5 Pieces of Advice Staffing Agencies Should Follow

February 10, 2014

As a recruiter, how do you build relationships with your corporate clients and get them to come back to you again and again and again, whenever they’re looking for that special someone?

“One reason I’ve had so much amazing repeat business from my clients,” says Jennifer Lenkowsky, managing partner of The Corporate Ladder, who specializes in recruiting support staff, “is that I develop a rapport with my clients to the point that they trust me. They know if I put someone in front of them, 95% of the time they’re going to be great. They might not be the hire, but I’m not getting to get a call saying ‘What were you thinking’?”

Here’s Lenkowsky’s best advice for keeping your name at the top of the list with corporate clients.

1. Absorb your client’s corporate culture as if you were ghost writing the CEO’s biography.

Understanding who might be a good fit for a corporation isn’t going to happen by sitting behind your desk, says Lenkowsky. She spends time making multiple visits to the offices of her clients, and gets to know the range of people working there, and their attitudes.

“Do people at the office work late? Are they expected to have nothing else going on in their personal lives?” In order to earn the trust of a company, “you need to go the extra mile to really get a feel for the culture,” she says, “and get to know the client so well that you’ll instinctively know which candidates they are going to love.”

2. Send a wide range of candidates, rather than clones.

“Clients are coming to you because you can do what they don’t have time to do,” says Lenkowsky. “And I think you will have a much better chance of meeting with success if you give them a range of experiences, as opposed to sending them a bunch of candidates who are all the same.”

Lenkowsky likes to send someone at the middle of the salary range, someone at the top, the bottom, “and then,” she adds, “someone who is well above the range, just for the dichotomy and comparison.” That way the people have a good cross section of skill levels and salary ranges to pick from.

3. Bother your candidates with too many questions.

When you’re interviewing a candidate you’ve got to dig deep, and then keep digging, because you might make a discovery about someone that takes you in a whole new direction, says Lenkowsky.

When Lenkowsky was trying to place a high level office manager from a hedge fund, who had been earning a hefty salary for 20 years, instead of looking at her resume and looking to place the woman back into a similar role, Lenkowsky talked to the candidate long enough to uncover the fact that the candidate actually fantasized about working for a non-profit.

By sticking to her previous work experience, Lenkowsky never would have uncovered that. And it turned out Lenkowsky had a non-profit client with a hard to fill opening that she’d been looking to fill for two years, and the woman landed the job.

4. Be willing to tell your clients, “Sorry, I don’t have anyone.”

It’s important to be comfortable enough to tell someone, look I don’t want to waste your time, I don’t have the right candidate for you right now, “rather than trying to push someone on them like a used car salesman pushing cars off the lot,” Lenkowsky notes.

“A lot of recruiters are really good at selling,” says Lenkowsky, “but selling is not the most important skill,” she cautions. The best recruiters are the ones that genuinely know their candidates and their clients and make matches, based on two separate sets of information that meet in the middle.

5. Full disclosure to candidates is essential.

Some companies have bad reputations, and as a recruiter, Lenkowsky says, you have to be willing to be honest about what it’s really like to work there, no matter what the circumstances are. When Lenkowsky’s dealing with a client like that, she will start out saying to a candidate, “Listen, here’s the deal, this company isn’t for everyone.”

You need to be transparent with people, she says. “If the boss is a screamer, or they’re going to have to deal with a difficulty personality, it’s better to put that information out there in advance.”

“I think that’s something a lot of recruiters out there don’t do,” says Lenkowsky, “because they want to make the sale. So they will put you in a job, because the salary is right; it’s a mile from your house and the hours are 9-5, but you get into the company and you’re miserable, because no one told you the truth about the job.”

“A job is like a box of chocolates,” she says. “It might look really good from the outside, and then you bite in, and it’s the one with the cherry inside. Disgusting! But, when you go through a good recruiter, that should never happen.”