July 19, 2018

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When Clients Try to Re-Negotiate Your Fee

The client agreed to your fee and you even have their signature on your agreement. You presented a candidate, they interviewed him and now they want to make an offer. But before they do, they call you and say, "We are interested in hiring your candidate from you but we only want to pay you for half of your fee."

How would you handle this?

The same thing happened to me several years ago. I had a client who signed my agreement, was in the process of hiring one candidate, but then decided that they wanted to hire two of the ones I had presented to them. The client called me and said, "Scott, we like both Bob and Dave and want to hire both of them, but we only want to pay you for one."

This is how I handled it. I said, "Art, Iím not interested in that. You agreed to pay me a fee for any candidate you hired and if you want to hire two of them then youíll pay me for both, just like you agreed. Iím not interested in having you hire someone and not pay me for it, Art. Thatís not what we agreed to and thatís something Iím not interested in. Do you understand?"

They hired both and paid me for both.

I fired them as a client and never did any more search work for them again. If theyíre going to play games with me once, then theyíll do it again.

Too many recruiters donít understand the value of what they do and are too quick to re-negotiate their fee just because a client asks them to. Why on earth would you do this to yourself? Do you really want to be in a business relationship with someone whose word is now questionable and who may try to take advantage of you again and again? As soon as you open it up to the re-negotiation as being in the realm of possibilities, you are telling your client ĎI donít respect the value of what I do and you can start walking all over me now.í

These nibblers are the ones that keep nibbling and trying to get something from you after your agreement is set in stone, and keep trying and trying and trying. According to Roger Dawson, one of the leading negotiation experts, you deal with nibblers by calling them on it. You point out that they are nibbling and remind them what they have already agreed to.

If this ever happens to you, stick to your guns. Stand up for yourself. Your client agreed to it and if they signed their name on your document then you can remind them that this is something they entered into with full knowledge of the terms of the fee. You can even take it away. "If youíre not interested in hiring the candidate then I can tell him that youíre going to pass." Then listen to see how they respond. More than likely they are probably trying to see if they can save a few bucks and will quickly change their position and say they are fine with everything and want to proceed with extending the offer to the candidate.

The next time your client tries to play games with you, donít take it. Respect yourself and respect the agreement that they already approved and hold them to it. You deserve the full fee and what was agreed to because you always deserve to win.

-Scott Love

Copyright © 2005 Scott T. Love Scott Love improves the performance of recruiters and the margins of search firms and staffing agencies. His training website,, has become one of the largest free internet training sites for the industry. To have him show your staff how to produce more than they thought possible, call him at 828-225-7700. (Note: Scottís training website,, is now the internetís number one training site for the recruiting industry).