders is bad business. It is better to work on six exclusive job orders – of which you will fill five, than to work on 20 in competition, of which you may fill three.

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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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19 Responses to Don’t give up on exclusive job orders! This is how

  1. Arthur K September 21, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Also look at it from a candidate perspective. It looks very unprofessional to be called up for the same job by two different agencies. The message I get here is that this job is very hard to sell and no one wants it or that the employer is extremely picky, which means if I am not a 100% fit I am wasting my time.

  2. Prepaid Plans September 21, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    I think your exclusivity comment is the key here. If the employer/client gives you 4 weeks to get a short list then you at least have the opportunity to prove yourself.

    As with most things, once you know that you are part of a very large panel, your interest falls considerably. The extra effort won’t necessarily pay off.

  3. Doug Sherrard September 21, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Spot on Greg. Do that once with a new client, prove yourself and then work in a true partnership on a retained basis because you can deliver.

  4. GB September 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Wise words Greg. Any recruiter that doesn’t have the confidence to ask to be engaged on an exclusive basis is not much of a recruiter in my view. If you genuinely regard yourself as a recruitment industry expert you need to be willing to assert that fact whenever appropriate. Asking for work on an exclusive / retained basis is a central element to that in my view.

  5. Steve Ludlow September 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Greg, you posted a blog a few months back outlining that your organisation is no longer taking on competitive assignments; a bold and industry leading move that I was inspired by. Here’s the link to that post It seemed to be going well for you early on in your move to this model, but that was very early days. Would you like to give us a further update on how that model has affected your business now you are much further down that track? Perhaps another blog post?

    • Greg Savage September 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Steve
      Yes its been fascinating and I would have to say its worked superbly in some places, and failed in others. I will report on this is due course either via a blog or in a more detailed reply here. Actually I spoke on exactly this topic at the recent RCSA Conference, where I was a keynote speaker. A chunk of that session was devoted to sharing the results of that “Exclusive” strategy. When I get some time I will publish something here that summarises it.
      Regards Greg

  6. Bill Boorman September 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    I like the commitment approach which takes an honest approach. Part of the problem has been the way in which recruitment sales has been trained in the past by some of the mainstream trainers, paticularly in the UK.
    Having reviewed a lot of the training material, it is common practice to teach stock phrases like:
    “See a few of our candidates to get a benchmark.”
    “See one of our people to get a comparisson”
    I could go on. To sell exclusivity takes belief in what you do and a willingness to walk away. It also means that you need to either get to the jobs first by building relationships with potential clients by sustained sales activity or convert clients that have adopted a no agency strategy. This strategy is learnt and developed by recruiters early on in their career, as is their attitude and approach to sales. Client development over time seems to be a forgotten art that has been put aside by trainers that promise the silver bullet or the quick fix, which in reality means under selling your offering. Recruiting firms selecting external trainers or developing their own should take a very close look at how selling against the competition is taught. Get this bit right and exclusivity becomes reality. Always look beyond the glossy brochure and marketing, ask to see the content.

  7. Mervyn Dinnen September 22, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi Greg

    Couldn’t agree more Greg. Exclusivity should be what all good recruiters strive for.

    But exclusivity can be a slow sell, takes time to build trust, show competence and
    knowledge, get buy in and there is a need to educate a willing client too.

    The reason that this doesn’t happen enough IMO is because most recruiters work to an out of date transactional sales model, with KPIs focused on numbers. Why spend time developing the relationship that may lead to an exclusive, when you’re measured on the number of vacancies you are working and how many CVs you’ve sent to each?

    I don’t think it’s a fault of the training, and I believe that most good recruiters would much prefer to devote time to working with a committed client on specific, qualified, fillable briefs…companies need to find a way of measuring and incentivising them to allow them to do it.

  8. Roger Philby September 26, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Hmmm, Greg in most things we agree, however as a previous Director of Resourcing, the views expressed here are a tad condescending, funnily enough most of agency clients are not stupid. We completely understand the pro’s and con’s of exclusivity, unfortunately for most recruitment consultants it’s an inconvenient truth that their customers aren’t stupid, what will they blame for their incompetent engagement if they can’t say “well the client didn’t understand”. This is old style recruitment 101, I understand your audience were probably not very high up in the evolutionary chain but I do think “us dumb clients” could have been given a bit more justice. As to why we don’t give exclusivity, your audience needs to stop assuming we are stupid and start believing that we absolutely will give exclusivity when a) we believe it is necessary (we do know stuff you know) and b) only to someone we trust. Exclusivity as the only answer is as nonsensical as non-exclusivity being the only answer. As you know, I believe the whole system is screwed, irrelevant and well past it’s sell by date but that’s another blog entirely…Love your views, even if sometimes I disagree 🙂


    • Greg Savage September 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Roger.

      Actually I don’t think we do disagree! Not much anyway. This audience was junior recruiters in the main, and what you see is a video grab of a few minutes from a one hour presentation, aimed at them and intended to spur them on to change. Even so, I don’t think I suggest clients are dumb -here or anywhere. In fact the message is that RECRUITERS lack the skills needed to communicate to clients the benefits of exclusivity. Where maybe we do differ, is the fact that I actually believe the so called “old style” recruitment you refer to, is a talent needed now more than ever. Because a skill is long-standing, does not make it redundant. Let’s not get carried away about recruiting is changing. Some of it is, and some of it most definitely is not.

      What is certain is that many, many clients still don’t see the benefits of exclusivity. Sure, sophisticated Corporate Talent Mangers who are used to buying staffing services clearly do. But I do client visits all over the world, and many, quite senior line managers, do not. No, they are not “dumb”. The just have not had it lucidly presented to them as a compelling business case. And that is a key recruiting skill, old school or not.

      Australia, Asia and the UK. Most perm orders are still given out in competition. And I blame recruiters for that, not clients.

      That what this video and blog is about


  9. Roger Philby September 26, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    All – apologies for my typo in 2nd line, clearly i am stupid, doh!

  10. Sharron Clemons December 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Spot on Greg. Do that once with a new client, prove yourself and then work in a true partnership on a retained basis because you can deliver.

  11. Rose Clayton January 20, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    I am so inspired by this way of thinking! Finally hearing someone give permission to take what I call “Client accountability” and implement it as a viable way to value and manage the time and effort it takes to successfully build a client base! Bravo!

  12. Emma Jones March 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Absolutely agree on this Greg, I’ve been having this same discussion with clients for a long time. My experience is that if I’m dealing directly with a hiring manager, they generally get this, as I deliver the message in an intelligent and compelling way. However, when dealing with an internal recruiter, they mostly don’t get it and are rarely prepared or able to engage, either due to lack of maturity, experience and common sense, or because they are so stretched they don’t have the ability to think it through and it’s just easier to quote policy and move on.

  13. Shaun Windram August 4, 2015 at 12:11 am #

    Absolutely bang on Greg but clients can only buy what they’re being sold and sadly the vast majority are happy just to ‘sell’ this, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

    For my money, all agencies should work retained, I believe the industry would be far more respected if we did.


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