Recruiters: 8 reasons why your client meetings suck

For most recruiters, the client meeting is key. It is in a face-to-face meeting that the magic happens. This is where your credibility, and the business, is won or lost. It’s here that a recruiter can win exclusivity, secure multiple temp orders, and resolve pricing and service dilemmas.

In fact a great deal of a recruiters time is spent securing the visit. Planning, cold calling, referrals.

Yet, too often, the visit is a wasted opportunity at best, and an unmitigated disaster at worse.

There are many reasons a client meeting can go belly-up, and some of them may not even be the recruiters fault. But, too often it is one or all of these reasons that a client meeting is a wasted opportunity.

  1. Wrong target market. Firstly, make sure the meeting is worth having at all! Yes, that’s right. Is the potential client in your target market? Do they use recruiters? Are they a long-term prospect with ongoing hiring needs? Are you seeing the decision-maker? A visit for its own sake is a sad waste of time. Think before you meet.
  2. Lack of preparation. This is so common, and so avoidable, it almost brings me to tears. We have our huge chance to see the CEO or the Marketing Director of a massive client. It’s our one big shot. So much hinges on it. It has taken months to secure the meeting. And what do we do to prepare? Nothing! You need to do everything you can to give yourself an edge in that meeting. Yes, do the standard research on the company and its products. But also Google search the person you are meeting. Find out their history. If they have given a presentation that’s online – read it. Press releases are to be studied. Check out the LinkedIn profile. But there needs to be more too. Who are this company’s clients? Who are their competitors? How are their trading results? I saw a CEO of a large communications group two weeks ago and I Googled a YouTube video of him being interviewed in the week he started in the role. He explained his vision and his plans. How much do you think that helped me in framing my questions and my comments during the meeting? We got on like a house on fire. And your planning needs to be micro too. How long will it take you to get to the client site? Trivial you think? Not at all. A client meeting is stressful enough without arriving 20 minutes late. Why put the client off-side before you have even met her! Check your database too. Have we worked with client before? Was the client contact actually a candidate of ours once? Knowledge is power. Get the knowledge!
  3. Fix your attitude. That’s right. Give yourself a sharp uppercut before the meetings starts. Don’t be subservient. Don’t be apologetic. Yes, your client is a senior executive who is expert in his field. But you are a professional recruiter who is expert in yours! Act like an expert. Not arrogant. But confident. The client relationship is peer to peer. It is a partnership – not slave and master!
  4. Structure. Many recruiters conduct a visit like a pinball in a pinball machine. I have seen it a thousand times. All over the place with questions and anecdotes. Trying to sell, then asking questions. It’s a disaster!  You have to have a plan. You are controlling the meeting. Subtly, yes, but still you know where it’s going. And you make sure it starts with the client talking about his company and his responsibility, and then you lead it to his team and his staffing mix. Then you guide it on to hiring challenges and his recruiter likes and dislikes. Then on to specific opportunities and finally, only after all this has been done, do you talk about your service and how you can solve the clients issues. Structure. Plan. Agenda.
  5. Poor questioning skills. Oh yes! In this industry we are great talkers. I am no slouch myself. But actually the secret to a great client meeting is asking great questions. Most client meetings fail because the recruiter does not ask questions at all. Or asks the wrong ones. Or wimps out on the important ones.
  6. Talking ratios. Guess what? Good client visit? Client talks 80% of the time. You talk 20%. Job done.
  7. Missing the needs. Often, we are so anxious to ‘sell’. So quick to leap on a client comment and tell her how we would handle the situation, so desperate to include all our differentiators, that we actually miss the clients ‘hot button’. The pain point. The key need she needs solved.
  8. Poor closing skills. Not long ago, I had one of my new recruiters tell me they thought asking for the business at the end of a client visit was ‘too pushy’. FFS! Why do you think you are actually there? For the cup of tea? A great client visit, well structured, where all questions have been asked, needs unearthed, objections resolved, and our offering clearly sold… must end with you asking for the next order. If you don’t do that, or cant do that, guess what?

You just wasted the whole exercise.

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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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10 Responses to Recruiters: 8 reasons why your client meetings suck

  1. Yuriy Shevchenko May 11, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I love this post, especially points 3 and 6.

    There’s nothing worse than slinking into a client visit and being a grovelling, ingratiating, obsequious recruiter, oh so flattered because the senior executive has thrown you a crumb of his “valuable time”.

    Our time as recruiters is valauble too.

    You’re there at the meeting because you’re great at what you do and the exec needs you, the recruiter, to collaborate with him and get his crucial opening filled with a great candidate.

  2. Suresh Ediga May 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing …
    Very useful and worth reading….!!


  3. Steph Walton May 11, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Great piece Greg – It is always useful for new recruits to remember there is no point going into rob the bank and then leaving the money on the counter!! You got to ASK for the business and get the next order!!

  4. Theo Smith May 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Very good Greg! Thank you for your insight. Point 7 is very true, the client has all the answers and we have the solution, but we need to ask the right questions and then listen to the answers, before offering the solution! Only then will the client have the faith in our ability to succeed.

  5. Alexander Gladko May 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    I loved your post! It’s very usefull for those recruiters who want to bill & not suck ))).

  6. Simon McSorley May 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Good points here, I do think to a degree we have lost some of our skills and techniques. How many people in your team could role play an assumptive close or a sharp angle close? Not having some of these core skills would be like your plumber turning up at your place to fix your loo without a toolbox, or a soldier going to Afghanistan without a weapon.
    Agree with Greg totally about the FFS comment, but the new people in our industry need to understand that it doesnt make them a bad person if they ask for the business, and that 99% of the time, the client you meet with woudl be confused and surprised if you didnt!
    My last comment ties in with Gregs point about the questions – we all need to remember that you can’t close what you havent opened.

  7. Chelsie White June 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Hi Greg, some really good tips in this article, especially point 1! From a marketing point of view meetings are seen as one of a number of forms of communication and the most expensive when you consider the time involved – only use them when you anticipate real benefits – otherwise use some other form of communication; phone, email, social media etc…..

  8. Tom Riesack August 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Greg, so true on meetings and this not only holds true for recruiters but for any service professional in his line of work – be it consulting, accounting, lawyers…
    And for your point 6 on speaking ratios. When I am giving courses to my fellow consultants on how to handle client meetings my favourite saying is: “God gave you two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as you speak!” Normally, this does the magic. Best, Tom

  9. Leanne Mudford January 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I’ve been recruiting for 12 months now and finally feel that I have learned the basics. I do not expect to know everything ever in this industry, however, I’m excited and hungry for more in my new found career. A far cry from how I felt 6 months ago when I was consistently wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life! I love the industry I recruit for. Referrals of candidates are becoming more common place as is trust from my clients via repeat exclusive job orders. Thank you Greg for your articles. You have allowed me to see the wood for the trees. They have become a tool in my personal development plan and I always feel more confident and rearing to go after reading them. You’ve even indirectly slapped me on he wrist to keep me on track so again, thank you. Planning any seminars in New Zealand this year by chance? I’d be very keen to attend. Gung Ho! 🙂


  1. 8 reasons why your meetings could be a waste of time! | Project Resource Blog - May 13, 2011

    […] The article that has inspired my posting today is entitled: Recruiters: 8 reasons why your client meetings suck. However I believe that the 8 key rules that Greg highlights can benefit anyone who will undertake a meeting. Therefore if you are an employer or job seeker who is planning  a meeting or even an interview I hope the following no, no’s will provide useful! For those who would like to read the original source, the article can be read in full here. […]

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