How to Convince Companies to Give You an Exclusive Search Assignment

There’s nothing like the warm, fuzzy feeling that goes along with an exclusive search assignment. A freshly signed search contract with a recruitment exclusivity clause is like the glow of perfect spring weather, the roar of a fireplace during a chilly autumn morning, or a cup of steaming hot cocoa.

However, as most of you know, it’s a lot easier to score a cup of steaming hot cocoa than an exclusive search assignment. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following three:

  1. There are probably more firms operating within your niche recruiting specialty than just yours.
  2. Hiring managers are under the mistaken assumption that the more recruiters who are working on a job order, the better.
  3. Company officials have not yet felt “the pain” of the position being open for a considerable length of time. And the more important the position, the sharper the pain usually is.

Hiring managers may demand a surplus of candidates for (false) peace of mind

Let’s explore the second point listed above. That’s because it’s one of the major obstacles to recruiters securing exclusive search assignments. There are some hiring managers who are under the assumption that the more recruiters, the merrier. Specifically, they believe that enlisting the services of multiple recruiting agencies to fill a position will result in the following:

  • More candidates
  • Better quality candidates
  • A faster hiring process
  • Better overall results, including the best hire possible

The fact of the matter is that the only one of those things the hiring manager might get is “more candidates.” As for the others, it’s not likely. “The more, the merrier” is NOT the recruitment sourcing strategy that brings the optimal results during a search. That’s especially the case when the search assignment is for a high-level executive position that requires the best candidates in the marketplace.

No, the best strategy is working with just one recruiting agency to conduct the search. However, conveying this simple truth is easier said than done.

How to lock down your recruitment agency exclusivity agreement

However, if there’s one thing that recruiters are not afraid to do, it’s talk and convey simple truths. With this in mind, we’ve devised some phrases that recruiters can use to do just that.

Below are five things that you can say to clients to convince them to give you an exclusive search assignment:

#1—“You’ll see better quality candidates.”

I know, it seems counter-intuitive. With multiple recruiting agencies, the hiring manager will see more candidates. So it makes sense that they’ll also see more quality candidates, right? Wrong!

When a company uses multiple recruiting firms, that company is motivating those firms to produce candidates as quickly as possible. That’s because those firms know they’re competing against each other. Is the company motivating the firms to produce the best possible candidates as quickly as possible? No, it’s not. The company just created a competition, one that’s based on speed, not quality.

#2—“You’ll fill the position more quickly and more efficiently.”

This also might sound counter-intuitive at first. Didn’t we just say that the “recruiting firm free-for-all” is a competition based on speed? We did. So here’s the irony: even though it’s based on speed, it ends up dragging out the process because the quality isn’t there.

Not only that, but when a company works with multiple recruiting firms on a search assignment, that company has to keep track of everything and everybody. When there are more people in the fray, miscommunication is more likely. In addition, you have multiple points of contact, which means more phone calls, more emails, more of everything. It all leads to a set of hiring process steps that become bloated and increasingly less efficient, not to mention effective.

#3—“You’ll save money.”

Really? The recruiter who stands to earn a sizeable placement fee check is going to say, “You’ll save money”? With a straight face, no less? Yes, that’s exactly what you’re going to say, and you are absolutely justified in doing so.

Remember all of those extra phone calls, emails, and administrative work we just discussed? Who’s going to do all of those things within the company? Its employees, that’s who, and those employees expect to be paid. So to recap, this is what we have to this point:

  • Lots of candidates being submitted, but none of them of high quality, which lengthens the process
  • A greater chance of miscommunication and inefficiencies during the process, which also hampers its effectiveness
  • Company employees devoting inordinate amounts of time to the process, resulting in a cost spending that will not end until the process is complete

None of that sounds appealing, does it?

#4—“The candidates will have a better experience.”

Let’s say there are three candidates on the company’s short list. All three are working with a different recruiting firm. What are the chances that all three candidates have heard exactly the same things about the position and the organization? Probably zero percent.

As mentioned above, this is a competition based on speed. So if it’s based on speed, how much time are these multiple recruiting firms going to spend with the candidates? Candidates, especially superstar candidates, do NOT want to be rushed through anything. In fact, quite the contrary: they want to be “sold” on everything, including the company itself. They want a great experience. Using multiple recruiting firms does not lend itself to such an experience.

#5—“You’ll maintain the integrity of your employer brand.”

This is a logical extension of #4. Company officials sometimes forget that the agencies they hire to help them fill positions are essentially an extension of their company. What the candidate thinks of the recruiter trying to woo them for the position is also what the candidate thinks of the company. They do not separate the two. In their mind, the recruiter represents the company!

So . . . if a company uses multiple recruiting firms for a search, then that company increases the chances that its employer brand will be damaged. If one of the firms treats a candidate poorly, then it’s the same as the company treating the company poorly. Who at the company is making sure that every single agency is branding the organization correctly? Probably nobody! Who has the time? They’re too busy trying to manage the increasingly bloated hiring process.

The long and short of an exclusive search assignment

Perhaps the following situation has happened to you . . .

One of your clients reached out to you about a new search assignment. The hiring manager says it’s a very important, high-level search. You ask how many other firms are working the search. They tell you that you’re one of five or six firms. You say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” The hiring manager is a bit taken aback, but respects your position. After all, they probably think that you’re the one losing out, not them.

Fast-forward three months. The hiring manager calls you back. The position is still open. The other five or six recruiting agencies submitted many, many candidates, all of whom were ultimately not a fit. Now, in their hour of desperation, the hiring manager asks if you would work the search. You ask if you will be given an exclusive search assignment.

They say: “Yes! Please just find the candidate we want! We beg of you!”

So you work the search. Maybe you tap into your recruiting database, and call on your trusted partners. You submit a shortlist of five candidates in a week’s time, you set up three interviews, and the client makes an offer to its top choice. The candidate accepts the offer. All parties are pleased. From start to finish, it takes less than a month.

Now—wouldn’t it have been better if the client had just given you the exclusive search assignment in the first place?

The scenario described above has played out over and over again in the world of recruiting. It’s probably playing out right now, as you read this. Somebody, somewhere still thinks using a hundred different recruiters for a search is a good idea.

It is up to you, dear recruiter, to convince your clients of the merits of using just one recruiting firm for its searches. The logic is sound, the evidence is compelling, and the benefits are real.

2 responses to “How to Convince Companies to Give You an Exclusive Search Assignment”

  1. Benefits of Retainer or Engagement fee Search Process

    1. Client gets exclusive rights to the candidates, if working under a retainer agreement we will not market the candidate to another firm. You commit to us we will commit to you.

    2. Working with multiple recruiters fosters and encourages haphazard and shoddy work. Why? The “who gets the candidate there first results in a “track meet” mentality encouraging many recruiters to send in candidates without prescreening them first. It takes time to screen a candidate properly and in a “track meet” time works against the contingency recruiter, thus more marginal candidates are presented creating more work for the client.

    3. Because there are no guarantees for the recruiter the recruiter has to work on many more assignments in order to raise the odds that their efforts will pay off. The result is a less intense work being done on any one assignment.

    4. While contingency recruiting can work in filling assignments this approach encourages recruiters to, “cherry pick”, candidates that are readily available. Many times these are the best of the unemployed and unhappy or candidates sitting in files. These are the, easy to get to, candidates that could result in a quick hire but may not be the best quality, again the time factor. This leaves out the whole realm of candidates that are working but not on the job market. It takes cold call recruiting to get to this segment, and that takes time and effort, and that works against the contingency recruiter. These, however, are many times the best quality candidates.

    5. Two or more recruiters calling the same candidate can result in that candidate resisting to look at the opportunity. Why? It indicates that the client does not have confidence in one recruiter to work on the assignment. If the client does not have confidence in one recruiter then the candidate receiving multiple calls may question the confidentiality of the relationship. The concern that this creates for the potential candidate can result in a strong reluctance to nominate him or herself for the position.

  2. Matt Deutsch says:

    Roger, excellent point with #5. Candidates, especially the top ones, are evaluating employers just as much as employers are evaluating candidates. Unfortunately, some organizations forget that they’re being evaluated. Thanks for the comment!

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