Recruiters: You’re Worth the Money You Charge
By Bill Radin
As a recruiter, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard the expression, “fifty percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing.” To which I reply: Hogwash! Fifty percent is better only in a collection or bad debt crisis, when someone is cheating you out of what he owes you, and you feel lucky to recoup any part of your loss.
But caving in on a regular basis and accepting less than what your service is worth is not only costly in financial terms; it subconsciously telegraphs to your customer that you’re not a “believer” in what you do for a living. Eventually, this kind of noncommittal attitude will harm your credibility, and weaken your earning potential.
Some years ago, I had a “fifty percent of something” experience which proved to be very painful in the short term, but beneficial in the long. I cold-called the vice president of a company and proceeded to market an extremely talented MPA (most placeable applicant).
“Bill, your candidate sounds like the sort of person we need,” explained the vice president. “In fact, we’re currently conducting a search. But we’re using a retained search firm on this assignment.”
“So you’re pleased with the results you’re getting,” I replied.
“Well, not exactly. You’re probably aware of how difficult it is to find someone like this.”
“Indeed I am, Mr. Employer, and that’s why I called you. What should we do?”
“Tell you what,” said the vice president. “Why don’t you talk to Leo, the other recruiter? Tell him the situation; that you have an ideal candidate I want to interview. Maybe the two of you can split the fee. See what he says, and call me back.”
What could be the harm? I figured. Sure enough, Leo was receptive to the idea. It turns out he wasn’t getting anywhere on this assignment.
“How about it, Bill? You and I will split the fee fifty-fifty,” suggested Leo. “That way, we’ll both look good. And besides, fifty percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing, right?”
“I’m not sure,” I hesitated. “Let me think about it and I’ll call you back.”
Now I was really confused! I went to my manager for advice.
“I’m sorry, Bill,” he said, shaking his head, “but I can’t approve a split deal like this.”
“But it would mean walking away from a lot of money,” I groaned. “And besides, there’s no guarantee I can place my candidate anywhere else.”
“That’s just the risk you’ll have to take,” my manager replied. “You see, the issue here isn’t the money. The issue is the value of your service.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, you took the initiative to call the employer and present your candidate, right?”
“And he’d like to interview your candidate because he’s perfect for the job.”
“True,” I said.
“Now, let’s suppose you were to arrange the interview, and as a result, the company decided to hire your candidate. Haven’t you done everything we teach you to do, and done it well?”
“Sure,” I answered proudly.
“So aren’t you entitled to 100 percent of the fee, and not a penny less?”
“I guess so.”
“Now ask yourself this: What did Leo, the other recruiter, do to earn half your money?”
As I walked back to my desk, I thought about what my manager just told me. He’s right! Why should I give Leo half my fee, just because he happened to write a job order? A few minutes later, I called the vice president.
“Mr. Employer,” I said. “I spoke with Leo, as you suggested, and he offered to split the fee with me. But I’ve got some disappointing news for you. I thought it over, and I can’t in good conscience give Leo half my fee. I just don’t feel it’s fair.”
“I don’t blame you,” said the vice president. “Leo shouldn’t be rewarded for his failure to find me the right person. Unfortunately, I have to stick with Leo, because we signed an exclusive agreement, but I appreciate your calling me. Let’s keep in touch.”
“Fine. I’ll call you in a few months”
Would you like to know how this story ended? Leo finally placed a marginal candidate with the vice president’s company. I stayed in touch with the company, and even made a courtesy call to meet the vice president.
Two years later, the candidate Leo placed was fired, and I was asked by the company to fill the vacant position, which I did, for a full fee. The lesson I learned? You never need to settle for less than you’re worth.