When is a ‘client’ not a client ?
My market is very candidate driven. I imagine it is probably the same for a lot of recruiters. If I waited for a great CV to drop into my inbox, I would be waiting for a long time. As such I have to do a lot of headhunting. And obviously I need to find a place to headhunt people from. I would be pretty stupid to approach staff from the companies I am working with. I think the phrase is ‘biting the hand that feeds you’. Therefore, companies in my marketplace broadly fall into two categories. I will either be working with them (i.e. a client), or they are a source of candidates. Sometimes I decide which category they fall in and sometimes they decide. I certainly don’t want to work with everyone in the market, and I dare say not everyone wants to work with me. Either way, they are a client or they are not. They cannot be both !
But what defines a company as a client ?
It is probably easier to answer that question by explaining what it is not. It is not just because we had a meeting once. So what? It is not just because they have called out of the blue and given me a job spec to work on, especially on a contingent basis. Similarly, just because we did some business together at some point in the past, it doesn’t necessarily make them a client today. And they are definitely, absolutely and categorically not a client if terms and fees have not been agreed and signed. Even if they have, things can change. If they haven’t returned my phone calls for 6 months I think we can presume things are over. They are clearly not genuine about wanting to work with me, and have just signed my terms to avoid being a target for headhunting. If there has been a problem and we have not been able to resolve the issue, then it’s time to break up. It might be as simple as they have become just too difficult to work with. Whatever the reason though, I will tell them.
Put it another way. What defines someone as your significant other? A one night stand doesn’t (for most people anyway!). Neither does one date, especially when they are also dating every other Tom Dick, Harry and Sally. Speaking once in a blue moon certainly doesn’t. And just because you are going out today, it doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow (trust me I know !). As for signing terms and agreeing fees….admittedly the analogy runs a bit thin there, unless you count pre-nups or prostitution !
The reality is that unless we have agreed to terms, have them signed and are working together, or at least speaking, on a regular basis then you are not a client. Sure, we can change that if it suits us both. But until then, if I do place one of your staff elsewhere, ….sorry, it is not my problem.