Recently, we had someone reach out to our recruiting company to make a hire. As we were conducting the intake order and peeling back the layers, we realized they did not need the big hire they were requesting. Instead of taking the order, we took a step back and helped them reprioritize their hiring and even assisted with their structure. It was less of a fee for us, but in the long-term resulted in a greater partnership. And it was the right thing to do.
My background is as an HR professional in addition to being a recruiter. So when we fill a role, especially at a higher level, I never look at it as just a placement. I am always considering its impact to the organization. It gives me a consultative approach to working with our clients.
With the crazy market and high demand from talent, we hear from a number of people who are moving fast and in almost desperate need of solutions. We have emotional calls, frustrated calls, people who need to see the bigger picture. We are able to help with that process in a way that is rewarding.
In a service-based industry, everyone starts out as a resource.
Resources are called on when they’re needed and given specific tasks. A resource’s job is to perform the task well when asked. If you can’t perform, the customer moves on to another resource who can get the job done. It’s part of the American service culture established at the turn of the 20th century: the customer is always right.
In fact, many staffing companies and other service providers believe the customer has most of the power in a relationship. But this well-intentioned attitude isn’t always the right approach; you can fail your customers by always trying to give them what they want. We believe the right approach is to give them what they need instead.
Risk saying “no” to be a better partner.
A resource simply says yes. A partner points out when there may be a better solution. Sometimes that is a more difficult path, but we relish in a good partnership because that is when we can have the most impact and create better roads to success for everyone.
We might make them feel better by simply obeying orders, but they don’t hire us to feel better; they hire us to fill a need. So we try to give both our client and ourselves the best chance we can to succeed.
But that sort of partnership takes time and trust to build. If you push back too early (before you’ve proven your value), you might lose the business. If you push back suddenly after being a dutiful resource for years, you’re going to confuse your client. You have to develop the confidence to provide advice and the ability to deliver it persuasively (see Seth Godin’s formula for that below.)
We can’t keep filling a bucket with a hole in it and call ourselves successful.
Good partners help fix the problem rather than simply trying to temporarily patch it up. Here are a couple of examples of where we believe we are a good partner, even though it often involves delivering a difficult truth:
- If a client is experiencing chronic turnover in a team or a specific role, it’s our job to help them uncover the root cause rather than just filling the role over and over again. It’s as important to find out why good people are leaving as it is to find a good person who wants to come. If we uncover valuable information about a toxic situation or a job description that’s a recipe for failure, we are obligated to let the company know what’s happening.
- If a client is offering a salary or benefits package that’s not competitive in the market, we tell them they’ll need to reconsider.
- If their location isn’t attractive to top tier talent, we help them tweak their offer to appeal to more candidates.
Some good ways to deliver the message
Persuading the client that they’re wrong isn’t easy, and it’s the wrong approach anyway. Here’s what author Seth Godin says:
One way to cause forward motion is to help people see that they were right all along.
“The person you were hoping to hire, that’s me.” “The car you were hoping to buy, it’s here.”
The other way to do it is to try to persuade someone that what they thought they wanted is incorrect. That can cause real change–it’s leadership, not simply fulfilling an established need.
But to do that, we need to find something in the other person’s set of desires and beliefs that doesn’t have to change. “You’ve always wanted to do the right thing, and you thought the right thing was X, but now I’m hoping you’ll see it’s Y. You weren’t wrong, you simply didn’t have all the information…”
We believe that we have an obligation to be a true partner to our clients. It’s a way to combine excellent service with true leadership.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies.