June 22, 2018

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Settling Split Disputes: Simple Rules for Candidate Ownership

Every candidate we bring to light or enter into our tracking system is like a little piece of a dream: a new and exciting job for the individual; a problem solved for the employer; and – just maybe – a bigger paycheck for the recruiter.

Unfortunately, whenever placement fees are split, even the most well-meaning staffing firms can get sideways with their recruiters over who gets credit for what. That's not to say there's a conspiracy afoot to short the recruiters or play favorites. It's just that whenever money’s on the table, the issue of how it's divvied up can get confusing and emotional.

If you’ve ever had to fight a fellow recruiter for what you felt was rightfully yours – or played King Solomon with a $25,000 baby – you know firsthand how fleeting the sweetness of victory, compared to the enduring bitterness of defeat.

Property Rights for Recruiters

Luckily, there's a simple way to minimize split-placement disputes – and settle more equitably – those that cross your desk. By setting up rules that are fair and enforceable, you can turn a fractious, suspicious environment into one that's more positive and productive.

The first step is to set up a policy regarding the terms of ownership. For anyone not familiar with the lingo, "ownership" simply refers to which recruiter is tagged to a specific candidate, usually for the purpose of earning a commission when the candidate is placed. Here are three simple guidelines:

  • Go on the record. Define the exact criteria for ownership and how every "I" is dotted in order to be properly documented in your tracking system. Be as detailed as possible. Otherwise, you might find yourself puzzling over who gets ownership if the same person is double-entered under two different names (as in, "Steve Jones" and "Stephen Q. Jones III").

  • Establish eligibility. For example, how long does the ownership period extend, and how is it renewed, updated or transferred?

  • Set a value. Make it clear what a placed candidate is worth to the owner, with respect to single splits, double splits and splits that involve "teams" of recruiters and researchers. And just as important: Decide how much credit is given for bringing a candidate to the attention of someone trying to fill a job, even if the candidate is "owned" by somebody else – or no one at all.

As soon as the issue of ownership it settled, you can sit down and write the rules. Here are a four suggestions:

  • Create a high standard. To ensure buy-in, make sure your rules are fair, consistent and easy to interpret. Whenever possible, put common sense and credit-worthiness ahead of rank or seniority.

  • Put the rules on display. Publish them in your employee handbook or keep a copy in your library or manager's office. Encourage your recruiters to refer to them, especially in advance of any situation that may cause confusion.

  • Make them adaptable. As the nature of our business evolves, so should any rules that might become outdated or inapplicable.

  • Designate a default arbiter. Put the decision-making responsibility where it rightfully belongs: on management. It's neither fair nor prudent to expect your recruiters to referee the call.

I've found that no set of rules, no matter how thoughtfully crafted, are immune from loopholes, ambiguities or unintended consequences. Hopefully, your rules will stick like glue, cover like paint and never be tested. However, given the minefields of split placements and the vagaries of candidate ownership, I wouldn't hold my breath.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and The Radin Report is published monthly.