15 reasons why ‘exclusivity’ is in your clients’ best interests

I have written before on the farcical chaos that results when recruiting clients engage multiple recruiters to work on the same job order. And I have offered advice on how a recruiter should sell exclusivity to clients to ensure this does not happen.

But now more than ever, we need to focus on a key component of selling exclusivity. And that is a clear understanding of why working with one, quality recruiter on a specific brief is actually in the clients’ best interests. Well here are 15 very good reasons for starters.

  • The Client is getting the Recruiter’s full commitment to filling their vacant role. Let’s not beat around the bush here. A client may think they get more effort from a recruiter when the role is in competition, but what really happens is a short burst of activity from the recruiter, and then our interest wanes as we realise the client is not committed, and we go and put our energy into clients who will work with us as partners.
  • The responsibility for success is now shifted to the Recruiter. If the job is given to one recruiter, retained or exclusive, we own the problem. The client can focus on whatever it is they do for a living.
  • The client is taking the focus off speed and back on quality. Why would you want your crucial hiring decision based on who can get candidates to you first? Would you hire a brain surgeon because they could do the job fastest? A house painter? A hairdresser?  ‘Exclusivity’ means the recruiter has time to do thorough work.
  • Exclusivity allows the Recruiter to bring all their resources to bear in the talent search. Not just a quick data-base search. But a thorough, detailed talent search including networks, communities and social media.
  • Working exclusively usually means there is time for the Recruiter to take a detailed job order. The better the order, the better the match.
  • There is time for the Recruiter to do a full and comprehensive database search. The Client gets the best, not the best we saw that week.
  • The Recruiter has time to comb networks, online resources, social media networks and tap in to the passive talent market.
  • If the Recruiter is a regional, national or global business, exclusivity allows time to access Talent through our broader reach.
  • Exclusivity means more time to do thorough screening, saving the clients time and frustration.
  • Time allows thorough Talent interviews, including full assessment of skills, experience and attitude.
  • The Recruiter will be able to fully qualify the Talent in terms of start date and salary, once again saving the client much time and frustration.
  • The Client will save time by dealing with one competent recruiter. No multiple agency briefings and multiple contacts to deal with.
  • The Clients’ confidentiality is preserved as the role is not being touted around town by  five or six recruiters, each speaking to 9 or 10 candidates about the role.
  • Clients brand and image is improved by using one recruiter, because their job is not devalued in the eyes of talent, who will be suspicious if the job is represented by multiple recruiters.
  • Exclusivity means you will not have the issue of recruiters referring the same Talent to the same client – which can be very sordid indeed.


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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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17 Responses to 15 reasons why ‘exclusivity’ is in your clients’ best interests

  1. Charles Young June 8, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Another fantastic post.

  2. Simon Meade June 8, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Agree on all points. I like to think of it this way. If there are 5 agencies trying to fill an order the consultant knows they have, on average, a 20% chance of filling the role and getting paid. So if a consultant has an exclusive role (where if you can get the right candidate there is pretty much a 100% chance of filling the role) and a role where at best there is a 20% chance which one will you spend your time on?

  3. Neil Bolton June 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    In my humble experience . . .

    The client will GIVE you exclusivity if you ask for it, willingly, happily and without any persuasion at all – once you have proved that you are worthy of it. You will never have to beg for it.

    And the simplest way to start that process is to Take A Complete Job Order Every Time. (Recruitment 101.)

    If you do that you will immediately be in the top 10% of recruiters that client has every spoken to (yes, this is a criticism of most recruiters in our profession).

    This can only properly be done in person. You have to have a “meeting of the eyes” so that you know you are on the same page. And if you have done a thorough job with the job order, and you know you will be able to get some good candidates, ask for interview slots right then. You will be given them.

    At this point it is highly likely that you will be the only recruiter to have taken a full job order, so the chances are that when you present the candidates to the client (in person, I hope!) you will be able to explain why they fit – not to “fill the role” but to remove the pain that the client is suffering from not having someone in that role right now. (You did find that out, didn’t you?)

    So you have presented credible candidates, because you know about the job. The client knows you know, and has heard how the candidates will be able to remove his pain. You have the interviews pre-booked, so you tell the client who is coming and when. And then you win the job because you’ve done the recruitment process correctly.

    So the next time that the client want a new hire, who’s he gonna call? You think he actually enjoys being “resume flicked”? You think he enjoys inane calls from recruiters who know nothing about him, his company, the roles he has filled in the past?

    He’s gonna call you. And then, if you continue to treat the client well, you’ll have him/her for life.

  4. Madeleine June 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Well said Greg. I am speaking from the client side (after my long past life in agency recruitment) and it is absolutely in the client’s best interest. If I engage an agency as the client, I would only ever brief one agency initially with an exclusivity period. It works brilliantly for all the reasons you outline above. On the odd occasion when the exclusive recruiter has struggled to find someone, they’ll let me know it might be time to open it up to a second recruitment partner, or look at other sourcing channels. I have seen other client-side recruiters or hiring managers take the approach of briefing many agencies (one I witnessed just last year had briefed 13 AGENCIES on the same role by the close of the process!!), and I made that rookie error myself when first getting started – it is messy and unproductive for all parties involved with so much time wasted.
    Thanks again for your great insights. I may use this blog list if you don’t mind if I need to convince others of this again in the future!

    • Greg Savage June 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

      Hello Madeleine, please feel free to use this list to assist you any way you can. I would be delighted if you do. If you choose to reproduce it in print or digitally, a nod to “The Savage Truth” as the source is appreciated

  5. Philip Divilly June 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Some excellent points in this article to explain to our clients what the benefit of exclusivity is to them. I agree with Neil in that most clients will give you exclusivity should you demonstrate your ability and professionalism to get the job done in the correct manner. Thank you for sharing your insights Greg.

  6. Nanda Pillai June 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Great article Greg.
    Some comments
    With an exclusive assigment your selling your value proposition at the start. With a non exlusive, your value propostion is at the end (provided you get past the post before all the others).
    I also try and point out to clients that you rarely find a vendor for a house using mutliple real estate agents, why because you dilute the effort.

  7. Suzanne Letting June 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Well said – it’s about time that we shifted the emphasis back to quality and not quantity!

  8. John Weldon June 10, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    So, exclusivity goes both ways? The agency doesn’t work on any other positions?

    I think there is a valid point in this article but I think it goes too far.

    1. All relationships don’t work best with exclusivity. Marriage yes, but most other relationships would be considered co-dependant or dysfunctional if they were exclusive.

    2. The analogy also fails because I doubt a recruiting firm could afford to devote all resources to one position.

    Backing off on the analogy would make for a better case.

  9. Daniel Wundersitz June 17, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Great article Greg.

    Not sure if I see your point John (Weldon). An exclusive recruitment search will always uncover better results than a multiple agency/contingency search. Its a simple time v’s risk assessment of placement. Recruiters know they only have a very short window to put their best foot forward (if any) when there are multiple recruiters involved. Thus you do a very quick surface search and that’s it…you often don’t bother doing a deep search in your database because you just don’t have time. Go through your networks…what??? no time! This is also where clients get annoyed because Agencies send them rubbish candidates…why? Because that agency are so desperate to be first they will send anything up in the hope that it sticks.

    Everything in the article is market accurate, love it or hate it. Its the reality of doing business in the recruitment world.

    Yes there are agencies who will ONLY work on your role. But as with everything, the fee is significantly higher. If you don’t like the fee well then you need to share your job with a couple others at the same time. And this is the same with all businesses.

    Agree with Neil – if you simply ask for it, and educate the client as to why, more often than not they see sense and happily give it to you exclusively. The problem lies if they’ve already released it to a couple recruiters. In that case it just means your fees go up because now its a race to win first past the post. Otherwise it isn’t worth your while.

    But in the interests of coming back to the client with a true and fair scouring of the market for quality candidates, you cannot beat exclusive searching

  10. Mitch Sullivan June 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    I like this article if only because I’ve been saying the same thing for years and also recently wrote on the subject.


    However, I see lots of recruiters increasingly talk about selling exclusivity and hardly any talk about collecting some of the fee upfront as a retainer. The retainer is key because without it, it is still too easy for either party to renege. Retainers can be collected for any role, regardless of how low the salary might be.

  11. Rob Mills November 4, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    I agree with Mitch, without the retainer the exclusive is largely worthless. More often than not clients will still accept CVs through other routes and simply wait for the exclusivity period with the recruiter to lapse before starting the candidate found elsewhere. Exclusivity agreements are very difficult to enforce, and good luck trying to prove that a candidate was engaged during your exclusivity. Without the retainer the client has no commitment and just as importantly there is also no commitment from the recruiter.

  12. Terence Verma July 26, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Exclusivity could ensure ‘a preferred first in the door’ opportunity…more often than not.

    The fact remains that recruiters are still selling it even without the ‘safety net’ of a retainer.

    As Greg advises if there is ‘an appreciation of the recruiter’s ability to apply soft ( nuanced ) skills…like persuasion, negotiation, listening, prepping and understanding’, there will be Partnership and Commitment to a recruiter.


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