Two’s company, three’s a crowd

“Two’s company, three’s a crowd”….

…. I was reminded of this saying last week when I found myself playing middle man between a client and candidate who were negotiating a package.

We have all been there. Your client phones you to make your candidate an offer. It might be a bit lower than what your candidate asked for, but your client wants to see if it will stick. It might be bang on, but when you speak to your candidate suddenly they want a bit more. So you spend the next few hours playing piggy in the middle. You go back and forth trying to negotiate a suitable outcome for both, often having to leave messages and waiting for a response. Even the most experienced recruiters who do everything to avoid this sort of thing can get dragged into this scenario. It  is a nightmare and it often leads to the deal falling over.

When I was still trying to get both parties to reach an agreement 48 hours after the initial offer, it occurred to me that it would be much easier to get Mr Client to talk to Mr Candidate directly.

I can hear the gasps of shock and horror around recruitment offices everywhere. This is against everything that we are taught in recruitment school 101. Good recruitment is all about controlling the process. We have to be involved at every stage, continually speaking to client and candidate, and massaging the process until it reaches a conclusion.  I don’t disagree with this, and for the majority of the process it is absolutely essential. I don’t like it when my client starts talking directly to my candidates to set up interviews for example. But I think that when it comes to offer stage, it may sometimes be better to let them sort it out themselves.

A third-party can sometimes just get in the way. Like Chinese whispers, things get lost in translation. It can be difficult for a recruiter  to accurately express the sentiment that both parties are making.  A client can look miserly and a candidate can look greedy, when in fact neither might be true. Even if they reach an agreement, damage can be done to the relationship before they even start working together. It is also  easier / more tempting for both parties ‘try it on’  when they are not speaking directly. A candidate will be far more likely to ask their recruiter to get an extra $5k, than they would if they were speaking directly to their future boss. By the same token, a client might be more tempted to offer less and see if the recruiter can make it happen.

Aside from avoiding any potential difficulties, a client making an offer directly is great for the on-boarding process. The personal touch of having your new boss offer you the job and welcoming you on board is a very positive experience. More so than if a recruiter does it.

That said, I don’t think it is appropriate for a recruiter to step out of the offer stage on every occasion. You have to be smart about it. If your client is a bit slow and likely to not make the offer for  a day or two (yes, it happens) you will want to stay in control. Similarly, if you have any concerns about the integrity of your client you will want to avoid giving them that chance to pull a fast one (by offering higher than  they tell you and thereby paying you less of a fee). If your candidate is unlikely to accept the offer then it is probably not a good idea either !  It might just be simply that it’s your client’s preference.

It takes a certain amount of bravery to hand over the reigns to your client at offer stage. But, if you brief your client and candidate properly so they know each others expectations and limits then sometimes it might be the better way. Sometimes, not through our own fault, we recruiters just make it more difficult by being involved.


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