“Two’s company, three’s a crowd”….….

I was reminded of this saying last week when I found myself playing middle man between a client and candidate who were negotiating a package.

We have all been there. Your client phones you to make your candidate an offer. It might be a bit lower than what your candidate asked for, but your client wants to see if it will stick. It might be bang on, but when you speak to your candidate suddenly they want a bit more. So you spend the next few hours playing piggy in the middle. You go back and forth trying to negotiate a suitable outcome for both, often having to leave messages and waiting for a response. Even the most experienced recruiters who do everything to avoid this sort of thing can get dragged into this scenario. It  is a nightmare and it often leads to the deal falling over.

When I was still trying to get both parties to reach an agreement 48 hours after the initial offer, it occurred to me that it would be much easier to get Mr Client to talk to Mr Candidate directly.

I can hear the gasps of shock and horror around recruitment offices everywhere. This is against everything that we are taught in recruitment school 101. Good recruitment is all about controlling the process. We have to be involved at every stage, continually speaking to client and candidate, and massaging the process until it reaches a conclusion.  I don’t disagree with this, and for the majority of the process it is absolutely essential. I don’t like it when my client starts talking directly to my candidates to set up interviews for example. But I think that when it comes to offer stage, it may sometimes be better to let them sort it out themselves.

A third-party can sometimes just get in the way. Like Chinese whispers, things get lost in translation. It can be difficult for a recruiter  to accurately express the sentiment that both parties are making.  A client can look miserly and a candidate can look greedy, when in fact neither might be true. Even if they reach an agreement, damage can be done to the relationship before they even start working together. It is also  easier / more tempting for both parties ‘try it on’  when they are not speaking directly. A candidate will be far more likely to ask their recruiter to get an extra $5k, than they would if they were speaking directly to their future boss. By the same token, a client might be more tempted to offer less and see if the recruiter can make it happen.

Aside from avoiding any potential difficulties, a client making an offer directly is great for the on-boarding process. The personal touch of having your new boss offer you the job and welcoming you on board is a very positive experience. More so than if a recruiter does it.

That said, I don’t think it is appropriate for a recruiter to step out of the offer stage on every occasion. You have to be smart about it. If your client is a bit slow and likely to not make the offer for  a day or two (yes, it happens) you will want to stay in control. Similarly, if you have any concerns about the integrity of your client you will want to avoid giving them that chance to pull a fast one (by offering higher than  they tell you and thereby paying you less of a fee). If your candidate is unlikely to accept the offer then it is probably not a good idea either !  It might just be simply that it’s your client’s preference.

It takes a certain amount of bravery to hand over the reigns to your client at offer stage. But, if you brief your client and candidate properly so they know each others expectations and limits then sometimes it might be the better way. Sometimes, not through our own fault, we recruiters just make it more difficult by being involved.

Views: 907

Comment by Stuart Musson on March 22, 2012 at 9:35am



I agree with you on this topic and in the right situation it does work. I have had a number of deals happen because the client was better able to "sell" the entire compensation package to the candidate.


Control is nice and you can still have some control in a situation like this as long as your relationship is strong with both parties.


Great post!



Stuart Musson

Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 22, 2012 at 1:20pm
I ask my clients to extend the offer directly to the candidate. It is my take that delivering the good news should come from the new boss. Tone of voice and excitement of a deal coming together between two parties can alleviate a lot of nitpicking on both sides.

A lot of my clients will ask me to run numbers past a candidate to get a feel for any pushback before a formal offer is made to be sure there are no last minute surprises or misunderstandings. If things are in the ballpark with little pieces to be worked out on questions about bonus timing, expenses etc. those are best discussed between the parties involved without a recruiter who really cn't answer immediately so has to go back and forth. This uber control crap is just that and more deals have been list and bad feeling created by a recruiter flopping around in the middle thn ever came together.

I do it the same way I play tennis with a strong partner. I serve and sit down, let them play the point and cover the backcourt. When it's their turn to serve I play the net to be sure nothing gets by at a strange angle. Controlling every point is nothing but an ego need on the part of a recruiter who is always the weakest player in the interaction between an employer and a a future employee. Serve, side down, get out of the way and be ready to take a save if something gets by the other player.
Comment by Nick on March 22, 2012 at 4:50pm

My candidate at the time wanted a different rotation than what the client was proposing. My candidates background is Contracts Manger. I realized he had more experience that me in this type of situation.  I connected him with the client and he negotiated his own contract. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 22, 2012 at 7:07pm

Luke, would you fix that headline, it's making me dyslexic.  :)

Comment by Luke Collard on March 22, 2012 at 8:51pm

And the winner of spot the deliberate mistake goes to S McCartt - a new tennis racquet is on it's way to you !

Thanks for the comments. It seems we are all in agreement on this one - and I think it reflective that this community has a good grasp on the best way to service candidates and clients.


Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 23, 2012 at 9:19am
Lol at least I make a good straight man. Now I shall serve and sit down. Things do tend to get out of order in this racquet ,do they not :)


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