So, you think your role is ‘exclusive’.

exclusiveIf there is one word that is overused in recruitment, apart from ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘hot’ it is exclusivity. If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone advertise a role that is ‘exclusive’ I would be a millionaire…..and if I added a dollar for every role that was ‘hot’ I’d be a trillionaire!

Working exclusively with a client is of course what every recruiter wants. We are told early on in our careers that exclusivity is what it’s all about. Agreed. The problem is that in a lot of cases, there is no actual commitment from the client at all. They said ‘yes’ when you asked the question…..but why wouldn’t they? You have promised to dedicate yourself to their vacancy and won’t stop until you have filled their role…..but for that pleasure they have to pay you….nothing! In the meantime, if another agency happens to call  with the right candidate, or they find someone themselves, or decide they don’t actually need anyone after all …….nothing lost.  Sounds like a great deal to me !

This isn’t to say that every client enters into these things with the intent to mess you about. It’s just that quite often other solutions present themselves – and when those solutions meet their need then they would be stupid not to take it, regardless of what they might have told you.

The promise of exclusivity by itself means somewhere between nothing and very little.

I put a little teaser out on Linked on this subject a few days ago and it was pointed out, quite rightly, that it is different if your exclusivity is backed up by a contract with the client, where they are still up for a fee if they withdraw the role or it is filled by someone else. Similar with a retainer, the difference here is that the client has demonstrated a commitment to that exclusivity beyond just saying “Yes that sounds great” …translated as…“Yeh ok, why not, what have I got to loose’”

Many would argue that the only true form of exclusivity is being retained. I don’t want to kick off another retained v contingent argument here but, having done more and more retainers over the last couple of years, there is nothing like a client paying you something upfront to really show their commitment and give you the peace of mind you won;t end up wasting your time.

I always find it a little odd when an advert proudly claims that “we have been engaged on an exclusive basis” ……but then the identity of the client is shrouded in secrecy. If the role is genuinely exclusive, then I would have thought that in most cases, you should be able to, and want to be open about who your client is. So what if your competitors find out and try to cut your lunch? If it really is exclusive shouldn’t you  be confident that your client won’t entertain them – and if they do then you have covered yourself?

So before you go high-fiving your boss because you have come back with another ‘exclusive’ role, that you then proudly advertise as such, plug that fee into your pipeline and work your butt off to fill ..…only to then find out 2 weeks later the vacancy is no longer there and you have wasted a load of time …..question what ‘exclusivity’ actually means, not just to you but to your client.

Have you been let down by finding out that your exclusive client actually wasn’t? Or do you find that exclusivity can live outside of retainers and contracts? Drop your comments and stories below.

Go Tigers !

Luke Collard



3 thoughts on “So, you think your role is ‘exclusive’.

  1. Darren Ledger on Reply

    I usually like your posts Luke, but have to disagree on so many levels with this one. Yes, any exclusivity should be contractually locked down. This is just professional and good process. But as for ‘naming’ your client in the advertising, this is fraught with jeopardy for the following reasons:

    1) Confidentiality of the role, or the entrepreneurial nature of the hire
    2) Current incumbent who is managed out of their role or even out of the business
    3) Disreputable recruiters will shower them with CV’s (T&C’s attached) and will then try and force a fee if the company hire that candidate through their retained recruiter. I’ve seen this happen, I’ve even presented evidence for a company who found themselves in this position – they won the case, but it cost them more than the actual fee in legal costs to dispute it
    4) Other recruiters will besiege the client company and it’s senior management team with calls, emails and spec CV’s
    5) Other recruiters will advertise the same role (confidentially) and thereby create a sense of confusion among the candidate market.
    6) Other recruiters will even present the same role to your headhunt targets, so when you present it your prospective candidate claims to have already applied.

    Plus plenty more reasons such as when a firm has a selective hiring freeze during an acquisition for example but need to hire anyway.

    I love using my clients branding and story when I can and it truly justifies it. But recruiters need to be very cautious about when they propose this approach. They also need to charge their clients for all advertising and copy writing costs. Many don’t, because they are weak and can’t provide a compelling reason to do so.

  2. Lachlan McNeill on Reply

    Firstly the term is slightly strange for outsiders as for most people and companies, this is simply normality – you do the work, provide the results and get paid. Buuuut, this is recruitment.
    If, as the saying goes, focus on the solution, not the problem, then my conclusion is that we need a better working model for exclusivity, both for systems and contracts.
    The reason for exclusivity is twofold. To improve the efficiency of the process (Essentially better mainly for the Recruiter, but the client benefits from this too) and to allow a comprehensive process to run it’s course and chose the best candidate from a larger spectrum and pool (better for the client company).
    I work on hard-to-fill technical roles typically Technical Lead / Engineering Manager / Principal roles.
    We’re dealing with a few facts:
    1. The client cannot really afford to care about where a good candidate comes from. If the other agency comes up with a good candidate, it’s a tough call for the client to reject them based on “semantics”.
    2. The effort you spend depends on your likelihood (and let’s face it, amount) of reward.
    3. The more difficult the role is to fill, the more likely you are to require an exclusive arrangement but the more likely it is that if a “star” comes in from another channel, they will be snapped up.
    4. The more challenging the role, the more information you will need to impart to attract the right candidates.
    5. Once you start to talk to people, it’s not hard for another agent to find out who the client is.
    6. If the system is bypassed, the client will often never get to see the full list of candidates they could have chosen from, hence there can be no appreciation of the work done.

    I have some ideas on how this could be managed, but I would be very interested to hear from other people especially working on hard-to-fill roles.

Leave a Reply