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When Should You Fire a Client?

QUESTION: When do you fire a client?  Too many submissions, reject and long response time, no job orders, etc., and how? -Tatiana from Seattle, WA

ANSWER: Great question; it is a loaded question, meaning there is a ton of stuff to it. One, you need to know how to really qualify your clients. You will want to start the discussion with “We have not really worked together, so, you are forgiven for all your previous sins. I just know you are going to be fantastic. But, the big thing you are going to learn with me is that everything is an exchange with clients, and, ultimately, our employees, is an exchange of expectations.  So, I expect you to do blank, and in exchange for that I am going to blank.”

So, with a client, it is, “Here is all the things I am going to do. We are going to put together a list of 100 names; we are going to narrow that list that down to to 60 or 70 candidates. We are going to make 7 attempts to contact each candidate before we give up on them. Which means they are pretty much telling us they are not going anywhere.” You go through the whole search process: the assessment, how you do assessments, how determine what candidates are qualified and interested, versus candidates that are interested and not qualified, resulting in a short list for the client.

For me to do all that requires, boom, you negotiate the fee, Because the candidates that I am going to get interested ,especially the candidates I get after leaving my third, fourth, and fifth message, are highly passive and being competed for aggressively. “Mr. and Ms. Employer, you and I need to speak within 24-48 hours of my submitting the candidates, so that we can keep them, if they are the type of person you want to interview, hot.

So, I just need your commitment,” if you are the client, “Tatiana, that you will get back to me within 24 hours.” Now, I always say 24 and the client may negotiate the 48 or 72 which is fine. As long as I get… “So, can I get your commitment on that?” because if I know it is 72 hours, let’s say they travel a lot, “I go international”, whatever. At least I can set the expectation with the candidate so they do not think you are blowing them off because these are not applicants. You need to distinguish between attractive, passive candidate and applicant.  “Can I get your commitment on that?”

So, in the absence of doing that, if they follow their own system, meaning they neglect recruiters, they are really not out of integrity with you. So, one, you have to ask yourself, did they make commitments to you, when you are talking about firing them, that they are not honoring?  And if that’s not the case, then I would challenge you to go in and reset expectations before you fire them.  If you did exchange commitments with them, I would ask, how specific were you, not “get back to me” because if I leave you a message today and you call me a year from now under “get back to me”, you are in integrity because you got back to me. There was no time frame there. I would look at that and have specific time frames.

If you did set specific time frames and they are not getting back to you, this is how I start to fire someone. I would call and say, “Hey, Tatiana, Mike Gionta. I have left you four voicemails. We had agreed to communicate with each other within 48 hours of my submissions and it has been 4 days now. My gut feeling is something has changed and you have cancelled the search. If I do not hear back from you by the close of business today, I will assume the search is over as I have put a pause on it right now. We are not doing anything else and I am beginning to bundle up some of the candidates I have submitted to you to present them to other companies that have a similar interest. If for any reason I am mistaken and my interpretation is incorrect, please call me back by the end of business today so we can kind of catch up and figure out where you want to go with the candidates I have submitted”. And if they do not call back, they are fired. They have actually fired themselves

When you go back and go, kind of like “Cable Guy”, “Hey, the phone rang. I was in the other room, thought I would call you back, thought it would be you,” you do not want to be needy. Just very matter-of-fact, very non-judgmental. “You were supposed to call me,” No. And the other message I have used with people before you fire them when someone is not getting back to you, especially if you did a poor job of setting expectations is I call you up and say, “Hey, Tatiana, I have not heard back from you and we talked two weeks ago about this search and I sent you some candidates and I think I have done something, and I am not sure what it is that has upset you or ticked you off and Tatiana, I am a big boy, I just need you to call me back and give it to me straight. I am looking to grow, sounds like you do not want to work with me anymore. I am okay with that but I just want to learn from this.” Now, I want them feeling, bluntly, guilty as heck, right? So that they call you back.  That message probably has a 90% return call rate “No, it is not you. It is me.” Sometimes, the stuff that comes out sometimes is like, “My parent got ill,” or “I have been in the hospital for three days. Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!”

Sometimes, it’s “You have got to understand. I am really busy,” and again, this is why we set expectations.

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