The candidate seemed excited by my clientís opportunity when I made first contact with him and told him about it. I was excited because of his excitement. And I grew even more excited when my client seemed excited by the candidateís excitement about their exciting position. How exciting. The deal gods were finally smiling on me.
The situation reminded me of a childís balloon. You blow air into and it grows. Even more air, and it grows some more. Finally you canít stand it anymore. Youíve got to either tie a knot in it, or release it. I felt like someone just released the balloon off my desk as I felt my emotions spin out of control when I finally told my client the name of the candidate and he said, "Hey, I already know that guy."
Ruh-roh, Raggy. Should I break out Jeffrey Allenís Fee Collection Guide yet? What did his response mean? Did it mean that he had already interviewed the candidate and my chances of getting paid were slim? Did it mean he was a friend of the candidate and might try to wiggle his way out of paying the fee, even though he didnít know of his candidacy? I knew exactly nothing about what he said, just that he said he knew the candidate. Time to find out what was going to happen.
I took a breath and gave him my standard response, knowing that based on his reaction, I would then know how to steer the conversation. I said, "Terrific! That should make for a smoother process. How do you know him?"
If you find yourself in this predicament, you can predict that one of six things will happen.
But first, think back to how the candidate responded before you presented him to your client, when you told him who the client was. Did he respond with, "Hey I know that company."? Did he say, "Hey, I know Bob, your client."? If he didnít, and if your client indicated there was a connection, then I would recommend having some concern about the candidate. Donít rule him out, but if the candidate knew your client or your clientís organization and didnít volunteer that information when you told him who the client was, then is he hiding something? I would recommend keeping him in the process and observe him carefully, and put back-up candidates in play as well.
Here are six possibilities as to what your client meant:
First, the candidate could be an acquaintance of the client. Perhaps they knew each other from an association meeting. This is a great situation to be in because there is already a relationship between the two. You can then respond by saying, "Then that means that the interview will be an even better meeting because you wonít be meeting each other for the first time as strangers. How closely did the two of you work together?
Second, they could be former co-workers. Theyíve seen each other in action and thereís already a relationship between the two of them. "Thatís great. How did he perform on the job back then? What was your relationship like? How do you think he would feel about working with you again? How would you feel about working with him?"
Third, the candidate could have already been presented to the client by another recruiter. Ouch. When you asked the candidate who he has already talked with or given his resume to, did the candidate tell you who the recruiters were? If he didnít then start asking candidates who they have given their resumes to, including other recruiters. Tell them that if you present their information and itís already been presented, it will make them seem like they are trying too hard. The fact is that if someone else beat you to the punch, your odds of collecting the fee donít just diminish, they could disappear. I had a situation once where a recruiter with a large firm in Dallas presented a candidate to a client of mine without the candidate giving authorization for him to do so. I presented the candidate a week later, and everyone was shocked that the client already has his information. So I had to have the candidate explain to my client the situation, that he had only given me authorization to release his information to the client. He didnít trust the other recruiter and didnít feel comfortable with him so when the recruiter told him about the opportunity, he passed on it. When I talked to him a week later, I was able to overcome his concern about my client and he agreed to proceed and have his information forwarded to my client. The client thumbed his nose at the other recruiter, I got paid, and the recruiter lost all his business with the large and growing client because of how he conducted himself with candidates.
Fourth, the candidate could have already presented his own background. Oops. Didnít the candidate tell you that he presented his information to your client when you asked him where he has sent his information? No? Then it means he either forgot or wasnít totally up front about the question. Give him the benefit of the doubt and confront him with it. "Maybe you forgot to tell me about them, but when I presented your information they told me that you already sent it to them. Did we get our wires crossed about this?" Can you collect a fee on this candidate? Probably not, depending on how long ago the candidate presented his information.
Fifth, the client could have just heard of the candidate, and doesnít really know him personally. When you ask the client how he knows the candidate and he says, "Well, a bunch of us in our office had a meeting and came up with a list of prospective candidates before we called recruiters and his name was on the list."
Respond by asking, "So, did the candidate send his information to you?" When the client responds in the negative, then say, "Well thereís a difference between knowing of someone and knowing whatís going on in their head regarding them wanting to make a move. My value to you is making contact with those in the market, engaging them in a career dialogue about where they want to go, and developing a strong enough trust level with them so they feel comfortable risking with me that sensitive information. In other words, Bob, my fee is based on the process of what I do in conducting the search, and part of that is bringing to you the candidacy of an individual. Thereís a difference between knowing about someone and having their candidacy brought to you on a silver platter."
You need to explain to them this difference. Your value is the personís candidacy, not just their name. If the client still objects, you could say, "Okay, then, I could present to you the phone directory and if you hire anyone in there, you owe me a fee. Thatís ridiculous, right? The value to you in the search isnít just the name, itís the personís willingness to go forward, and thereís a big difference between the two. Just because that personís name is on a list doesnít make them a candidate. You never contacted him. You had no idea about what he would do. And when I bring you to him, because he is on your list, doesnít mean he is off-limits to my fee. My fee is based on the value I bring to you by conducting the process of the search, and part of that process is discovering the candidacy of the individual."
Six, the client could have heard of the candidateís candidacy through the grapevine. Same argument as number five. Did a conversation take place between the two? Did the candidate present his own candidacy? No? Then heís a fresh candidate.
Seventh, the client could say that one of the employees within the organization had worked with your candidate before. Then say, "Thatís great. Iíll tell the candidate about that and get his authorization for you to do a quick reference check with him." Anytime there is a relationship between the candidate and someone who works for your clientís company, then use it as a way to pave the way for a quicker and better interview. Tell the candidate about the employee and see if your client can Ďget a quick readí.
Got other situations similar to these? Email them to me at email@example.com and weíll start a dialogue about this. I am not a lawyer and am not giving legal advice. Seek professional counsel regarding fee disputes and their resolution. This is just some verbiage you can use the next time you have a client who says he knows a candidate that you just presented. And if he does, hopefully it will be something that can help rather than hurt the odds of you closing your next deal.
NOTE: I had just read about this situation in the Fordyce Letter the first time I ever had a client give me that phrase. So I went back to the archive that I kept, found the article, and it helped me to overcome what could have been a lost fee. That's why you invest in everything about this business you can get your hands on, especially the Fordyce Letter. Each month you get article upon article from industry trainers and practitioners. You never know how it will help you, but you always know that it will. For more information, contact Paul Hawkinson. His website is www.fordyceletter.com.
Copyright © 2006 Scott T. Love
Scott Love improves the performance of recruiters and the margins of search firms and staffing agencies. His training website, www.recruitingmastery.com 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.