June 24, 2018

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Halloween Special: Dealing with Nightmare Clients

Sometimes your so-easy-to-close deal for your Wall Street client ends up more like a nightmare on Elm Street. I’ll never forget my worst nightmare experience with a client. It was a client who paid me big retainers and full fees and gave me all his business. He had a very engaging personality and was fun to talk to. Whenever he had a critical opening, I was the first and only recruiter he called.

It was miserable. I hated it. I hated it because even though the opening was a crisis and a real need, he would end up taking as long as thirty days (yes, t-h-i-r-t-y) to set up an interview with a candidate from the time I emailed him the resume. And to make things worse, he would always call me and want to fedex a retainer check to me right when I really, really, really needed it. So I kept getting suckered into deals that would eventually drag on and on and end up in the in-box of deal purgatory because of his own hiring incompetence.

Because he was so slow to move forward, the candidates would eventually lose interest or think he was a loser. At one point I remember becoming so exhausted and tired after a gleeful ‘candidate motivation session’ where I tried to keep fanning the flames of the opportunity with a candidate whose interest was quickly waning. My client’s really busy and he really wants to talk to you and I have no idea why he failed to call you on three separate occasions when he said he would… but he likes you, he really likes you! After yet another candidate fell off of my magical recruiting circus bus, and after repeated conversations with my client about the issue gave me nothing but empty verbal promises to change and bad gas, I decided to Trump my client. I thought to myself, "That’s it, Mr. Client. You’re fired."

Here’s how I dealt with it:

  1. I realized that no matter how easy the checks are to cash, some deals aren’t worth it. What’s it worth for you to lose your sanity when you can chase another deal that’s a smoother close?

  2. After talking with my client more than once and seeing that nothing changed, I should have accepted it sooner and moved on to another client quicker than I did. Now I’m a lot wiser. I always observe clients from the very beginning to see how quickly they get back to me and I follow up to make sure they do what they say they are going to do when it comes to making contact with candidates, even when they are making contact with candidates after the candidate has turned in notice just to make sure they are on top of it. Leave nothing to chance.

  3. I prep clients on both my process of executing the search in the very beginning and also expectations of communication. I tell them when I will be checking in with them on status updates, and why it’s important for us to have quick communication with each other. I tell them that it’s important for me to hear back from him quickly because a candidate might be talking with another prospective employer and sometimes just a few hours is all it takes to lose that great candidate forever.

  4. I try to deal with company owners as much as possible. By this I mean the person who started the company, who loses sleep over it at night, and who brings his little company-in-a-box with him on every vacation. From my own experience, entrepreneurs are quicker to respond than executives, even senior level managers. That’s why my sweet spot of clients are second-tier and third-tier companies which are privately-held because the owners can change company policy with a snap of the fingers, can create salary increases or sign-on bonuses without having to check with mom, and seem to take business more seriously because their own personal credit records are at stake.

When you work with clients who follow your lead, then hopefully all your clients will become your dream clients, not nightmares.

- Scott Love

Scott Love’s training system can turn you into a big biller. His ‘treasure chest’ system has given recruiters just like you a complete system of success. Over 1,500 recruiters have invested in and benefited from his educational tools in the last two years. For information on his educational tools and to access free tool downloads, visit the ‘recruiters resources’ section on his website,

Copyright © 2005 Scott Love