Candidate Exclusivity... I want YOURS!

Those of you who have read past posts will know that I am a Rec2Rec…  I source, and place the best recruiters in the market into reputable agency brands… Tough job I’ve got – no seriously, I have a tough job. 

My candidates are recruiters and my clients are recruiters – oh, and I’m a recruiter also…

And, guess what?... The majority of you reading this article are recruiters as well.

For the most part we, (that’s you and I), speak the same language, want the same things and know how the game works… One of the most important, no essential, parts of our day–to-day roles is gaining candidate exclusivity – so why won’t you give me yours???

When I see a new candidate one of the first questions I ask is ‘What else are you doing? Who have you met with? Who have you applied to?’ OK that’s 3 questions, but please don’t judge me…

‘Oh… I’ve met with ABC Rec2Rec, and I’m going to see DEF Rec2Rec after this meeting…’   Why? That’s right WHY???

The way I see it elite recruiters, should identify with elite athletes… You are successful, have a great deal of currency in the market and your time is a very valuable commodity.  Like elite athletes who focus solely on being the best by training and competing, you too should be focused on what makes you the best: working within your networks, sense of urgency and superior knowledge of your market.  Not only that, just like elite athletes, your personal brand needs to be protected.

You can probably see where I am going with this, but if not let me subtly get to my point… Elite Athletes have only ONE Agent doing all of this work for them.  One Agent to represent them to their market, One Agent to understand their needs and motivators and find them the right home….

So, why do recruiters engage multiple Rec2Recs? You dilute your ability to control the process, you risk confidentiality and discretion in the market, and most importantly, you diminish your personal brand...

I never speak to clients without the express permission of my candidates, but that is not necessarily a rule followed by some of my peers in the industry.  Here’s an example of a recent telephone conversation with a client… (remembering my candidate gave me permission to represent them to this client)…

‘Hi John, its Craig here. I’m just following up on the profile of Rex Citizen I sent through to you after our phone conversation this morning.’

‘Oh, yes Craig….Umm… I was going to call you.’ Immediately you know…. Don’t you… ‘I received Rex’s resume from one of your competitors this morning as well. He seems to be fairly active in the market – doesn’t he?’

I know you have all probably faced exactly the same situation recruiting in your market.  Immediately, the candidate’s personal brand is diluted, and you are left feeling…. well… betrayed.

So, if you want your Rec2rec to represent you to the best of their ability, have some skin in the game.  Give them your exclusivity, even if it is only for 2 weeks.  Believe in them, and be honest and transparent.  Give them the same professional courtesy you expect from your candidates, and don’t punish them for the indiscretions of your candidates.  When you peel away the layers – we are just like you….   (What?... Too Much…. Do I need to turn down the self-pity meter a notch, or 2?)

PS.  Feel free to use the Elite Athlete/Agent analogy with your candidates when asking them for exclusivity – it does work… Sometimes…

Views: 1978

Comment by Christopher Lyon on December 1, 2011 at 9:57am


Have you thought of having your candidates sign a non-compete form? I find that most candidates often don't know they are being submitted to a client because some recruiters just send resumes they find online. This is very frustrating especially when a client is working on a VMS. The signed non-compete and help you in regards to the client in showing you have actually contact with you candidates versus your competition. I can't tell you how many times I have won over a CFO and VP of HR in regards to this. Good luck to you! 

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on December 1, 2011 at 10:06am

Great article Craig!

Been using the elite athlete/agent talk for several years and it works with candidates that know their worth. Great candidates don’t want to be shopped around and want to know where/who is seeing their information.

Usually the candidates that are shopping themselves to several recruiters are a bit insecure with their skills and abilities and maybe even their references.

I’d say it is true for both Rec2rec candidates and all the other candidates.

P.S. It can also work with companies for exclusive searches.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 1, 2011 at 12:17pm
What would you guys do in the event that another recruiter has an exclusive listing with a client, contacts this candidate for a great job. Would you tell the candidate that you own them so they can't move forward except through you or the other recruiter would have to do a split with you?

Would you also restrict them from applying on their own direct to a company or if they did and got hired would they be required to tell the company that even though the company will not pay a fee they would have to since you have a contractual right to represent them? Or would you require them to pay you a Fee as their agent if they found their own job?

If I had an exclusive search, contacted a candidate who told me they had an agreement with another recruiter to represent them I would drop that candidate off the radar or tell them they would have to rescind the exclusive agreement and call me back. I would think the candidate would be none too happy to lose a shot at a great job.

I would think an exclusive to rep a candidate would have to have a reasonable time limit or a candidate would be foolish to sign or agree to an exclusive. And what would you do if they ignored it, sue them?
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on December 1, 2011 at 12:30pm

@Sandra... that's STICKY... :)

as a candidate I would have no problem being exclusive as long as my recruiter was getting me into where I want to be. I'd have a list of target companies, and if you can get me in, great. If not, well, we're not exclusive.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 1, 2011 at 2:05pm
You got it Amy. It always gets sticky when people try to control other people.
Comment by Craig Watson on December 1, 2011 at 3:53pm

@Christopher Thanks for the comment.  The challenge is my candidates are recruiters and they know where they are being represented and by whom in most cases. Non-compete wouldn't fly all I ask is for them to give me a couple of weeks to work with them and protect their personal brand at the same time....

Comment by Craig Watson on December 1, 2011 at 3:54pm

@Cora Mae - Cheers for the comment!!!!

Comment by Craig Watson on December 1, 2011 at 3:56pm

@Sandra Thanks for the feedback.  I would never ever stand in the way of a candidate finding the perfect home.  I don't want my candidates to buy into a potentially leagally binding exclusivity arrangement and I encourage them to applt directly to companies.  It's more that I want their transparency in what else they are doing, and a verbal integrity based commitment that they are working only with me for a period of time.  If they find a role themselves, or are approached by a third party - great.... Just let me know!!!!!!!!!

Comment by Craig Watson on December 1, 2011 at 3:57pm

@Amy - Hi There!!!! We seem to be running into each other on all sorts of forums at the moment!!!

Comment by Elise Reynolds on December 1, 2011 at 4:40pm

OK Craig, so full disclosure.  I can agree with that and I think it is reasonable to ask for that. 

Especially in recent years some of my candidates have been unemployed of course and need thier next job.  I did not want them waiting on me to find them a job, if they were not a fit for my existing clients. 

Also, I tend to work for the clients that I have.

Personally, I have never had much sucess with trying to market a candidate companies that are not clients.   I don't have a relationship with that company and so I am going to have a hard time getting my candidate attention..  Does anyone else do this regularly?  I mean market candidates to companies that are not clients?  It seems to me one of those ideas that sound great but don't usually happen. 


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