"Dude Where's My Client?"

Posted on July 14, 2015 by admin in recruiting

You’ve been there before. You spent weeks and weeks recruiting on an assignment and you are sitting there scratching your head wondering why your client doesn’t call you back from any of the three messages you have left him.

Remember the first cardinal rule of human behavior? “People only do what is in their own best interests.” If that red-hot client turned into a lukewarm message-returner, then there’s some sort of reason why he isn’t calling you back.

Two pieces of advice: First, before you ever begin the search, test the viability of your likelihood of actually making a placement by looking at the quiz on my site - - it’s called the Search Assessment Instrument. You can take five minutes to save five weeks by scoring your client on variables that must be considered before making your first candidate recruit call.

Second: If you have spent time on the search and have candidates that you want to present and you’ve left three messages (and assuming you know that he is not on vacation, not traveling, nor going through a medical emergency), then leave a message that goes something like this:

“Bob, I know you said a few weeks ago that if I came across a (position title) that you would want to interview with them quickly. I finished the candidate recruitment phase of my search and have three viable candidates who I think you would get excited about. If I don’t hear from you by Friday at noon (two or three days away) I’ll just assume that the position’s been filled and will tell them that and will release them; and if I can ever help you again in the future, please don’t hesitate to call.”

If the client is still interested, he’ll call you. If he’s already filled the position, he won’t. Either way, you’ll have your answer.

I told a recruiter this once and he asked me, “But won’t your clients get mad at you if you leave that sort of message?”

Does it really matter at this point? They don’t seem to be a good client if they’re not returning calls. You’re already not getting business from them, so what does it matter? If they get mad, then they can get mad at some other recruiter who’s going to waste their time turning over rocks trying to feed a monkey that isn’t even hungry anymore. Why would a client get mad if (a) you’ve covered the market and have brought them three possible solutions to their problem and (b) you’ve left the professional courtesy of three messages with nary a return phone call? Seriously, I doubt a client will get mad. More than likely, they’ll be embarrassed. It’s not like you’re trying to guilt-trip them into compliance. You’re just giving them a deadline.

Always assume the benefit of the doubt and respond gracefully when they do call you back. If the client is busy and slow to respond, then you need to address this issue. “Bob, I understand you’re busy. But I want you to know that I pace the rhythm of my search work based on the priorities of my clients, and if it doesn’t seem like a priority to you, then I can’t make it one as well. But if it is, then I’ll put you at the very front burner of my desk. All I ask for in return (principle of reciprocity) is that you return my calls on the same day or the next day. That’s because (always say this to increase compliance) the only time I’ll ever need to talk to you is if (1) I need more information on the search, and (2) I have a candidate with an expiration date who can solve your problem, and I would really hate for you to lose out on someone so rare and valuable (principle of scarcity). Are you okay with that, Bob?” Always tell people why it will benefit them to increase the probabilities of compliance. And in this phrasing, the reasons for them to call you back are all about them, them, them, not you, you, you. They don’t care if you might lose out on a fee. They don’t care about your manager breathing down your back so don’t even go there with them. Go there with how their quick response will benefit them.

Remember that the recruiting game is a game of probabilities and is more about influence than control. Leverage these principles to your advantage and see how easier it is to lead your clients through the process which ultimately benefits them.


Tyson Conrad,
on Friday, July 24, 2015
Great Article!
Stuart TenHoor,
on Friday, July 24, 2015
Scott: thank you for your common sense piece. The best answer is to get retained. Once a firm pays you money, I don't care if it's $5k or $50k, they pay attention ! I will only take retainers from firms I think the situation is one in which we'll be successful. Always a loser to take a retainer and not deliver. I like to go in to a firm, listen to their pitch, decide if I think we'll be successful and pitch retainer if I think we will succeed. Otherwise just go contingent --you've gotten the inside scoop from them so maybe you can flip them somebody there way that they subsequently hire. While most firms seem to feel like they've won if they don't pay you the retainer, they love you if you deliver on the contingent search. Since you've impressed them, the next time they call you're too busy to make their search a priority unless they offer you $20k to snap up your services. Give me a call some time or I am happy to call you if you want to talk and compare notes in our field! Stuart 443 535 0533
Ken Ferguson,
on Friday, July 24, 2015
Very timely Scott as I am in that exact situation right now. On Friday the client said: "get me those resumes, I want to interview next week." I delivered the finalists on Tuesday and have left 2 messages and an email. I did receive one text back on Wednesday "I will try to call you tonight." However, thanks to you, I am enjoying a nice day off today rather than having any stress about this situation because you taught and encouraged me to sell retained exclusive searches which guarantees I will be paid regardless of when the hire is made. I've done my part now it's up to the client. My experience has been that in most cases making a hire is NOT the most pressing issue of the day for most execs as the function is getting handles in some way while they handle daily "A" priorities - Important and Urgent, whereas hiring is a "B" - Important but NOT Urgent