How to Improve Recruiter-Client Relationships

Every relationship, whether it is personal or professional, is maintained by a certain set of behaviors and attitudes. Think about it. Whether you are dating, conducting an interview, or making new friends, you expect the other person to act “properly” whatever that may mean to you. If your blind date is sketchy, spends the evening ignoring you for his or her phone, or stands you up, would you really try to see this person again? Not likely. So why do you, as recruiters, pursue relationships with clients that behave this way?

According to a recent survey by Sendouts, the second biggest obstacle in the recruiting workplace (after distraction) is difficulty managing clients. The participants in the survey named five primary problems:

  1. Vague Parameters- The client does not provide enough information about the job order to find a suitable candidate.
  2. Lollygaggers- Many clients are slow to respond and provide feedback about candidates throughout the process.
  3. Unrealistic Expectations- Client expectations are too high or the requirements are impossible to meet.
  4. The Never-Ending Battle with HR- HR departments are a barrier between the recruiter and decision maker.
  5. Wishy-Washy Clients- Clients change their minds or can’t make a decision.
So what can you do to lessen this dysfunction?


Level the Playing Field

Ask detailed questions about the job order—the highest priority will always be finding the best candidate for the job. If you do not understand the job, this is impossible.The relationship should be symbiotic. The client needs your help filling positions as much as you need the client’s job orders. So why should the client have all of the power? There are always other job orders that can be pursued, but don’t give up on a client unless these steps are taken first:

  • Explain to the client why prompt feedback is so important in the process.
  • Determine how committed the client is to using your services. Help him realize that he needs your help. Be specific about your process and why you are a perfect match for his needs.
  • Work with HR—just like you, they are only trying to do their jobs. Forming a good connection with HR could even better your relationship with the client.

If these all prove unsuccessful, it may be time to move on because according to Roy Munk, President of Global Healthcare Services,

"The problem may not be your process but rather the clients you are working with. If you clearly communicate your expectations to the client when you initially begin working with them and then you still run into [these] issues on a regular basis, then you may just need to move on to finding a better client.”


Build a Solid Foundation

As a recruiter, you only have so much time to commit.

"Spend the most time on those where the client buys into your clearly communicated expectations and the least on those where they do not.” –Jason Russell, Executive Recruiter at MRI St. Petersburg

When you feel you have tried everything to make the relationship work, but have no success, it is time to move on. It is still possible, however, that the problem lies with your initial approach to the client. Here are a few tips to help the relationship begin on a good note:

  •  Be prepared for cold calls. Be pleasant, professional, and positive.
  • Do not ramble when leaving voicemail messages. You should be brief, but direct. Mention a fantastic reason why they should call you back and keep it under 30 seconds.
  • Do not be predictable—i.e. calling the same time every day, repeating the same tired old sales pitch, etc.
  • Show the client you are genuinely interested by listening and respecting them.
  • Be persistent but never harass a potential client.

If you follow these steps, clearly communicate your needs and understand the client’s, and if the match is right, the relationship will be much more harmonious, efficient, and effective.

Views: 922

Comment by Tiffany Branch on August 23, 2012 at 10:10am

I agree with most statements in this article. Especially the sales pitch part. As a Generalist/Corporate Recruiter, I only really care about your rate and if you have candidates for me. I'd prefer someone identify a position that I have open, submit 2-3 resumes that fit and then we can talk. I don't have time for the schmooze lunch to hear all about your firm. I feel at the end of the day, all firms are doing the same thing. If you specialize in a certain area, great. (My preference is small boutique firms.)


Yes, work with HR and not around us. Oftentimes, the hiring managers DON'T want to interact with the external recruiters. When you send a resume to them, they will typically forward the email to us to handle. While some may feel they can gain more insight by dealing with the manager, I understand. HOWEVER, when you work outside the HR process, it can cause major issues. Too often I've had externals and managers working together w/o HR knowledge and when it's time to extend offers, there are problems.


Please understand, HR can only provide feedback when we receive it. Believe me, I've had to send countless emails, leave vmails and pop up in hiring managers offices to get feedback as well. It's not just you.


Lastly, don't assume that all interal recruiters/generalist don't know HOW to recruit. I recruit in pretty much the same way externals do. I don't rely on candidates applying into my system. If I did, I'd never fill positions. We also handle the administrative piece as well. So we are doing the full process. I recommend when getting an order, try to get all the info you need upfront. Even ask how the recruiter/generalist prefers to communicate. If you set up an interview for me at 2 PM, please don't bombard me with a call at 3 PM for feedback. Perhaps I have another appt, interview or need a bathroom break!

Comment by Joelle Schoenherr on August 23, 2012 at 1:47pm


Thanks for the feedback and insightful comment! HR and recruiters, from what I have read (I'm not a recruiter), seem to be in a feud of sorts. There is a huge pool of advice for people that are trying to overcome this madness, but I'm glad to see you understand!



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